Adam Braun’s smiling face stared at me from the cover of his book, The Promise of a Pencil, published earlier this year, and I stared back with a skeptical eye. All I knew of Pencils of Promise, the organization Braun founded, was that they build schools in developing nations, and Justin Bieber was their celebrity champion – an association I found a bit worrisome.    promise-of-a-pencil

But after reading the book, my respect for the organization has grown.   Braun’s nonprofit does more than simply build the four walls required for a classroom. Like CoEd, they work with local citizens, require buy-in from the community, and have a focus on sustainability.

Braun’s story of leaving a successful corporate job, traveling to a developing country, and founding a nonprofit as a result sounded eerily similar to the beginning of CoEd. As I read through his journeys of hiring locals to run the organization in the countries where they work, training teachers on better methods, and Braun’s personal development in becoming the director of a multi-million dollar nonprofit, I kept shouting in my head, “That’s us! That’s Joe and Jeff’s story too!”


Joe and Jeff’s focus hasn’t shifted in 20 years. They still see education as the way to break the cycle of poverty!

I believe there is something to be learned from every organization and also something to teach.  I think that CoEd is a great example to Pencils of Promise and others of how to take great ideas and transform them into lasting results.  Our nearly 20 year track record of success is no accident.  It is the result of thoughtful planning, and constant yet sustainable growth that prioritizes long-term impact.  On the other hand, this book challenges CoEd to continue to be aspirational,  and we are doing so right now.  Our directors and board leaders are immersed in a year-long process to define those big goals as I write.  They are dreaming big and setting the bar high for what CoEd will achieve in education in the coming years.  I am excited to share the plan with you soon – after all, YOU are the one with the power to make it happen.

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