Updated: Jul 28
The Youth Passion Project named the members of its global leadership team for the 2021-22 school year. The young leaders announced today were chosen from more than 170 applications from individuals across forty high schools in seventeen states and four countries.
Leaders chosen were selected for their exceptional leadership, vision, intelligence, passion, commitment, and character. The application process consisted of selective recruitment, initial written applications, interviews, finalist applications, special assignments, and a meeting with the President of the Youth Passion Project. Applicants were reviewed on multiple occasions by the Oversight Committee of the Board of Directors and an executive selection committee chaired by 2020-21 Chief Administrative Officer Sam Singer.
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER: ARSHIA SHAIK
Arshia Shaik will be next year’s President & Chief Executive Officer. She will be a senior at Cedar Ridge High School in Round Rock, Texas. As CEO, Arshia will additionally serve as a non-voting member of the Board of Directors and all of its committees.
For the past year, Arshia has served as Vice President & Chief Expansion Officer of the Youth Passion Project. Under her leadership, eight new Chapters of the Project were established in four countries. Additionally, she led outreach to parents to expand the Project’s reach in international communities, successfully growing our footprint to include students in 28 countries. She was also responsible for the Project’s Inter-chapter social and community responsibilities.
Outside of the Youth Passion Project, she holds extensive knowledge of law, public policy, and international relations. At school, she is the President of Model UN and the elected representative of the junior class.
Arshia has a background and interest in nonprofit work from experience at several organizations with missions ranging from expanding refugee access to education to fighting for more equitable criminal justice. She also shows a strong dedication to teamwork and public service, as demonstrated through her work on a congressional campaign, volunteering at a local library, and organization of a fundraiser for an orphanage.
“Arshia is a phenomenal leader and person,” Zachary Siegel, Chairman of the Board of Directors, said. “The work she’s completed for the Project has been of an exceptional quality, and I’m also inspired by her commitment to helping others. I’m excited to see the new successes she helps the Project achieve.”
As CEO, Arshia will be responsible for the well-being of the entire organization, reporting to the Board of Directors. Her priorities as CEO include further international expansion and improved marketing, implementing further Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives, and increasing technological efficiency and effectiveness.
CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER: GEORGE GAN
Next year’s Chief Financial Officer and Vice President of the Youth Passion Project will be Yuchuan (George) Gan. George will be a senior at Blair Academy, a boarding school in New Jersey. As CFO, George will also serve as an Executive Director on the Board of Directors and will additionally join the Oversight Committee as a non-voting member.
George has an impressive experience surrounding his interest in Finance and Economics. He has taken college level courses on Finance and is ranked top ten in his state for the National Economics Challenge. One of his most notable achievements is his commitment to providing education for underprivileged students in China, co-founding a not-for-profit online learning platform. George also leads an investment fund which manages a portion of Blair Academy’s endowment valued at a market capitalization of over 16,000 US Dollars.
Acting as the leader of the Blair Academy Investment Club and taking a high interest in Finance through his activities, George has demonstrated the leadership and understanding of this topic the Youth Passion Project requires. “I was most impressed by George’s experience, knowledge, and precision in the field of finance” stated Arjun Krishna Chopra, Chairman of the Oversight Committee. “George brings a great deal of knowledge on functions of nonprofit advancement, fundraising, and capital allocation.”
George manages the Youth Passion Project’s finances, reporting to the Board of Directors. George will be responsible for raising capital, managing the Youth Passion Project’s budgets, and allocating assets, and building stable endowments for long-term growth.
CHIEF OF STAFF & CORPORATE SECRETARY: ASHLEE TAN
Next year’s Chief of Staff will be Ashlee Tan, a rising senior at Bard High School Early College in New York, New York. As Chief of Staff Ashlee will be a non-voting member of the Board of Directors; Ashlee has also been named Corporate Secretary and will serve in a non-voting capacity on the Oversight Committee of the Board of Directors.
Ashlee previously served in various positions at the Youth Passion Project, including: Registrar, Director of Enrollment & Student Experience, and Director of Human Resources & Selection.
She was critical to the implementation of our new registration systems, Instructor services, and hiring procedures. She was also responsible for all of the Project’s communication with parents.
Her work at the Youth Passion Project is not Ashlee’s only experience that demonstrates her strong teamwork—she is part of a team of Student Ambassadors at her school and is a member of her school’s Math Team and Key Club. Additionally, she used her skills in analytics to pioneer a player statistics program in her role as Manager of the Queens Sports Complex.
Ashlee hopes to pursue a career in data science or neuroscience in the future: she is proficient in multiple different coding languages and software programs. And she has also demonstrated devotion to her community, such as through learning four languages and volunteering online to teach English.
As Chief of Staff, Ashlee will be responsible for ensuring the completion of inter-office projects, serving on Selection Committees, improving documentation and information systems, and leading the Administration’s Investigation Division, which uses data to inform organizational intelligence and investigation. One of her priorities will be to develop and implement a statistical algorithm to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of all of the Project’s courses.
VICE PRESIDENT of ADMINISTRATION: VANI SHAH
Next year’s Vice President of Administration will be Vani Shah. Vani will be a senior at Plano East Senior High School.
Vani has held numerous successful positions throughout her career. She holds positions as the president of a non-profit she created called Young Giving, along with being the President of UNICEF club at her school. She is also an active member in her student council and hopes to go into international policy and one day work as a representative for the UN.
Vani has previously served in various positions at the Youth Passion Project as a course instructor, chapter representative, and Regional Director for Texas.
Her work previously at the Youth Passion Project is not only a showing factor of her strong leadership, Vani is also highly passionate about women’s activism which can be seen through her work at Girl Up, where she has performed lectures pertaining to women’s rights and equality.
Vani will oversee all the programs and initiatives that allow the Youth Passion Project to successfully execute its mission. Joining Vani in Administration is an excellent team composed of Utku Melemetci, Director of Technology; Trinity Tran, Director of Technological Design; Unnathi Kumar, Director of Software Engineering; Vikram Rao, Director of Human Resources & Selection; Thomas DiLorenzo, Manager of Student Services; and Cali Dutta, Manager of Enrollment.
VICE PRESIDENT of INNOVATION: FOLA ELEKOLUSI
Fola has successful experience at the helm of numerous organizations. Most recently, she led Human Resources at Unlock the Grid, a reputable youth-led civic engagement organization. She also has experience with student and parent communication: she represented and fundraised for several hundred students as a Class Representative at her school, phone banked for political campaigns, and led communication for a startup pitch that won an award from MIT and Harvard.
“We were very impressed by Fola’s degree of passion and inspiring desire to fight educational inequities,” Singer said. Fola has attended four different types of school systems in the US, UK, and Nigeria, and has both experience and expertise in educational models and equity.
In addition to her past experience, Fola demonstrated innovation of character critical to the innovation the Youth Passion Project requires. One of the main initiatives she pioneered as Class Representative was the founding of a kindness program, dedicated to rewarding student kindness through a nomination system. Further, her focus at the National Honor Society was on organizing blood drives and writing letters to children fighting cancer.
Fola will oversee the programs that allow the Youth Passion Project to successfully execute its mission and will work to create new initiatives, improve administrative efficiency, and create effective processes at all levels of the Youth Passion Project.
VICE PRESIDENT of MARKETING: ANGIE ZHU
Next year’s Vice President of Marketing will be Angie Zhu. Angie will be a junior at Skyline High School in Seattle, Washington.
Angie threads her passion for STEM and advocacy of women in STEM through her activities. She is committed to services that empower her local community. During the thick of the pandemic, she co-found her own non-profit organization called “The Sammamish Mask Task,” where she handmade and sold masks to raise money for PPE equipment. She is also the president of the AYLUS Snoqualmie Chapter where she hosts volunteer events of which included passing food for a Snoqualmie tribe and hosting a food drive for Tent City 4.
Along with her passions for STEM and community service, her interests in business and marketing make for a strong leader in the Youth Passion Project’s marketing field. She has taken multiple sales and marketing classes and is a part of Internatus Business Club of Seattle. Her operations research paper on hospitality and tourism qualified for DECA Nationals, winning fourth place in her state.
Angie will act as the main spokesperson for the organization. She will strategize marketing tactics to maximize public reach with her team. Joining Angie is a team of Bethany Chow, Co-Manager of Social Media; Christina Zhang, Co-Manager of Social Media; and Jenna Rowen-Delson, Manager of Public and Media Relations.
VICE PRESIDENT of OPERATIONS: CARLY GELLES
Next year’s Vice President of Operations will be Carly Gelles. Carly will be a junior at the Scarsdale High School in Scarsdale, New York.
Carly began at the Youth Passion Project as both Director of Public and Media Relations and as an Instructor for the “The Art of Baking” and “Introduction to Public Speaking” courses. Achieving consistently excellent retention rates, Carly has taught some of the most popular and well-reviewed courses of the Youth Passion Project.
As Director of Public and Media Relations, Carly has worked under last year’s Chief Marketing Officer to expand the Youth Passion Project’s reach across multiple regions in the nation. Her most notable projects include appearing on the Teenwise podcast of Seattle, Washington, and starting major city outreach initiatives in Miami, Florida and Detroit, Michigan.
Carly has shown incredible dedication and ambition that extends beyond the organization. Outside of the Youth Passion Project, Carly dedicates her time to her high school’s Speech and Debate club where she has won numerous awards for Declamation and Oral Interpretation at national circuit tournaments such as the NYC, Princeton, and Yale Invitationals.
Carly will oversee YPP’s various regional chapters and act as the academic head, vetting and overseeing courses and academic programming.