Scholarships.com readers, you saw it featured as one of our Scholarships of the Week but are you familiar with the grassroots movement Pencils of Promise (PoP)? If not, you’re in luck! We recently had the opportunity to interview PoP’s community engagement coordinator Rachele Aidala and asked her everything from how the organization was started and projections for the next year to how one of the world’s biggest pop stars – the Biebs – got involved. Check out what she had to say below:
Let’s start with introductions: What is Pencils of Promise and what is your role within the organization?
Pencils of Promise (PoP) believes every child should have access to quality education. We create schools, programs, and global communities around the common goal of education for all. Since 2008, PoP has built 67 schools in Southeast Asia and Latin America. We’ve educated over 4,500 children and positively impacted 65,000 lives. PoP founder Adam Braun was moved to create the organization after his experience traveling around the world. He encountered a young boy in India and asked him what he wanted most in the world. The child answered “a pencil.” It was then that the dream to build a school was born. Here we are, nearly four years later, on track to build 100 schools by the end of the 2012. Sixty-one million children around the world don’t have access to primary school education, so we have a lot of work ahead of us. I’m the Community Engagement Coordinator, which means I get to work with all of our incredible supporters. You wouldn’t believe the power of our students across the country. They’re in their schools and on their campuses rallying their peers around education for all. They run clubs, host awareness events, and fundraise to build PoP schools. It’s a huge privilege to work with such passionate dedicated supporters.
How pivotal was social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) in the growth of PoP?
As an organization that works for and with youth around the world, we know the importance of communicating on their platforms, on their terms. For most youth and Generation X professionals, that form of communication is social media, be it Facebook, Twitter or blogging. We are best able to engage with the PoP community over social media, which greatly contributes to our growth as an organization.
What earned PoP the largest social media following of any nonprofit in the last four years?
When you’re a lean non-profit that’s also a scrappy startup, you don’t have a big advertising budget. For PoP that meant focusing our time and energy on digital. With an online community of more than 300,000 members, it’s now paying off. Some people are obsessed with photos of kittens, I’m obsessed with photos of PoP kids in schools around the world. Social media allows us to connect our supporters with those students. The excitement of sharing photos of a newly-inaugurated school never gets old.
PoP’s built 67 schools to date – what are the projections for the next 12 months?
Over the next 12 months, PoP is looking to expand its programming and geography. We’re working to expand our reach to new countries and expand our programming to incorporate teacher training and student scholarships abroad. An immediate goal of ours is to break ground on our 100th school in 2012. With 67 completed schools and nine ongoing builds, that will be a challenge, but at PoP we’re all about overcoming the impossible.
Stay tuned for the second part of our interview (oh, and those Bieber details) with Rachele tomorrow! [...]