Hudson Valley-based progressive education institute Place Corps is offering Kingston students an opportunity for a gap year unlike any other with a 10-month service fellowship designed to answer the timeless post-high school question: What’s next?
Place Corps was founded in 2019 by creativity advocate and artist Dawn Breeze; Etsy co-founder and founder of the Good Work Institute Matt Stinchcomb; and Martin Ping, executive director of Hawthorne Valley Association.
“We were looking at the trajectory post-high school that most students feel they should go on, which is generally following the mythology that college will always lead to a good job,” said Breeze. “And the question was, is that true, and what are the jobs needed now and in the future that will make the world a better place?”
Place Corps’ Kingston Fellowship will begin this August and run through May 2023, giving up to 16 kids between the ages of 18-21 the chance to develop personal, practical and professional life skills through community service and professional work experience. The program will include mentorship, camping, a winter retreat, peer-to-peer experiential learning, and the chance to earn college credits. And it will provide an immersive nature education, including a month-long residency on a 900-acre biodynamic farm campus.
Place Corps will teach its participants practical, professional and personal skills. And it can also help them see and experience things they might not have otherwise considered.
“We develop our sense of purpose over our lifetime, it’s an evolution.” said Breeze. “It’s very rare that one person has a linear tract. So we ask what are the practical skills that we all need to thrive while moving in the direction of our purpose? Many of those practical skills are not being taught in traditional education and are needed.”
Some of those practical skills in which Place Corps is rooted may seem like common sense to adults, but are often unknown to teenagers.
“The knowledge we share at Place Corps already exists all around us” said Breeze. “At Place Corps we create the opportunity to learn through doing, this feels really important to create meaningful change. We empower youth to discover possibilities in the process of trying new things, in real life, and in this way we help build skills that equip youth to be courageous lifelong learners.”
And it’s a particularly unique time for Place Corps to kick off its inaugural Kingston Fellowship.
“(High school) seniors, they’ve been in a pandemic for two years,” Breeze said. “So not only have they lost a lot of traditional education, they’ve lost a lot of life skills, they lost a lot of socialization skills. College seems insurmountable and doesn’t make sense financially. Crisis is everywhere. It’s a lot.”
The Kingston Fellowship is intended for post-high school students, in which Place Corps includes “the homeschooled, public schooled, unschooled, super schooled” who want to “create a values-aligned joyful livelihood serving their communities.”
Breeze said Place Corps has already been getting the word out at Kingston High School and in the community, with students frequently asking how their participation would align with their ongoing lives, which for many includes a job. Programming is every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from around 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., with Wednesdays earmarked for community service placement. Fridays through Sundays are open.
Each participant, whether they already have a job or not, will receive a $500 monthly stipend, as well as a $4000 completion award at the end of the program.
“It’s very important that people who are learning financial literacy have access to capital to practice with, and that’s not often the case,” said Breeze. “And we see money in this program the same way we see pencils and paper. You can’t draw without a pencil, you can’t save money without money. And we provide it in this way so that everyone in our program has the same number to play with.”
The program itself is also intended to be equitable, with only those who come from families who could reasonably afford to contribute asked to.
“We believe that one cost is not equal for everyone,” Breeze said. “We’ve raised philanthropic funds to ensure that a hundred percent of applicants can attend, even if that means that a hundred percent need a hundred percent scholarship. We have a tiered cost share model, if a family is earning $250,000 or above, we ask to participate in sharing the cost of our program as a practice of building equity.”
Applications are open at the Place Corps website (www.placecorps.org/kingstonfellowship/apply) through Friday, April 15, but will remain open if a “good sized” cohort isn’t filled by then.
“Our program is a self-selecting program, if a youth sees this program and they are excited and feel they will benefit from it, our easy application allows that to be evident,” Breeze said.