Charity from the heart – Pencils of Promise

Courtney Smith greets guests at her fundraiser at Sportsplex. Courtesy of

Convent of the Sacred Heart junior Courtney Smith is helping to erase the problem of childhood illiteracy in underdeveloped countries and is drawing a brighter future for impoverished children through her involvement in the charity Pencils of Promise (PoP). Courtney joined the non-profit organization as a sophomore, and has since been working to support the education of the less fortunate youth in Nicaragua, Laos, Cambodia, and Ghana.
Mr. Adam Braun, a Greenwich, Connecticut native, founded PoP in 2008 after traveling to India, according to During the trip, he talked to a child who told him that what he wanted most was a pencil. Mr. Braun transformed this encounter into a worldwide network of volunteers working together to build schools and provide underprivileged children with an easily accessible education.
Courtney decided to join PoP earlier this year after reading Mr. Braun’s book, The Promise of a Pencil. His mission intrigued her, and she immediately knew that she wanted to be a part of the organization.
“My mom’s a teacher, so there’s always been a strong influence on education in my life,” Courtney said. “Seeing her impact as a teacher, and going to such a great school has inspired me to help with the opportunity to provide kids with an education who wouldn’t otherwise have it.”
After learning about PoP, Courtney established a fundraising goal of $25,000, and intends to utilize the funds to build a school in Nicaragua.
As part of her involvement with the charity, Courtney has held multiple fundraisers to support the cause. She hosted a spin class and a Zumba class at Sportsplex of Stamford, and offered free spray tans at Zen Bronze to raise awareness about the organization. Courtney also utilized her Sweet Sixteen party in order to provide funds for PoP.

Courtney Smith greets guests at her fundraiser at Sportsplex. Courtesy of
Courtney Smith greets guests at her fundraiser at Sportsplex.  Courtesy of

“I asked for donations instead of presents. I did a lot of babysitting and asked them to donate instead of paying me. I ran a 5k over the summer with my friends and used that as a way to get sponsors to donate to my page,” Courtney said.
Courtney also feels that each donation to her mission motivates her to attain her goal.
“Seeing people’s generosity and the random moments of it is really awesome. If people hear about what I’m doing, they’re donating or commenting on Facebook,” Courtney said.
This year, Courtney started a club at Sacred Heart that endorses PoP’s objectives and goals. The club has already established a group fundraising page with a goal of raising $500. Courtney hopes that the club will stimulate Sacred Heart students’ passion for and involvement in PoP.
“There’s this whole idea that, as teenagers, we can’t make an impact and our club shows that we actually can. It can be as simple as a dollar to help reach a greater goal,” Courtney said.

Courtney Smith gathers with girls at a non-profit organization meeting to spread her mission with Pencils of Promise. Courtesy of
Courtney Smith gathers with girls at a non-profit organization meeting to spread her mission with Pencils of Promise.  Courtesy of

For the upcoming holidays, Courtney hopes to hold a raffle and create a “candy gram” fundraiser, where Sacred Heart students can buy candy for their classmates in order to raise money for PoP.
Throughout her journey, Courtney’s family and peers have supported her endeavors to bring education to the poverty-stricken.
“When I first started my goal, my parents thought I was crazy. A lot of my family was skeptical. They didn’t understand the organization or where my inspiration was coming from,” Courtney said. “Once they saw it was actually happening and donations were coming in, they have been super supportive. The girls in my club are so amazing and enthusiastic. They’re inspired by what I’m doing so hopefully they spread the wealth.”

Donate to Courtney’s fundraising page here, or to the Pencils of Promise Club’s fundraising page here.

– Morgan Johnson, Co-News Editor