Recently, a “GoFundMe” email popped up in my inbox. I clicked onto the story and was greeted by the beaming smile of 10-year-old Liam, who has been assembling brown-bag lunches for members in his community who are food-insecure. Liam planned the project with his dad; he had no idea that his project would go viral, but his kindness caught the attention and support of local grocery stores, friends, and community volunteers. Liam has expanded his donation from lunches to other necessity items like toiletries. He has raised over $19,000 to date on his GoFundMe page and hopes to raise another $10,000. While reading about Liam’s Lunches of Love, my heartstrings were pulled, but the brain-wheels began to turn as well. As students approach summer, it is important to recognize the value of summer break and use this break as a gift that is not to be squandered. Some students have a packed-schedule already on the calendar for June-August, but for those who don’t...this blog piece is for you!
Consider this: summer… the unscheduled (comparatively!) portion of your year. Likely, it’s your “me time,” and we certainly all need a little “me time” to balance out our busy day-to-day lives. But let’s take a minute to think: What does this really mean? To most of us, it probably means doing the things we like to do instead of the things we have to do. Why not take it a step further, then, and make it a time to do something that inspires us, speaks to our values and our interests, and makes a difference? Enter: Passion Project. I encourage each of you to take a hint from little Liam and explore something that you are passionate about this summer. Take that passion and brainstorm a way to put it into practice. The following Q&A addresses some common questions that students ponder when considering a passion project.
Q: What makes a “good” project? A: A “good” project aligns with your true, authentic interests. Don’t plan your project on what you THINK the college wants to see. Summer is your time to explore your own passions, interests, and write your own story. A “good” project will also make a positive contribution to your intended audience.
Q: How do I plan my passion project?
A: The first step is to think about what excites you. What lights you up inside? Are you passionate about wildlife? Photography? Health? Cooking? Once you know what excites you, start to brainstorm how you can reasonably invest your time in it. Search online to see what projects other people have done and how you can possibly connect with them to build off of existing projects or extend their project in your local area.
Q: What resources should I use to create and monitor my project?
A: In order to successfully plan and track your project, you should invest in a calendar system, a journal or online blog, a camera for photo-documentation (your phone is great), and a social media channel to positively communicate your project with others.
Q: How do I fund my project?
A: The best part about a passion project is that it can be FREE!!! But if you need funding for your project—get creative! Have a yard sale, offer to mow your neighbor’s lawn, pet sit, start a GoFundMe!
Q: Whom should I ask for help?
A: Reach out to people who you know who have experience in the field you are interested in. Google-search events related to your interests and sign up to attend! Speak with people at the event and tell them about your project. You can use this opportunity to ask for opinions and suggestions and see if anyone would like to help you. It is also important to find someone who can hold you accountable. Maybe your friend is doing her own passion project, or your mentor can check in with you to see how your project is going. Having an accountability buddy will help you push through obstacles and stay determined. It also gives you someone to celebrate your victories with!
Q: How will a passion project help me in life?
A: A passion project will not only keep you engaged and excited over summer break, it will also help you build out your “life” toolbox. You will practice initiative, creative thinking, flexible planning, organization, communication, reflection, persistence, accountability, and follow-through, just to name a few. You will learn more about the field you are interested in and gain inspiration from others who care about the same things you do, and you will undoubtedly discover new aspects of your interests that will help guide you forward. These skills are amazing for colleges to see, but more importantly, they nourish you and help you root into the person you strive to become. Passion projects can stay with you for life. Liam’s Lunches of Love is helping Liam cultivate his values and establish a culture of kindness in his community. Just as Liam’s lunches have made a difference in the world, your passion project can too! We are blessed to live in an era that allows positive connections to be made seamlessly, so take full advantage of this chance. Summer break is your opportunity to explore who you are, what you love, and how your passions can contribute to the betterment of our world. If you are looking for a way to plan your time this summer and have a passion project idea that you’d like to workshop, go for it! Talk to your friends, family, teachers, and mentors for support and guidance—we believe in you!