Grads on a Gap

Garfield graduates opt for gap years, not online learning.


Jefferson Ashby bouldering in Gold Bar, Washington.

Instead of attending college through their computers this year, the Garfield class of 2020  is taking the year off to work, play, and spend time with family.

Jefferson Ashby on the summit of The Tooth near Alpental.

“It was a bit of a last-minute decision,” said Jefferson Ashby, who decided to take a gap year. “Up until August I was still planning on attending [school] but [a gap year] had sort of always been in my mind ever since COVID and online school.”

Ashby has been using his free time to climb and spend time with friends. “When you’re in school, you know, your time just gets filled up…I’ve just been able to take full days to go take pictures of birds or stuff. It’s been really nice to have so much time.”

Another graduate, Natasha Wozniak, lived with her grandmother in Arizona this fall and is spending her winter ski instructing in Colorado.

“I’ve been able to do a lot of things so far this year that I would for sure not have been able to do if I had gone to school,” Wozniak said. “You don’t have any roots, you aren’t tied down to one place and so you can pick up everything and leave which is really nice.”

Clara Neville left to attend her first semester at Colorado College this fall, but quickly realized that the college experience this year is not what she wanted. She spent some time in Montana before moving back to Seattle.

“I’ve been nannying and tutoring them 5 days a week, full time. It’s not the most amazing thing but I’ve been making good money and it’s been filling up my time,” Neville said. “I was looking into different programs to do next semester and I found this one in Hawaii that is environmentally focused…so I’m doing that for two months starting in February.”

Despite the fun adventures and new opportunities, graduates are hopeful to return to school next fall.

“It’ll just be nice to have structure,” Ashby said.  “I am enjoying the freedom right now, I can kind of do whatever I want, but I think it will be nice to go back having a year of break. I’m definitely excited to meet new people and have a college experience.” 

Natasha Wozniak hiking in Arizona.

“I was really looking forward to going to school and so I’m really excited to go next year and to get back to learning more academic things,” Wozniak said.

“I’m hoping it’ll be more normal next year. I was definitely looking forward to it,” Neville said. “I think I had my expectations a little too high for what this year was going to look like.”

Regardless, three months into her gap year, Neville has already noticed personal growth. “I’ve had a lot of time by myself to reflect on who I am as a person. I feel like I’ve learned a lot of myself. I’m more comfortable being alone,” Neville said.