Start writing your future

Zoe Engels, Executive News Editor

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Photo Illustration by Kaylyn Du

On June 4, I’ll be leaving Glenbrook North with a diploma, thousands of pencils, a $10,000 grant and a commitment to help children across the world.

I was compelled to create Write the Future, a non-profit that donates writing utensils to underprivileged children internationally, during my freshman year of high school as I observed a presentation in which Mr. Vincent, my History of World Civilizations teacher, shared stories about his own experiences in Guatemala.

In photographs from his presentation, two girls stood side by side with their unbrushed hair pulled into a tangled heap while the sun’s heat penetrated the crater-like holes in the sweaters of two boys. The children’s knuckles were pale due to their unyielding grips on what seemed to be newly sharpened pencils. Vincent explained that the boys and girls had been begging people for these writing utensils, which he had graciously given them.

I was completely shocked. I found it difficult to imagine that something as simple as a pencil could be so out of reach for many children globally. At Glenbrook North, pencils lie discarded on the floor, forgotten and unappreciated. But for these underprivileged children, pencils are like buried treasure that they desperately wish to uncover.

After the presentation, I approached my friend Elana Greenberg about co-founding our non-profit, Write the Future. Through our work, I have learned to put others before myself — helping children in countries like Haiti, Cuba and Honduras pursue their education. But, our organization is just getting started. In March of 2017, we won a $10,000 grant — money that will go toward sending hundreds of thousands of pencils to about 13,000 children in Malawi, Africa.

After our donation to Honduras, my heart swelled with unsurpassable joy as we received an envelope brimming with thank you letters that the young students had written with their new pencils. In these letters, the children sketched images of their homes and families — drawings that are similar to the elementary school doodles that our parents once hung on our refrigerators. And within each letter, the students wrote a heartfelt “gracias” alongside their names.

These letters have only fueled my desire to leave selfishness behind. When I see pencils scattered on the floor or pointlessly split in half, my mind immediately thinks of the children who would beam upon receiving these pencils, allowing me to avoid negligence towards others through thoughtless selfishness. After all, we help ourselves grow as human beings when we consider the needs of others and assist those who often cannot help themselves.

Sure, we’ve all been selfish at some point in our lives, failing to hold the door open for our peers or neglecting to say “thank you” to those who hold the door open for us. Despite our natural tendencies to be engrossed in our grades, our “cool kid” images and our personal dilemmas, we must all make the effort to look at high school as an opportunity to become supportive members of our global community. Just because we’re teenagers doesn’t mean we can’t have a far-reaching, positive impact.

In high school, you can take the time to volunteer, and you can join various clubs that dedicate their time to assisting others. Even the seemingly little things that constitute as common courtesy contribute to the adoption of selflessness in high school. You can work to dispel selfishness merely by holding the door open for others or by uttering the words: “How are you?”

The selflessness you adopt in high school can last a lifetime.

So make the effort to be selfless. I promise you won’t regret it.

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Start writing your future