Paige Cook wanted to be sure no student at her school would be without a pencil.
As CBS DFW reports, the 14-year-old from Cleburne, Texas began collecting pencils last year. Her goal was simple — make sure her fellow students had what they needed to do their classwork. As she explained:
“We need pencils to write, and this can help the people who can’t afford the school supplies.”
After presenting 3000 pencils to the teachers at her school, Cook set out to accomplish an even more ambitious goal: collect seven pencils for every student in her school district.
Now, the seventh-grader has managed to amass about 43,000 pencils in addition to other necessary school supplies.
Now, her fellow students know they can always go to Cook for help, and it isn’t just the students who are feeling the benefits.
Allyson House, a math teacher at Cook’s school, says that the supplies have helped teachers who were accustomed to providing extra supplies out of their own pockets:
“It provides a stress-free environment. Our students can walk into the classroom and grab a pencil, no questions asked, and get to work.”
Cook was born with a hearing impairment. She says the encouragement she received from her teachers gave her the confidence to start her school supply drive.
“My teachers taught me to believe in myself and be who I want to be,” she told CBS.
Cook gets donations for her supplies through the Wheat Middle School Pencil Pal page on Facebook. She has received contributions from around the country and sometimes purchases supplies with her own money.
Her next project is a “Kindness Closet” for her school, where students and teachers can help themselves to supplies of all kinds.
Cook’s efforts to help her school have gained her statewide recognition, and she has been nominated for multiple volunteer and service rewards.
She told CBS that she has a simple motto that motivates her to take on the pencil pal project and help others: “Kindness starts with you and me.”