If you could have anything in the world, right now, what would it be? For most of us, this question would lead to a variety of answers, ranging from materialistic things to accomplishments. But when Adam Braun asked a young boy in India the exact question, the answer was quite a simple one: a pencil. The sincerity of this answer inspired Braun to found the now famous organization, Pencils Of Promise.
Pencils of Promise builds schools and increases access to education for children in the developing world. University of Louisville’s Engage Lead Serve board invited Adam Braun to speak to students on campus about his story and to help motivate them to change the world. Adam Braun—brother of Justin Bieber’s manager, Scooter Braun—has worked with Justin Bieber, publicizing his nonprofit.
“This one boy’s request gave me power that I’ve held onto ever since,” Braun said, recalling the boy’s answer that helped onset Pencils of Promise. He was standing on stage in the SAC multipurpose room, looking around at the large crowd of students and faculty that had come to hear him talk. Braun, now in his thirties, founded Pencils of Promise in 2009. It raised $25,000 its first year and has now expanded to millions. In fact, he even made Forbes’ “Thirty Under Thirty” list.
However, before graduating Brown University, Braun himself was a college student like the rest of us, wondering what he was there for.
“Why are you here?” He asked the crowd. “What is your sense of purpose?”
Through a slideshow of moving quotes and touching stories from his own personal experiences, Braun captured the attention of everyone in the room.
Braun told a story about the time he was at sea, and the ship was in dangerous choppy waters. Although he was faced with a near-death experience, he knew it wasn’t his time to pass. He had a sense of purpose in life. And he did. In six years, Pencils of Promise has built over 260 schools in developing countries, impacting 30,000 students and gaining 20 million educational hours. There are now schools in Asia, Latin America and Africa. And everything was made possible by people like you.
“Every one of us has an ability to change a life,” Braun said. “My first school was built to honor my grandmother- who I value most in this world.”
Students in the audience were moved by the speech. Sophomore Thomas Gordon even dressed as a pencil to keep the excitement alive.
“I wanted to gain a larger perspective into what an organization like this does and how they impact communities abroad and how that can be translated into a community within the university in order to advance their cause,” Senior Maliha Ikram said. She, among several others, waited until the end for the meet and greet, where Braun was signing books, taking pictures and answering questions for curious students.
Junior Jerome Soldo, who is on the board of Engage Lead Serve, said he could definitely see a Pencils of Promise chapter happening in the future at U of L. “I can see it growing and springing forward just from the inspiration the [attendees] tonight have gained.”
“That was very inspiring for people who want to get involved,” said Christina Franck, sophomore. “$25,000 is very attainable for a school of this caliber.”
Adam Braun himself seemed genuinely excited about the atmosphere at UofL.
“Truthfully, the spirit and ambition of the students I’ve met on campus is very inspiring,” he said. University of Louisville was one of the handful of schools he has visited this year.
His point was that anyone can change the world. He had simply started something from a spark of inspiration and ever since, has helped hundreds of underprivileged kids get an education.
The event also included free food from Mark’s Feed Store and raffle drawings for Adam Braun’s book “The Promise of a Pencil: How An Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change.”