The ‘traditional’ path following high school is not for everyone. And perhaps even less so in today’s world.
That is one of many things Jay Gosselin learned through observation and discussion during his time working in university recruitment for three years between 2011 and 2014. He would regularly attend university information fairs and meet both parents and students.
“I was heartbroken by almost all of those interactions,” says Gosselin, a graduate Queen’s University. The typical scenario would be we’d be set up with a booth representing the University at a college and university fair. Students would come over one at a time or in droves, sometimes with their parents sometimes not. And almost always, they would present as being very anxious, very overwhelmed, very stressed, unsure, and not only unsure, but terrified about the fact that they were unsure about their futures.”
Click for video transcription
Welcome to where parents talk. My name is Lianne Castelino. Our guest today is the founder and president of mentor you and discover year. His background includes working in student recruitment and Co Op education at the university level. Jay Gosling is also a leadership coach, a speaker, and a father of two. He joins us today from Ottawa. Thank you so much for taking the time.
Hi, Lianne. Thank you.
So J, lots to talk to you about but I’d like to start with what led you to wanting to start up discover a year.
So, as you mentioned, I was previously working in university recruitment, and between 2011 and 2014, I met about 12,000 students, because we kept track. And largely I was heartbroken by almost all of those interactions. So the typical scenario would be, you know, we’d be set up with a booth representing the University at a college and university fair, students would come over one at a time or in droves, sometimes with their parents, sometimes not. And almost always, they would present as being very anxious, very overwhelmed, very stressed, unsure, and not only unsure, but terrified about the fact that they were unsure about their futures. And so I started after that start happening for a while I started to reframe the questions that I would ask them and try to get to know them in different ways. And, and when I would ask them about what they were curious about or interested on the weekends, what they did for fun, very few students can really give me any kind of meaningful answers. Most of them didn’t know they would just kind of regurgitate advanced academic programs that they thought I would think were important. And then they obviously knew nothing about at 17 or 18 years old, many of them would cry, their parents would not know what to do, they would kind of be ushering them along this university pathway, in most cases, just because that’s the next thing to do. So it was clear to me that young people, it was very different than when I graduated from high school, people are nervous, of course, about going on in the world. But more more than anything, people are excited. And now more than anything, people were very, very anxious. So that I understood that people, young people needed more time and a different kind of environments, different skills to kind of understand themselves better build motivation, and have some curiosity about the world. And then I spent two and a half years working at the coop office at that university, I met 500 employers who were hiring our Co Op students, and you know, for four semesters at a time. And so I turned that into a mini research project. And I asked all of those managers and and business owners, what they wanted for young people that were coming into their organizations in terms of skills and what they were, what the gaps were. And they said all the things that most of us read about in the in the news on an ongoing basis, they said, We want people who are team players, who understand how to communicate, how to build relationships with others how to organize their work, prioritize their work, who are resilient, etc, etc. are curious. So discover your was kind of a mash up of these two things. Number one, giving young people more time and space in a positive environment to better understand who they are, what they want, what they’re good at. And then also helping them build these skills that no one was explicitly helping them develop that are really important for their adult lives.
So much to unpack there. So let’s start with what are some of the skills in specifically that these employers or potential employers were telling you were missing from what was being taught in high school.
So the biggest one, I would say that I’ve, that I’ve had many conversations with not only with employers, but with university professors as well is any kind of feedback situation between two people or more feedback or disagreement between students or young people, there was this kind of mass exodus from a situation. So young people hadn’t really been involved in a lot of situations where they were invited to work through difficulties with each other. So giving and receiving feedback is a huge one. And also just having any kind of disagreement. Young people are terrified, as I’m sure you know, of, of being canceled, saying the wrong thing offending other people. And so it’s really hard for them to engage in in particular and constructive feedback or disagreement that was a big one. Certainly organizing their time, and being you know, using professional writing in their emails and in their work. Being able to prioritize effectively. And a big one was curiosity, just having an interest in going beyond the nature of the tasks that you’re given. And just being curious about the work and the world.
So you intake, all this information, you see all of this unfolding at these fairs that you described, you know, you see yourself and how it was different for you. How did you then devise the program that is discover year and what’s entailed in it?
That’s a very good question that So I wish I had documented better at the time, but there was over a series of probably months, and you know, then it evolved. But these are the five components that I can’t tell you how it became clear to me that they were going to be important, but I just knew that they were, were work. So I understood that young people needed opportunities to go and build professional skills in the workplace in different types of workplaces. And then I also knew that they needed very specific kind of coaching and training around some of these skills largely related to communication and planning and organization and resilience and good well being, mental well being. And then I knew that travel was such a, I traveled a lot when I was younger, and travel was my best education, I had great access to education, but travel, I learned the most through that. So I knew that I wanted them to go out and experience the world and to decrease their fear largely around what’s what’s out there. And then, I was in the process of doing a Master’s in Counseling Psychology and a number of the courses I did there, and a lot of the concepts and research I thought would be very useful. So we integrated a coaching element. And then I and then I knew that young people needed to learn teamwork skills. So we integrated a community service element as well. So that’s I don’t know why I chose those things specifically today. But I just knew that those were the elements that I thought would be most useful to them.
Absolutely. So take us through this Jay, I’m a parent, let’s say have a child who’s in grade 11, we have to go meet the guidance counselor, we have to sit down and help him or her decide what they’re going to do with their lives. They’re sick, you know, 17, maybe 16. In some cases, what does discover year offer for a student in that situation.
So technically, we only work with high school graduates. So the program is a year long program. But if you’re in grade 11, and as most grid elevens are confused, even though they they don’t always want to say that confused about what they like and what they’re good at, and what’s possible for them in the short run. What we do is we offer an incredibly nurturing, safe, inspiring community and environment for them. So we have over 100 mentors, we have many staff, many part time staff, and some full time staff and we offer an environment where they can go and be free of judgment, and to be truthful about what they think is important to what their struggles are how they want to improve. And to kind of shed the preconceived notions that they have about success in the world, which most young people I’ve learned, have inaccurate understandings of what what it really means to be successful in life. So that’s what we offer them, I would say beyond anything else, the greatest thing is the environment. And of course, we have all this curriculum that we that we integrate into the program as well. But mostly what we’re giving them as an opportunity to build self awareness, to better understand who they are, what they want, what they’re good at. What they’re motivated by communication skills is a big part of the program that we help them develop so that they can relate better to others better, listen, better understand, ask better questions. We build resilience by we introduce them to literally dozens, if not 100, mentors who do all kinds of different things in life and career. And so they learn a lot of stories about failure, and they understand that the world is uncertain, and that they don’t have to have all the answers. And then we also we also help them better understand, you know what it means to be confident and actually pursue the things that they care about. Through all these different things that we do they build a lot of confidence that the one word that most families say is most prominent when their young person leaves the program is that they had a lot more confidence about themselves and going into the world.
So it it’s a 12 month program? The programming is a bit complicated to explain, but the short answer is that we essentially meet for a full day, every Wednesday throughout the year. And that is our intentional skill building and knowledge building day. So that’s like going to class as it were, although we never go to a physical class. We meet online and we also have 50% of the time we meet the person out in the community at different locations, visiting businesses, campuses, doing experiential learning and helping them integrate you know what they’re learning through discussion. So we meet every Wednesday, the rest of the week, they’re encouraged to work some work full time. Some work more than full time technically some work part time depending on their capacities, their interests, everything else that’s going on in their lives, but we meet with them every Wednesday for that full day of workshop. We do a number of things. In that day, they meet all kinds of mentors, we work on important skills, the rest of the week they work and do other things learn about themselves. And then they also have a coach that they meet with twice a month, at different times throughout the month, their own individual coach one on one. And they also have a travel period in the month of February. So some students go for as short as a few days. And some students go for six weeks, but they all have to go somewhere, to travel and learn about themselves and a new culture, etc, etc. And then they’re also working on these community service projects that they are assigned with that they created, essentially and implemented on their own. So it’s a, it’s a diverse year, in many different ways with lots going on for our students.
It certainly sounds that way. And there’s so much exposure to so many different aspects of real life that a lot of these students would probably never otherwise have. Let me ask you, Jay, because at the end of the day, we are talking about taking a gap year, in order to participate in something like discover year, take us through some of the misconceptions that may exist out there right now, among families, with parents, and maybe some students as well, about taking a gap year.
Yeah, it’s interesting to include both kind of the students and the parents in this conversation, because both groups are prone to specific people in those groups are prone to these dysfunctional we call dysfunctional beliefs or irrational beliefs. So to for the parents, the most common by far are my son or daughter will never go back to school, you know, they’ll they’ll take a year off, now they’ll just float into the abyss, they’ll never build the skills that will have the education and just going to be living on the street, you know, in a matter of years, which is statistically very untrue if you actually do a gap year versus just not do anything. So that myth has been busted time and again. And then the second one that parents often objection they bring is that my young person will lose all their academic skills if they don’t go to school for a year. And what the most common by far narrative that you’ll hear from people who do a meaningful gap year is that the first couple of weeks back in school is is a bit like, you know, jumping in the deep end again, but because they’ve built a lot of resilience and other skills to fill out their kind of their abilities on the year off, they catch up, and then they go much farther, much faster, much higher after that initial pitch pinch point. Students the most common thing that they’ll say, and a lot of parents tell us that they say this to the students will say to the parents is I don’t want to fall behind. And the the question that we always ask is behind what exactly, but it’s behind the status quo, right? They don’t want to appear to be unsuccessful or not capable, and other peers are going off to prestigious institutions. They don’t want to look like they’re incapable or insufficient.
It’s so interesting to hear you talk about sort of the trajectory and sort of the the history of discover year and how it started. And fast forwarding to today, you know, the impact of the pandemic, and all of these sort of uncertainty around the future of work, the future of jobs, the future of just the future in general, quite frankly. So you know, what kind of impact would you say that discover year has had as a result of the pandemic.
So we learned a lot, and we’re still learning a lot like everybody else. So what happened is we had already instituted a satellite program because we are based in Ottawa. So prior to the pandemic, we already had two years where there were a few students, mostly in the in the Greater Toronto Area, who were doing the program in a hybrid model. So we would integrate with them via zoom, which was useful that we were already using zoom at the time of the pandemic, then during the pandemic, we were mostly online. And we learned that that’s very effective in a lot of ways. And also, for young people who are desperate to build in person deep connections with each other, it’s it’s largely insufficient for that part, it’s great for a lot of learning. So now we have a hybrid model where we do about 50% of our sessions online and 50% in person. And that seems to be a really nice balance. Some like in person more some like online more. But what we’ve learned is that I think now people are starting to recognize even though the signs were there, from my perspective, that more people needed more time to do these kinds of things before going off to post secondary or the working world. Now people are really recognizing because they’re seeing this lag and those people, those young people who have been, you know, in their rooms for high school between the end of grade nine and almost all of grade 12 They missed out on a ton of opportunities in real life. So people are now more cognizant and more willing to say, Yeah, let’s try this because we missed out on a lot. So that’s been really interesting. We’re seeing a surge in interest for sure. We’re in the early fall right now.
You mentioned parents obviously very important part of the equation, when we’re talking about post secondary decision making in many families, what kind of services does discover year provide for parents, as well as the students.
So this is our I think, our fourth year of of running a parent’s discover your program in lockstep with the actual program, which started as a pilot project, I think it was four years ago, and what we do with so that’s a paid service for parents who want to join as well, not all parents do, we tend to have about usually about a third of the parents who will join sort of the families. And what we do there with the parents is in lockstep. We do a lot of the similar skill development exercises, workshops that we do with our students. And it’s kind of a dual prong number one, it’s really interesting learning for those parents as well. So as you mentioned, I’m a leadership coach. So I actually make a living now with Discovery year. It’s kind of my passion, but I make a living, doing corporate training, leadership development, that kind of thing. So we do a lot of the stuff that I do with my professional clients, with the parents, but then also the parents are understanding what the students are going through. And we do, we share a lot of research and dialogue around the teenage brain, what’s different from today than it used to be how to how to communicate more effectively with your team, with your young person, all that kind of thing. So they’re really integrating all these concepts and working with their students to enhance their young person’s experience during their their discovery year.
So along those lines, Jay, can you take us through? How can parents better support their child with the decision making about what to do post secondary, whether that’s college, whether that’s University gap, year working, whatever that may look like for that individual?
I would say the biggest thing, in my experience is for parents to become cognizant of the judgment that they feel whether it’s from themselves or other parents around the decision and where your young person will go after high school. Because whether whether we want to admit it or not, most of us are very mindful of how other people think and feel about our decisions and our kids decisions, right. So I think that’s a big one, a lot of parents, I think, unknowingly and of course, on wanting to impose some negative emotions onto their young people in this process, because they have a vision of what success looks like for them immediately. And that doesn’t, if that doesn’t align with the young person that can cause a lot of tension. So the first thing is just to take stock of the millions of people that are out there in the world, there are so many great stories of people who did not go on the traditional pathway right after high school, who in fact, leapfrogged others who did. So to keep that in mind, because it’s a really useful tool to give young people, especially in today’s world, time and space, to shed a lot of the emotional and psychological barriers that exist for many young people that didn’t exist for a variety of reasons, largely, you know, even one generation ago. So just stepping back and understanding that time is okay, there’s no rush, this person is 1718 years old, we all know that most of us had no idea what we wanted to do at that age.
Absolutely. Now, you have such an interesting pulse on today’s young people and all the different things that you do. I wonder, you know, what tools do you believe that they need to have key tools in order to help them navigate, not next necessarily survive but navigate today’s complex world?
Confidence, I believe is the is the key is the foundation, how you go about building that confidence varies, I think, for different people. But the things that our students say most often I think are indicative of what they don’t have that they need. So in other words, they oftentimes most of them do know deep down, the things that they’re naturally drawn towards are motivated by what is the barrier usually is that they think other people will judge that or they think there’s no value, or they think they can’t make a living doing that. And they kind of cast it away, and often judge themselves for them. So to have the confidence to number one really be truthful about the things that we care about. And understand that many people will disagree with those things in life, and to have the confidence to pursue it in one way or another, regardless of what other people think. I think that’s really, really critical. And then the other skill that we focus most of our efforts on is communication. And young people today have just grown up in a time where they communicate so differently, and through different mediums and they’re just not used. They don’t have enough reps, so to speak in in terms of professional communication, certainly and building, building rapport, listening skills, asking great questions. A lot of journalists type skills, I think you would probably agree are very useful in the world. So those are those are the two of the things. The third thing I would say is this deep understanding that honestly, almost nobody knows is what they’re going to do for the rest of their lives when they’re 17. So they meet our students meet about 60 to 70 Minimum mentors over the course of the year, and almost all of them have had traumatic experiences or been through depression or you know, broken up with, you know, a partner right before they were gonna get married, or they’ve been divorced, or they had a loved one die was really close to them. And they share all these things with the students and the students start to see themselves in these people more and more, and they start to really build an understanding that is actually great that I don’t know. And it’s important that I explore now, rather than pigeonhole myself into something that I think other people want. For me.
That’s such an important point that you make, which is that there’s so much more than academics that goes into making these decisions about what you’re going to do and where you’re going to be after you graduate from high school, there’s a confluence of things that can affect that decision making. Now, you talked about speaking to 1000s of students, I guess, before the pandemic, when this discover your organization started. I wonder these days as you meet young people, what strikes you about what you’re hearing them say to you what they’re sharing with you.
So it’s interesting, because it’s much more difficult to interact these days. So we’re just now like high schools and organizations are inviting us back in and other universities and colleges back into schools now. So it’s been a couple of years where it’s been really difficult. And in fact, the greatest struggle for for myself and our team members who are presenting to students interacting with them, asking them questions, is, you know, Zoom meetings, you know, almost nobody has their camera on, students are terrified to open up in that environment, even more so than they used to be. So to me, it’s just kind of reinforced that and then you double down on helping them rebuild or learn the skills that they didn’t have access to be able to learn, you know, human connection and interaction. So I would say that it’s largely very similar to how it was pre pandemic, it’s just that students have even less access to learning and develop these things, which has made it harder for them. So they’re, they’re lagging behind in a kind of a social and emotional way. I think I don’t know what the statistics are right now. But it’s pretty visible. I think.
In your time with Discover year, is there a particular anecdote of a student and a parent, perhaps, that really struck you? And that you still remember because it was so impactful in terms of how discover year ended up impacting that individual?
There’s so many. It’s a great question. But it’s very difficult. I don’t know that there’s any one particular person that stands out in my mind right now. But the what I would say is that we have about six of our graduates who currently work for us, as ambassadors, so they attend our events. In fact, we’ve got an information session, our first one of the years tonight. So they’ll come and share their stories. And what I think is most enjoyable, at least for me to observe is when people interact with them, they always say, Oh, my, oh, my goodness, you’re 19, you’re 20, or you’re 18. Like, I don’t see my, my young person in their friends in you at all, because of their maturity of their ability to carry themselves to connect with people, their perspective on things is very, they just have so much more wisdom than many of their peers, because they’ve experienced so much more. So that’s the thing. I don’t know that there’s any one particular sorry, I apologize, right. There’s just too many in my brain to articulate any one of them. But one thing that I have learned that I that often like to say is that young people today are generally not as capable of many of the things that we are used to being capable of at the age of 18. But they are most definitely capable of getting there with the right environment and the right support, because our students leapfrog in so many ways, other people their age, with the support and the kind of intentional skill building that we offer them. So it’s really, really cool to see the evolution from the beginning to the end of the year.
It’s it’s very interesting, and a very important point that you’re making, because some of us had the benefit of grade 13. You know, we it was just a whole different experience to have that year to sort of maybe work on things that we didn’t know about ourselves, but we were still in a structured environment. When we’re talking about discover year we are talking about as you described, a meaningful gap year, how much of your own lived experience, Jay, would you say went into this organization?
In the moment, I didn’t recognize myself much in what we were developing but retrospectively you know, I did about a 10 year gap year after I went to university I I worked on cruise ships. I worked at the Vancouver Organising Committee, I traveled around a lot. So that’s something that I didn’t realize at the time. But I’ve benefited hugely from those experiences over an extended period of time. And I also have recently come to understand that I have, most definitely have ADHD. And it’s a bit surprising to people who hear that because they’ve known that for a long time about me, but I didn’t recognize it in myself for a variety of reasons. And 50% Usually, since we’ve started asking the question in our intake forms about students, neurodiversity, 50%, pretty much every year of our students identify as having ADHD. So I think that the way we deliver the program is built in, in many respects, with the way I like to learn and experience the world. And so that, that aligns well with the students who are a bit, you know, slightly different learners, we also have a significant number of students who are on the autism spectrum. So that’s, I guess, retrospectively how I would say, I see myself in the in the program, I don’t like to do the traditional thing. And so this is non traditional. And that’s something that shows up for sure.
Right, as we speak, there are going to be families around a dinner table, you know, having this conversation about so what are you going to decide to do for next year. And it’s not always a fun conversation, it can be a source of great stress in families, especially with the evolving fast paced, unpredictable world that we live in. Any advice that you could offer Jay, having sort of gone through it yourself, you know, your work with mentor you with Discovery year, the young people you meet the access that you have to employers, the workplace, I mean, you have such an interesting lens on this question. Is there any advice that you could share with a student first of all, and then potentially a parent who’s trying to help make this decision?
Yeah, my advice for students is, it’s totally fine. Totally normal, in fact, totally great that you might not have any idea of what you’ll be doing when you’re 40 years old, or 30 years old. And that’s, I hope useful to hear from one person. But what I know is that it’s most definitely useful for our students to hear from 60 really cool, really successful people. But that is my number one piece of advice is to that it’s okay to slow down. And just because everyone on Instagram and Facebook, if they’re on their Tik Tok, wherever it happens to be, seems to be living in an infinity pool with endless funds and, and who are beautiful and very skilled. That’s not reality. And I would invite young people to focus on you know, where they are now and take the time they need to, to develop the skills they want. My advice to parents is similar is to, even though it’s hard for many parents have learned to understand the depth or the degree to which things have changed in one generation, it is really significant. The most significant changes are related to technology and smartphones, largely, but things are very different. But it’s not obvious. If you’re looking at the surface, it’s not obvious that things are very different. But things are very different, and even biologically and neurologically young people today are very different than they were one or two generations ago. So I would invite parents to keep that in mind and to really focus on the fact that it’s not a race.
Is there anything else that you would want parents and students to know about discover year in terms of, you know, the logistics, the structure, how it works? Anything else that you think is important for them to know about?
I think I would i Yes, but I wouldn’t focus on the structure or the logistics of it. I would say that the most common thing that’s that everybody comes both to our professional environment as well are workshops with professionals the thing that we hang our hat on and mentor you and discover your in the things that people remark the most consistently, as they will say, I’ve never felt so comfortable to be who I am. That always makes me a bit emotional. I’ve never felt the ability to really express myself this way. I feel so comfortable and so empowered to be myself. So that environment there’s there’s a term that I that I learned in research called repotting, and many many and what that means is that sometimes it’s useful to pick up our our own person or plant or flower and report it in another flower bed because sometimes the flower bed we’re in, it’s just not giving us the nourishment we need. And another flower bed while remaining the same plant that same flower can actually serve as much better. So that is a very useful aspect of discovery or because most of our students don’t know each other from their previous experience there meaning a lot of new very, very different diverse people. So planting themselves in a very nourishing flowerbed, which is the environment that we create and that they contribute to. That’s by far the best thing that we offer.
What a wonderful image to end on Jay Gosling founder and president of mentor you and discover year we really appreciate your time and your insight today thank you very much Lianne Thank you
During an interview with Lianne Castelino of Where Parents Talk, Gosselin, describes how witnessing hundreds of these types of interactions gave him pause.
“It was very different than when I graduated from high school,” he says. “People were nervous, of course about going on in the world. But more more than anything, people were excited. And now more than anything, people were very, very anxious. I understood that young people needed more time and different kind of environment, different skills to kind of understand themselves, better build motivation, and have some curiosity about the world.”
Gosselin, who is based in Ottawa, ON, followed up this work experience with a role in a university co-op office, where he regularly met with prospective employers.
“I asked all of those managers and and business owners, what they wanted from young people that were coming into their organizations in terms of skills, what the gaps were,” Gosselin continues. “And they said all the things that most of us read about in the news on an ongoing basis.”
The entirety of his early work encounters impacted Gosselin deeply, paving the way for the creation of his own entrepreneurial pursuits.
He is the Founder and President of Discover Year, which provides structured and meaningful gap year programming, and MentorU, a leadership academy.
Both organizations provide educational opportunities for students as well as parents.
Click for video transcription
Welcome to where parents talk. My name is Lianne Castelino. Our guest today is a former high school French teacher and a stay at home mom. Julie Beauchamp Quinn Day is a mother of two. Her 20 year old son graduated from discovery year in 2021. Discovery year is a certified year long post secondary Life Skills program designed to help young adults better grasp what they want to pursue in terms of a career path or education. And then obtain the skills to make that happen. participants develop and hone these skills through work terms, workshops, mentorship, coaching, community service, and travel. Julie joins us today from Ottawa. Thank you so much for being here.
So let’s start with how did you and your family come to discover discover year
we were at City mighty mighty son was in grade 12. And he had many opportunities for him after graduating, and he was not sure he was not really sure what he wanted to do, could have gone to university could have gone to a college in fashion designer he could have, he could have went back to Portugal to play soccer take a year off or go work and as a full time employment. And so what is this counselor at school introduced us to discover years. So we we went on the website, we looked at everything we went to the information session and said he said you know what? He says I think I’m going to do this because it’s a sabbatical year. But like they say a gap year with a purposeful gap year. So that’s what he decided to do. And we registered him. And it was just an amazing year. Now
speaking of that year, there was a lot going on in that year, because we’re talking about 2020. So the timing of this is quite interesting. Take us through, what’d you think would have happened? Had he not discovered discovery year?
Well probably said he would have probably go to university. But to be honest with you, I really don’t know. Because like I said, some students are ready to go to college, university on the workforce, whatever they decide, but some of them are not ready yet. And they need that year to that year of transition that year to gain this maturity, you know, that self awareness of who they are. So I’m not sure if Sadie would have liked what he would have chosen for his next smooth, you know, the next stepping stone for his career life or things like this. So um, yeah, I’m not to be honest with you, you might have, you know, try this and try that and till he really gets it. But with Discovery year would happen. This is like you said, it’s all about life skills. And life skills are not taught in high school, they’re just not thought, you know, and what it gave him is this, to understand that self awareness of who yours, that confidence of what is becoming either learned that new, those new communication skills, that emotional intelligence. And then when he was done, he knew what he wanted to do.
It’s so interesting, because I’m wondering, as his mother, and you’re also an educator, so you have a double perspective on this. When he was going through that sort of self reflection, trying to figure out what he wanted to do next. What were you seeing in him? And what kind of conversations were you having with him? Did he seem you know, nervous, fearful, just confused, unsure. And what I’m driving out here is trying to paint a picture of what his mindset was at and what it was like, but through the eyes of you as his mother.
It was, it was fear. It was a lot of anxiety. Because unfortunately, parents we have this tendency of putting expectations on our kids. And we think sometimes that we know best, which we don’t know at all. And I tried as much as I could to have this open discussion. And I kept telling him that whatever you decide to do, you need to feel okay with it. You need to feel happy with it. So even though I had those conversation with him and even my husband and even my oldest Can you were still feeling that? What am I going to do what happened if I make the wrong move, and there’s no wrong or right? There’s only his decision. And that’s what we were trying to tell him. And it’s not easy because some of his peers, they were saying, I have no choice, I have to go in this program, because my parents are expecting this. The other one, do, I know exactly what I want to do, I’m going to do this. And this is where I’m going to go, which is beautiful. But for a kid that didn’t know really what to do. And if you look at his opportunity, he could have gone back to Portugal playing soccer, he could have gone to university, he could have gone to medic terrain, design the mud, he could have went just working or taking that gap here. So I think what happened is that that grade 12, some kids are ready and some aren’t, for whatever reason. And it’s not important to reason. It’s just being aware as a mom, that my child didn’t know what to do. You have that fear of what happens if I do this, and it’s going to be wrong. And we just needed to talk with them and say, there’s no wrong in this. There’s no wrong, there’s no, right, there’s just your decision. And you got to be able to live with that decision. But again, I will say, a person that knows her or himself will make the world better decision. Right? We need to know who you are. To be able to choose the path or the stepping stones, you need to have this transition to adulthood. And if you talk to Teddy is always going to say discover year was the best transition in adult hood. Because he learned those life skills. Yeah,
so you talk about TV being fearful, I’m wondering what was going through your mind and through your husband’s mind? Because a lot of parents who go through this themselves have some anxiety as well, you know, a gap year is not for everyone. So I wonder what kind of things were going through your mind about whether he wanted to take a gap year or should take a gap year or not?
So my husband and I, at first, we were a bit like, Oh, is he gonna go back after his gap year? He’s Z will this gap here. Make him be more like, not lazy, but you know, I don’t know if I this urges motivation to, to go after his goals, you know. So we had this the same, the same anxiety in that sense. But we, we were able to work with it by talking by communicating, right? And more and more that I saw that that program, I said, Okay, this is going to be better for him, right? Because he’s going to learn all these these communication skills and knowing knowing where he is. So as parents, of course, we and then there’s a comparison, right? You have friends, and they have kids the same age and all that he’s going to university to do this to become a doctor and this and that, and that. And we look at people and so well, well, what city’s gonna do and so well, we don’t know. You don’t know. And yet, we don’t know. And you will do what he needs to do to be happy, whatever comes along, but at the same time, you have to support your child and show him different opportunities out there. Right. So I think at that point, that’s where he started to open a little bit more and see and wonder so us more more that we sought care and we went to the info session, and we saw where he was coming from, then you change your perspective, you need to change your perspective. And you follow his lead, because he needs to be happy. Right? Because now there’s so many kids that are changing different faculties or programs at college university because it’s not meeting their needs. Right. So as parents of course we work stressed but afterwards and looking at life and saying it’s it’s a year in his life, and a whole life and I had to sell myself because I have three Bas and and my husband doesn’t have any university degree but he did teach at university so our our home is a bit too spread from others. But at the same time, we had all these expectations. So you need to bring them down and don’t have any. And just be there, be there and listen, you know, and God,
it’s such an important point, right? Because you’re talking about blocking out all the noise that you hear externally, it’s very easy to get sucked into all of that noise. There’s the fear that your child might be left behind, that he or she may, again, not look at academics and picking that up again after a year. I know, many people who feel that about a gap year as well. What is there anything in particular that helped you and your husband get past that you talked about communicating? But was there anything else in terms of support that perhaps you guys turn to, to get you through that part?
So we did our research, I think it’s really important to do your research and see what’s out there. Right. We, we talked, of course, we communicate, we follow this lead, we we try not to get into that, that like you just said that World Wind of life, you know, how things are supposed to be you know, this, and we try things too. We try things. We use a lot of, of opportunities, in a sense talking to other people. Where are the eyes? So we said to Teddy, go talk to people go find people that are doing something like his older brother, brother is an actor. So his life is completely different than his den series life. So you see how we can my older son is? Do you see yourself in that situation? Go talk to your counselor, go talk to your teachers, go find your coaches, go talk to your coaches, go talk to people and see how they, how they did it themselves? How did they find what what made them happy, what they may make them to wake up in the morning and be alive and do what they need to do? Right? So we we we did that. And as parents, you just at one point, you need to trust your child, you need to trust your child, because your child will find him or herself at one point. And some will take longer. Some it’s going to be easier, but you need to trust. So there was a lot of trust, a lot of communication, a lot of researching a lot of guiding and even for my husband and myself. And we we spoke to other parents too. And the thing is, what happens is when you’re alone, you think you’re going through this alone. But you’re not. If you start talking to other people, you’re going to see that there’s a lot of common things that we have, right. So that was that was how my husband and I did it. And we we saw our child we saw the process, right? We were there. By seeing the process through his eyes and through our eyes. It gave us confidence. And I truly believe that when you when there’s an action, there’s a reaction. So therefore, there was an action on his part, which is asking his questions, figuring out what he wants to do, and things like this. And then the discovery came along. And this is when is like completely changed with all the life skills that he learned. So we at the end, my husband and I, we were we were happy because you never gave up. Right? And we never gave up as parents to and we didn’t get in you we didn’t get influenced, we stood our ground and we say You know what, I trust I trust in Him I trust as in abilities, you will find what he means.
We should mention that he was 18 when he entered discover year Correct? Yes, he was. And so, how would you describe give us sort of a flavor an image illustration of what he learned like some of the things and some of the experiences that he went through as part of this year long discover year program.
So the from the beginning where we saw that there was this the sense of family it It’s not like a university or college where you’re just a number, you know, some sometimes that’s how it is. So there’s a sense of family. So there’s a sense of belonging, right. And then I would say, the way that discovery sets the tone or sets the, the, the, the way that they’re going to do the things with the children like the, the, the, the, the approach and all this, right there, we saw that, okay, is going to be in good hands right there. Because they had coaches, they had conference, people that meet conferences, they had workshop, they had exercises, they even had micro coaching courses, facilitators that were there, etc. So they are so well guided or taken care of. So right there, it was a safe place. So right, the safe places, the most important things, especially when you’re a teenager, or are young adults, and most of the kids that are there, they’re kids that are just curious, they just want to you know what, I’m not sure I want to do this, I would do that I need to look a little bit more I need to explore. So in two months, I would say, said he was there, we saw a switch in Him, we saw a feeling that he was I’m at the right place right now. There was this confidence that came in slowly. But surely, there was a self awareness, what he likes his likes his challenges, because through this governor year, that’s what they are learning those life skills. And II saw, the communication skills are phenomenal, because even through exercises, and by the way, they have a program for the parents. And I, I was part of that program. And most of the exercises workshop they had, we went through the through that ourselves. And I thought I knew it all. But Oh boy, I don’t have to learn about myself through this and apply it with Sadie during that year, which was phenomenal. So he became, he became this this new person where he knew exactly where he was standing. And more than he was discovering who you was more, it was realizing that oh my god, like I can do this, or I can do this, or I can do that. It doesn’t matter. It’s what’s gonna make me happy, or what’s going to make me feel alive, right. So through that, and they have their own story that I always say, with Discovery here is do learn how to grab the reins of their own life. And it’s not mom and dad that are deciding. And that’s where the Arab hood kicks in. Because now it’s his decision, how he’s going to do it. So that’s one thing they have the now he has, like new abilities that he didn’t know he had, he just discovered that those capacities, those life skills, especially the emotional intelligence, so we saw are our young adults 18 year old boy, becoming this young men, you know, through the months, and just just the first time because they have to, they have to work. That’s how they apply those life skills. And they don’t they have to work at different places. And you went for a job. And the thing is, this is an analysis, that Mama Mama who says that the employer turned around and he said, Wow, you were really well prepared for this interview. And said, he said I felt confident. And he says, Without discovery, I don’t think I would have had this effect on the employer, because they prepare them. And then they prepare them how to be a good employee around other employees, right? The corporate the corporation. So it’s like, it’s amazing. So we just saw that and now he just like went to design, he decided to be designed the mind in Montreal, maybe victory. The move there after discovery year, he started this program, and he’s flourishing because he is in the right place. Because through discovery year, you learned about all this and about who he is, and this is what he chose to do.
Yeah, that’s wonderful. You know, a lot of parents are going to be listening to this interview and really having a lot of anxiety in their own situations in their own lives. What could you You suggest to them about embracing, like you’ve described the process, you know, maybe looking at a program like discovery year. And I think the most important thing is is something that you said, which is trusting your child, him or her to make their own decision at the end of it all, because they, they have to become adults and make their own independent decisions, you know, without their parents at one point. So what would you advise parents who may be not at that level that you’re at, about how to sort of manage this.
And I would say to the parents to look within, because those fears they come from us. So I would say, look, where you are standing in this in this situation, and look where your fears are coming from. And it’s, if it’s, oh, my, my, my child will not make it will not have success and things like this, you need to remember that it’s his or her story and not us. And break don’t have to don’t have expectations. I think expectations is the worst thing in parents when it comes to the young adults. And of course, our parents had expectations, and we have expectation that’s from generations to generations. And when I say expectation is, is not, not the fact that you want them to be happy, of course, that’s okay. But at the same time is it’s their life, it’s their story, gets it they need to eat, they need to figure it out by themselves. We raised them, and we did the best we could, right we did the research we needed to do, we learn the things that we needed to learn, we took some from our parents, we modified some mothers, we spoke to people, we did the best we could to raise them. Now it’s not our turn to raise them, we’re done raising them, we are there to accompany them. We are there to guide them, we are there to support them. And the way to support is always look at it in a positive way. Even if the challenges are really really hard. And the thing is, is go, go get the help that you need. Go get the help that you need as a parent and go get the help if your child needs help, right. So that’s that’s what I would say. And at the same time. You need to trust you need to trust and they will figure it out. They will. They will. You just need to be around and it’s the love. You need to feel love. Because when they feel love, they are okay. They say okay, I have the love, then I’ll take the risk, because I can always go get the love. So that’s what I would say to parents, I hope it helps. For us it was very, very difficult because like I said, the expectation was to go to university, you know and to do this, and I had to come down I had to like figure out that Juliet’s. It’s not your life. It’s your child’s life, and you need to respect that. It’s about respect. Yeah,
lots of wonderful advice for parents listening and watching. Julie bow Shaw wind. Thank you so much for your time today.
You’re welcome, Yann. It was my pleasure.
Julie Beauchamp-Conde is a mother of two who took the Discover Year program designed for parents.
Her youngest son decided to enrol in the Discover Year program after closely examining all of his options following high school.
In an increasingly uncertain and rapidly-evolving world, where educators and institutions are tasked with preparing students for jobs that do not yet exist, Gosselin, a father of two, says the mission and mandate of Discover Year meets an identified need. This includes addressing a growing number of neurodiverse learners (ADHD, autism, etc.).
Through targeted, structured, meaningful programming Gosselin and his team strive to provide a viable option where the learning and discovery continue — in new and different ways — for those students who may elect to pursue a ‘non-traditional’ path.
During his interview with Where Parents Talk, Jay Gosselin discusses:
- Perspectives on taking a gap year
- His lived experience following high school
- Skills employers are looking for in new employees
- What most high school learning does not provide
- Parent support programming
- Key tools today’s students need to navigate the working world
The structured gap year: A family’s lessons learned
Tips to Successfully Navigate the First Year of University with Dr. Janet Miller
How to Support a Child with Choosing a Career: Practical Tips from a Career Coach