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Meet Lydian Student and Philanthropist, Shay Patel

Lydian Academy Student and Philanthropist

All of the students at Lydian Academy are amazing. Their diverse backgrounds and personalities harmonize together into a wonderful school community that celebrates all accomplishments. We want to celebrate Shay Patel for his nomination as a 2020 Semi-Finalist in Time Magazine’s Kid of the Year Awards. This award is given by Time Magazine from out of 5,000 Americans, aged 8 to 16 for making a positive impact in their communities and the world. The first year of the contest was in 2020, a year no one will forget, and culminated in a winner. While Shay was very close to the win as a semi-finalist we at Lydian want to celebrate his accomplishment with our community of friends and family. 

We asked Shay a few questions about how he became a semi-finalist and his advice on how other kids might follow in his footsteps. We hope you’ll enjoy what he has to say.

  1. You were a semi-finalist for Time's Kid of the Year for 2020. That is AMAZING. What does it feel like to be in such an elite group of kids?

I felt so honored to be selected as a semi-finalist for Time's Kid of the Year 2020 and to be featured alongside an impressive group of kids on their nationally televised special. Also, being able to virtually interact with some of the semi-finalists and finalists was such an inspiring experience as some of these kids were still in elementary school! 

  1. Do you have any advice for other kids who might want to do what you are doing? Anything you would want to do differently or pitfalls a kid might want to look out for in setting up a non-profit organization?

My biggest piece of advice is: a small impact is still an impact. Simply put, if you want to help out your community don't worry about the scale of your project, but focus on the fact that somebody’s life is being positively impacted because of your efforts. I would also recommend surrounding yourself with people who share your passion for helping others but have expertise in areas that complement yours because they can be especially helpful whenever you come across inevitable roadblocks. Fundraising was and continues to be a challenge but now I've assigned that piece to two student ambassadors who are already planning on increasing our fundraising goal for this year via a virtual 3 point shootout! 

  1. You started Alley-Oop Kids in the fifth grade because you saw inequity between kids. Tell me about your journey from starting the non-profit to now. Where do you see yourself in the future?

When I was 11 years old, I visited the Boys & Girls Club for basketball practice and was shocked to see that the other kids there did not have basic basketball gear. Some even played in flip-flops. I channeled the frustration and sadness I felt into a mission to help eliminate inequality in sports. I felt a need to connect with kids who lived so close to me yet had completely different access to play the sports we all love. Developing a solid foundation of values and life skills through sports is so important for youth to realize their full potential and to empower the next generation of leaders to aim high with their goals. This led me to start Alley-Oop Kids in 2014. After our first donation to the Boys & Girls Club, one girl said she “now feels like [she] can make the WNBA.” Hearing her newfound confidence inspired me to keep going. Alley-Oop has seen immense growth since my fifth grade days as we've since impacted thousands of kids through gear donation, training, and most recently, launching an app in late 2020 which serves as a way to connect people who have excess sports equipment to people that need it. We have also added to our mission over the years which now includes bridging the inequity in educational access. Due to COVID causing virtual learning, we saw a major drop-off in classroom attendance amongst underserved communities simply because many students didn't have the technology needed to attend their classes. To combat this issue we (Alley-Oop board members) decided to add eLearning devices as a donatable option on Alley-Oop (our app). The game of basketball has taught me so much more than ball-handling and shooting abilities. It has allowed me to make a positive impact on thousands of lives and shown me the importance of helping kids shoot for their dreams. 

  1. What role has Lydian played in your ability to continue with your mission? Are there any classes or teachers that stand out as being helpful? Are there any specific classes you would suggest other kids take to start their journey?

The support from the Lydian community has been truly outstanding! Lydian's flexible schedule and personalized learning pace have made it possible for me to grow my community service pursuits, while still taking multiple AP courses, in a way a "traditional" school could not. Specifically, Jonathan and Perla have been a huge help as they are quite literally always accessible and willing to help out with any pursuits I have with Alley-Oop. I would recommend students interested in philanthropic work take an economics class or attend some of the "career-days"  held at Lydian. Taking English with Evelyn and Thomas has helped me improve my writing, which has really helped me in marketing and grant-seeking for Alley-Oop.

  1. Is there any message you would like to share with parents and students who are reading this blog?

For anybody reading this, if you are a student who has major commitments and passions outside of the classroom or just wants an accommodating schedule, Lydian is the place for you. I have felt supported and challenged by the amazing faculty and staff that have come to feel like family. When I first came to Lydian, thinking it would be temporary, I had no idea this is where I'd spend my high school years with support and space to really be me. 

Thank you for taking the time Shay, to answer these questions and most importantly for being you. Your Lydian family is very proud of you!

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