At the end of this summer, hundreds of graduates will leave Arlington and embark on a college experience of some kind. But Libby Parker-Simkin won’t be one of them.
“I was looking at choosing colleges and I wasn’t sure of about that level of intensity,” she said. “I felt like I needed more time to figure that out.”
This fall, Parker-Simkin will begin a year-long journey with Global Citizen Year, a gap-year program that allows students to do service work in a developing country before college. Parker-Simkin will spend what would be her freshman year of college in the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, in the city of Florianópolis. The recent Washington-Lee graduate has already started a blog about her experiences.
She writes in her first blog post: “After reading a friend’s Global Citizen Year blog posts over the course of his term, I decided to apply to the program. It seemed like a perfect intersection of self-discovery, adventure, and service. I am excited to be going to the state of Santa Catarina in Brazil.”
Global Citizen Year is a non-profit organization that aims to create a different kind of educational pathway for its recruits. The program selects a diverse group of high school graduates and sends them to communities in Africa and Latin America. Through their own immersion and hands-on training, the students help the communities’ education efforts, as well as gain their own entrepreneurial experience and self-awareness.
In 2008, founder Abby Falik pitched the idea for the program to a Harvard Business School startup competition. A year later, the program launched with 11 participants. In just four years, Global Citizen Year has grown to include more than 200 alumni.
And in a year, when she finishes the program and heads off to college (school as yet undetermined), Parker-Simkin will be one of those alumni.
Parker-Simkin said she initially chose the GCY program because of its service- and community-oriented agenda, something she’s used to. In Arlington, she volunteered at the Central Library and Arlington Food Assistance Program.
“I like that it’s not just sending kids to go fix problems,” she said. “I think it’s good that it’s very community-based.”
After a week of training in California later this month, Parker-Simkin will head to Florianópolis and stay with a host family. She said she’s never traveled extensively before, and is excited about the new experiences and culture that await her. She said she’s been learning Portugese all summer, and can’t wait to further her knowledge of it.
But mostly, she’s thrilled about her upcoming service work and helping those in her new Brazilian community.
“It’s going to be exciting to do something really big,” she said.