The Emergence of Passion Projects


Paige Hosebin
Media Editor
When students initially hear about Latin’s seemingly hefty service requirement for ninth and tenth graders, they often sigh in frustration, anxious about how they will manage to fit the hours into their busy schedules. Nonetheless, this requirement can turn into a self-constructed service project that leads to discovery and growth while simultaneously making a profound difference in the community. Unfortunately, most students who pursue these types of commendable service projects do so without receiving an ounce of recognition.
One of those students is junior Eytan Raviv. “What could be more exciting than sharing what makes you happy with others?” said Eytan, when asked about serving at The Merit School of Music, where he helps teach elementary and middle school students to play the cello. Historically, classical music education has been a gift for a select few; the Merit School, a west loop community music school, seeks to remove barriers to quality music education in the city. Eytan’s next goal is to form a partnership between musicians in his Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Merit School, expanding his volunteer base (currently of one) to include his peers at the CYSO. 
Just as Eytan connects with younger kids through service, Junior Luca Craigie serves at KEEN, an organization that provides kids with special needs with a chance to get all of their energy out and play. Luca discovered KEEN during Freshman year at the Valentine’s Day party, fell in love with program, and signed up to be a volunteer regularly. Luca says, “The true magic of the whole experience is the relationship you build with the kids, and the smiles they have on their face at the end of the day.”
Some students have even gathered inspiration from their Latin courses. After engaging in service via the Dance Mentoring class, senior Kendall Pollard  decided to start “Uptown Moves,” a program that offers free dance classes to age groups 4-6 and 7-9 at Latin’s Uptown community space. The students develop physically and cognitively, improve their social skills, and gain confidence. The teachers and students create a community of blended backgrounds both from Uptown and from Latin to learn about dance. After witnessing the children’s development, Kendall wants to continue her work with the program and further research child development and psychology.
Other students have also pioneered their own organizations. Sophomore Shalom Ajiginni created a service project called “More Than Just A Backpack, which she started last August with her Monster Education Foundation Scholarship (M.E.F). Shalom partnered with Good News Partners and created a video of what she wanted to accomplish with this project and submitted it to the Acting Up Awards, where she received a $5,000 grant. The money helped fund the resources for the shelter such as Chromebooks and gift cards to Target as an incentive. Twice a month, Shalom’s team go to the shelter to teach S.M.A.R.T. Goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-Bound). When asked about her experience, Shalom said, “I have had a great time teaching the kids and getting to know them more. Every time I see a new face, I get to impact a new life, which is a blessing.”
Although all of the aforementioned examples were focused on helping the youth, senior Madelyn Hill has taken a different path.  For the past two summers, she has volunteered at the Chelsea Court Place, a dementia care facility. During her time there, she worked with the aging population to help maintain their quality of life. She helped to lead art classes, poetry readings, and visits to museums. Madelyn enjoys spending time with the elderly because, as she says, “They have an abundance of knowledge that they are eager to share.”
These stories, among others, helped fuel the decision to offer “passion projects” as an alternative way to fulfill Latin’s service requirement. While students will still be able to fulfill the service requirement by piecemealing direct service hours together, the way it has traditionally been done, Ms. Bunger highlighted that this year,  freshmen and sophomores have another way: they pursue a “passion project” — something that the student is genuinely interested in and can find an organization that will help them pursue their passion while helping others. A portion of those hours does not have to be direct service. For example, perhaps some of that time is used to plan the dance lesson before teaching it or to buy snacks. 
Bunger said, “We are hoping that this not only helps the kids that have these passion projects  but also eliminates ‘piecemealing.’ We also find that when students find a form of service that they love, it doesn’t feel as much like ‘work.’ They are more likely to continue serving into their junior and senior year. They build relationships and ultimately, see a greater purpose to their life. Maybe right now a lot of students see themselves solely as a ‘student’ or a ‘student-athlete’ or a ‘college applicant,’ but while serving, they can see themselves as a mentor. Tapping into a bigger purpose than just the bubble of latin makes people feel more connected with the greater community of Chicago and the world.” 
There are many more students to name and stories to share, so look out for the next article featuring various passion projects!