Janak Bhakta, a soft-spoken 17-year-old from Tustin, had big plans for 2020. He wanted to spend time away from academics to learn, grow and mature by traveling the world. Then the coronavirus pandemic struck and turned those plans to dust.
“The ideal plan was to travel internationally, but obviously that’s not going to happen,” Bhakta says about his planned gap year. He filled out applications for Outward Bound Costa Rica and NOLS Baja, two leading outdoor and leadership organizations, but both programs were canceled due to travel restrictions and health concerns.
Bhakta was still able to find the perfect fit with the Colorado-based High Mountain Institute, which puts gap-year participants in national parks to assist in local conservation efforts.