Students collect supplies for other students

Pencils for Success collects unused school supplies for students who need them. Courtesy of Pencils for Success

Pencils for Success collects unused school supplies for students who need them. Courtesy of Pencils for Success

When Davita Verma, visited her family in India, she couldn’t help but notice the clear similarities and differences between the school system she was familiar with back in Alpharetta and the one she found herself taking notice of on a different continent.

One commonality drew Davita’s attention – the emphasis the schools placed on supporting their underprivileged students.

Growing up in the United States, Davita, 14, was familiar with the free and reduced lunch programs offered by most American schools to students from low-income families.

But what she came to learn in India, was that for thousands of students without the means to afford a quality education, India’s government would cover the entire cost.

To help those students prepare for the school year, Davita’s grandmother, along with several schools in the area, began collecting school supplies.

Inspired to help students here, Davita, a sophomore at Alpharetta High School, started her own nonprofit called Pencils for Success.

“Children are struggling to obtain these supplies while other students, like me, have these resources in surplus amounts,” Davita wrote on her website, “Honestly speaking most of these supplies are forgotten about or misplaced … they are wasted.”

After taking stock of her own school supplies and finding that she had considerably more than she’d expected, she turned to classmates through social media, asking if they too had extra materials.

Soon, her friends were reaching out to her, asking if she was interested in collecting their surplus of supplies. And her mission of providing metro Atlanta students with the materials needed to succeed in school began to pick up momentum.

Pencils for Success has established two more student-led chapters in Kansas and Texas.

Even amid the coronavirus, Davita’s mission hasn’t changed. And she is now focusing on front-line workers, turning to Instagram to help collect bracelets to show gratitude for doctors and nurses at local hospitals and partnering with a local cookie company to deliver fresh cookies to healthcare workers.

“In the end, I don’t want any kid to be demotivated or lose enthusiasm just because of mere resources,” Davita said. “Together we can make a difference – one pencil at a time.”

This story was written by Yusra Khan, a community contributor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Yusra, 18, lives in Alpharetta. She is a freshman at Georgia State University.