Dear Tanya and Andrew,
Thank you for all that you did to make Charlotte’s Living City semester a smashing success! It was such a treat to watch her grow and mature in so many ways. This semester marked her first time living away from home and her initial introduction to city living. With your guidance, she learned to navigate her new terrain, to think on her feet, and to trust her instincts. She cultivated the “street sense” which comes from lived experience.
After almost three years of being stuck at home, Charlotte longed for true connection. CityGAP allowed her to spread her wings and fully engage with her new community. She saw first-hand how her commitment and service translated to meaningful, impactful work. With your encouragement, she found her voice and used it to overcome obstacles to forge ahead. Charlotte loved researching topics that interested her and giving weekly presentations to the group. The learning-by-doing model really struck a chord with her. She bonded with your community partners for her project: the kids and instructors at the American Dream School. Who knew that she would embrace the teaching experience with such gusto?!
Your program proves that no matter how consistently parents strive to impart wisdom to their teens their words are no match for first-hand experience. Thank you for reminding this helicopter mom that obstacles are opportunities. You gained Charlotte’s trust, which in turn enabled her to trust herself. You let her come up with her own solutions instead of offering prescribed remedies to familiar problems.
Thank you for allowing me to tag along with the group on my visit. I learned more from you in those few hours than in my many years as a tourist. As I watched you facilitate the student-led discussions, I was moved by the true learning taking place. It was so refreshing to see the Socratic method in action. I believe our over-programmed kids have been denied contemplative time to simmer their ideas and to daydream. Public school kids like Charlotte have been trapped in a test-centered, outdated educational system that is reliant on rote memorization and maladapted to the digital age.
I love that your program seamlessly transitioned from macro to micro, beginning with broad information and history of each place, then adjusting the lenses to focus on specific aspects of each setting. It felt like I was watching the students disassemble and reassemble a large three-dimensional puzzle! This examination, discussion and reflection allowed the students to do critical thinking and deepen their understanding of New York’s links and fissures. You gave them a framework within which to feel the push and pull of an ever-evolving and adapting city. By exposing the interconnected nature of the city and its systems, the students could envision where they might fit in to the larger picture, and consider how their actions might impact change. This is the goal of experiential learning, and you achieved it.
By opening her learning aperture, Charlotte has come to recognize that she is more than a grade point average or a test score. She is much more aware of her immediate environment and the moving pieces that keep a large metropolis flowing smoothly. She has fallen in love with the city- you have made a real New Yorker out of our girl!
While it's difficult to quantify one’s personal growth I can tell you that you two have ignited a spark in Charlotte that had lain dormant for too long. Living CityGAP prepared to her to draw from a new well of resources that she will take with her while trekking into the Andes and going off to college. Today she sees her future as a welcome challenge to be savored and celebrated! So, on behalf of John and me, thank you again for believing in Charlotte and giving her a new lease on life!
Marni and John Birmingham, CityGAP parents
Our daughter Wynsome had an incredibly enriching experience in her City Gap semester. In fact, our whole family benefitted! Tanya and Andy have such an exceptional understanding of how cities work. They generously shared their enthusiasm for New York's history, neighborhoods, and institutions while connecting Wynsome and her cohort to the people shaping the city's future. Wynsome got meaningful hands-on experience with community organizations, and felt empowered to follow her unique interests in her personal project. Andy and Tanya weren't just educators, they were also great life coaches, helping Wynsome navigate the college application process and transition to young adulthood. My husband and I were jealous - we wanted to do the program ourselves!
- Lisa Richmond, CityGAP parent
The following are testimonials from Leila and Clara, who participated in the Living City Project's CityGAP program in the spring of 2021, from a recorded info session in June 2021.
Please also see our participant review as "Best Domestic Gap Year Program" on the Go Overseas/ Gap Year Fairs website
I decided to take a semester off of school during the spring semester of my junior year at college. When I found the Living City Project, I was beside myself with interest and excitement. It seemed like the perfect program for me; one that would be both academic and rigorous, while also being exploratory and fun!
And I must say, the program exceeded my expectations.The Living City Project is an incredible opportunity for young people to expand and grow as students, communicators, collaborators, and individuals. This program is unique because of its placement in New York City and its individualization to each student’s interests. CityGAP engages the city as its “classroom” in every capacity possible. Although we completed this program during the COVID-19 pandemic, we were able to spend almost every day outside in the world, safely, interacting with contacts, peers, and the city.
As students, we decided what specific relevant issues and movements in NYC we wanted to explore. Our group decided to study Food Justice and Sustainability in the NYC food system and Art and Social Change in NYC in the 70s and today. Each of these projects exceeded my expectations of what is attainable during a semester and what is possible to create as students. Andy and Tanya guided and pushed us to combine our skills, research, resources in ways I did not imagine possible.
I cannot recommend this program highly enough. But more than that, I cannot recommend Andy and Tanya highly enough. They are truly outstanding educators, mentors, and people. (Not to mention that they are incredibly funny and engaging!)
- Clara P. , CityGAP 2021
CityGAP has changed the trajectory of my future in many ways. The program helped me to become the curious, knowledge-loving, ambitious person I've always thought I could be. The program gave me a truly special, analytical lens to look through as I engage with our ever-changing world. At the same time, the program isn't traditional learning in the way that we often think about it. I feel that CityGAP developed my passion for learning through the unique experiential approach that Andy, Tanya, and Truly use. I began to understand how truly fascinating everything around us is. During my semester, we studied the NYC food system and activist art of the 1970s, and I also did a personal project learning about Billie Holiday, protest music, and the Harlem Renaissance.
CityGAP is unique because the participants get to choose what we study, with Andy and Tanya providing support, guidance, and resources. No matter what we chose, Andy and Tanya had fascinating contacts and creative ideas about how to approach these topics. Andy and Tanya taught me about institutions, artists, people, events and concepts that I would never have been able to find on my own. Not only is the sheer access to resources incredible, but the way the team teaches us to self-advocate and take responsibility is too. Going into college, I feel like I have a new confidence in my ideas and abilities, and in asking for help or insights from unfamiliar people. This, to me, has been one of the greatest gifts of the program.
Lastly, Andy and Tanya are unlike any other educators or people I have met before. I consider them my teachers, but also my life-long mentors and my friends. The support, encouragement, knowledge, and humor of these two is something I will always cherish and look forward to enjoying for a lifetime. CityGAP, to me, feels perfect for those interested in becoming more informed citizens of today's world; an intellectual wonderland. I can't encourage it enough!
- Leila T , CityGAP 2021
Clara attended the CityGAP program in the spring of 2021, after spending the fall of 2020 essentially stuck in her dorm room with classes only on zoom and her friends and community inaccessible. With spring semester looming as more of the same, the opportunity CityGAP offered was enticing! Certainly, it would have been an improvement if they had only held classes outside and in person, but it was so much more than that.
Clara physically explored the city in terrific detail, then focused on the production, distribution, and availability of food in the city. The students had the opportunity to visit, speak with and learn from strong, creative individuals who are actively working to make these existing systems better. Clara was already fairly confident and comfortable speaking with peers and adults, but an almost year of Covid restrictions had demoralized her.
Through this program Andy and Tanya nudged Clara back out into the world, believed in her, encouraged her and transformed her into a force to be reckoned with. She can tackle difficult situations, change directions when faced with immovable obstacles and speak her mind in uncomfortable situations, but she is also a kind, thoughtful and supportive listener. She spent the semester using and strengthening her various skills, again with the support of Andy and Tanya, and with the other students created a beautiful book, ostensibly a cookbook, but actually an in-depth look at various aspects of food production and distribution.
Andy and Tanya continue to be an extraordinary two-person support network with countless ideas and contacts to help Clara continue her journey! I can’t thank them enough.
- Deborah Pitt (CityGAP parent)
The following are testimonials from students who participated the Living City Project's CityGAP and CityLAB programs in the fall of 2020.
Julian V. B.
Hi Andy and Tanya.
I hope you are doing well! I so enjoyed the program and I think it offered me valuable insight into the world I might want to explore as a career option.
Thank you for the opportunity and for leading a fun and rewarding program. I had a wonderful time in the past 5 weeks. It was such a great experience and I learned so much! I hope to see you both again in the near future if possible.
- Giana A., CityLAB 2020
Thank you so much! CityLAB was truly an amazing experience that allowed me to see New York City through an entirely different lens. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to be exposed to so many of my primary interests. Through this program, I have learned that all of these can be combined into a career path. I was so inspired by all of the city lab mentors that over break, I enrolled in a Cornell class called "Making a Difference by Design" where I learned about the cross-section between architecture, sustainability, and hospitality. Needless to say, my learning through CityLAB was put to good use!
- Sincerely, Dani P., CityLAB 2020
The following are testimonials from parents of participants in our CityGAP and CityLAB programs in the Fall of 2020.
Andy and Tanya,
Dani absolutely loved the experience. Many parents from other schools were quite excited to hear that Dani was involved in an in-person class of such high caliber. With high school sports cancelled due to COVID, we were thrilled to learn of CityLab’s 6 week part remote/part in the field program where prominent specialists, craftsmen and local officials took students through the layered and unprecedented process of creating outdoor environments to support the restaurant industry. Talk about silver linings! So grateful that our daughter was inspired by these amazing mentors and to her school for bringing this class to our attention. We encourage others to take advantage of such a wonderful opportunity.
Thank you for providing such a unique and thoughtful program.
- Roxanne P. (CityLAB parent)
Andy and Tanya,
I am deeply grateful for what you've offered Julian, Pelumi, Mateo, their families, their friends, and the restaurant industry.
I so appreciate how you structured CityGAP: highly collaborative, demanding but supportive, focused but loosely enough so that each student could explore a personal interest. It was very clear to me from their presentations that these students emerged from CityGAP with increased confidence.
I so appreciate how CityGAP made space for each student to tap into a personal interest and explore it thru the course of their project work - Indeed Mateo’s CityGAP podcast project gave him the skills and confidence to go on to create a podcast project in the challenging environs of Crossroads, one of the Townships in Cape Town, after your program.
Know that I am always happy to talk with parents or whomever regarding the value of CityGAP - Mateo’s maturation and sense of self-knowing and discovery was deeply nurtured by you both and by your program
I have no doubt that what Mateo experienced over the semester at CityGAP will serve him in countless ways as he navigates through college and life.
- Justine S. (CityGAP parent)
My son participated in the CityGAP program last semester, and finding it was like a gift. What has made the current moment so difficult for some parents is that just when their kids most desperately needed something fulfilling and enriching to do, the majority of substantive gap programs shut down. Yet here was CityGAP, with a program that was COVID safe, intellectually engaging and socially rich. Having watched them pull this off, I was then tempted to ask, “Why hasn’t everyone been doing this?” I suspect it has to do with the fact that Meyers and Gallo each have decades’-worth of robust NYC contacts in the arts, city government and non-profit activism, and years’ experience putting them to educational use. The remaining piece, which they crafted superbly, was a protocol enabling groups to meet regularly all over the city without danger of infection. On consideration, perhaps nobody else coud have managed this.
There is an additional attraction to CityGAP. One of the many dispiriting aspects of COVID is anxiety that the nation may not be able to recover economically, and a sense that there is nothing the average person can do about it. CityGAP features the very people in New York who are doing something: the activists, key city employees, the creators. I could not have guessed that my son would have had the opportunity to be exposed to their practical, optimistic efforts. As a proud New Yorker, I was especially thrilled. But I think that anyone can be excited about their child’s witnessing first-hand a great city meeting a great challenge. What CityGAP offered my son was vastly richer than a see-all-the-shows trip to New York; this is an invaluable trip into its indomitable soul.
- David V.B. (CityGAP parent)
The following are testimonials from students who participated the City Semester program, led by Andrew Meyers, and which inspired the CityGAP and CityLAB programs