Story and photos by Jo Mathis/AAPS District News
About 400 business and engineering students at Pioneer High School recently learned the importance of cultivating and taking action on the things they’re passionate about.
The “Take Action on Your Passions” workshop was led by Matt Gibson, director of undergraduate programs at the University of Michigan’s Center for Entrepreneurship, and Moses Lee, cofounder and president of Seelio.
The two have teamed up to start DistinguishMe, an online resource for high school students to explore and take impactful action on their passions so they are better prepared for college and future success.
Gibson and Lee will also offer a free three-hour “immersive workshop” at Pioneer High School for AAPS high school students and families from 6 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 8 as a follow-up. Click here to register or text “PassionProject” to 33444. The workshop is limited to the first 100 people. Ten students from the workshop will be selected to tour and have lunch at Google on Nov 3.
Lee told the students that the most selective universities turn away about 95 percent of applicants.
“This is the environment in which you’re applying to school right now,” he said. “The game has changed. People are looking for passionate people. They want people who are going to change the world. And people who change the world are people who are passionate people who know what they’re interested in, deepen it, and act on it.
“People who change the world and make an impact are engaged and dialed-in 100 percent.”
It’s far better to be fully engaged and sufficiently smart than the other way around, he said.
Pioneer High School business teacher Deb Kimball is a fan of the workshop, in which students develop “actionable skills” and took steps to launch “passion projects” that could distinguish their college applications and prepare for their careers.
“They’re talking to the students about getting into college, but it’s not all about grades and your ACT scores anymore, but doing something you’re passionate about,” said Kimball. “They’re so fired up about it, they’re getting students excited about it. Students don’t get a lot of time just to think: What do I like? What do I want to do? It’s telling them they have other choices to help you get into school, and if you’re not going on to school, it’s maybe to launch your career and see what’s out there.”
Gibson said the point is not that students necessarily become entrepreneurs, but that they find the things they want to do and use that as a way of having an impact.
“Moses and I have been working with young people in one capacity or another for the past 10 years, and when they have that thing that really drives them and motivates them, it allows them to reach new levels of success they don’t even find in themselves when they start,” he said.
Lee said some students said nobody’s ever asked them questions about their passions.
“Our hope is that they go home tonight, talk to their parents about it, and try to uncover what they’re passionate about and develop some focus,” he said.
Lee said he’s impressed by the number of students who have a good understanding of their passions, which range from robotics and engineering to football, space and cooking.
And what if they discover a passion that’s unmarketable?
Lee said he talked to a Harvard student whose passion in high school was bees, and how they made honey. He started a club about bees, which Lee said looked good on his application to Harvard.
“We’ve found that if you can do something you’re really passionate about and you do superbly well in it, you’ll be able to find an opportunity for your career in it,” he said.
“A lot of it’s really about developing that habit of action; of developing a bigger vision,” said Gibson. “And those apply whether it’s beekeeping or athletics or business or computer science. Those same skills are transferrable in all sorts of different ways.”
“We’re excited to work with the students, “ said Lee, “and to take their excitement and passions further; to make them actionable, going forward.”