My second son recently returned from Year Course (2011-2012) and I am proud to say, is a beautifully improved person from when he left. I believe that a gap year program is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children, and I wish this opportunity was possible for all kids. I think society as a whole would benefit greatly, in addition to our children and our families! Year Course was always our program of choice, and it was the best choice I could have made for my son.
While there are always improvements that can be made to every program, I believe that Aaron grew in significant ways throughout this past year. He has matured in ways that will profoundly affect his future; he is so much more sensible and takes complete responsibility for himself and his actions. To top it all, he is now an accomplished chef who is well-versed in the art of healthy cooking, (and shopping!) and he has learned an enormous amount about budgeting and fiscal responsibility. I know that he has learned an enormous amount about himself and about what he holds most valuable in his life.
He shops, cleans, cooks, budgets his time and balances himself. He has learned about his own strengths and shortcomings and about how to handle issues with other kids who may not have the same beliefs as he does.
His views on Judaism and Israel are fodder for some very interesting discussion between us. Some of his classes touched him in deep and meaningful ways, which is a tremendous gift. I do think the Hebrew immersion needs improvement as he did not learn Hebrew as well as he (or I) might have liked.
While I cannot truthfully speak glowingly about all his counselors, I can testify to the strengths of two people who contributed significantly to his success. I have some concern about the age and maturity of some of the counselors as I think there is too little difference in age and hence in maturity between some of them and the chanichim.
However, on the fabulous side, Aaron and I were blessed to have had the most incredible parent liaison in Camille Kahn. Camille and Aaron forged a bond (and Camille and I have subsequently done the same) for which I will always be grateful. Camille relates to teenagers on a level that not many people can. She is one of the most engaging, effervescent, clear-headed, vivacious, earnest, real, practical, open-minded (while still rule-abiding), grounded, caring people I have ever met. She is passionate about Israel, about life and about empowering the chanichim. I cannot say enough about this remarkable woman other than to say that she helped Aaron navigate some very choppy waters, and he had tremendous trust and faith in her, and has great respect for her as well. I could go on and on, but then you'd probably stop reading, if you haven't already.
The other person of whom I think the world, is Kate Nachman. Kate works countless hours to create a program that is the very best it can be for all our children. She is completely dedicated and devoted to YC and to its success; she is open-minded and eager to listen to ways in which YC could improve. she is not defensive, as so many people in her position might be, and is extremely approachable and available. She also has a very clear and solid understanding of teenagers and their challenges, and has a real-life approach to working in their best interest. if I EVER had a concern about ANYTHING, Kate was ALWAYS available to talk and listen. Since Kate oversees the daily operations of YC, I feel extremely confident as to the direction it is headed.
I have to take my hat off to these two women, as well as the countless others who undoubtedly affected Aaron's life profoundly. I would love to have greater insight as to some of the classes and some of the wonderful activities that went on throughout the year, but truthfully I would rather the staff focus on the program and its participants than on communicating with the parents over and above what they already do.
If I have one issue with the program, it's the accommodations which I still think could use some improvement. However, I accept that Israel is not the US and things are different, AND I think the program needs a whole lot more money for this to happen. THe cost is extremely reasonable for what we get, and I never get solicited by YC. Perhaps we should be made aware of what YC's needs are in order to help where we can. If we don't know, we can't help.........
I am so grateful to everyone for what they do and have done to make this program available to our kids. I am so thankful to have two more dear people in my life as a result.
From strength to strength, from generation to generation!!!