Since 2016, Pilot Pen has recognized extraordinary overachievers who go above and beyond their everyday duties to improve the lives of others. Below is a list of our amazing winners of the Overachievers Grant and Overachievers Student Grant from previous years.
Neeraj’s Overachieving Works: Learn To Be
Neeraj is a software engineer, by day, at a healthcare startup company called Scanwell Health and builds at home diagnostic tools and tests using smartphones for malaria, chronic kidney disease, urinary tract infections, and now COVID-19 tests. His life goal is to not only do meaningful work with his career, but also change the world for the better. At night he turns his attention to Learn To Be to help fight and fix educational inequality in the United States.
30 million underserved children in America suffer with limited access to quality education. As the world flipped upside down with the global pandemic, the educational system transitioned to virtual learning,which is a challenging change, further limiting the underserved communities to quality education. Learn To Be, established in 2007 by Neeraj, is an educational non-profit that brings free one-on-one tutoring for underserved youth. Learn To Be connects volunteer tutors to children in grades K-12 in an online classroom, where the two can meet at least twice a week for tutoring lessons and classroom help.
Since the inception of Learn To Be, Neeraj has made impactful differences in the lives of his students. He has helped 7,000 students with tutoring, with an average exam score increase of 16%, and average letter grade increase overall.
Jordan’s Overachieving Works: Love Letters for Literacy
Jordan is a high school junior who is the founder and executive director of a nonprofit called Love Letters for Literacy (LLL). LLL equips families in need with handmade literacy packets to make teaching the letters of the alphabet easy and fun. A child’s ability to succeed in school, attend college, and earn a higher salary all begins with the ability to read. LLL sets out to change the fact that lower-income children typically know significantly fewer letters of the alphabet when entering kindergarten than their more affluent peers. LLL seeks to level the educational playing field. Its packets teach families how to make learning the alphabet into a game to promote early literacy while encouraging a lifelong love of reading. Each literacy packet includes simple educational games, a set of 26 flashcards and a handwritten, personalized note. To date, LLL has sent out over 40,000 packets in 6 1/2 years to children in all 50 states, 30 countries and 6 continents. In Jordan’s spare time, she is President of her school’s Model United Nations Club, plays varsity field hockey, and is the Editor-in-Chief of her school’s journalism program.
Samii’s Overachieving Works: Co-Founder of Camp to Belong, River Valley
Samii Emdur is a pediatric oncology nurse at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, but her passion for helping children extends far beyond her profession. Samii first became a foster parent at the age of 23. Since then she has fostered 10 children including her daughter, whom she recently adopted. These experiences gave Samii a deep understanding of the challenges faced by siblings in the foster care system, inspiring her to co-found Camp to Belong, River Valley in 2018. Camp to Belong is a nonprofit whose mission is to reunite siblings separated in foster care. In 2019, the camp reunited more than 40 siblings ages 7-18. So far in 2020, the camp has hosted a virtual camp for 50 campers, ages 4-18, allowing them to reconnect, despite the challenges of Covid-19. Over the next 5 years, Samii’s goal is to continue to reunite foster siblings and strengthen these important connections by providing opportunities to create more positive childhood memories.
Cyrus’ Overachieving Works: Bubl Health (app)
Cyrus is a junior in high school who created a digital platform called Bubl Health that enables patients with the same diagnosis to connect across the world to support each other by sharing tips, stories and experiences. Bubl Health’s mission is to connect patients with similar diagnosis, so no one has to feel alone about their health issues. Cyrus recognizes that human connection can be an important part of the recovery and cure process. Cyrus gave a Tedx Talk in 2019 called “Connection is Part of the Cure” to share his vision for Bubl Health. He is a National Honor Society member and, a varsity athlete. In his spare time he is a drummer, a youth hockey coach and the Vice President of the Entrepreneurship Club that he co-founded.
Cyrus’ Plans for the Grant Award
Cyrus’ objective is to continue to improve and grow Bubl Health in his free time. He plans to put the $12,500 grant award toward his college tuition. His high school, The Charter School of Wilmington, will use their $2,500 award to continue to support and foster the overachieving works of students.
Greg’s Charity: JUST-a-BREAK
Greg is an inspiring person. He is a father of three and a high school Religion teacher. In 2013, the Thorpe family’s lives would change forever when their wife and mother, Jen, was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. Though the family travelled to various hospitals and treatment centers, Jen ultimately lost her battle with the disease on Dec 20, 2015. But, the Thorpe’s tremendous trial resulted in an amazing charity called JUST-a-BREAK.
In the final months of Jen’s life, Greg and his family spent numerous nights and days at a treatment center in Salt Lake City, UT. As is the case for most patients and their families, much of their time was spent waiting and worrying. How many more treatments? Will these test results be any different? What will the next appointment or procedure be? Out of their own funds, Greg and Jen began purchasing movie tickets and restaurant gift cards for nurses to anonymously hand out to other patients’ families. Their intention was to share a small blessing, help many in “desperate” situations by allowing them to literally take break and “forget about cancer” for a few hours, or a couple days. Cancer treatments are very expensive and can burden families financially, but with JUST-a-BREAK packages, hundreds of families have been given a breather and chance to spend quality time together when it mattered most.
Greg Thorpe’s Plan for the $50,000 Grant Award
Thanks to Greg’s proven ability to secure dollar-to-dollar matching from many of the business he sources his gift cards from, he plans to make this $50,000 grant go as far as possible for the families he serves. He plans to purchase mini-getaways for them, and more toward setting up additional chapters of his family’s charity. Greg’s ultimate goal is to have JUST-a-BREAK chapters in every one of the fifty United States.
Ian’s Charity: Giving Gardens
One Christmas morning, Ian’s mother unexpectedly woke him and his little sister before dawn and drove them to an underserved area in their hometown of Austin, TX. Their mission was to surprise his sister’s classmate – whose family had not been able to afford Christmas gifts – with presents from Santa Claus for the very first time. Ian started thinking about the kids in his school who receive lunch but don’t have (healthy) food available at home. This was how the Giving Garden was born. Ian wanted to create a place where kids could grow fresh fruits and vegetables for other kids who’s families might be struggling to afford fresh produce and healthy foods.
Ian’s first garden was at an elementary school. With his first harvest, he was able to feed nine families. He has expanded to several more student-run community gardens at multiple elementary schools. Giving Gardens lets kids explore real-world problems and use a hands-on approach to help develop solutions. Ian, who is now 14, travels to different schools and teaches cooking demos for people who are unfamiliar with certain vegetables. In Ian’s first year, he grew 750 pounds of vegetables, all of which were donated to places like the Central Texas Food Bank. The biggest challenge he faces is theft from his gardens, but he takes this in stride, saying he hopes that the kids/families who are stealing this food genuinely need it, but are too shy to ask.
Ian McKenna’s Plans for the Grant Award
Ian plans to use his $12,500 grant for college tuition so he can gain the skills needed to hopefully make an even greater impact on social issues like hunger. The remaining $2,500 will go to Ian’s school to help continue fostering overachievement among their students.
Congratulations to Jacqueline Norvell, “Brown Bag Lady”!
Jacqueline is the 2017 recipient of the $50,000 G2 Overachievers Grant! Jacqueline is an overachiever who truly goes above and beyond to inspire and help others in her community. In December of 2012, Jacqueline and her son took her Christmas bonus money, made turkey dinners and hand delivered them to the homeless on Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles. She did it again in 2013, and by 2014 she had a mission: the “Brown Bag Lady” was born.
She and her team meet on the first Sunday of every month, make 200 brown bag lunches and distribute them on Skid Row. Through her tireless efforts to help and feed others, Jacqueline and her team have made and delivered over 50,000 brown bag meals, along with clothing, blankets and other resources to the homeless living on Skid Row.
Jacqueline’s overachieving work in serving her community has inspired people nationwide to help those around them! Congratulations to the “Brown Bag Lady” and thank you to all the volunteers she has inspired!
Are you, or someone you know, an Overachiever? Nominate them for the 2018 G2 Overachievers Grant.
She is the first-ever recipient of the $15,000 G2 Overachievers Student Grant!
Erin goes above and beyond to help others and is working to help make the world a better place. Since age 7, she has raised over $16,000 to provide health, education and food programs for Haitians.
In 2016, she was invited to the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the What If? Foundation‘s new school, The Father Jeri School. For her trip, she raised enough money to bring 156 Luci Lights (solar paneled lanterns), about 30 pounds of school supplies, and a check for more than $900 for the school. After her visit, she learned that the school had 2-3 hours of sporadic power each day; so for her next trip, she developed and installed a solar USB charging station for students and teachers to charge cell phones and other devices.
She continues to focus on more education initiatives through the school and food programs supported by the What If? Foundation.
Erin is truly the epitome of an Overachiever and shows that when you are passionate about a cause, even as a student, you can really make a difference.
Dr. Rebecca Constantino
Dr. Rebecca Constantino is truly an overachiever – a graduate Professor in language acquisition at the University of California, a mother of three, and the founder of Access Books. Access Books is a non-profit organization that refurbishes inner-city school libraries and has provided over 2 million books to underserved libraries and children in the Los Angeles area. Given the indisputable linkage between literacy and future success, Rebecca is a dedicated champion for these children’s futures.
“She is a tireless (and uncompensated) worker who overcomes all obstacles to ensure that there is no discrimination in literacy. All children should have access to great books and a great library. Poverty should not be a factor in learning and becoming a reader.”
Thousands of qualified candidates applied for the grant and were carefully considered over the course of the review process. Rebecca’s unflagging dedication and commendable achievements embody what it means to be an overachiever.
Dr. Constantino has been awarded the $50,000 “G2 Overachiever’s Grant” for her tireless efforts that have helped rewrite the stories of these at-risk children by giving them the tools to help them overachieve in the future.
Our heartfelt congratulations and thanks go to the amazing Access Books volunteers and to their inspirational leader, Dr. Rebecca Constantino.
Send a handwritten story describing what you or someone you know is doing to be a difference-maker. Share where it happened, how it worked, who it impacted and why it mattered. There’s a 2,500-word maximum for each entry, and you can submit by uploading to our entry page or via mail.