The Fact That Changed Everything: Adam Braun and Pencils of Promise

“A child not having a pencil was just so foreign to the belief system that I held—that education should be available to everyone."

This content is brought to you by GOOD, with support from IBM. Click here to read more stories from The Fact That Changed Everything series and here to read about other Figures of Progress.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

As a 21-year-old college student in 2005, Adam Braun embarked on a round-the-world trip and visited developing countries in the hopes of better understanding the world and its people. When he came across a boy who was begging on the streets of India, he asked him what he wanted the most in the world. The boy replied, “A pencil.”

“The need for education in the developing world was really highlighted for me through that exchange,” says Braun. “A child not having a pencil was just so foreign to the belief system that I held—that education should be available to everyone—that I just wanted to do something about it immediately.” This experience led Braun to spend the next five years backpacking through more than 50 countries in six continents, handing out pens and pencils to children he met.

“Getting into remote areas of the world and speaking with children not only humbles you, but you also find out what’s most important or what’s essential,” Braun says. “In my experience handing out pencils, it also opened up the conversation with their parents, and they consistently said what they wanted wasn’t a better job or less government corruption, but education for their children.”

In 2008, Braun founded Pencils of Promise (PoP) with $25 and with the commitment to help bring education to all. Originally, he set out to build just one school in Laos and dedicate it to his grandmother, a Holocaust survivor whom he describes as “the heart of my family.” But as other people became interested in the cause, more and more schools were built; to date, they have 58 schools up and running in Nicaragua, Laos and Guatemala, and the current goal is to break ground on their one hundredth school by the end of 2012. “There’s been tremendous growth,” Braun says. “Our expectations and ambitions grow every single day.”

PoP approaches building a school with a model of scalability and sustainability; part of the goal is to empower locals in the community in which the school will be built. First, the organization identifies a need and commitment in the community, then sources and works with local materials and people to build the school. It also provides educational programs, professional development for teachers and staff, as well as monitoring the programs once the school is operational.

Another goal is to empower the youth everywhere, and one way to achieve this is through PoP’s presence in social media. “One of the things that inspires me is when a young person tweets or posts about this organization and our story and how much it has changed their lives,” says Braun. “We want to give young people the opportunity to participate, because everyone can make a difference.”

To that end, PoP recently launched a fundraising platform called SchoolBuilder, an online tool much like Kickstarter that allows anyone to start a campaign to help build a school. The organization has also started a fundraising campaign called the Impossible Ones, in which participants are encouraged to do an “impossible” thing—running a 10K, skydiving, bicycling across the country, or whatever challenge you desire to conquer—by end of October and help raise money for PoP’s one hundreth school. “When I was looking to start Pencils of Promise, people consistently told me that it was going to be impossible,” says Braun. “What we love and want to do here is to celebrate other individuals that are willing to do something people say is impossible, and because of that they’re willing to run at it full force.”

Center for American Progress Action Fund

Tonight's Democratic debate is a must-watch for followers of the 2020 election. And it's a nice distraction from the impeachment inquiry currently enveloping all of the political oxygen in America right now.

For most people, the main draw will be newly anointed frontrunner Pete Buttigieg, who has surprisingly surged to first place in Iowa and suddenly competing in New Hampshire. Will the other Democrats attack him? How will Elizabeth Warren react now that she's no longer sitting alone atop the primary field? After all, part of Buttigieg's rise has been his criticisms of Warren and her refusal to get into budgetary specifics over how she'd pay for her healthcare plan.

The good news is that Joe Biden apparently counts time travel amongst his other resume-building experience.

Keep Reading Show less
Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert

This election cycle, six women threw their hat in the ring for president, but is their gender holding them back? Would Americans feel comfortable with a woman leading the free world? Based on the last election, the answer is a swift no. And a new study backs this up. The study found that only 49% of American men would feel very comfortable with a woman serving as the head of the government. By comparison, 59% of women said they would feel comfortable with a woman in charge.

The Reykjavik Index for Leadership, which measures attitude towards women leaders, evaluated the attitudes of those living in the G7 countries as well as Brazil, China, India, and Russia. 22,000 adults in those 11 countries were surveyed on their attitudes about female leadership in 22 different sectors, including government, fashion, technology, media, banking and finance, education, and childcare.

Only two countries, Canada and the U.K., had a majority of respondents say they would be more comfortable with a female head of state. Germany (which currently has a female Chancellor), Japan, and Russia were the countries least comfortable with a female head of state.

Keep Reading Show less
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

If you are totally ready to move on from Donald Trump, you're not alone. According to a report last April from the Wason Center National Survey of 2020 Voters, "President Trump will be the least popular president to run for reelection in the history of polling."

Yes, you read that right, "history of polling."

Keep Reading Show less
via Around the NFL / Twitter

After three years on the sidelines, Colin Kapernick will be working out for multiple NFL teams on Saturday, November 16 at the Atlanta Falcons facility.

The former 49er quarterback who inflamed the culture wars by peacefully protesting against social injustice during the national anthem made the announcement on Twitter Tuesday.

Kaepernick is scheduled for a 15-minute on-field workout and an interview that will be recorded and sent to all 32 teams. The Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, and Detroit Lions are expected to have representatives in attendance.

RELATED: Joe Namath Says Colin Kaepernick And Eric Reid Should Be Playing In The NFL

"We like our quarterback situation right now," Miami head coach, Brian Flores said. "We're going to do our due diligence."

NFL Insider Steve Wyche believes that the workout is the NFL's response to multiple teams inquiring about the 32-year-old quarterback. A league-wide workout would help to mitigate any potential political backlash that any one team may face for making an overture to the controversial figure.

Kapernick is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) so any team could have reached out to him. But it's believed that the interested teams are considering him for next season.

RELATED: Video of an Oakland train employee saving a man's life is so insane, it looks like CGI

Earlier this year, Kaepernick and Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid reached a financial settlement with the league in a joint collusion complaint. The players alleged that the league conspired to keep them out after they began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

Before the 2019 season, Kaepernick posted a video of himself working out on twitter to show he was in great physical condition and ready to play.

Kaepnick took the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012 and the NFC Championship game in 2013.

He has the 23rd-highest career passer rating in NFL history, the second-best interception rate, and the ninth-most rushing yards per game of any quarterback ever. In 2016, his career to a sharp dive and he won only of 11 games as a starter.