Leadership passion projects are initiatives pursued by student leaders to make a positive impact on others and their community. These projects usually stem from a genuine passion for a cause, issue, or goal, and they demonstrate a student leader's commitment to spearheading change and getting others involved. Such projects are often overlooked because of the more academically-focused passion projects that are out there, but we’ll discuss later how leadership passion projects can actually showcase a student’s skills and authenticity just as much as an academic project can.
If you’re thinking that the term “leadership passion projects” is a bit ambiguous, these 12 examples of leadership passion projects that you can get started on right away should help clarify what leadership passion projects can be.
Keep in mind that these are just a few of many ideas you can take on, and we encourage you to make these projects uniquely your own. Notice how the overarching theme for all of these projects is that you’re leading the initiative and making an impact within your community, while also contributing to development of your own leadership skills.
1. Peer Mentorship Program
Create a program where upperclassmen mentor underclassmen in academic, social, or personal aspects, developing a supportive school environment. You can have students matched based on things like college major interest or personal hobbies.
2. Community Garden
Establish a community garden on school grounds that students take care of, providing a hands-on learning experience about gardening, nutrition, and sustainability while producing fresh produce for local charities.
3. Literacy Initiative
Create a reading program where high school students read to elementary school children, promoting literacy and fostering positive role models for younger children.
4. STEM Workshops
Organize science, technology, engineering, and math workshops for middle school students, sparking their interest in these fields and showcasing high schoolers' leadership and knowledge of STEM. See if you can get a high school STEM teacher to help with developing this initiative.
5. Creative Arts Showcase
Plan an arts and culture event that features student or even faculty performances in music, dance, theater, and visual arts, celebrating creativity within the school community.
6. Career Exploration Series
Arrange sessions where professionals from various fields come to your school to share insights about their careers and their day to day jobs. This can help expose students to a variety of careers and get them starting to think about what may be interesting to them. Bonus points if you can find alumni from your high school to come speak!
7. Volunteer Outreach Program
Develop a program that connects students with local volunteer opportunities, enabling them to give back to the community and build valuable life skills.
8. Mental Health Awareness Campaign
Organize events, workshops, and discussions to promote mental health awareness, reduce stigma, and provide resources for students struggling with mental health issues.
9. Fitness and Wellness Challenges
Launch wellness challenges that encourage students to engage in physical activities, healthy habits, and mindfulness practices to promote overall well-being.
10. Student-Led Workshops
Organize skill-sharing workshops where students teach their peers about subjects they're passionate about. School is often so focused on faculty teaching students that we forget that students have a lot of knowledge that they can share with each other.
11. Language Exchange Program
Establish a program where students can learn and exchange languages, fostering cultural exchange and language development in a fun way.
12. Entrepreneurship Fair
Organize a fair where students can showcase their entrepreneurial ideas and products, fostering creativity and business skills. If you’d like to make it more competitive, you can also turn it into a contest where teachers are judges and evaluate the various ideas.
We’ve mentioned how leadership passion projects involve spearheading an initiative, but this doesn’t always mean that you have to start an organization from scratch! If there are already existing clubs or organizations at your school that are doing work that you personally care about, join those and see if you can start participating. From there, you can then maybe work your way towards creating a new initiative and also brainstorm ideas with other students in the club.
As quoted in our conversation with John Gardezi of Edvanced Learning Academy, “You don't need to reinvent the wheel. You can still make a difference by making small contributions.”
First and foremost, leadership passion projects provide a great opportunity for personal growth. By leading a new initiative or organization, you’re practicing what it takes to become a leader. You’re doing things like organizing events, delegating tasks, reaching out to outside parties and becoming a better speaker and thinking creatively to make things happen. Learning how to set a vision and execute on it is an incredible skill to have and it’s something you’ll be able to practice through a leadership passion project.
Further, you get to work for a cause that you care about. Whether that’s sustainability, mental health, or hunger, by doing a project you have the opportunity to actually make change. You’re making your mark. While doing so, you’ll also be able to collaborate with other students in your community and build great relationships as a result. Ideally, that cause that you care about could also be something you’re interested in studying in college, which strengthens your demonstrated interest as a college applicant. For example, let’s say that you are interested in sustainability and want to potentially explore that field more. You could take initiative on the community garden project idea in order to explore sustainability more deeply and this leads to a project where you’re not only learning about something you’re interested in, but also getting directly involved with it.
Moreover, all of these skills and learning experiences that you would get out of a leadership passion project are things that you can showcase to the world, whether that’s for a job, college admissions, or to just show what you’re capable of. In a Polygence guest blog post, former admissions officer Ben Bousquet talks about how he would advocate for college applicants, saying, “admission officers are storytellers. We tell your story to the admissions committee on your behalf…If you’ve created a strengths-based narrative in your application and weaved those strengths together into a compelling story, your admission officer should have no problem advocating for you.” The great part about leadership passion projects is that they can usually be explained in a way that creates an interesting story. You helped to jumpstart an initiative with this goal in mind and you worked super hard to execute it…you faced many challenges on the way but overcame them…and in the end you made an impact on your student community or a local one. These are great stories that you can share in your college admissions essays and interviews.
Ultimately, this comes down to what you really care about. Making a new initiative happen is no easy task, and if you’re not passionate about the work that you’re doing, it can be very difficult to execute that initiative well. As a result, think about what causes you’re actually interested in and what you’d be willing to work hard for. Further, assess what existing clubs there are at your school and whether any of those stand out to you.
Showcasing your leadership passion project is a bit different from showcasing academic research, as there usually isn’t a physical research paper or presentation that you can show off. Instead, it's the impact of your work and the behind the scenes work that got you there that you want to emphasize. As a result, try to find a way to document that behind the scenes work, whether that was finding the right volunteer organization to work with, or meeting with school administrators to pitch an idea to them. You can write down all the work that you did, or, if you’re willing, you can also try to vlog the work and create almost a documentary of sorts by the end.
Making notes of all these things will help you easily recall all the hard work you put in and the skills you gained from the experience. This could then be turned into a blog post or even a quick video to explain all the behind the scenes work that you did to conduct your leadership passion project
If your project is more about organizing events or shows, see if you can measure the impact of those events. Track the number of attendees, guest speakers, get written or verbal feedback from attendees about how the event went, and maybe even record an event or two to really show what you put together. Another idea is to create a social media page for your organization and take pictures and create posts for events that you helped make happen. This is your opportunity to really be creative!
In this article, we’ve discussed the power of leadership passion project ideas, listed examples of projects, and provided ideas of how to showcase your work.
If you’re eager to make an impact and interested in pursuing a leadership passion project, Polygence’s programs are a great place to start. You’ll have a mentor well-versed on leadership who can help guide you and help you overcome challenges in your leadership passion project journey.
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