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,

Stefan


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.


Zac and Smart Roots Global

I met a guy by the name of Zac Ziebarth on Semester at Sea. His low commentator voice makes you feel automatically at ease and in awe, especially when his stories draw maps in your mind creating a vision of his experiences.

The day prior to leaving Austin, I had called Zac to surprise him with the news that we would be passing through Phoenix. Ironically enough, he was on his way to Austin to surprise me. It even turned out that the day we left, he rolled into town for a day. Gah! I was frustrated! So close to seeing such a great friend, but yet so far.

Then we broke down and spent some time in El Paso, which gave Zac time to return to Phoenix. Another surprise call to him was all we needed – he offered his place and a shower. Seriously, more than we could have asked. Aside from enjoying his air conditioning and clean water, we were compelled by the synergy that was created in his home. Zac is in the process of ramping up his organization, Smart Roots Global, which provided grounds for countless questions about both of our organizations and what possibilities lie ahead.

Smart Roots believes educated students possess the solutions to create a sustainable world. They will empower students with sustainability education by providing teachers with the resources, curriculum, and training resulting in a more sustainable world. He has a lot of obstacles in front of him with many people doubting his idea, but from our visit, his passion was evident. Zac is on his way to bettering the world. 

His goal is to implement his kits in classrooms in Kenya and Ghana by January in hopes of gathering feedback to refine the program. I know he is Africa-bound and will surpass his dreams – keep an eye out for this guy! Reach out to help  him if you believe in what he is doing: zz@smartrootsglobal.org

 

Stefan