When Myoyeon Yu graduated from Kodiak High School last year, she decided she wasn’t ready for college.

Instead, Yu took a gap year to join a leadership service program where she performed three weeks of international community service, and worked on strengthening her values and beliefs.

Generation Peace Academy is a yearlong leadership service program associated with the Unification Church that aims to help young people do international service work, develop character and strengthen their faith.

Yu said she was considering taking a gap year when a friend suggested the program.

“I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to go to college because of financial aid,” Yu said. “I also wanted to do international service work and really gain some leadership skills between internships.”

Yu signed up for the program and spent time doing training, educational workshops and fundraising before her service trip abroad. She was originally slated to go to Argentina, and was even learning Spanish for it, but due to some last-minute changes, she found herself headed to St. Lucia, a country in the Caribbean.

Yu spent three weeks in January in the cities of Canaries, Anse La Raye and Castries.

In Canaries, Yu and the other volunteers renovated six houses, cleaned up a local beach and did arts and crafts with local elementary school students.

“We painted houses for the elderly, handicapped and blind,” Yu said. “Most of the town is one-room houses with pieces of boards put together. What we really did was fix up the houses, sand them down and fix the houses that were tearing apart.”

Yu also worked with a youth group there, where they discussed culture, lifestyle and faith.

“We worked with the youth group in the community and learned how their hopes and dreams are similar to ours in the U.S.,” Yu said. “They dream as big as us, but they have to work really hard to get one opportunity.”

In the other two cities, Yu painted more houses, an entire school, classrooms, and storage houses at a community college. They also met with students there.

“It was a good experience for her,” said Etsuyo Yano, Yu’s mother, who lives in Kodiak with Yu’s father and siblings.

Yu said after seeing the way the people lived in St. Lucia, she came back to the U.S. with an appreciation for the stability in her life and things like running water.

“I have a bigger sense of gratitude for the things around me,” Yu said. “Having a stable family at home, a good education, all of that I took for granted.”

Yu returned to Boston from St. Lucia at the beginning of February, and said she recently made the decision to put off college for another year. She was originally planning to go to Boston University to study pre-law, but put it off to stay with the Generation Peace Academy program for a second year. She hopes to gain more leadership skills in her second year.

“The past couple of weeks I’ve been thinking about taking off another year to lead a team,” Yu said. “I confirmed I was going to commit another year to Generation Peace Academy doing the same things, but with more responsibility.”

Contact Mirror writer Nicole Klauss at nklauss@kodiakdailymirror.com.

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