The Youth Passion Project – Fostering the Passions of Younger Learners During the Pandemic


The Youth Passion Project is an organization created by SHS students in wake of the Coronavirus Pandemic which led to school closure. The organization strives to help students develop new interests and skills in their free time during the Pandemic.

By Sydney Piccoli, Scarsdale High School

The Youth Passion Project is a new organization that allows Scarsdale High School students to teach free online courses to younger students. The mission of the organization is to supplement and extend learning during this period of school closure. The organization hopes that the students can use the time they would normally spend in a classroom exploring new topics of interest such as coding, film making, comedy, and public speaking.

“When schools initially closed due to COVID-19, I had more time to explore topics that I was passionate about. I worked on some coding projects I had to stop at the end of summer,  read some books on philosophy, and got to spend more time with family. I realized that this situation was not unique to me, at the time I knew schools across the country would be closing, and it presented the perfect opportunity to teach younger students to help them find their passions, as I had found mine. I first started by getting some friends on board with the idea, and many people reached out to me after the fact to join the team as well,” explained Zachary Siegel, the program’s director.

The organization has seventeen instructors in total, and of that seventeen, five students make up the leadership team. “I decided to join because I wanted to do something to help during these difficult times. Obviously, as Scarsdalians, we hold a lot of privilege to be able to access e-learning, participate in social distancing, eat three meals a day, etc. I wanted to do something that utilized not only my privilege but also extend it to others who are not as fortunate as I am,” exclaimed Karen Lee ‘21, a creative writing instructor.

The course catalog is organized into three general categories: STEM, arts, and humanities. The stem courses include a video game design in Scratch, the essence of web development, introduction to coding in Java, as well as a game design theory and programming with unity course.

The arts courses include creative writing, stand up comedy 101, introduction to drawing, moviemaking, introduction to origami, introduction to chess, introduction to ballroom dancing with an emphasis on Latin basics as well a songwriting/digital music course.

The humanity courses are fundamentals of philosophy, analytical writing, Spanish, introduction to public speaking, and introduction to Latin. Some classes are orientated at helping students in their academics, while others are aimed at teaching students new skills. The website provides a concise, clear explanation of each course as well as the prerequisites, if any, that a student should have for attending the classes.

“I’m really excited to share what I’m passionate about with younger kids to hopefully spark an interest in them too. Being a part of an organization like YPP during a time like this is really rewarding, and I’m looking forward to helping others one class at a time,” exclaimed Megan Niu ‘21, a Spanish instructor.

Youth Passion Project is set up to operate for multiple sessions. Session one recently started with a total of fifty-five students registered and will last another four weeks. “We will continue running sessions as it is feasible when schools are closed, so even if you didn’t get to register this time around, you can go to our website to register for the next session,” explained Siegel ‘21.

The classes are typically forty minutes and meet twice a week. They are scheduled around the students’ availability. The classes are taught on Zoom, a video chat program that allows students to interact with their instructors.

“I have taught some classes – most of them started by this point. It’s a lot of fun, and I think although we have a focus on learning, one of the largest benefits of the program is the socialization aspect. Many people are isolated in their homes right now, as they should be. Now, more than ever, we need to come together as a community. Many of our students specifically joined the program with friends and family so they could have time to interact and learn together. It feels really rewarding not only to share my passions with others but also that I am helping people have fun and get back together,” explained Siegel ‘21.

“Once schools reopen, I would be interested in keeping the program going. We would have to reevaluate what times the classes could be offered and instructor availability, but I’m hoping we could work forward,” concluded Siegel ‘21.

This story was originally published on Maroon on April 5, 2020.