March 19, 2019 | 42° F

Rutgers Business School sophomores create 'Pencils of Promise'


Members of Rutgers’ chapter of “Pencils for Promise” distribute water to runners participating in the Unite Half Marathon on April 12. COURTESY OF ALEXIS LEVINE

It all began in 2008 when a small boy begging in the streets of India told Adam Braun that what he wanted most in the world was a pencil.

"Pencils of Promise", founded by Braun, is a global movement full of passionate individuals, supporting and making a world with greater educational opportunities for all, according to the company's official website.

The movement fundamentally believes in a day when every single child will have access to a quality education, according to their website.

Motivated by a commitment to help children in third-world countries have access to education, Alexis Levine and Jacqueline Atkinson worked together to take "Pencils of Promise" a step further and establish a chapter at the University.

Levine, president of "Pencils of Promise" and a Rutgers Business School sophomore, said she and Atkinson, the organization's treasurer and a Rutgers Business School sophomore, met as roommates during their first year of college and wanted to start a club that would benefit society.

"Pencils of Promise" is an up-and-coming organization based in New York City focused on raising money to build schools in third world countries, Atkinson said.

To raise money, the club hosts events and holds various fundraisers, Atkinson said. Their goal is to raise $25,000, so they can to send club members to a third-world country to build a school.

“I think education is really important because our society is constantly growing, and it’s hard to watch kids in less fortunate areas not have the same opportunities I did,” she said.

Atkinson said her grandmother was anxious and determined to move to the United States from the Phillippines so her children — Atkinson's mother — could have a better education.

“It’s nice to know that my mom was able to get that opportunity and that other people could but they don’t have the resources for it," she said. "It’s kind of heartbreaking."

Payal Sharma, an assistant professor in the Department of Management and Global Business, said she has been providing oversight and advice regarding the club's activities to board members.

She said she would meet with Levine and Atkinson at Starbucks when the students would update her on the club’s progress and activities, and Sharma would offer suggestions or ideas regarding future plans.

When Levine approached Sharma with the idea for the club, Sharma said she was happy to help, because she also felt a personal connection to Levine and Atkinson due to the student’s mature nature as well as their thoughtful and hardworking attitude that impressed her during class.

“I was pleased to have this opportunity to support the students and the meaningful purpose of 'Pencils of Promise,'” she said. “Rutgers students have a lot of choices when it comes to their extra-curricular activities and knowing that 'Pencils of Promise' was making a difference around the world made it an easy decision for me to want to get involved.”

The Rutgers chapter of "Pencils of Promise" serves two purposes, Sharma said. It gives the organization visibility to have a chapter at a prestigious university with an engaged student body, and it gives the University visibility to support a meaningful organization.

Sharma said she is hopeful that the students' hard work will pay off and that they will meet their fundraising goals.

"I also think that Alexis and Jackie hope to grow the organization with more members who are as excited about its efforts as we all are," she said.

Both Levine and Atkinson want to share their resources to provide children around the world with the chance to go to school and receive an education.

“You could always better yourself by learning something,” Atkinson said.

So far, the chapter has volunteered at the Unite Half Marathon both in April 2014 and April 2015 and held a few coffee houses to raise money, Atkinson said. They raised a little more than $1,000 in the past year.

Since Braun founded the company with just a $25 deposit, the organization built more than 200 schools, serving over 30,000 students, according to their website.

“In the process, we have learned a lot. We’ve learned that education is a living, breathing entity that with the right nurturing, evolves into something spectacular,” according to the website. “We’ve learned that every piece of its growth is a challenge and that each pencil, each dollar, each supporter is essential.”

Natasha Tripathi

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