New RSO buildOn builds schools abroad
Published: Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 17:09
As the summer months come to a close and students return back to their busy schedules of the fall semester, many reminisce with friends over what they did for those weeks apart. Some traveled, some worked and some brought memories back to school with them they’ll keep throughout the year.
Junior Elizabeth Burland spent her summer doing work that did not involve textbooks or classes. She interned at buildOn, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “break the cycle of poverty, illiteracy and low expectations through service and education,” according to buildOn’s website. The nonprofit creates after-school service programs throughout the nation and builds schools abroad in some of the world’s poorest countries.
Burland, whose uncle is on the board of the national organization in Stamford, Conn., became invested in the organization during the summer months and wondered if she could continue her efforts upon returning to school, she says.
Burland is the recent founder and president of the buildOn chapter at the university. She, along with a few executive board members, brought this new Registered Student Organization to campus this fall.
Burland approached her intern supervisors during the summer and asked if starting a new chapter would be possible, she says. The organization was extremely interested in continuing work and expanding, as the nonprofit is present in many high schools across the nation but few colleges and universities, she says.
Junior Cara Kuppersmith, vice president of buildOn, was a part of this organization throughout her high school career, she says.
“When Liz came to me with this idea, I was so excited to get involved again,” Kuppersmith says. “I’ve always cared.”
BuildOn has built more than 500 schools abroad through its Global School Construction Program, while providing rural communities in nations across the globe with access to education. BuildOn breaks ground on a new school every four days, Burland says. The after-school youth service programs mobilize urban teens to lift their communities, sending 94 percent of these high school seniors off to college and future endeavors, according to the buildOn website.
Sophomore Annie Gould, treasurer of buildOn, says her education correlates to where she was brought up.
“I have received so many benefits, and, if I had been born anywhere else, then things would be so different,” Gould says. “These kids in Nicaragua, they didn’t choose their circumstances, but this is something they want. Education is the foundation and where it all starts.”
Kuppersmith says she also stands behind buildOn’s mission wholeheartedly and believes increasing literacy rates is the first step out of poverty.
“I’ve worked with this organization for a while, and, when you see kids abroad that are so happy after what we’ve done for them, you really start to appreciate your own,” Kuppersmith says. “For us, education seems like second nature. But in other countries, that’s not necessarily the case.”
Burland says buildOn is one of the most efficient nonprofit organizations she has ever seen.
“They’re not a charity, but a movement,” Burland says. “They’re not just giving out handouts—we’re going to actually help you.”
She says buildOn takes frequent two-week trips to countries abroad in order to build schools. The national organization is in charge of selecting approximately 15 of the newest RSO’s members to go, she says.
The group looks forward to taking their trek abroad next summer as the university plans to sponsor a school in Nicaragua, Gould says.
According to Burland, the executive board of university’s chapter organization will be a part of the selection process. The organization will need to fundraise around $30,000 total to build a school abroad.
“We will reach out to corporate, and to our friends and family for donations,” Gould says. “We know we can’t just do it all through bake sales.”
The group has held two meetings so far, and the executive board members collectively were pleased with the student turnout, Burland says. Gould says she has high hopes for the organization on campus.
“We want people to at least say that they’ve heard of buildOn—that would be an accomplishment,” Gould says. “We want to share the mission with the university community and have them support us.”
The founder, president and CEO of buildOn Jim Ziolkowski will be coming to speak to the university community this fall to inform students about the group, Burland says. He will also discuss his book, “Walk in Their Shoes,” she says.
Kuppersmith shares the same viewpoint.
“The money that you help to fundraise through buildOn is going directly to something,” Kuppersmith says. “You can buy a brick or a blackboard. You’re doing something so great and so direct. It’s going to be life changing.”