A GAP YEAR is when a person takes time out between life stages--usually between high school and college. It is a period of time in which people take a break from traditional education and/or work to travel, volunteer or work abroad. Check out this article from MSNBC or this blurb from the Volunteer Guide. Just Google "gap year,' there are TONS of options.
Here's a small taste of the exciting opportunities out there:
AmeriCorps - an opportunity to make a big difference in your life and in the lives of those around you. It’s a chance to apply your skills and ideals toward helping others and meeting critical needs in the community.
Outward Bound - unique opportunities to gain real wilderness skills and develop life skills in decision-making, problem solving, leadership and teamwork.
CIEE - offers college-bound high school graduates an opportunity to acquire a broader global perspective, foster independence and gain self-knowledge. Their Gap Year Study Abroad programs offer accelerated language growth through classes and immersion in a foreign community, the opportunity to live with a host family, and experience abroad participating in organized volunteer work in the local community.
Gap Year.com - a social network and travel advice website committed to providing you with everything you need to know about taking a gap year. We were created by backpackers, for backpackers, and offer expert advice on travelling, volunteering and working abroad, all tied together with inspirational ideas, opportunities and products.
Planet Gap Year - aims to create the first interactive on-line community for US high school graduates and college students to plan a productive gap year and help them choose a rewarding Gap Year program that best fits their needs.