Summer Sun, Let Passion Run!

Stuyvesant students kept themselves busy this summer, filling their time with passion projects, hobbies, and innovations, but what is the motivation behind their productivity, and what gives their projects value?

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Most Stuyvesant students see summer vacation as a welcome break from their fast-paced academic calendars. For some, this means sleeping around the clock, while others choose to spend more time with family and friends. A few students choose to dedicate their time towards beginning a passion project: a hobby, idea, club, or other extracurricular activity driven by their own interests.

The vacancy of summer is often accompanied by pressure to be “productive” in some way, but this productivity can manifest in different ways. Some students view vacation as an opportunity to impress colleges with rigorous summer classes, programs, and volunteer work that will stand out on their resumes. Others choose activities more for the sake of enjoyment and self-improvement.

Sophomores Sama Daga and Angelo Chen have also dedicated their downtime to a project centered around community service. This summer, Daga and Chen began work on their tutoring organization FLOW Prep and are planning to offer tutoring services by January 2024. FLOW prep is devoted not just to academic achievement but also to helping students cultivate a love for learning. “It’s less about trying to get the students to get crazy high scores on Regents [Examinations], but instead just introducing them to actually enjoying learning and actually putting importance [on] their academics,” Daga said.

FLOW Prep plans on tutoring middle school students from underprivileged schools in Regents examination courses. Chen has used his own educational experiences as motivation for the organization. “In the community where I grew up, not even parents knew much about anything like the SHSAT and the Regents,” Chen recounted. Daga and Chen hope their work can help both parents and students in these communities feel more comfortable navigating the New York City Public Schools system.

Though Chen and Daga have not officially begun tutoring services, they have already grown from the process of preparing them. “Angelo [and I] have very much blossomed [in] our friendship during the summer,” Daga remarked.

Apart from strengthening their working relationship, Daga and Chen have also learned a lot about building organizations from the ground up. “Sama has been doing the business part of this project. She knows a lot about it. So I feel like I’ve learned a lot,” Chen reflected.

When asked to describe the initial motivator behind FLOW Prep, Chen admitted, “I mean, the idea began with college applications. But as we got along I saw that I really enjoy […] teaching other people and [that] learning is a big passion of mine.” Daga and Chen first viewed this venture as a means to an end: college decisions. However, as their ideas grew into reality, Chen discovered a genuine passion for the work he set out to do.

Sophomore Ray Lattapongpisut has spent the downtime of summer engaging in a popular, daily language-learning activity: Duolingo. During the summer of 2020, Lattapongpisut decided to learn Mandarin with the help of Duolingo and has now reached an impressive 1,000-day streak.

Lattapongpisut grew up in a Thai family, though his grandparents on both sides are Chinese. “Learning Mandarin feels like I’m learning a bit more about my past, in a way,” Lattapongpisut described. Lattapongpisut’s mother speaks Taiwanese-Mandarin. Lattapongpisut recalled, “She was really impressed with my progress after a few weeks, as before I straight up knew zero Mandarin. I would say it gave me motivation considering how supportive she was of the hobby.”

Lattapongpisut’s passion sparked an engaging learning habit—not one that would necessarily bump up a college application, but one that would connect him closer to his culture and family. This daily commitment to self-improvement relied entirely on self-motivation and dedication. Passion projects do not need grandeur or prestige in order to hold value. Their value comes from commitment and—most importantly—passion.

Senior Kanduja Shaika, along with a few friends from other New York City high schools, recently founded the Instagram account @sunnys_skin. The main goal of Sunny’s Skin, Shaika explained, “is to deliver correct, trustable, and inclusive information [around skincare].” Shaika remembers having a hard time when first entering the realm of skincare on social media. “I first began my journey when I saw others on social media sharing their routines and products. [I] started off with trial and error and misinformation, which did more harm than good,” Shaika recounted. “I wanted to make sure others don’t go through the same difficulties and can feel the benefits of skincare immediately.”

Sunny’s Skin, which was founded in June 2023, has now surpassed 500 followers. The Instagram page has reached over ten thousand accounts in the past 30 days, and each reel that it posts gets thousands of views. Shaika hopes to continue growing the account and help guide teenagers on their skincare journeys.

Though summer is intended to be a vacation, it does not always feel that way. College applications and pressured productivity culture loom over students, threatening any true relaxation. These students have used their summers to start projects, hobbies, and organizations; each has come away with something uniquely valuable. Not every summer must be productive or impressive, but seeking out and following up with one’s interests is a sure way to make the most of it.