News About 12Plus1

Dear Friends,

I am writing to tell you that 12plus1 is suspending our operations. After two years of recruiting, we simply do not have enough candidates. First I owe a debt of gratitude to all who have supported 12plus1 financially, spiritually, marketing, developing the program, interviewing and selecting candidates, volunteering and offering encouragement. All of you made a special and important contribution. Second, I want to reaffirm my belief that the essence of faith is service to one another. There is too much evidence that even the most fervent and faith-filled individuals have lost this core tenant. If we are unable to show respect to one another, our prayers and piety are empty. St. Paul would refer to this as a banging gong. Even if you are not a person of faith, it seems abundantly evident that society is becoming louder, more self-centered and less interested in kindness and decency. Every human being is deserving of respect and dignity. I had hoped this ministry would promote those values.

This is also why we are suspending the organization and NOT dissolving the 501c3 organization. I have not given up hope or my belief that service and justice will prevail. Perhaps this was simply not the correct format, but my belief that God is calling me to invest in working to heal the divisions that exist between races, religions, gender and socio-economic groups remains strong. Finding a way to show others that tolerance and caring for people whose ideas and values are different than yours is not a threat to you seems vitally important today. At the moment, I am simply not sure what form that takes.

I also want to thank Maribeth and my family. The past two years we made a commitment that cost us financially, emotionally, at times spiritually and even physically, by hauling our goods from convention to convention. One lesson I learned is that one does not start their own business by themselves. It involves your entire family whether they like it or not. My income the past two years was about a third of what I had been previously making. All of us had to do without things we were used to having. Never once did I hear complaints or frustration. I am grateful for that support.

Finally, I have two requests for you. First, I hope to be able to continue my part-time leadership of the Adult Literacy Center of Ozaukee County, but certainly need to find additional work. Please let me know if you come across a role you think would fit my skills and passion to make a positive impact in the lives of others. Secondly, 12plus1 has about $1000 in bills that need to be paid. If you feel moved to make a tax deductible contribution to allow 12plus1 to move onto the next stage, all of us at 12plus1 would be grateful.

I hope that we remain in contact. Thank you and may God bless you.

Joe Nettesheim, Director


Taylor spent a year in Aberdeen, Washington with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. Part of his experience was to serve in a parish and also help in meal program. He speaks about the fear of entering into an experience like this, how success is based on the ability to be open, have a willingness to learn and to live in the moment.

I came in thinking I knew how things were going to be ... one of the biggest things I learned was listening to other people’s experiences and wisdom... that was one of my struggles . . . my experience showed how much we learned from the community and from the people we served and that was a big area of growth.
— Taylor Baar, Service Year Participant
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Kimberly Van Beek is a Development Associate at Cristo Rey Jesuit school in Milwaukee. She graduated from UW -Whitewater and then spent one year working before she became a service year volunteer in Pittsburgh through the Change a Heart. In this video she shares the life-changing impact of saying yes and being open. She was changed by her service and community.

It was a year of my life that I feel like I was authentically able to be myself.
— Kimberly VanBeek, Service Year Participant
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Laura Hancock is a Theology teacher at Messmer High School. After college she participated in a faith and service based gap experience in Denver, Colorado through the Colorado Vincentian Volunteers. n this video she shares the life-changing impact of her service year. It influenced her career, faith, friendships- every aspect of her life. We hope you will consider participating in an extraordinary experience like a gap year.

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The commitment to social justice and te engagement with real life, community issues was a way of living faith that I had never experienced before.
— Laura Hancock, Service Year Participant


Join us for a Gap Year Informational meeting. We will address these questions:

  • Why take a Gap Year?

  • What are the benefits of a Gap Experience?

  • What are options for a Gap Year?

  • What is Discovery House?

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The conversation began like many others I had with conference attendees.  As I promoted 12plus1 we discussed the mission, purpose and details of the program.  Then Ali asked me an unexpected question.  Pointing at our banner she asked, “Is that a picture of the Discovery House participants?”  I cringed.  As a new program, it has been necessary to use stock photos.  It is not ideal.  Many stock photos look staged and somewhat fake.  It has been a source of worry for me.  As I explained this to Ali, something told me to ask her why she noticed the banner.  She was the first person to mention the picture.  Ali told me it caught her attention because the banner had a picture of diverse people. She went on to share how this particular conference was a challenge for her because it lacked diversity.  She was being generous.  It wasn’t that it lacked diversity, it was almost 100% white.  Before Ali had approached our booth, I had noticed the lack of diversity. Perhaps it was because the previous conference I attended was proud of the fact that more than half of their attendees were people of color.  Imagine being at a large event where you are one of a handful of people of your gender, ethnicity or age.  Imagine again if this fictitious event did not have any people who looked like you on their publicity materials, did not include any speakers who have shared your experience or addressed issues you face.  Imagine further, that this conference is sponsored by a Church and designed to help you foster your relationship with God.  What message would this send about their perception of who God welcomes and loves?  This is the conversation that Ali and I had.  A white, (almost) fifty-year-old man talking with a young, black college woman about race.  It is not what I expected my experience would be.  Unfortunately, she was not the only person to express her concerns about the lack of diversity.  Happily, it was a rewarding, barrier breaking, consciousness raising, spiritual experience. God was there, it was holy ground and like Moses at the burning bush, God was calling me to speak to you about this experience. 

Later that evening Ali returned with Cynthia and Nick.  They hung out at the booth playing Jenga and the conversation about race continued.  It was obvious to me that this was not the first time these young people felt left out or diminished because of their ethnicity.  It appears to be an almost routine experience for them.  Over the course of the conference they stopped by from time to time.  On one visit they told me that another young black man was also alarmed by the lack of people of color at this event.  As he met others, he asked them for their contact info.  He took the initiative to gather this group for lunch.  It was a group of 30.  The conference had 17,000 attendees.  Nick told me he felt so diminished by this conference that he spent one entire day in his hotel room.  There was simply nothing there for him and he considered leaving.  I am not sure why he didn’t.

On another occasion, I took a break from my booth and walked to a nearby Starbucks when I encountered a homeless man.  As we were speaking, a young woman who was attending the conference stopped and gave him water and a granola bar.  Her thoughtfulness and generosity were impressive.  We walked together to the Starbucks.  As we drank our coffee, she shared her wisdom with me:  why do we predetermine that if you are homeless you are crazy, incapable of making a good decision? She suggested: the decision to help is on you; what they do with your help is on them.  Further she said when she encounters a homeless person, she asks them their name as a way to humanize them. How often do we ask a homeless person their name?  As we discussed our successes and failures in trying to help others and feelings of hypocrisy, I was struck by her charisma and character.  She stood tall!  And it was about then that our conversation took a turn.  As it happens, she is also a person of color and shared an experience of the conference that was similar to Ali’s.  She stated that she was struggling to find value in it because it was not speaking to her life experience as a black woman.  Marie was incredibly open with me.  Growing up in a biracial family in a primarily white environment, she has been very conscious of her speech, going to lengths to make sure she spoke like a white person.  Mentioning that the people she has looked up to are Oprah, Michele Obama and Beyoncé, her wish was that she personally knew a strong black woman.  Often during high school class discussions about race, her peers would look to her to be the one spokesperson for all black people.  Upon the start of the next semester she planned to join the black student group at her college hoping she might have her first black friend.

The pressure in school I feel to be outstanding is compounded by the pressure I feel as a black person to defy the stereotypes of stupidity. Every time I accomplish something worthwhile in hopes to eradicate the stereotype, my success is accredited to my whiteness. Every time I exemplify black excellence, I’m disassociated from my blackness, as if success and blackness are mutually exclusive in society’s eyes.
— Marie, Conference Participant

These conversations and visits occurred over a few days.  First, please do not feel sad for these young people.  They are not looking for sympathy.  They do not need sadness.  What they want is inclusion.

Personally, I have spent the past month discerning how God is speaking to me through these relationships.  Often my default is to try and fix problems.  I want to make others happy.  There is no way one person can fix hundreds of years of racial injustice and end the racial division in our country.  What I did do was listen.  What I can do with what I heard is share their story with you.  It is not lost on me that it is likely that the majority of people who read this blog will be white.  I have to tell you we have a lot of work to do.  Most people I know are not racists.  But many of us, me included, are too comfortable to adjust our way of thinking and being.  If racial unity is going to come about, we cannot be lazy and fearful of others.  Trying to hold on to our place is not the answer. Racial harmony and inclusion will demand a willingness to change and be open.  For those of us who live in Milwaukee there is a sense of urgency about this change.  According to a study released by the Brookings Institute, on December 17, 2018 Milwaukee is the most segregated city in the United States.

My experience for most of my professional life has been that most of the committees I have served on in the parish or Archdiocesan level have been made up of all white people. Even when I was on the leadership team for the service week was made up of entirely white people. I remember once visiting a high school that was the majority of black students to promote this summer camp. The questions we were asked were what color is the cook, what is the menu, who are the leaders? What they were really asking was does this program have a sensitivity to their cultural experience? The fact is- despite our best intentions and efforts- it did not

For over two-hundred years the culture of the United States has been directed by and focused around white people. We have had every seat at the table.  The problem is, it is not our table.  The table belongs to God and God expects us to make room for everyone.  Therefore, those currently sitting at the table have a moral imperative to create space for everyone. If you are already sitting at the table you have a choice: you can claim your territory, create roadblocks, become defensive and cling to what you think is yours or you can move chairs, pick up your papers, maybe even add a leaf or two so that everyone has a place.  Clinging to what is yours is a belief in a philosophy of scarcity.  It is a mindset that says there is not enough. It is the mindset that says I worked hard for what I have and if I share it, I will lose it.  I must protect what I have.  The opposite is a mindset of abundance. It is a mindset that is open and trusting.  It does not cling to routine or is threatened by change.  It views change and new people as an opportunity to learn, grow and become a stronger more unified community.  It trusts that God will always provide and take care of us.  There will be enough to go around.  For a scripture reference please see:  Loaves and Fishes.  Racial unity cannot occur if we rest on the idea that I have worked hard for my chair and my place at the table why do I have to share it now?  Working hard does not provide us the right to ignore the rights of others.  Apathy and indifference are the equivalence of bigotry.

The new racism: Racism without ‘racists.’ Today, racial segregation and division often result from habits, policies, and institutions that are not explicitly designed to discriminate. Contrary to popular belief, discrimination or segregation do not require animus. They thrive even in the absence of prejudice or ill will. It’s common to have racism without racists.
— Eduardo Bonilla-Silva

Gathering everyone around the table makes us stronger.  It gives us an opportunity to develop relationships with one another.  Inclusivity does not mean thinking the same or being the same.  It does mean having an appreciation for others and recognizing the value of their opinion, experience and perspective.  It demonstrates an understanding that God has made all people- white, yellow, black, red, brown, blue, purple and magenta.  This is why I am suggesting that we need to be open to the necessary change to bring about racial harmony and unity.  Listen to the stories of others, be open to their experience, be aware of your words, do not become defensive, let go, be open, move your chair, adjust your papers, make a conscious and intentional choice to ensure no one is excluded.    This is what needs to be done by the organization that put on the conference.  It needs to be done in our Church.  It needs to be done in our country. 

And it needs to be done by 12plus1.  My purpose for attending the conference was to promote 12plus1.  I had no idea of the conversations that would occur.  It became clear to me that God was calling me through this experience.  As I reflect these are the questions I am trying to resolve:

  • How does 12plus1 ensure a diverse community of participants (racial, gender, age, religious)? 

  • How do we develop a leadership team that reflects the diversity we desire? What strategies are employed in the community, service sites and formation day to ensure all people feel welcome? 

  • Discovery House is geared for individuals ages 18-24.  How has our planning included the insights and perspectives of young adults? 

We want Discovery House to reflect the stock photo that caught Ali’s attention.  It will take conscious choices and intentional actions to make this happen. 

I invite you to consider and pray about how you can make your world more diverse and inclusive.  It starts with listening and building relationships. If you are not in a place where you ever interact with people of another color or race, take the initiative to get there!  Look for a multicultural church, find organizations that promote racial harmony.  You will be enriched.   Everyone knows what it feels like to be left out.  Let’s be especially conscious not to allow that to happen to others by ensuring their place at the table. This is how we will seek and find racial harmony. Let us pray for the guidance of God’s Spirit:


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Joe Nettesheim is the founder and director of 12plus1.  He has worked in Church ministry since 1991 having led mission experiences for youth, adults and families. He also been an Executive Director for nonprofit organizations. You may contact Joe


Join a digital conversation and information meeting about the gap year experience and Discovery House. This will be available on Instagram or Facebook Live. Let us know you will be joining us or simply tune in.


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There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?
— George Bernard Shaw

Those of us at 12plus1 have a dream.  We imagine a world that is unified, compassionate, empathetic, accepting, peaceful and just.  It isn’t just a dream.  We believe we have a program that will contribute to making that happen.  We want to make that happen.  Who doesn’t?  What if we lived in a world that understood EVERY human being is a child of God and has a right to thrive and flourish?  This is the mission of 12plus1 and the recipe to make this dream a reality involves service, community, faith and love.  12plus1 presents: Discovery House, a service-based gap experience for participants ages 18-24, that will address the most challenging issues in society.  Imagine the positive impact a contingent of people who commit to service, while living in community and rooted in a life of reflection, would make to Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin!



Imagine the difference a team of committed volunteers would offer non-profit organizations working to make Milwaukee a better place.  12plus1 is working with non-profits who are serving those impacted by abuse, addiction, homelessness, human trafficking, imprisonment, poverty, racism and violence. Unfortunately, Milwaukee is one of the most racially segregated cities in the country with an extremely high infant mortality rate.  This service opportunity strives to bring people together to lessen this reality.  Service is a tool to establish a mutual exchange of gifts.  It is difficult to dismiss a suffering person when we know their name and their story.  Imagine a society that would compassionately respond to the needs of others because we recognize that when one person suffers, we all suffer. 


Discovery House    is a service-based gap experience for individuals ages 18-24. Participants can select a ten-month, five-month or month long commitment. The program is based on service, community and formation.

Discovery House is a service-based gap experience for individuals ages 18-24. Participants can select a ten-month, five-month or month long commitment. The program is based on service, community and formation.

Imagine a group of volunteers living simply in a Christian based community.  This community will present a unique opportunity for personal growth.  Members of the community will be responsible for the management of the house such as: cleaning, cooking, budgeting, shopping, and conflict resolution. These are skills some may take for granted, but they are not passed on as readily as they once were.   Imagine a generation who is able to adapt, be authentic, resolve conflict, provide creative solutions and express their faith and values in a rapidly changing culture. 



Imagine an opportunity for participants to synthesize and integrate these experiences into their own lives.  All volunteers participate in weekly formation sessions and meet monthly with a mentor.  During their reflection times they will have an opportunity to dive into deep human questions, learn about social issues and apply Gospel values.  Mentor meetings will focus on identifying strengths and limits while discerning their academic and professional future.  Imagine a workplace filled with a contingent of focused, mission-driven, servant leaders. 


Discovery House will be a life changing experience.  Participants will gain focus and purpose which will influence their professional and academic goals. They will complete the experience having grown in faith, character, integrity, leadership ability, emotional intelligence and conflict resolution. They will be compassionate and empathetic.  They will approach life with flexibility and authenticity.  Imagine the difference they will make to their families, friends, colleagues, and those who are suffering. 


We have an active imagination and although we are starting local, in Milwaukee, the dream is big!  Imagine a national movement that encourages (requires?) young people to spend a year serving others.  Imagine how this could bridge the socio-economic, racial, gender, religious, political divides.  Perhaps human nature is such that this may be an impossible dream; but it is a noble dream!  It is dream that is worth pursuing and will not be denied by those who prefer negativity over hope and imagination!   It is a dream that needs you.  Even if this ministry only moves society one fraction toward this dream, imagine the impact that fraction would make.  Imagine our country with a force of young adults who, long after their service commitment, have a heart that is passionately dedicated to service and the civic good.

You may say I am a dreamer,
But I am not the only one.
I hope someday you will join us and
The world will be as one
— John Lennon

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Joe Nettesheim is the founder and director of 12plus1.  He has worked in Church ministry for twenty five years in the area of adult and youth formation and service learning.  He has also been an Executive Director for nonprofit organizations. You may contact Joe

Profiles of Gap Year Participants

Over the past eighteen months those of us involved in 12plus1 have spoken to many people about the gap year experience. Since a gap experience is a new option in the United States, we are often asked who is your target audience? Here are some profiles of individuals who are considering a gap experience or for whom a gap experience would have been helpful. Every summary is based on an amalgam of a few people with similar stories. This was done to conceal the identity of any one person and to present the wide variety of experiences we have encountered. The more people we have encountered, the more we are certain that this ministry is needed.






Discovery House    is a service-based gap experience for individuals ages 18-24. Participants can select a ten-month, five-month or month long commitment. The program is based on service, community and formation.

Discovery House is a service-based gap experience for individuals ages 18-24. Participants can select a ten-month, five-month or month long commitment. The program is based on service, community and formation.






The path of high school to college to work is not for everyone.  It is a myth to think that everyone follows that route.  In fact, only 60% of high school graduates who go onto college finish their degree in six years.  This means that 40% of students who enter college are left seeking an alternate path, often with large amounts of debt.  It is our belief that 12plus1 could help them discern their professional and academic future in an organized and purposeful way while making a positive and significant impact to society. 

We know that our gap experiences will allow participants to:

  • Make a positive impact on the community

  • Discover their authentic selves

  • Become servant leaders

  • Develop soft skills such as emotional intelligence, conflict resolution, flexibility and adaptability and self-reliance

  • Discern their academic and professional future

  • Deepen their relationship with God


Here is how you can support this new ministry:

  • Invite a young adult to consider a gap experience

  • Spread the word to your church, civic groups and business colleagues

  • Provide a financial gift to 12plus1

  • Join our mailing list and social media network. 

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Joe Nettesheim is the founder and director of 12plus1.  He has worked in Church ministry for twenty five years in the area of adult and youth formation and service learning.  He has also been an Executive Director for nonprofit organizations. You may contact Joe

Service Year Improves Workforce

12plus1 believes in the transformative impact of a service year.  The experience of serving others is beneficial to the participant, those they serve and society.  In fact, we recommend that a year of service should be something every young adult should choose before entering the workforce.  A culture that values service will promote respect, understanding and unity.  Service encourages sacrifice for a greater cause.  An individual who makes a commitment to service will be a better citizen and employee.  There are opportunities and qualities a service year will provide prospective employees that cannot be attained in other ways.  This is why we suggest that businesses support a service year movement because it will improve the quality of employees available to them.  Here are some of the qualities a service year will provide young adults who will be entering the workforce:


  • Life Experience

Every employer wants to hire a candidate who is well-rounded and has a variety of experiences to draw upon.   Young adults who enter the workforce may have the necessary educational experience but often are missing some basic life skills that can come with experience.  Common sense skills such as resilience, creativity, conflict resolution, cooperation can be lacking.  Service provides experience in a variety of ways.  Being a service volunteer through 12plus1, individuals will participate in all aspects of the organization.  They will have professional hands on experience in administration, program, marketing and communication.  Meeting monthly with a mentor and regular assessments conducted by the service site supervisor and 12plus1 staff will help them process their experience and grow professionally.  The participants will have handled specific work place situations.  Service also will allow them to build relationships with and learn from many diverse people.  


  • Develops Character

A person of character is one who acts with integrity and has the ability to elevate their skills in the challenging situations.  Often one does not know their own character until they have to discover what they have in reserve.  Making a commitment to a service year is an adventure.  One cannot be certain of all that the journey will entail, but it will challenge them to reach deep and believe in themselves.  They will see problems that are overwhelming, issues that are paralyzing, find themselves out of their element, live simply in community with strangers and find the ability to adjust their lifestyle.  The mentoring, assessments and living in community will receive provide the feedback they need to grow as a professional.  Participants will depart the experience with an understanding of what it means to be responsible and professional.  If they are able to succeed they will emerge with confidence that only exists by finding the character in themselves, they never knew existed.


  • Develops Emotional Intelligence

No employer wants a staff member who will melt down when things do not go as planned- because they almost never do!  Individuals who have spent a year working in the non-profit sector will be exposed to organizations that regularly deal with emergencies and are short on resources.  This combination means that they will have to drop what they are doing and jump in.  This high pressure, high stress environment can fuel anxiety and conflict.   It can also lead to self-awareness.  Having the ability to understand oneself -their own feelings, motives, hopes and struggles will empower individuals to respond appropriately and maturely to their own emotions.  Learning to authentically manage one’s emotions, resolve conflict, understand the emotions of others and ‘go with the flow’  are important and immeasurable qualities needed in every workplace.    

Discovery House    is a service-based gap experience for individuals ages 18-24. Participants can select a ten-month, five-month or month long commitment. The program is based on service, community and formation.

Discovery House is a service-based gap experience for individuals ages 18-24. Participants can select a ten-month, five-month or month long commitment. The program is based on service, community and formation.

  • Forms Servant Leaders Focused on Unity and Cooperation

Who wants an employee who does not understand their connection to the other team members?  The ability to work together and be humble enough to see your place as part of the whole is crucial.  Selfies are fun- but a “selfie focused employee” is not a staff member who will put the organization first.  Service is always about others.  A service-based gap experience develops leaders who understand their role is about focusing on the mission and helping others.  Through service participants learn that all humans are connected.  We all have needs and gifts. If we are humble, these needs and gifts can complement one another.  This is the type of individual you will want in your company.  Individuals who want to utilize their talents for the success of your business. This type of employee is humble, cooperative, collaborative and recognizes they are part of something bigger than themselves.

Gap years have been popular in Europe.  They are just gaining a foothold in the United States.  Many gap experiences take participants overseas for a “vacation type adventure.”  12plus1 is committed to forming participants through service.   It is our goal to provide an opportunity for participants to:

  • make a positive impact,

  • grow in their understanding of self,

  • discover their passion,

  • make plans for their academic and professional future and

  • grow in life skills.

This program will be a benefit for businesses as they search for ways to expand their pool of candidates.  The hiring process is one of the most time consuming, costly and challenging tasks for every business.  Hiring participants who have participated in a service year, would allow organizations to select individuals who have had real life work experience and been through a process focused on professional and individual growth.  A service-based gap experience will have a positive impact on the workforce and our country.  Making service a regular part of a young person’s professional development will benefit workplaces and our society.  It is our hope that you will support and promote this service-based gap program offered by 12plus1.

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Joe Nettesheim is the founder and director of 12plus1.  He has worked in Church ministry for twenty five years in the area of adult and youth formation and service learning.  He has also been an Executive Director for nonprofit organizations. You may contact Joe

Dear Mom and Dad

Dear Mom and Dad,

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I am writing to you after being with 23,000 Catholic high school youth at the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis.  From Thursday to Saturday, I had an opportunity to speak with at least five hundred of your children. My impression is that they are fun loving, articulate, faith-filled, hopeful, searching kids who want to make a difference in the world and live a meaningful life.  It is obvious you have done a great job raising them!  My reason for going to NCYC was to promote a service-based gap year experience called Discovery House, which is a program of 12plus1, Inc.  I feel I have a responsibility share with you what I learned about many of your sons and daughters, especially high school seniors.  They are scared, stressed, uncertain, feeling pressure and (even still) hopeful about their future. It seems that at age 17 it is difficult to know, with any degree of certainty, what you want to do for the rest of your life.  It doesn’t matter if you are the class valedictorian (who I met) or the class clown (who I also met) it is really difficult to make this choice.  It seems there are limitless options before them and not quite enough life experience to know which one is for them. Many see this as THE pivotal decision of their life.  It is what they have been preparing for since before middle school (ore before) and it is what they perceive, often unfortunately with some parents’ encouragement, will determine the next sixty years of their life. Plus, the exorbitant cost of college makes them feel as though they cannot make a mistake.  For many the conversation about taking a gap year to do service, live in community, expand their life experience, meet diverse people, grow in understanding of self and God sounded like a lifeline to many.  Only to have them end the conversation disappointingly saying, “my parents will never let me.”   This is why I wanted to write to you.  A gap year has many benefits and can actually help students have a more academic and professional success.  I ask that you consider a gap year as part of the preparation process for and not an alternate to college.

First let’s get this out right away:  A gap year is NOT for everyone.  At the same time let’s acknowledge that moving directly from high school to college is NOT for everyone either.  The destination may be the same, but the route can be as varied as there are people.  Let’s also be clear that the gap year is not a replacement for college. Statistics about gap year participants demonstrate that 90% go onto college within a year of their experience.  With this in mind here are 4 reasons why I suggest you allow your high school senior to consider a gap year.



In a highly competitive world there are many intelligent individuals.  Often what sets individuals apart for success is their ability to communicate, be flexible, resilient and creative in relating to others. There are certain skills that come with finding success and overcoming challenges of independence. Getting up after being knocked down could be the most important life experience. Discovery House participants experience the real world.  They have to cook, do laundry, shovel snow, clean, budget and shop all while essentially working full time.  Just like real life.  People at their service site and in their community will count on them.  It is not an option to forgo the responsibilities at home or the service site.  Evaluations and feedback will be a regular part of the service and community experience.  This gap year experience is not a vacation! It is an organized, structured activity with a purpose and goal.  Fortunately, they will have a formation day to learn from their success and failure.  It should not be a surprise that gap year participants have a higher degree of academic and professional success because they have additional skills that come from life experience and maturity.  College is approached with purpose because it is their choice.  They have a plan and are organized more able to cope with stress and loss.  They are primed for success.



Discovery House provides an experience, which allows them to discern their college and career.  If an individual is interested in education, their service site can be placed at an urban school.  This placement will provide real experience.  Their decision will not be based on reading a brochure. Participants will create a plan for their academic and professional future.  Gaining experience, maturity and direction students are more likely to succeed. A survey from the American Gap Year Association cites that   “ . . . students who had taken a Gap Year were more likely to graduate with higher grade point averages than observationally identical individuals who went straight to college, and this effect was seen even for Gap Year students with lower academic achievement in high school (Crawford and Cribb 2012, Clagett 2013).



At NCYC many ADULTS told us they wished 12plus1 existed when they were in college.  A story we heard more than once went like this:  “I went to college because I thought I had to.  I had no idea what I wanted to do so I didn’t go to class, partied a lot and flunked out.  It was a waste of $40,000.”  A gap year is an investment in your son or daughter that will make it more likely that they will find success at college.  One could see this as an insurance policy for college.  Of course, a gap year experience has a cost, but the positive impact on communication skills, maturity, organization and emotional intelligence can never be taken away.


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As someone who has worked in ministry for over 25 years I have often heard people complain about young people.  This is an opportunity for young adults to be their best.  Whether they are working at an urban school which serve students living in poverty, reaching out to a person in the criminal justice system, helping someone get out of human trafficking or offering support for an addict, they are doing good!  This should be a cause of celebration!  The United States Catholic Bishops said, “Action on behalf of justice . . . appears to us as a constitutive dimension of the Gospel.”  In other words, action is essential to living the Gospel.  One could argue that it is impossible to live the mission of Christ without serving others.  It is our belief that Discovery House will encourage participants to make service, kindness, caring for others a part of their character.  All one needs to do is look at the world to recognize that our world is broken, and the social fabric is fraying.  Your son or daughter has the gifts and talents to bring healing, unify divisions and become an advocate for those most in need.  Why wouldn’t we encourage an opportunity for our children to live with purpose and meaning expressing their best selves?  

While a gap year might be a new concept for some it should not be met with “My parents will never let me do this.”  There are too many benefits for your child and our world.  It is my hope you might respond with “Let’s discern if this is the right path for you!”


Joe Nettesheim, Director

12plus1, Inc.

Schedule Your Information Session

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Selecting a gap year is an important decision.  It is important to all of us at 12plus1 that you have all of your questions answered.  One way you can learn more is through a Google Hangout info session.  Sign up using the form below and director Joe Nettesheim will schedule a time with you to talk about every detail about Discovery House.  We will meet with prospective participants, parents, teachers, guidance counselors, ministers, or any combination!  A google hangout allows for up to 10 participants.  Submit the form below to start the process.

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It’s that time of year again. High-school seniors across the country are finishing their final exams, cleaning out their lockers, and getting ready to walk up on stage to accept their diplomas.

The students know where they’re going to college, and they’ll busy themselves over the coming months by looking into meal plans, registering for classes, and contacting their future roommates. Admissions deans are still analyzing yield targets with their staff and are already looking at what they could do differently next year. It’s a predictable cycle — except for one wrinkle.

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An increasing number of students are questioning whether they are ready to dive straight into four more years of classroom lectures, research papers, and cramming for exams. Many are exhausted and burned out, eager to refuel their curiosity about the world through the kind of learning that won’t appear on a transcript.

Record numbers of students are contemplating a gap year before college, and they are looking for guidance on this important decision from the very colleges that admitted them. With a few exceptions, most students who inquire about a gap year will receive a silent nod from their admissions counselor and another form to fill out. Is that really the best we can do?

Over the past five years, many college-admissions offices have adopted policies that allow students to defer their admission offer for one year. The gap year has become increasingly popular with admissions leaders, who have witnessed firsthand its positive impact on students and campus culture. Yet most colleges have remained resolutely agnostic as to what students should do on their gap year, and how they might pay for it.

At first glance this might make sense. The undergraduate clock starts ticking only when an incoming freshman sets foot on campus. Or does it? Not if you believe, as we do, that one of the most effective ways to improve college outcomes is to improve the inputs. A gap year designed with purpose and intent is a journey of personal growth that helps students successfully transition to college.

At a time when traditional four-year colleges are struggling to stay relevant and high-school graduates are hungry for real-­world experiences, why wouldn’t educators weigh in on the merits of a gap year? Isn’t it time for higher education to help students figure out what kind of experience will help them succeed in college and in life?

We recently worked with a group of experts to define the following key characteristics of a transformative gap year: It is purposeful and practical, involving some element of service to others; it takes students out of their comfort zone, challenging them to learn new skills and try on new perspectives; it offers the right balance of autonomy and mentoring to help students build self-confidence and a sense of purpose; it is accessible to students from all economic backgrounds.

a transformative gap year: It is purposeful and practical, involving some element of service to others; it takes students out of their comfort zone, challenging them to learn new skills and try on new perspectives; it offers the right balance of autonomy and mentoring to help students build self-confidence and a sense of purpose

a transformative gap year: It is purposeful and practical, involving some element of service to others; it takes students out of their comfort zone, challenging them to learn new skills and try on new perspectives; it offers the right balance of autonomy and mentoring to help students build self-confidence and a sense of purpose

The idea of integrating an experiential gap year with college may sound radical, but many colleges already routinely grant academic credit for service learning, internships, study abroad, and other forms of engaged learning. Education researchers have proven that these so-called high-impact practices improve student retention and engagement in college. However, many undergrads don’t have access to these formative experiences until their junior or senior year.

Imagine how much we could amplify the positive effects if we offered students a megadose of high-impact practices at the beginning of college instead of at the end.

Reinforcing this point, the Gallup- Purdue Index, a large study of college graduates that seeks to track college outcomes, has demonstrated that how students go to college is much more important than where they go to college. Longitudinal data from the study show conclusively that the strongest predictors of future success are experiences that require initiative and agency — such as finding a mentor, having an internship, and doing a project that takes a semester or more to complete.

College leaders are desperate to cultivate a greater sense of civic responsibility among their students. In these turbulent political times, this is one of the most pressing challenges facing higher education. Similarly, educators recognize that the power skills of the 21st century — resilience, empathy, collaboration, initiative — are difficult to teach in the classroom. To build these skills, students need to be out in the world grappling with complex issues of identity, equity, diversity, and power. A purposeful gap year is a powerful way to build those muscles.

And a growing number of colleges understand that a purposeful year off before college is the best way to ensure that more students arrive on campus prepared to declare both a major and a mission. Pioneering institutions are taking steps to repurpose gap years as transformative bridge years. Could this be the freshman-year makeover we’ve been hoping for?

the strongest predictors of future success are experiences that require initiative and agency — such as finding a mentor, having an internship, and doing a project that takes a semester or more to complete.

Tufts and Princeton Universities have designed (and financed) their own service-oriented gap-year programs for incoming students, and several other institutions are exploring similar models. Meanwhile, the University of North Carolina, Florida State University, and Dickinson College all offer scholarships to make meaningful gap-year opportunities accessible to students from diverse backgrounds.

And there are numerous examples of admissions offices — including at Dartmouth College, Brown University, Rice University, Colorado College, and Middlebury College — that have developed useful gap-year resources for all prospective students. This is a perfect moment for other institutions to replicate and adapt these models to their own contexts.

In the next few weeks, admitted students may turn to you for guidance as they contemplate taking a gap year. Will you send them a form, or will you guide them toward a formative experience?

This article was published in the Chronicle of Higher Education on June 3, 2018.  



Abigail Falik is founder and chief executive of Global Citizen Year, a nonprofit dedicated to reinventing the gap year. Linda Frey is vice president for strategic partnerships at Global Citizen Year, where she leads the organization’s higher-education partnerships.