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SMS 8th Grade Passion Project
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Monday, November 28, 2016
Don Lutomski spoke to students about what he was passionate about as part of the 8th graders’ 2016 Passion Project work.
Don Lutomski spoke to students about what he was passionate about as part of the 8th graders’ 2016 Passion Project work.

How often do you get the opportunity to…

Passion Project 2016


The Passion Project is in its second year at Simmons as part of the 8th grade Language Arts program. The project is a spin-off of Google's "Genius Hour" which gives employees 20% of their time at work to focus on something they are passionate about in hopes that something will come out of that which helps the company as a whole. Because Google lets their people invest their time in personal passions and pursuits, both the company and the employees thrive. 

The Simmons Passion Project has the same principle. As part of the curriculum, students are required to do a research paper, so why not focus it on something they are passionate about? This project gives students the opportunity to reflect on something they are passionate about in their own lives.

As part of the process, two days of Language Arts class periods focused on guest speakers sharing their passions and the role their passions play in their lives. Students heard about sports, music, baking, the DEA, domestic violence, and missionary work, to name a few.

One speaker, Don Lutomski, spoke to the students about finances and financial planning, which is his job. He said his passion was that he always wanted to help people and to put people in the position to have flexibility in their lives. This passion is what he addressed with the students. Lutomski defined financial planning words such as stocks, bonds, investing, and supply & demand, but then he made it more real for the students.  With the help of a visual aid, he showed the students what would happen if they saved the cost of one Chick-fil-A meal every day over time. 

The students “saw” the money grow and what would happen as they started their careers, continued to save, participated in a 401K program, and took advantage of a company funds-matching program. Lutomski also explained that the students needed to take their education seriously and do well in school and on the ACT/SAT tests. This would help them earn merit scholarships, which is another way to save money. He also suggested anyone who might be interested in a career that worked with financial planning or finances should consider the Finance Academy at HHS. He reminded the students to get in the habit early and start saving money.

Another speaker was 8th grade Science Teacher Mike Tucker. Tucker explained that he was a teacher by career, but his passion is what he did outside of his job – music.

Tucker explained to the students that he plays the guitar for several reasons: it’s fun, it’s a tension release, it keeps him young, and he is able to make a little extra money. He started playing drums then moved to the guitar, but he realized that music would not be his career. Today, he plays in the group The M-80s, an authentic 1980s pop/rock tribute band.

Playing with The M-80s started as a hobby for Tucker. The group started playing in places like someone’s backyard and at a middle school dance. The group eventually moved to more public venues like Buck Creek Festival in Helena and the rooftop of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis. “How often do you get to play the guitar during a sunset over the Mississippi River on the rooftop of a hotel while over 800 people are dancing to your performance?” Tucker asked the students.

The conference gave students a chance to hear how a person’s passion plays a huge role in their life. The students walked away with an understanding that there are different reasons to be passionate about something. A big thank you to all the volunteers who came out to speak to the students and share their passions. 

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