Senioritis? Not for These Seniors who are Pursuing Their Passion Projects


Graphic by Mia Jong

Seniors Elizabeth Bank, Sydney Badescu and Aryan Mittal showcase their passion projects based on their personal and academic interests. Over the course of the 2022-23 school year, they developed and refined their projects. “It was a lot of fun to have the opportunity to do something purely for fun in class and just have a project that I was really excited to work on,” Badescu said.

Across campus, senioritis runs rampant, leading to countless lazy projects and stress for teachers. However, for seniors Sydney Badescu, Elizabeth Bank and Aryan Mittal, passion projects have allowed them to remain motivated in the wake of burnout. 

Every Portola High senior is required to complete a student-directed passion project that focuses on any issue they observe in the world. Students explore ideas outside of typical coursework through these projects to make an impact on their community.  

Sydney Badescu

Made with humor and heart, Badescu created a series of three videos to introduce her peers to the world of musical theater. Her videos focus on musical references within pop culture, musical recommendations and the cultural impact of musicals. 

“One of my hobbies is watching musicals in my spare time, and something I noticed was that a lot of my friends don’t share that hobby,” Badescu said. “When we were brainstorming, one of my friends actually came up to me in class, and she was like, ‘You know what’s neat? You should do your project on theater.’”

Badescu said that she found it difficult to completely invest into her idea as it was of a less serious nature. However, after she began working, she realized the value of her project to the campus community.

“It wasn’t about social issues or environmentalism or something like that,” Badescu said. “Even though my project isn’t super practical or solving world hunger, I think it still has a purpose. It’s just spreading the joy of music.”

Elizabeth Bank

Bank collaborated with the Back Bay Science Center to create the Below and Above Water Level exhibit, featuring three interactive displays showcasing Upper Newport Bay’s wildlife at different water levels. Her involvement as an Eagle Scout inspired her to educate children about nature preservation.

“Art is a really meaningful way to communicate with others, especially youth,” Bank said. “A lot of the environmental issues that we face today are things that aren’t going to be solved within a short time span, so it’s important for children to understand why it’s important to care about our planet and to care about ecology.”

Bank’s Eagle Scout backpacking trips taught her to value community and science in the outdoors, motivating her to combine them with art. Bank said that she will pursue environmental chemistry in college so she can expand upon her passion and work to preserve nature. 

“Science doesn’t matter if it doesn’t impact people around you and if you aren’t able to use it to help your community,” Bank said. “The passion project was a really great way to show how science doesn’t only mean crunching the numbers and doing the diagrams but also how you can apply it to the people.”

Aryan Mittal

Many volunteer organizations use Voluntime, an app that records hours, to help students achieve their goals. Mittal initially created Voluntime as a sophomore to apply his coding skills, refining and expanding the app’s features this year.

“I’m most proud of the actual impact that I made because I’ve made a lot of projects in the past, but usually not many people end up using them,” Mittal said. “With this one, I can actually see my metrics rising to over 30,000 hours, so it really feels good to see that my creation is like helping people around the world.”

Mittal acquired marketing and communication skills in addition to technical app development, which helped him expand his project on a larger scale. He said that he intends to apply the lessons learned to his future ventures as a student and creator.

“I would say if there are any younger students out there that might be interested in software development, they should definitely try creating their own projects and just try to identify app ideas,” Mittal said. “The best way to learn something is by doing it.”