Adopt a “Pencil Mentality” this School Year

The pencil is mightier than the pen and the sword

FI3UYVGNFDHaving watched my younger cousin learn cursive for the first time earlier this year, I couldn’t help but notice the way she gripped her smooth, yellow #2 pencil in her right hand; the way the graphite moved across her page; and her frustration that was clearly marked by the furl of her eyebrows. Frustrated by the loops of the letter “L” at the beginning of a word, she sighed, paused, and began feverishly erasing. She was trying to write the word “likes” to describe how she “likes” unicorns, but she wrote the words “saw a” instead of “likes”.

“You saw a unicorn?” I asked.

“Yes, I did… in my dream,” my cousin said with a toothless grin.

Suddenly, the story on the page was entirely different.

Pencils, as thousands of stores and marketing departments have noted, remain one of the ultimate symbols of being a student. However, more than a writing instrument that’s often required by math instructors, pencils in a way also remind us of the impermanence of ideas in a student’s life. Just as the word “likes” was erased from cousin’s page, ideas can seemingly appear, be modified, or be replaced altogether in a time when your main responsibility is to learn, to question what’s previously been said or done, and to accept the free flow exchange of thought.

Every September in  the United States, I get a little nostalgic. I’m admittedly now part of the pen-wielding workforce, and I’m still a little ways away from pursuing my next degree. While I may not be an enrolled student this coming year, being on Everyday Ambassador has exposed me to communities that remind me that anyone can still be a student – especially one of social change. For this edition of Bucket List, I invite you – whether you’re a working professional, a community leader, or a student – to explore some of these opportunities to invest in yourself, re-frame how you see the world, and perhaps get you back to that “pencil mentality” this school year.

Take a free online course.

Beyond traditional classes this fall, consider taking a free, online course on the many topics that relate to social impact. I’ve particularly been a fan of +Acumen’s courses, which cover topics, such as Storytelling for Social Change, Lean Data Approaches to Measuring Social Impact, and Board Strategy for Social Enterprise.

Learn a new language.

It’s no secret that languages are valued within the international community and public service space, and I’ve previously featured alternative ways to learn a language or dialect from a foreign culture. However, this academic year, consider picking up a coding language by joining a club as a student, or try mentoring one of these clubs if you are already a seasoned professional in the field. The tech industry, in particular, is still incredibly male-dominated, despite notable figures like Marissa Mayer of Yahoo. Recognizing the need to create a stronger female presence in tech are groups such as Girls Who Code and Made with Code. As we move into an age when most interactions we have in our lives can have some technical component, certain forms of code are becoming more pertinent than ever to creating a social impact.

Apply for a fellowship.

Beyond the classroom, there are plenty of opportunities to learn from a professional practicum or fellowship. Learn how you can apply your skills to a new cause, community, or medium with these fellowships that have deadlines next month.

TED Fellows – Deadline: September 20, 2015

Details: TED looks “for different applicants than many other leadership-oriented programs. Instead of business people, professionals, policy wonks and government officials, the TED Fellows program focuses on doers, makers, inventors, advocates, filmmakers and photographers, musicians and artists, scientists, entrepreneurs, NGO heads, and human rights activists. In addition to impressive accomplishment, fine character and a good heart are two very important traits we look for in a every potential TED Fellow. More than anything, this focus on character has defined the success of the TED Fellows program.”

Kiva Fellows – Deadline September 27, 2015

Details: “Fellows serve many vital roles for Kiva. They expand Kiva’s impact by building key relationships and transferring critical knowledge to their host Field Partner or Partners, help Kiva develop sustainable practices by utilizing their individual skill sets to improve current Field Partners processes. Kiva Fellows working with Kiva Zip act as a direct connection to communities, where they promote Kiva Zip, identify Trustees and borrowers, and play a leading role in data analysis and evaluation to optimize and increase the scale of the initiative.”

StartingBloc Fellows – September deadlines vary by location

Details: “The StartingBloc Institute is a transformative 5-day experience for entrepreneurs, activists, students, bridge-builders and other innovators. Through a series of workshops and activities designed to stretch your limits, you learn directly from high impact changemakers, you work with proven frameworks for delivering change, and you build relationships with life-long allies.”

Smithsonian Institution Fellows – Deadline: September 2-December 1, 2015

Details: “The Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) and the Smithsonian Institution (SI) invite fellowship applications for one-year fellowships to support research in residence at Smithsonian Institution facilities. Fellowships carry a stipend of $32,700.  All fields of study that are actively pursued by the museums and research organizations of the Smithsonian Institution are eligible.”

Fuse Corps Fellows – Rolling deadline

Details: “The FUSE Fellowship is a unique opportunity to leverage your professional background to solve crucial community problems. Each carefully crafted fellowship focuses on achieving lasting impact and exposing local government to innovative approaches. FUSE Fellows inspire communities throughout the country to reimagine what is possible in community based problem solving.”

Attend a conference.

Learn the “word on the street” for social impact from industry experts in these two big conferences happening next month.

Leading Change Summit (LCS) – Washington, D.C.

Details: “Whether you want to create a new program or campaign, expand where you’re organization is already seeing success, or design a technological solution to help your staff and you community, your idea will require five core elements for success. LCS workshops are based in these five areas and all offer four alternatives you can choose the workshop based on your specific needs.”

Social Good Summit 2015 – New York, NY and Globally

Details: According to Mashable, this September, “more than 65 countries” will virtually participate in a global event known as the Social Good Summit. With complimentary, local events happening in many locations, this two-day New York, NY conference will examine the “impact of technology and new media on social good initiatives around the world” and will coincide with UN Week on September 27-18, 2015. Please note that Everyday Ambassador will be reporting live from this event, so stay tuned for more details!


“Bucket List” is a weekly series curated by Everyday Ambassador’s Director of Brand Strategy Audrey del Rosario. Every Saturday, we will feature events, conferences, and happenings that spark conversation and ignite your inner activist. To stay current with our latest posts, follow #bucketlist or #EAinspired on our other platforms, and check back regularly for updates.

Image Credit: Stocksnap.io



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