Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy (PhD)

Degree Level



Political Science


Michael T. Miller

Committee Member

Valerie Hunt

Second Committee Member

Kenda Grover


Civic Service, Delayed Enrollment, Gap Year, Higher Education


Over the past decade the concept of taking a gap year has become mainstream in the US. This idea of delaying enrollment, or taking a break from college, before beginning a bachelor’s degree, has gained popularity, especially as the cost of attendance in higher education has soared and the burden of paying for it has been placed on the student as the consumer. Similarly, the sought-after gap year experiences offered in the private sector are often costly. With the rising popularity of gap years, it is important to identify experiences that are accessible to a wide variety of backgrounds and that have demonstrated a positive impact on individuals and society. There are several federal funded programs within AmeriCorps that seek to provide these kinds of meaningful, individual, and socially beneficial experiences. The purpose of conducting the study was to explore the lived experience of individuals who completed a gap year through City Year AmeriCorps. A specific focus of this study was placed upon the Segal Education Award, which is given to AmeriCorps’ alumni upon completion of one year of domestic civic service to supplement the cost of pursuing a postsecondary education. A qualitative approach was used to investigate the lived experiences of 8 City Year AmeriCorps alumni. All participants completed at least one year of domestic civic service in the city of Jacksonville, FL, within the last 4 years. Findings indicated participants sought to make meaningful change in their lives as well as others when deciding to serve in City Year AmeriCorps. The experience was marked by the development of lifelong relationships, an array of challenges, as well as personal, individual growth. Participants left the experience inspired to continue to serve others, and the Segal Education Award’s influence was varied. In general, the findings support the notion that gap years within City Year AmeriCorps foster a variety a positive benefits from a public good perspective by increasing the civic engagement capabilities of service members, increasing accessing to postsecondary education opportunities moving forward, and making a demonstrable impact within communities in need.