Meet The Finalists!

What it Takes

We are very excited and proud to announce this year’s TAP finalists! This is an amazing group of people who are all doing wonderful things in this world. There were many qualified applicants and narrowing the finalists down to 12 was no easy task.

Everyone had to go through an extensive application process and the finalists each participated in a Skype call interview with Sean Keener and Jenn Miller (co-founders of TAP). We are working hard to provide support for these finalists and their Gap Years that reaches far beyond the financial award of the grant. Each finalist is a living example of the kinds of trailblazers and way-finders the world needs and we could not be more excited to see how they benefit from a year abroad on their quests of self discovery. Without further ado, we present you with this rounds finalists and some quotes taken from their applications.


 Helen Embry (Canada)

“As adults, we now understand the value that a world education for our 6 year old son can provide. It has helped us break down many misconceptions that we had about the world and we believe travel will help our son to make the world a better place for his generation. I always struggled to learn in a traditional school setting and I see him come alive when we talk about travel…”

“This would be to further enhance both my husband’s and mine compassion and understanding of the world.  We’re more excited for the things this will show our 6 year old to help make him a more compassionate person who is open to new concepts. ”

Huong Uyen Bui (Vietnam)

“I want to learn valuable skills that school can’t teach me such as dealing with stress, unfamiliar environments, meeting people in different cultures, [and] learning to be patient when facing difficulties during my travel in gap year so that I can enlarge my comfort zone”


Grace Holler (Montana, USA)

“I’m currently a masters student studying Curriculum and Instruction with an International Bachelor teaching certification. My courses have helped me decide which school systems in which countries I would like to study.

So far, I have narrowed my plans to Scandinavia and Southeast/East Asia. I plan to backpack through these countries, settling for a month or so in each country. If time and funds allot, I’d like to spend time in Singapore, South Korea, and Japan observing schools. ”

Aleah Cordoba (USA)

“At first, I completely rejected the idea of a gap year, something my mom actually suggested. I was worried about what others would think. Wasn’t that the weaker choice? Wouldn’t people think I’m slacking if I don’t go straight to college? ”

“I’ve been planning my gap year for nearly 6 months. I am volunteering in South Africa in September, staying in France with a host family in the Fall, going to Italy over Winter break with some friends, and then visiting family in Mexico during the Spring. ”

April Lawson (Mississippi, USA)

“As a predominately African American individual, I’m devastated at how many of MY people don’t even have a passport or [haven’t] been to more than one or two states in their entire lives! It’s a frustrating ordeal. I want to help MY people get out of this state of mind that they’re perfectly fine where they are because no, they’re not. To me, it’s imperative that I travel and be a well rounded individual. And I want my people to take this trip with me”

“My vision to get African American women to travel abroad is what this world really needs.”


Filip Carnogursky (Slovakia)  

“This is the reason why I want to do gap year, because I want to figure out who I want to be in 20 years. I can say only in general, that I would love to be a person with clear values who is able to take care of his closest family members and who could extend his wings of help onto wider circles of people. I could imagine [being] a politician in Slovakia, or a diplomat because in this way I could have a direct chance and power to actually change something and make the life of many people who are oppressed in Slovakia (such as the Roma minority) directly better.

Sydney Scanlon (USA)

“I am a considerate thinker who mulls over the metaphysics of existence while reading Waiting for Godot and loves dancing to the beat at the local drum circle. I am a political activist who volunteers at music festivals to register voters. I am a part-time gelato scooper who investigates the economic logistics that will facilitate building additions to a church of mostly illegal immigrants on Calle Ocho and also negotiates the morass of legalities necessary for the permits. I am a sibling of five who goes from volleyball practice, to soccer practice, to yoga, to a game of pick up with neighbors in the street. Then, I cook vegan veggie burgers for everyone. I treat my body purely and carefully for it is the only one I have. I believe that informed, moral choices with the greater good in mind can shape a promising future. I will be part of that future.”

Lily Hue (California, USA)

“My plans for next year are a mix of all the things that I love to do and am passionate about, from service projects to learning new languages to trekking through expansive landscapes I hope these experiences will expand my world view and give me a new perspective on life.”

“I think that the learning that takes place during a gap year is crucial for creating a well-rounded person.  There are things you learn like self-care, successful communication and so many other things that traveling offers that nothing else can really compare to.”

Michelle Zhang (USA) 

“Everything valuable to me resulted from breaking the mold in pursuit of my passions, and the gap year is a continuation of that. Though I’ll learn about international relations and societal issues in college, I wanted to first spend time focusing on how the real life application of my interests can better society without worrying so much about aspects of my personal life like grades or career building. I hope to additionally come out of the year more independent and knowledgeable so as to fully leverage the resources I have in college to tackle modern sources of mass human suffering.”

TAP Student  (USA)

“My family originates from a landlocked country in West Africa called Burkina Faso. I have grown up around African culture my entire life–from religion, dance, traditions and languages. Although I appreciate the beauty of the continent of Africa and its ethnic diversity, there are many changes in terms of sanitation and health care which work to strangle poor African countries like my own. Educational access is an issue which arouses in West African countries as well. According to the World Health Organization, less than 24% of women and men in Burkina Faso were illiterate as of 2018. As I continue to research these growing issues, I feel more passionate about affecting change on a  larger scale. I hope to one day dedicate my life to building up developing communities within different African countries.”

Antony Le (California, USA)

“I truly believe that this gap year will help me with my long term career goals with the knowledge and connections I intend to develop. I envision myself creating a nonprofit organization to help students in developing countries who cannot afford to study abroad to do so. I believe that helping students who are unable to receive a proper education due to financial hardships is important because I was in the exact same situation as them a few years ago when my family was on the verge of being homeless. I wish to prevent financial barriers from stopping students who desire to learn and receive an education. Ultimately, I believe that a gap year will help me move forward because I will be in touch my passion and spirit for adventure and learning while helping students in developing countries find theirs as well.”

Phuong Nguyen (USA)

“A global education has always been important to me, yet my socioeconomic circumstances left me immobile. To reach past the bare resources available to a female low-income immigrant, I utilized the strength of my will, my dedication to education and   a pure passion for helping people to receive the opportunities that would normally overlook me.

My interactions in the most diverse high school in America taught me that we are not all born equal, and we are not all given the same rights in America as we claim.”

What’s next?

Next week we will begin to announce who the chosen finalists are that will be receiving the grants!  This is an incredible opportunity for all those who are selected and we are extremely grateful for the time and effort each applicant put in toward the TAP grant.  The potential that exists within all of them is incredible and we are  inspired by all of the individuals who applied this round!

Again, this has been a very hard decision to make and we encourage every applicant to continue following their heart towards their innermost desires.  On behalf of TAP, I would like to personally thank every person who applied and to say that we are incredibly motivated by the passion and drive that exists within each and every one of you.  Follow your hearts and come alive.  What this world needs most is people who have come alive.

Stay tuned next week for our post of the recipients of this grant and more information on their personal mission statements for their Gap Years. This is a beautiful world filled with beautiful people and we can not wait to share their stories with you all! Thank you very much for all of your dedication to bettering this world.

Until next week, this is Derek (revitalized and inspired enthusiast of gap years) signing off.  Very soon we will have our winners announced!


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