A group of just 20 Plano East Senior High students are making a tangible difference in three of the area’s biggest cities.
Akshaya Annampedu, a sophomore in the International Baccalaureate (IB) World School Program, started a PESH chapter of Pencils of Promise (PoP) with her friend Khushi Kakadia at the beginning of last semester.
Pencils of Promise provides teacher support, clean drinking water, sanitation facilities and safer school buildings to communities in Ghana, Guatemala and Laos.
Because the PESH chapter is so new, they’re starting out closer to home.
“Throughout the year, we’ve focused on two main service projects, PoP’s Positive Pencils, and PoP’s Children’s Books,” Akshaya said. “For PoP’s Positive Pencils, we take index cards, write an inspirational message on it and attach a pencil to it. We have been doing this since the beginning of the year, and by the end of the year, when we have 100+ cards with pencils, we are planning on donating it to a nearby school, most likely Dooley Elementary.”
Serena Lin, an officer in the club, created a plot and template for the motivational children’s book. She enlisted the help of National Honor Society members for getting them colored and bound. They books will be sent to a Plano elementary school.
Before PISD shut down due to coronavirus concerns, PoP had been conducting a drive for the Multiple Careers Magnet Center in Dallas.
“MCMC is a Dallas ISD campus that prepares students with special needs to thrive in many careers,” Akshaya said. “They are in need of coats, belts, undergarments, socks, shoes and toiletries. Since all these items pose as a barrier to receiving education, Khushi and I felt the need to step in and help fellow students in need.”
They’re also considering donating some of the children’s books and Positive Pencils to Frisco and Dallas schools.
Typical PoP meetings draw 15 to 20 students, six of whom are officers. Akshaya serves as president and Khushi as vice president, and there is also an assistant planner, advertising manager, historian and freshman representative.
The club meets once a month. As president, Akshaya puts together a slide show detailing deadlines and events, and then plans a fun activity for service hours.
Her goal for next school year is to double the number of members.
“Our club is able to do so many amazing things with 15-20 members; imagine the things we could do with more than 50,” she said. “Another big goal of mine is to collaborate with others internationally, especially other school administrators in countries such as India and Bangladesh. Providing supplies, donations and other resources to underprivileged schools in foreign countries would be very impactful.”
They also intended to collect new and used pencils during the last nine weeks of school, though that’s been put on hold because of closures. When they’re able to conduct the pencil drive, they hope to ship them to international students in need of school supplies.
Part of this project will be Advertising Manager Angela Tatsch’s responsibility. She creates flyers and pamphlets to make the entire campus aware of their mission and efforts.
Next school year, club members also hope to begin fundraising next year. According to Akshaya, the fundraising process at PESH involves a lot of hard work and paperwork, and with a small member base, they don’t quite have the time yet.
Akshaya hopes that other PISD students start PoP chapters at other schools.
“I have always thought that I and other students in the IB Program, or even just in Plano ISD, are highly privileged to have such an amazing education with crucial resources, like marvelous teachers and state-of-the-art textbooks,” she said. “I realized that there are thousands, easily millions, of kids around the globe that don’t get the education we do in Plano. I wanted to strive to solve this issue, and my motivation to fix this huge problem is what drove me to start Plano East’s chapter of Pencils of Promise. Now, I believe we are one small step closer to bringing education to everyone. I feel that to solve a problem as large-scale as the one on our plate, bringing awareness is the first thing one can do.”
By Morgan Howard • [email protected]