Let's start this story back in 2014...I was in my senior year at Michigan State University and was student teaching in a third-grade classroom. I knew earning my bachelor's degree wasn't the only accomplishment I wanted to check off that year, so I began training for my first half-marathon. Running the streets of East Lansing gave me time to reflect on the struggles my students faced. I will never forget my first day when I had an eight-year-old stranger walk up and tell me that she's living with her grandmother because her dad killed her mom. Fast forward a few weeks to when I pulled a student aside because he was falling asleep at his desk. I asked why he was so tired that day, and he apologized because his teenage sister left him alone with his one-year-old niece so his sister could hang out with her friends while their mom worked midnights. It didn't take long for me to hear each child's story and empathize with their struggles at home. Whether I was helping tutor the children after hours, slipping a sandwhich and snacks in their backpacks so they could eat something that night, or making sure there were brand new pencils waiting for them inside their desks the next morning--I was always amazed at the value these young people placed on their education.
Let's catch up to 2019--I have since run four half-marathons and am determined to run a full (26.2 mile) marathon in 2020! I had my sights set on running the Chicago Marathon in October 2020. The spectator support is seemingly unparalleled and it seemed like a great course to challenge my body's limits. In November 2019, I applied for the lottery...keeping my fingers crossed that I'd receive good news and would be accepted. On December 12, I received an email telling me that my application had been denied. I was crushed.
After drying my eyes and reading past, "we regret to inform you that your application has been denied for the 2020 Chicago Marathon...." I discovered that there were several charities that I could raise funds for and gain admission into the marathon. That sounded tempting, but I didn't want to ask my friends and family to support an organization that I didn't wholeheartedly stand behind. So, I sat down and began clicking through the dozens of eligible charities, and on page 4 of that list, I stumbled upon Pencils of Promise.
I clicked on their website, and read their story about a child begging on the streets of India for a pencil. Yes--a pencil. Of all the things he could have asked for, he wanted something that many of us take for granted each day. The founder pulled a pencil out of his backpack and he states, "I handed him my pencil and watched as a wave of possibility washed over him..." Eleven years later, the world-traveler, Adam Braun, has since built 518 schools and provided hundreds of thousands of children with the opportunity and resources to be educated. In 2019, Pencils of Promise is responsible for educating 107,899 students--a huge increase from the 475 students that benefitted in 2009.
While I realize that Pencils of Promise is hardly the only organization that's working to improve the global education epidemic, it is one of the few that promises that every dollar donated online goes directly to their programs to educate more children. There isn't a six-figure CEO at the top of this pyramid, and I respect that 100% of the donations directly impact the children.
On Sunday, October 11, 2020, I will stand at the starting line with more than 45,000 other runners. I have no doubt that I will be trembling as my corral is called and I take my first steps on my 26.2 mile journey. In the meantime, I will find the determination to train, the courage to ask my friends and family to rally behind my journey and support this cause, and the perserverance to cross the finish line.
I believe there will come a day when every child will have access to quality education. With your help, that day might come in our lifetimes. Until then, we will continue to work tirelessly to break down the restraints of today to enable the possibilities of tomorrow.
Each pencil, each dollar, and each supporter is essential. If you are able, I ask that you consider making a donation and spreading the word.
From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for reading this story and considering this cause.
To learn more about Pencils of Promise, please visit their website at: https://pencilsofpromise.org