My Experience with Passion Impact… so far

My experience with Passion Impact has brought me nothing but contentment. Ever since I joined in December of 2019, I’ve had so much fun making new friends and gaining new skills that are just necessary for everyday life. I had the pleasure of getting to know Stefan a little better. He is the founder of PI and a great person in general, almost everything I learned while being a part of PI is thanks to him. When I heard about the internship, I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to continue being a part of the Volunteer Event Program through summer. Signing up for it, I was expecting it to be similar to what VEP looks like, but when the time came for it to start, I realized that it’s way better than that. 

During the internship, we are being trained to be VEP leaders. Every intern who is a part of the internship is going to be a committee leader when the school year starts. We are being taught skills that public schools don’t teach us, such as resume and cover letter writing, ways to answer job interview questions, and much more. Throughout the internship, there were projects that we had to do. These projects required us to use skills that we would need as leaders and slowly, but inevitably, we became prepared to be leaders of the VEP members we recruited. I’m really glad I was able to be a part of this internship because it taught me some fundamental skills that I don’t think I would’ve learned anywhere else.

Written by:
Helen Nikitin
Development Committee Leader of the VEP
Read more about Helen here:

Internship Reflection

In this internship, I had space to grow, discuss, learn, and listen. Although it may not sound like much, this opportunity is not always provided. Especially in a society where people are so conditioned to “ stay in their lane.”  Bryant H. McGill once said, “ Whatever makes you uncomfortable is your biggest opportunity for growth.” Through the conversations we had in our workshops and article discussions about Justice, Bias, Stereotypes, identity, diversity, history of policing, and etc.… I can vouch for that. I would not trade the perspective and knowledge I now have even though there are times where reality is not as great as one would hope it to be, because awareness is an essential part of creating change.

In addition to that, I also learned to cherish the qualities and soft skills I have because it is not always something that can be learned, and it is uniquely mine.  I have grown to love aspects that I use to hate about myself, and that in itself is empowering. I have the internship to thank for that because it taught me how to take feedback and vice versa, the benefits of reflecting, and the power of communication in relationships.  I have learned that one of my weaknesses is setting boundaries, and through reading Emergent Strategy, which is one of our tasks, I learned many ways on how to do that and the perspective that can support me in taking those actions.

Speaking of support, I was able to explore more of my interest in social work through the encouragement of finding a mentor in that field to learn from. My mentors taught me that there is more than one way for me to get where I want to be in life, to ask a lot of questions, aim to be a lifelong learner, the importance of self-care, and to be flexible with myself. Talking with them was great and an experience I probably would not have had if it were not for the internship. My new mentors have given me a lot of support and offered to continue to answer my questions in the future.

Overall  I have learned so much more about myself in this internship than I ever have in such a short period. In six weeks, I became more aware of the world, myself, and what my passions are. The projects, workshops, and tasks we did all lead to personal growth, and I am genuinely grateful for that. 

Written by:
Christina Ou
Advertising Committee Student Leader of the VEP
Read more about Christina here:

What does passion mean to you?

Passion. What does the word ‘passion’ really mean? The textbook description of passion is as follows: “A strong, extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything. Any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as in love or hate”. However if you ask around, you’ll find that everyone has their own description of passion that relates to their own personal life, but that description will still center around the main concept of passion. For example if you were to ask me what passion means, I would respond: “Passion is directly related with happiness. If you’re happy with your current state of life, then you’re passionate in whatever you’re doing to keep that happiness.”

Digital art, specifically photography and video production, have always held a significant role in my life. My mom had bought a camera a couple years after I was born and I was always fascinated by it, taking pictures and recording videos whenever she’d let me use it. Then around age 13, I built my first computer. It wasn’t anything special, built with the cheapest parts I could find, but it helped me find my way into video and photo editing software. Over the next couple years I taught myself how to edit by recording videos of my friends as well as making short montages of the video games I played. When I entered high school, that’s when I realized this was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. As I explored deeper into photography and video production, I discovered a lot about myself. Shooting and editing photos and videos was fun and all, but I found myself doing it because I enjoyed making people happy, and seeing the reactions from people when I showed them what I had created. Expressing myself through helping others express themselves is what brings me happiness, so based off of my earlier description, I know that it’s my passion. 

So what does the word ‘passion’ mean to you? How does your description of the word passion directly correlate with your life? I asked myself this every day until I could finally answer it. And once you’re able to answer it, it will significantly improve your quality of life. You will have a reason to do what you do and a motivation to keep doing it. 

Written by:
Christian Waite
Advertising Committee Student Leader of the VEP
Read more about Christian here:

My internship experience

This internship has been a place of growth and nourishment for me—a safe haven. A place I looked forward to every morning at 9:30 am for six continuous weeks. A place where I could express my opinions and feelings without beady eyes or harsh judgment. A place of excitement and eagerness. A place of curiosity and the riveting unknown. Throughout the six weeks of this internship, I not only created new connections but also deepened current ones!

I joined Passion Impact in October of 2019, and every day since then has been a new lesson or a new experience. At the beginning of this year, I heard our High School Program Coordinator, Adrianna, was planning a summer internship. This sparked my interest immediately! My hopes for the internship was to come out as a strong leader, supportive peer, and a role model. To give 110% in all of my projects! 

Coming into this internship I was hesitant about my skills as a leader and the work I would be putting out. As the internship went on, I proved myself wrong. Our team collaboratively created and executed a recruitment plan for this following school year’s new VEP members. Through our workshops, I have become more knowledgeable about social justice, diversity, identity, and inclusion, and was able to connect with my peers on a more personal level through having conversations with one another on these topics. I have also become more familiar with how to’s in specific situations that can be applied to real-life events in my future timeline. I learned to be observant of the world that stands in front of me from reading and reflecting on the book Emergent Strategy. I leave this internship with no regrets but instead with memorable moments and personal growth.

Written by:
Mery Gurung
Eventers Committee Student Leader in VEP
Read more about Mery:

The Do And Don’ts Of High School

Dear Freshman Kayla,

There have been plenty of times when our 8th-grade homeroom teacher, Ms.W, took time out of the day for us to write a freshman letter to ourselves. Those times were the last moments before the summer of 2017. Before we knew it, we were at the bottom of the social rank once again, as the class of 2021 freshmen. Little did we know, 8th grade Kayla was in for quite a ride.

If I do remember correctly, the 8th letter that I had written for my freshman self was mainly to “ continue playing basketball and never change”. Yea I spoke too soon. Going into my senior year, there are many things that I wish I was able to tell you (freshman self), the do and don’ts. So here is an awfully wholesome freshman letter to myself. 

I’m here to tell you that high school isn’t like High School Musical at all! Now that I caught your attention. Stop watching those awful “ advice for incoming freshmen!” videos. High school isn’t the same for everyone, those videos are just ridiculous. Over the past few years, I’ve been in an education system rank called High School. I wish I’d known this earlier but, high school should be the time to have fun! The time when we start finding ourselves. The time when we start thinking of what we want our adult life to be like but, at the same time, make sure to live in the moment while doing so. High school is sure darn fast.  And with your luck Kayla, a huge pandemic decides to break out in the middle of your junior year. To make it better, there’s a huge percentage you won’t get to have your senior year at all due to the pandemic. 

What I’m trying to say is, stop hiding behind the bushes! Go to every football game. Join every club you see at school. Enjoy the morning health class walks. Dance in the middle of the dance floor during homecoming. Just live in the moment. During our freshmen orientation when Mr. Frazier said that high school flies by fast, he wasn’t kidding. High school does change you and it changes who you hang out with. Would you believe me if I said I was the senior class vice president? Crazy how times could change a shy introverted Kayla into a senior class VP. With all that said, I have one last insight for you to remember. Being out of your comfort zone isn’t such a bad thing after all. 

Best of luck, 
Senior Kayla

Written by:
Kayla Phu
Events Committee Student Leader of VEP
Read more about Kayla here:

Volunteering During A Pandemic

Neighborhood cleanups, school events, meal serving. These are all acts of volunteerism that many of us have done, and to some people, volunteering has become a big part of their lives. We volunteer to give back, gain experience, and probably the most fun, to meet new people. But how do we continue our acts of service during a global pandemic, when human contact is hazardous? How do we change the world while being restricted to our own homes?

My team of VEP committee leaders and I took on this challenge when planning September’s volunteer event for Passion Impact. Not only was planning a remote volunteer experience already an obstacle, but we also had to advertise it to be fun and get students involved solely online and through social media. To tackle this, we first had to think of ways to help from our homes, or at least in a manner that does not require human contact. Luckily, there are already programs and volunteer events that do not require you to be with other people. Some examples of these include: being pen pals with prisoners, making dog toys with t-shirts to donate, or wrapping holiday gifts for children in need. We loved the idea of penpals because volunteers would be able to do everything completely in the safety of their homes, so we decided on writing letters to the elderly in nursing homes to cheer them up from social isolation and connect with the youth. 

We then went online and reached out to an elderly care home in the Portland area who said they would love to be pen pals with us. This brings me to this; the internet is a great place for connection, especially during a time where social gatherings are not safe. Through communication channels, emails, and research, our team was able to plan everything and as we move forward we will hold our volunteer event completely through a screen. 

From a glass half full perspective, social distancing is simply a test to our creativity and adaptability. If researching and contacting people yourself is not something you are comfortable with, there are many volunteer groups and organizations out there adjusting to COVID-19 to continue volunteer work! Some of these groups include HandsOn Portland, Volunteers of America Oregon, and of course, high school clubs for students such as Passion Impact! If you are interested in joining us in writing cards to the elderly, keep an eye out for registration on GivePulse!

Written by:
Jennifer Truong
Development Committee Student Leader in VEP
Read more about Jennifer:

You(th) have the Power

If you’re frustrated with the political system, you should be. If you’re frustrated with the criminal justice system, you should be. If you’re frustrated with the education system, you should be.

The U.S. education system is not crafted to encourage and support marginalized students to achieve their best selves. At its core, it is designed to train social behaviors that reinforce the competency of an age-old crumbling system. This is ground zero for inequity.

Some students navigate the maze of education with a guiding light or even a helping hand while others constantly bump into dead ends and unlit corridors. The latter students may never find the exit, but to their dismay they are still in the maze.

Martin Luther King Jr. said simply that “intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education.” It is my belief that all of the inequities around us can be traced back to the lack of education. The lack of understanding how the criminal justice system wrongfully and painfully separates African-American families at an astoundingly disproportionate rate. The lack of understanding how government on a federal, state, and most importantly, on a local level affects the ways in which we each govern our daily lives. The lack of knowledge of the atrocities and cultural hemorrhaging that Indigenous Communities have faced ever since Europeans set foot on this continent.

George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. We mourn your loss and the loss of thousands of other African-Americans at the hands of police in the U.S. We stand up for you in solidarity and love.

It is up to you(th) to take the reins and to change through their education.

What can you(th) do?

Very simply put, be civically engaged.

1. Make the time to attend the following meetings with your friends:

2. Register to vote!

If you’re 16 in Oregon, you are legally allowed to register. Not only that, but once you get your ballot – do you research and VOTE THAT DAY! Only 46.1% of active voters returned their ballots for the May 19, 2020 election ONLY 46%!

Learn more about your voting rights as a student at

3. Ask questions and research.

Understand the systems in which you live. Ask your teachers. Ask professionals. Ask your government. Ask your friends and your parents. Read articles and books. Watch videos, documentaries, and interviews.

4. Donate, sign petitions, & understand.

Students, you have the power. Be passionate. Do your research. Join communities. Advocate for your beliefs.

With unity,

Your Passion Impact Team

Happy Birthday PI!

We’re a first grader now.

Happy Birthday PI, we’re no longer a toddler! We’re a full-fledged first grader with the ability to form sentences, to have cooties, to make conversation, and to express true desire toward our future. Through RV living, multiple office spaces, and now telecommuting, we’ve lived through a lot. Maybe we can even work on a train or sailboat in the future! I want to take this time to extend my gratitude to all those who have supported us through time, money, and intelligence to keep PI alive and growing. 

Most importantly, I want to thank the students who have played a part over the past 6 years, and those who continue to lead PI, for the inspiration that you provide me, our volunteers, Board Members, your peers, and the world. You are the reason that we continue to wake up with a purpose. Thank you!

I have felt frustration over the years surrounding our ability to grow, to serve students better, to include parents more, and to integrate in classes. Yet I am constantly reminded of the small successes that we have made to progress to where we currently reside. The most gratifying feeling is when – and hopefully teachers can empathize with me – alumni of our programs return to hang out and catch up. Some still ask for advice. In these precious moments, I let the clock fade into the background and invest in the moment of our conversation. Their relationships with partners and teams. Their anxiety around the future. Their desire to be the best they can with the resources they currently have. Their dreams. I get lost in their stories and I love when they invite me to experience their lives with them. 

As we engage more students and community members, I can only hope this is the basic enjoyment that everyone receives – a community. We recently added to our community by hiring our first full time High School Program Coordinator, Adrianna Davis, and three new Board members, Bryna Cortes, Maiyee Yuan, and Helen Dillen! Without diving too much into each of them (Read Carly’s blogs!), you should know that they are each extremely special women!

I will do my best to not subscribe to success amnesia, but let’s not ignore the grim reality of what we’re currently up against. Schools are now closed through April. Many of our students and their parents aren’t able to work. There are threats to the supply and food chains??. Communication around the pandemic is mixed with potential for casting doubt in the direction of progress. Need I go on?

If I were a pessimist, I may give in. Throw my hands up and walk away. Tell the students “Good luck, but there’s nothing we can do now”. But I am not pessimistic; I will do just the opposite. As a small nonprofit, we have the privilege of flexibly reacting to most situations. My aunt told me long ago that in moments of crises, people look to those who are educated. In serving our students who have handed an incredibly unstable world from wars, to climate, to now a viral pandemic, it is more important than ever they stay engaged with their education. If we fail to stimulate their curiosity to learn now, we will be putting them and our future at a disadvantage. 

Adrianna and I have been crafting plans for tele-programming and seeking student feedback and approval. We are actively using Slack as a communication hub which students have been trained on for 3 years now as the medium for learning, discussing, and connecting multiple times a week. We are continuing to ask the question “What benefits does this new reality offer our students?” and “How can we make these benefits accessible to them?” 

There is no doubt in my mind that the next three years will be extremely hard – not just for PI, but for our global community. This time in quarantine may just help each of us reflect on the most important issues for ourselves and our next generation. I will continue to work with Adrianna and our students to answer those questions so that we can persist to be a resource for their growth – a community for their souls. In these uncertain times, connection and celebration will spark our stamina to get through adversity ahead. Happy Birthday Passion Impact – here’s to another 6 years of service! 

With warmth and a tele-hug,


Cultivating Passionate Leaders – Maiyee Yuan

Written by: Carly Chan
Edited by: Stefan Peierls

I gladly introduce you to one of our newest Passion Impact Board Members, Vice President of Partners–Maiyee Yuan. Maiyee is the Program Integration Manager at APANO and was very involved in OSU Cultural Resource Center during her college years. She went to a Title I high school where the majority of the students were Mexican, Vietnamese, and Chinese. “We always had the reputation of ‘everybody’s in gangs’, ’everybody’s doing drugs’,” she said, “The environment we existed in was not supportive of students’ development.” With Passion Impact, Maiyee wants to create pathways for underserved students to explore and grow in what they want to do.

Maiyee’s initial touchpoint with Passion Impact was when she served as an AmeriCorps member in 2017 and we shared the office space at 82nd and Division. “There were some interactions through my work in the Jade Night Market…and looking into opportunities how volunteerism can connect with activities in APANO,” she recalled. Maiyee’s work and effort brings a lens of community organizing into the development of Passion Impact by cultivating a more equitable space for the community. “For communities that are marginalized, it is important that we intentionally work with them…to create access and support that [will] help channel their energy.” 

One of Maiyee’s goals in Passion Impact is to connect service with community and identity. “At the end of the day, what people are most passionate about or people feel like is the most worthy of their time has to somehow impact…themselves or the community they see.” It is important that our paradigm of volunteerism shift from service that we do for others to service that impacts our community as it relates to our own values. “Students could ask…why I would dedicate my time to something that I don’t care about,” she added, “It is through volunteering and leadership development, we get very passionate people that can make changes locally, regionally, and even internationally.”

As Vice President of Partners, Maiyee is already applying her knowledge and experience she gained from community organizing to direct the vision of growing Passion Impact. Maiyee will build more reciprocal relationships with nonprofit partners that serve a diverse range of causes, and ultimately, will build a more inclusive space that will encourage students to grow and engage with their community.

Hardships and Challenges: Behind the Scenes of Event Planning

Written by: Mery Gurung
Edited by: Carly Chan

I believe experiences can take you to many places beyond a classroom. For the last couple months, my team and I  held our very first volunteer event–Social Justice Poster Art. Our goal for this event was to encourage young activists to express their views and concerns about specific social justice issues that are happening in the world right now in the form of poster art. This idea was a collective idea created by leaders who brainstormed during after school meetings. This event was not only for students but also for non-profits who volunteered alongside our students as they painted and conversed about career related topics. My hope is that students who attended the event left with more knowledge and awareness on current issues while also having fun with friends. 

Just four months ago, I was a stranger to Passion Impact. Joining Passion Impact was one of the best decisions I’ve made throughout high school. Fast forward three weeks in, I was already given the role to become a part of the team planning for the Social Justice Poster Art event. From knowing almost nothing about event planning to being able to put together an event in just a few weeks, I can see the transformation within myself. I first felt clueless and anxious but also excited as this is the first event I have ever planned; I have no idea as to what the outcome would be, what obstacles we would face during planning, and if the students attending would genuinely enjoy taking part in such an event.

Getting started was definitely a little rocky. Although we finished our event with five  people in the team, we only had two people in the team for the first two months: my partner, Kayla, and I. I never realized how many different concepts went into planning an event before this. By making sure we had planned every big and small piece, I learned to pay attention to details. We got the ball rolling in the beginning with the help of Stefan. He would help with the process of brainstorming by showing us videos that presented us with new concepts. He provided us with a binder filled with pages that consisted of organization layouts and checklists. It helped us to keep track of what we had accomplished. He also introduced me to the administrative side of our volunteer management database (Givepulse), where I wrote a description of what the event looks like for students and non-profits. I also approved volunteer hours and reflections that were recorded by students and non-profits.

One of the challenges for me was to hunt for the best materials, one being poster boards that can hold up paint well but at the same time be affordable. Originally, the plan was to order them online, but we feared that the material would not be what we had hoped so we changed our minds. Just as we predicted, when we saw the boards in person, they  failed all of our expectations. At that point, our options were very limited. That was when we realized that instead of searching for already perfectly made poster boards that are impossible to find, it would be much easier if we cut the poster boards ourselves by using a stencil of our ideal poster size. This experience taught me to think and react quickly on my feet which is useful in the future because I will always be running into obstacles no matter what courses I take in life.

The Social Justice Poster Art event was my first ever event that I helped plan and definitely will not be my last. By being put into situations far beyond my comfort zone, it stretched my leadership skill sets and challenged my abilities. These skills that I gained will impact the rest of my journey as a leader and as I am building my career in the future. Seeing how I grew from this experience was certainly surprising and crazy. From having little to no knowledge about event planning to knowing just that much more is a big step for me that I would not have thought to take four months ago before joining Passion Impact. Even with the moments of discomfort and stress, I consider this an unforgettable and satisfying experience in my life.