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Common Reading Initiative 2015 Kicks Off


Common Reading Initiative 2015 Kicks Off

JSC community reads ‘Promise of a Pencil’; author to visit campus Oct. 26

August 27, 2015

First-year students at Johnson State College are reading and discussing Adam Braun’s The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change as part of the college’s annual Common Reading Initiative. The public is invited to join students, faculty and staff this fall at a series of Common Book-related events (see PDF), including a visit by the author on Oct. 26.

Braun’s book is a first-person account of his journey from high-powered Wall Street consultant to founder of the non-profit Pencils of Promise (PoP), an organization he started with just $25 that has now built over 200 schools in developing countries.

As part of the Common Reading Initiative, Office of First-Year Experience staff will be photographing first-year students in and around the “I AM” sculpture created by students in Fine Arts Assistant Professor Michael Zebrowski’s “Art Build” class. Photos will be printed and displayed in the Office of First-Year Experience (Dewey 154), along with students’ mantras. In addition, student ideas will be collected for a a campus and communitywide fundraiser. Money raised will be split between PoP and the JSC Emergency Fund, which provides small grants to JSC students when financial emergencies arise.

Among the JSC events that are free and open to the public:

  • Thursday, Sept. 3: Join Michael Zebrowski, director of the Julian Scott Memorial Gallery and assistant professor of fine arts, at 3 p.m. for a discussion of the gallery’s interactive exhibit, “Sharpen Write Erase: Processing Worldwide Education Challenges,” which asks participants to share their thoughts regarding their experience and knowledge in education – and their questions and ideas about where education needs to go. Participants read the questions, pick a pencil, sharpen it, write on the gallery wall and then deposit the sharpened pencil to be donated to a Vermont school in need. According to UNESCO, there are 61 million children around the world who are out of school; each of the 6,100 pencils in the exhibit represents 10,000 children. The gallery is located in the Dibden Center for the Arts. Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The gallery is also open during performances at Dibden.

  • Monday, Sept. 14: The documentary film To Educate a Girl will be screened at 6 p.m. in 207 Bentley Hall. More than 100 million children worldwide do not attend school. About two-thirds of them are girls. Filmmakers Frederick Rendina and Oren Rudavsky traveled to Nepal and Uganda seeking to answer one incredibly complex question: What does it take to educate a girl?

  • Monday, Oct. 26: Adam Braun, author of The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change, will discuss the events that led him to found Pencils of Promise (PoP), his experience growing the organization, and the mantras that guide his business and structure his book. The evening will end with a question-and-answer session and a book signing.

Braun is also the director of the Global Education Platform, an initiative conceived by the United Nations that works to identify and promote breakthroughs in education. His work has been recognized by the United Nations, Wired, Forbes’ “30 Under 30,” the Clinton Global Initiative, Business Insider‘s “40 Under 40,” as well as World Economic Forum’s first 10 “Global Shapers,” among others. This year, he received the Jefferson Award, the United States’ most prestigious award for public service.

The Common Reading Initiative is overseen by JSC’s Office of First-Year Experience. For more information, contact Margo Warden, director of the First-Year Experience, 802-635-1474 or