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Originally published Friday, October 27, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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Javier Casio took gap year

Javier Casio, 20, a City Year Seattle/King County community-service volunteer Gap year: Successful in volunteer projects in his midteens...

Javier Casio, 20, a City Year Seattle/King County community-service volunteer

Gap year: Successful in volunteer projects in his midteens, Casio learned during his junior year at Renton's Lindbergh High School about City Year: an AmeriCorps-affiliated youth-service program. Unlike Peace Corps or AmeriCorps, both of which prefer college grads or those with several years of work experience, City Year attracts 17- to 24-year-olds who need only a high-school diploma or GED, or who want to earn their GED. It pays $175 weekly plus $4,725 for each 10-month commitment to pay for school costs or to repay college loans. As a "corps member" placed at Meany Middle School, he tutored, started an after-school cross-country club, coached track and taught one-on-one Spanish lessons. He's been promoted to "service leader" this school year. His college plans are on hold.

Looking back: Before graduating in 2005, Casio was unsure about a career path. "I was dropping dead thinking about getting my college applications ready. I needed my SAT. I really didn't want to pay for a four-year school if I could get the required classes at a cheaper rate — but what classes would I take in community college?

"When my counselor told me about City Year, it got me really interested because I was thinking about social work. I was really scared about coming to the city at first, but I got training for my leadership skills — and now I give advice and support."

Pros: "Knowing what I wanted to do gave me a good start for my senior year. I felt a lot of pressure was off. My parents were happy that I had made a decision, and I'm a family guy so that was important to me."

Advice: "There's no need to go away when there is so much need [in the Seattle area] and when you can start in your own community. ... I believe I can make a difference in middle schools — one of the hardest periods of your life."

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