December 18, 2011

Pencils of Promise: ADAM BRAUN

Adam Braun has witnessed first hand the transformative power of a pencil. Pencils of Promise (PoP) is founded on the conviction that “education is a basic human right,” and since its inception in 2008, PoP has brought over 40 schools to communities in Laos, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. In addition to providing the physical structure of a school, PoP creates and guides a full educational experience through an all-encompassing approach: Identify, Build, Support, Hire, and Monitor. The success of the organization is inspiring, and it goes without saying that Braun’s personal efforts to execute and sustain his idea is astounding. Oh, and did we mention that PoP has received nods from an extensive celebrity list ranging from Justin Bieber to Desmond Tutu? The Biebs committed $1 for every ticket sold on the second half of his “My World” U.S. Tour to PoP. You do the math.

Learn how to get involved with PoP here. It only takes $25 to educate one child

What inspired you to found Pencils of Promise?
When I was 21 years old I was traveling through the developing world. I met a young boy begging on the streets of India, and I asked him what he wanted most in the world. To my surprise he said a pencil. I gave him my pencil, and in that moment realized the transformative power of education to solve the majority of the world’s global issues. From that day forward I wanted to start an organization that one day became Pencils of Promise.

Your daily responsibilities:
My daily responsibilities include communicating the vision for what Pencils of Promise can one day become. I also lead, inspire and train an amazing staff and movement to go out and make Pencils of Promise the manifestation of their shared vision.

Number of schools you've built to date:
We’ve opened up 39 schools and have almost 20 more under construction so we’ve broken ground on nearly 60 schools.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Ideally, I hope to still receive the same amount of fulfillment that I have right now from working on Pencils of Promise everyday. By then I hope the organization is a household name in the nonprofit world and is something that enables education for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people eventually.

Who is your real life hero?
My real life heroes are the collective members of my family, but especially my grandfather who passed away. He survived the Holocaust, and then brought my grandmother, father and aunt as well as several others over to this country. Through willpower and a commitment to educating his family, he helped me get to where I am today.
Your greatest indulgence:
I love chicken parmesan. I eat way more chicken parmesan than I should.  

Most prized possession:
My journal from semester at sea, it’s hands down the most valuable thing that I own.

Your proudest moment?
My proudest moment was the groundbreaking on our very first school in Pha Theung, Laos. It was something that everyone told me wasn’t possible, but against all odds, a collection of young people came together to raise the money to build one school there. It was really my proudest moment.

Most embarrassing moment:
The first time I gave a really big speech on a major stage was at a conference at the Times Center in NYC. For months beforehand, I was nervous and thought about what a big deal this speech would be. I was the closing speaker and gave this speech for 20 minutes. When I was done I thought I had done a great job and I was really happy with myself. I went to shake hands with some of the people that came up to me afterwards. While I was shaking hands, I realized that my fly was open, and that my fly had been open the whole time.

What makes you laugh?
People who don’t take themselves too seriously and have the ability to laugh at themselves makes me laugh as well. I think I’m one of those people that tries to have a good time no matter what I’m working on and I surround myself with others that enjoy laughing at pretty much anything and everything.

What do you do to relax?
I listen to music. Music is the thing that inspires me most, so when I need to really relax I’ll put on music that takes me to the place where I feel best.
What is Justin Bieber like?!
Justin’s a prankster, he’s a really fun little kid. I’ve known him since he was twelve or thirteen years old, and so we have a big brother, little brother relationship. He does a great job of acting like a little brother should towards me. All and all he’s really down to earth and someone committed to making the world better, which he exercises through all the great things he’s done.
If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?
Either in NYC or in one of the countries where we’re building schools, those are the places I feel happiest and most at home.
Your personal motto:
Live with relentless inspiration around you and within you.

Favorite NYC landmark:
I walked the Brooklyn Bridge for the first time this past weekend and it was an incredible experience, so the Brooklyn Bridge is my new favorite city landmark.

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