In this episode of Success is Subjective, Danny joins Joanna Lilley to share his journey as he traveled as a young adult, exploring different cultures and how his gap year experience has stuck with him, even a decade later. Listen in for Danny’s insight on the impact the right gap year program can have on a young adult, possibly changing the entire trajectory of their life.
What You Will Learn
Here’s a really cool example of finding something within you and offering it to the world:
This student came to us really thirsty to find meaning and purpose but was really struggling to find it. He describes the process of finding something within him that he could offer the world around him in the following way:
This student also washed cars to raise funds for the materials he used, and managed to fund them almost entirely on his own, which I believe added a sense of ownership and empowerment to the experience.
"I personally found this project profoundly meaningful and moving, but I also happen to know that it was tremendously touching to the families." He and I visited some of the families after the project. One of them in particular, the mother with the son in the wheelchair in the picture. She was so grateful, moved to tears to see our student, asking repeatedly when she’d see him again. You know, I think she was thankful for the ramp he built, but I got the sense that she was more grateful that he had shown care for her and her son, she was grateful that he had played Legos with her son and valued him as a person.
I don’t think this young man is going to go on to work in construction or washing cars; that’s not necessarily what he found within him. I think he found that taking initiative to help the world around him motivates him and gives him energy. I imagine that will become a central part of his identity.
by Dr. Danny Recio
Young adulthood is a crucial time to shape one’s identity. We know that. And we know that when young adults feel lost and strangers to themselves is bad news. There’s a lot that can be said about how young adults develop their identity, but for us here at The Bridge one avenue is fundamental: you find something within you, a gift, a talent, a skill, and you figure out a way to have that fulfill a need in the world around you.
Why is something so simple so powerful at the same time? Because...
Thanks to all of our collaborators who helped us build these two amazing 2-person apartments for the "Summit" (transition) phase of the Bridge. Now, students can practice true independent living before heading off to college, the work world or wherever their next step takes them! Bridge participants implement all they have learned in budgeting, menu planning, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, organizing their time and responsibilities as well as living with roommates. And they do it all in these beautiful apartments just down the hill from The Bridge house. Pura vida!
It's been a long time coming... a year, actually. But we are gearing up to reopen Casa Bridge at the end of June 2021. The pandemic has certainly created an obstacle that has tested our patience and our ability to walk the talk of navigating whatever life throws our way. That said, we are grateful to be announcing that the Bridge house will be opening in a few short weeks.
What will change? What will stay the same?
We've been meeting with our team for weeks to determine just how much we can immerse ourselves in this pandemic world. Certainly being vaccinated helps, but Costa Rica is slower than most at accomplishing these world-wide goals of vaccination and immunity. We feel good about the options we have to offer, especially for those young men who need to complete a couple of high school credits (and can do so at NSA) and want to experience a gap semester or year abroad to get themselves ready for college or the work world.
HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMAS: If you are a senior or just need a few credits to graduate high school, you could finish up your diploma at New Summit Academy in the mornings while participating in Spanish immersion, internships, &/or college classes at Universidad Veritas in the afternoons.
COLLEGE CLASSES: Although enrolling in college classes takes a couple to a few weeks to facilitate, it's definitely an option for our Bridge young adults.
INTERNSHIPS: If participants are vaccinated, then the world opens up to them. There are a variety of internships that are open and welcoming vaccinated students as long as they follow protocols for hygiene and mask-wearing with clients. So if working at a vet clinic, wildlife refuge, woodworking shop, coffee farm, automechanics shop, physical therapy office, or IT / computer shop sounds interesting, then you may be in business! Other options like teaching English at an elementary school, working at a hotel, etc. will be opening up shortly.
BRIDGE LIVING: The daily life of a Bridge participant hasn't changed much.
So what are you waiting for? If this sounds like an opportunity to you, we're here. Email us today.
by Dr. Danny Recio, PhD
The Bridge ~ Costa Rica will begin a hibernation period as our last student returns to the USA on July 17, 2020. For how long? We are not sure yet; it could be a few weeks, but it could end up being longer than that. The progression of the pandemic will dictate our actions.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, we decided to remain committed to guiding our enrolled students to appropriate closure of their process with us. And we have. We exercised tons of creative power to provide them with the best experience given the circumstances. And now, as Costa Rica’s borders are staying closed, and strict guidelines of social distancing continue, we feel it is best not to take any new students for the time being.
It felt important to our integrity to stay on with the students we had, and it feels important to our integrity now to only take students until we can fulfill our mission in the way we have designed it; or until we design something else. The Bridge has been designed to have the world be the main therapist and teacher: the ride in the public bus into the city, the journey and immersion in a rural community, the local friendships, the perfect internship with a caring mentor, going to college in a foreign country. Those are all attenuated or dormant under our current conditions.
So, we have decided to take a nap…and do what people do when they sleep: reenergize, dream, assimilate information and learn from experiences lived!
As I begin to reflect on these experiences lived, tons of images flash through my head and I experience immense satisfaction at feeling like we have fulfilled our mission:
“to support societal and global wellbeing through providing small scale experiences that will guide young adults to become more responsible, fulfilled and compassionate members of society on a larger scale”
Thus, just like the world has been our main therapist and teacher, it is for the world that we have worked hard for the past 8 years. Yes, for the young men of course! But not so they become more self-centered and focused on their own pleasure seeking, but so they become empowered agents of change, so they realize that the world needs their own unique talents, even if they felt most of their life they had no talents or direction, and had to come all the way to a foreign land to find them.
I am convinced this is a good mission, and we have data from our participants, publications, and research to support it. I am sure this mission will prevail because it helps its primary clients, it helps the world, it is resilient and it is adaptive. We are immensely thankful to all of you who have participated of our community. Rest assured that we will improve this mission and continue it, like the life that magically springs in a forest after a devastating fire.
And yet, I wonder if when the day arrives, I will feel like we are taking a nap or we are waking up from an 8 year dream. If that is so, I am sure I will regard it as one the most amazing dreams I have ever had…
Thank you all for your continued support of The Bridge - Costa Rica. We do believe that now, more than ever, the cross-cultural experiences that we provide are crucial to awakening empathy, equality, equity and life long learning and connection.
Listen as Danny tries to tell us about the Bridge in under 13 - yes, 13!- minutes!
So we can't go on Aventura and immerse in Costa Rican communities, as we usually do. .
But do you think that means we are going to just sit home and watch TV? Absolutely not!! Here are our young men, giving back to our community by preparing food baskets for those in need. But that's not all... watch them rolling up their sleeves to create a beautiful trails and gardens on our reserve... as well also connecting with peers all over the world who are doing the same!
Supportive Immersion: The Use of Transformative Cross-Cultural Experiential Learning to Address Social Trends in the 21st Century
Abstract: In an era of globalization and rapidly evolving cultural changes, traditional support structures are struggling to equip our youth with the necessary competencies for a successful transition into adulthood. A thematic analysis was performed on interviews of participants of a therapeutic gap program providing what is known as “Supportive Immersion,” an approach to experiential transformative learning where facilitators and learners co-create experiences of learning.
Findings show two main points:
1) participants’ articulation of their perceived personal growth and skill development supported the positive impact of their cross-cultural supportive gap experience, and
2) the five themes identified (PROPS) described characteristics and skill sets of an “integrative learner,” which directly relate to preparing young adults for recent changes in societal trends.
This study demonstrated the outcomes and effectiveness of guided, supported crosscultural immersion experiences. Keywords: Cross-Cultural, Emerging Adults, Supportive Immersion, GapYear, Transitions
Cite this article: Youngberg, K., Recio, D., & Tracy, H. (2020). Supportive Immersion: The Use of Transformative Cross-Cultural Experiential Learning to Address Social Trends in the 21st Century. Journal of Therapeutic Schools and Programs, XII, 117–138. doi: 10.19157/JTSP.issue.12.01.07
This talk uses elements of situated learning, embodied cognition, systems theory and constructivism to suggest practical ways to integrate the social and environmental spaces into education. The main goal of the talk is to empower those who may appear to be in the periphery of education, and encourage them to participate in a bottom-up process of education. It is suggested this is done mainly by becoming aware of and guiding learning that is already happening naturally, outside of the classroom and the lesson plan.
While this is very difficult to do in traditional learning settings, and requires massive efforts at various levels of society, The Bridge is designed to attend to and highlight such learning. As such, The Bridge can be considered as a prime example of a living ecosystem of learning. The Bridge focuses the learning experience on those who are typically on the periphery, starting with the students themselves, who in traditional settings are often only recipients of information, and not producers of transformation for themselves and others.
Involving many communities and making The Bridge house's walls permeable, as Danny says in the talk, is another essential element that makes the program unique and a great example of this type of learning. But above all, The Bridge staff are attuned to pick up on and co-create real-time experiential moments for learning, which focus on process, empowerment, empathy and learning that propels further learning.
Some studies say that youth from 30 or 50 years ago are no different than youth today, in terms of their preferences and struggles. Others speak of drastic increases in mental health issues in this age group and severe difficulties transitioning to adult life. From talking to people in different corners of the world about youth growing up nowadays, there seems to be a generalized concern about the effects of the virtual world (i.e. screens connected to the internet) in young people’s psyche. Overall, most of these people seem to believe that the virtual world functions like kryptonite in youth when it comes to having the fortitude to deal with the non-virtual world (or real world).
I recently heard a similar argument in the show “Hidden Brain” from NPR. I strongly recommend you give the episode I’m linking a listen, but if you don’t have the time, just listen to the first 3 minutes. Here’s the link:
Heather Tracy, our executive director, and I had presented at a conference on this issue. We had proposed that when it comes to the virtual world, there’s a “rich get richer, and poor get poorer” dynamic. This means that those with the built-in skills to learn independently, socialize effectively and manage time efficiently, tend to use the virtual world to enhance their ability to accomplish their goals. Conversely, those who lack the above-mentioned skills, are sucked into or “used” by the virtual world as helpless consumers. Those in this category won’t build on and grow from the virtual world, but instead will increase their insecurity, avoidance, and anxiety.
What’s the antidote? The world itself. I imagine this works like real nutrition and supplements. If you have good nutrition, taking supplements can be a good thing, but if you don’t eat well, taking just supplements can make one’s health even worse.
In a world where the virtual is rapidly overpowering the real, we cannot stress strongly enough how important it is for youth to equip themselves with skills to confront, enjoy and learn from the real. Through the Supportive Immersion approach we use at The Bridge, we design supported experiences that allow young people to remain in a zone of optimal learning while they acquire crucial skills to function and succeed in the hectic globalized society we live in. Each person has a unique way to approach the world and problem-solve; we help each of our students find that style, master it and take it with them where they go. Thus, we work on our students going from “outsourcing (their) lives to virtual alter egos” as they say on this episode of Hidden Brain, to reclaiming their agency and embracing and transforming the world.
We touched base with our program graduates from the first semester of 2018 to find out how they feel they are doing.
We wanted to know about their current main goal or goals, and how successful they feel at accomplishing those. For us, success is defined by people’s ability to integrate life lessons, so they are increasingly more effective at problem-solving and meeting their goals. This is why we don’t define success by their grades in college (or even if they are in college at all) or how low their score is on a measure of depression. Those are all important, but we can see better how they are practicing integrative learning when they are improving their capacity to reach their own goals.
The above numbers are in response to the question: to what degree do you feel you were accomplishing your goals before coming to The Bridge, and how do you feel about that now, after The Bridge. Their averages show, as you can see, a perceived 53% improvement in their ability to accomplish their goals.
Since it is their goals that we are talking about, and not an external measure of success, it makes sense to wonder if these are goals that seem overall positive.
Perhaps you’re eager to hear a bit more about these wonderful people? Here are few quotes that stood out to me from speaking with them:
“I was relying on other people to do the learning for me. Unless I was pushed, I would just sit there, stuck; I wasn’t applying myself. It’s drastically different now, worlds apart.”
“Before The Bridge, a lot of the time I’d sit in a ditch when things got hard, because it was comfortable. Now I see that as a waste, I don’t feel comfortable, and soon as I become aware I’m headed toward the ditch, I bounce back. I’d get this fear that I wouldn’t accomplish anything and then get in that cycle, but now I use the fear to motivate me.”
“Work ethic has definitely improved! Also, general life’s knowledge; understanding how life works. I deal with parts of life that I don’t like. I’m better at taking life as it is.”
“I’ve been sober for 19 months, and don’t see myself doing that anytime soon. Things may not go well sometimes but they would not be solved by doing drugs.”
(when things get difficult) “It helps me to do tangible things: doing homework, ride my bike, work out, meditation, yoga. I’ve gotten better at just getting up and doing something. The Bridge taught me that. It might not make you feel good right away, but at least you can say you tried to do something about it.”
What stands out to me from these comments is that life hasn’t necessarily become easier, but that they feel better equipped to deal with it. Through their experience at The Bridge, these young men learned their own unique way of problem-solving and that has drastically impacted their life positively.
What stands out too you?