There’s a common misconception that an individual or small group of people can’t do much to make positive change in our world. With a host of global challenges like food insecurity, climate change, and poverty plaguing our society, it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that the world’s problems are too vast, and that we as individuals are too small, to make any sort of meaningful change.
Challenging that notion is the CEO and heartbeat of a global non-profit organization called Pencils of Promise (PoP). Kailee Scales shows us that we can make a positive impact as individuals by leading a values-based life, something that she learned the value of at a very young age.
Leading a values-based life involves recognizing what your purpose is, what you’re passionate about, and living each moment of your life staying true to it. In doing so, you learn to ground yourself and root your actions in a motive far greater than just yourself.
Having grown up in Queens, New York in an environment where Scales shares people worked hard to elevate their families and communities, she saw firsthand the value in doing what you can to uplift those around you. Scales not only felt responsible to make a difference, but was also inspired by the connectivity she shared with those around her. Those two values have stayed with her throughout her journey, fuelling her at each step of the way to create global impact.
“I realized at an early age that I could have an impact in my community with people that I knew, and then I realized as I got older that I could have an impact in my state, and then my country, and soon enough I realized that I could have an impact all over the world,” she shares.
“I feel strongly that my purpose is to help remove the barriers experienced by any traditionally marginalized community. My role is to change systems, and stand up for those who have been formerly overlooked, to help elevate people to achieve our birthright: to not just survive, but thrive,” she continues.
Today, Scales is a sought after global leader with a proven track record in creating positive change. Ensuring that people from every walk of life are empowered to live life the way they deserve to, is at the core of everything she does.
In 2017, Scales served as the first Managing Director for Black Lives Matter Global Network, where she helped to develop the brand from a movement into the powerful, global organization that it is today. In her role with the network, she executively produced various successful campaigns including Rest In Power, Beautiful; Now, We Transform; and BLM’s What Matters 2020.
She was appointed the position of CEO by Pencils of Promise (PoP) in 2021, and has been instrumental in helping the organization fulfill its mission to provide children around the world with access to high-quality education. Since its founding in 2009, PoP has invested nearly $70M into the global education ecosystem, impacting the lives of nearly 300 thousand children in Ghana, Laos, and Guatemala. The organization has built 600 schools, helping to create safe, healthy, and engaging environments where all students have equal access to opportunities to succeed.
Over the next ten years, PoP aims to invest $100M into global education and impact an additional 570 thousand students. Through PoP’s holistic programming of school development, teacher training, clean water, as well as hygiene education and resources, it will yield a projected $4B in economic benefits for students over their lifetime. “It is a big goal that requires each of us to look inward, recognize our purpose, and step into our role of creating impactful change,” says Scales.
“Just like everyone else, the challenges of the world can weigh me down. Sometimes it feels like there’s very little hope, especially with all of the problems we experience in the United States. Sometimes I wonder, how will we ever be happy? How will we ever thrive if there are so many of us who suffer, when there are so many of us who look the other way, when others benefit from that suffering?” she continues.
“And then I remember that I have traveled all over this world, met people, hugged people and served people in ways that made their lives better, worked with others who’ve contributed dollars and resources for this work to happen. People are providing resources for people that they have never met, that they do not know, and that they will never know,” she continues.
“I’m reminded through this work that there are people in this world who love each other so deeply, that they will take care of each other. Taking care of each other works. It works on those that are cared for, and it works on those that do the caring, because what I know is that we, humanity, each other, are all we’ve got. We’re the ones who are here. We can harm us or we can save us, and we have that choice to make every single day,” she concludes.
So, what choice do you want to make today?
To learn more about Kailee Scales and the impactful work she does with Pencils of Promise, follow her on Instagram. And if your heart desires it, to go deeper, get involved, and help make a difference, visit Pencils of Promise’s website.