A red carpet backdrop of butterflies and flowered wings, an augmented reality exhibit showcasing children’s changed lives, and an inspiring awards ceremony featuring today’s most notable personalities colored last night’s annual Pencils of Promise Gala.
Held at Cipriani Wall Street, this year’s #PoPgala was themed “An Evolution Within”. As Pencils of Promise CEO Tanya Ramos shared, “We’re evolving, and so we recognize that while building a school is still part of our DNA and an important part of our work, we have to ensure that we have comprehensive programming so that our kids are thriving and they’re able to leave our schools literate.” This year, PoP is going beyond just building schools.
Pencils of Promise is a for-purpose organization with the goal of creating educational opportunity for children in the developing world. Founded by Adam Braun in 2008, PoP has built over 510 schools throughout Ghana, Guatemala, Laos, and Nicaragua, and aims to reach 1000 within the next decade. This night honored some of the most active contributors to PoP’s mission: Lil Jon, Karmagawa (founded by Timothy Sykes and Mattheau Abad), and Trevor Noah.
The Gala welcomed guests with a red carpet, and cocktail reception. Supporters shared their inspiration to keep giving, “There’s so many people that just need a framework, a push, an opening to achieve all the things they’re capable of…For many parts of the world, the ability to get a formal structured education, versus hanging outside by a tree or being educated by family members randomly once in a while, is the springboard,” said Gary Vaynerchuk (PoP Board of Directors).
Creative Directors Evan Mock and Kelsey Montague brought their visions together to create a space of uplifting, playful art, combined with real images of the lives that PoP transforms. Elec Simon and his team played invigorating drum rhythms, and once guests were seated, the ceremony began. Ramos announced the first Global Ambassador to Ghana, Bozoma St. John, who shared her enthusiasm via a video message. Going “beyond the build” as Ramos said, PoP is now introducing new programs for water access, and menstrual hygiene to remove any barriers that may block kids from attending school.
The evening continued with many heartfelt speeches. Ndaba Mandela, grandson of Nelson Mandela, introduced the Activist Award to Trevor Noah. “Everything we should look at in this room is an experiment that we should be teaching governments to follow… teach them how to create sustainable schools, teach them how to create institutions that are about learning and educating people because if we don’t get the leaders involved in this then everything we’re doing is well intentioned but moot,” Noah said.
Laughter, clapping, and gigantic wooden pencils filled the air once Harry Santa- Olalla took the stage to begin the auction. A VIP Grammy Awards Experience, Tequila Tasting with Lil Jon, Arts & Crafts with Gigi Hadid, and a MasterClass with Gary Vaynerchuk were only few of the auctioned experiences.
Adam Braun, Lil Jon, and Karamgawa’s Timothy Sykes and Matteau Abad continued to share the awe- aspiring stories, emotions, and vital impact of PoP’s efforts. The ceremony closed with the touching melodies of Grammy Award winning singer/songwriter YEBBA.
The Gala raised over $1.5 million, proving the commitment to provide education and opportunity for all. No donation is too little for this global movement to better humanity.