Why I Am Still Building PoP Schools

These kids caught my attention during a ceremony when we opened up the new school. How can you not fall in love with those smiles!

This past spring, I went on my second trip with Pencils of Promise to see another school completed. These are some of my favorite trips of my life and I always feel my heart grow twice as big each time I go.

This time I got to go to Laos, which I had never been to before, and I was blown away by the beauty of the country and people. The school we visited was pretty special to me (as they all are). This one was dedicated to my favorite school in the world, The School of Greatness. It’s the name of my podcast, my book, and it’s also dedicated to my older sister Heidi Howes.

To see a physical building with the name of my sister and The School of Greatness was amazing. I thought of all the professors (my podcast guests) who have taught me so much, as well as the thousands of emails and notes I’ve received from listeners and followers about how those lessons have changed their lives.

But what really hit me was seeing the kids at this school, with the potential for as much greatness as anyone else in the world, and knowing that they now had a chance to step into their greatness. There’s no better feeling in the world and I couldn’t be more proud and grateful to be a part of this work.

I fell in love after I saw this smile.

We took a 2 hour drive on a dirt road to see a few villages where Pencils of Promise had built schools. When I saw her, I’m pretty sure she and her classmates had never seen a white giant as big as me (that was only spoken of in folklore from the village chief) before this day.

Unsure how to react to my mythological height, I crouched from cloud level to theirs and behind her protective window she peeked out and she shined this bright smile right at me.

I fell deeper in love.

We got to do activities with the kids and I was so amazed at how happy they were. No electricity in the school or the village and little water supply, yet they were still radiating joy for the ability to go to school.

So much to be grateful for from these moments.

It was bittersweet leaving Laos. We visited more schools on our last day in the middle of nowhere — where kids slept on the ground, had no physical possessions but had huge hearts and a yearning to learn.

That’s what it is all about and I’m so grateful that Pencils of Promise is doing something to provide schools for kids who don’t have any and give education to them as well. This is why I’m still building Pencils of Promise schools.

Be sure to read more about Pencils of Promise in my new book, The School of Greatness, on sale now.


Check out #PoPFieldTrip on Instagram to follow our adventures in Guatemala, Ghana and Laos.

To learn more about PoP’s work, visit pencilsofpromise.org