February 19, 2017

No more pencils, no more books? Pen in a Box supplies needy schools

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Matthew Wright / mattwrightphoto.com

David Byun, a Holy Name senior, started Pen in a Box, an organization that sends school supplies to needy students around the world.

“It is so hard to do something nice when you are a teenager. You do not have money you can send to nonprofits, you do not have power to support the underprivileged. But Pen in a Box is an opportunity for us to stand up for those who need our support.”

For many, it can be seen as the end of a fulfilling journey. For others, it’s simply a necessary chore to put the past year in the rearview and move on.

No matter how high school students feel about the annual task of cleaning out their lockers, the undertaking is usually the first sign of a fresh start to come.

What’s left behind — notebooks, pens and pencils, binders, rulers, etc. — is usually thrown away and forgotten about.

But where most of his fellow students saw trash, David Byun saw a chance to help students in countries where kids are less lucky. His simple idea turned into a nonprofit that has branched out to more than two dozen schools around the world.

Byun, a senior at Holy Name Central Catholic High School, began thinking about all the school supplies being discarded.

“When I came [to America], I really noticed there was an apparent waste of school supplies in high schools in the United States. Just walking through the hallways you can see pens and pencils laying here and there on the ground,” Byun said.

Byun, an international student on a visa from Kazakhstan where his parents work as missionaries, was surprised by the volume of school supplies being tossed away when he witnessed his first locker cleanout at the end of his freshman year.

“During locker cleanout, especially, people throw nearly everything out of their lockers including pens, pencils, notebooks, loose-leaf paper and everything that can be used again next year,” Byun said. “I asked people, ‘Why would you throw this out?’ and most people said they want to have a fresh start to the next year with a fresh feeling.

Courtesy Pen in a Box / David Byun


“Well, a fresh start isn’t guaranteed in Third World countries.”

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