Ways to Gain Skills Through Opportunities in High School

Filed Under: Blog

Hi Everyone! My name is Helîn. I am a 2023-24 Ready WA Storyteller, and I wanted to share my thoughts and experience about the value of extracurricular activities.

Helin standing in front of a community center.

When I started high school during the COVID-19 pandemic, I realized one of my biggest joys is applying things that I learn in the classroom to other things that I do, and this is when I started researching and trying to find different opportunities. I always had a love of community service, especially as an immigrant with my goal of giving back to my people. I also learned over time that I enjoy technical and mathematical work and love learning in those fields. With limited opportunities, especially as a freshman and sophomore, I decided to find opportunities myself by spending countless hours researching for different opportunities. To make it easier for other students, I wanted to share the different experiences or programs I have done and give my insight.

As a disclaimer, please do not compare yourself to me, over the years I figured out my interests and what I wanted to accomplish over the course of high school. Your goals and interests will probably not be the same as mine and that means you will do what works for you! 

Each experience has a title, ‘tags,’ which summarize the topic (if you know you do not want to do anything technical, skip ones with technical tags), eligibility, and some other information. If you find something interesting feel free to research it and check out the deadlines!


Create Your Own Adventure

Tags: All, Passion Projects

Sometimes your interests and passions can come together in ways that there are not organizations for, in which case you can create your own impact! It can range from creating a social media account to share information, a club at your high school, or even a national nonprofit depending on your goals and resources.

Eligibility: Everyone!

The lack of representation of people who looked like me and my interest in education made me immensely passionate about Middle Eastern North African studies and mentorship for younger students in STEAM (STEM + Art). Realizing there were no opportunities bringing together those specific niches, I decided to create an organization called Middle Eastern North African Exchange (MENA-X | www.mena-x.org). The impact MENA-X has made in the South Seattle community has grown exponentially because it brought together other high school students with similar interests or the willingness to create change.


Tags: Technical, Passion Projects

Research is what you make of it! Once you figure out some things you are interested in or want to learn more about, search for professors or Ph.D. students who are working on research in similar fields.

When asking to support a research project, make sure to write an impactful email specific to that project (don’t make an obviously copy-paste email) and add a resume if you have one. You might not always receive a response and that is ok, you can contact multiple researchers, labs, or professors if needed.

Eligibility: Everyone!

Poster - Poster session

I found research to be really enjoyable and something I want to continue in college! Once I figured out my interest in and willingness to learn more about data analysis and mathematics, I found some professors connected to very interesting research programs, contacted them, and chose a project. So, I started my first opportunity at the University of Washington Electrical and Computer Engineering Department BioRobotics Lab, leading me to co-author an international workshop paper and start work on a research paper! This opportunity introduced me to scientific programming and so much more.

FIRST Robotics

Tags: Technical, International Competitions

For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) has multiple different levels of competitions for all age ranges, giving you the opportunity to learn about the fields you are interested in generally including programming, mechanical, electrical, and business/marketing.


Students at robotics competition.

I got involved with FIRST during the end of freshman year by joining my local FRC team. FRC is slightly more advanced than most courses, so it took me a while to get acquainted. Since we have 8-10 weeks to design, build, and program a robot there is a big time commitment, but during that time you are able to learn and experience a lot of amazing things. I was also the operator (person who controlled the robot’s scoring mechanisms) for the 2022 and 2023 seasons, which also helped me expand my skills in making quick decisions, working and collaborating with a team (the drive team), and very strong communication skills to relay what went on on the field and how we could improve.


Tags: Community Service, International

Fundraising is a project which, if thoroughly planned, can be an amazing way to help people in your area or even those around the world

Eligibility: Everyone can do this! You do not even need to be in high school!

I had always wanted to support my community back in Türkiye, but I was not sure how to create that impact. I realized that instead of waiting for someone to give me the secret formula, I could research this by myself. After finding out about Bridge to Turkiye in the middle of 9th grade, I realized I really loved the goals and vision. This set me on a course of continuous volunteering over the years. With the help of BTF, I have been able to provide support to a school in my community with limited educational resources for students and meet some amazing people.


Bank of America Student Leaders

Tags: Community Service, National

Human - Human body

The Bank of America Student Leaders program is a selective program with around a 6% acceptance rate (300 acceptees out of 5,000+ applicants nationwide). During the program you have a fully paid 8-week internship at a local non-profit and a week long paid trip to the Student Leaders Summit in Washington D.C. 


  • Current junior or senior in high school
  • Live in Bank of America markets (check website for list)
  • Authorized to work in the US without sponsorship until September 2024

My interest in creating my own nonprofit organization in the future led me to applying for this program. The time spent during the internship was very valuable, but the Student Leaders Summit was the most amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I could not have known the amount of connections and relationships I would make during that summit and the network we have created across the United States.

Fly In Programs at Universities

Tags: Educational, Free

Fly In program requirements differ per university, but if you have some top schools you would like to check out or some schools you are unsure about, getting a chance to fly in and see the school culture and environment is a great idea!

Eligibility: Depend on the schools requirements

I did the Johns Hopkins University Senior Visit Day. I met other students who I am still in contact with, created connections with amazing professors, and got to meet the people who work in the admission process to get a sense of what environment or community is at Johns Hopkins University, if I fit into it, and most importantly, this helped me write the supplementary essays for the college from my own unique perspective.

Find Helin Taskesen on LinkedIn.