Author Archives: Gregg Betheil

Join PENCIL’s 50,000 Futures Gala on October 6, 2021

We are on a mission to connect another 50,000 students to success by 2023.


PENCIL’s Virtual Gala will take place on October 6th at 6:30pm and will highlight stories of student success from the past year. During one of the most difficult times in modern history, thousands of businesses, principals, teachers, and volunteers have worked together to secure New York City’s future by supporting our students. As we prepare for return and resurgence, it is time to celebrate that commitment and impact!

By contributing to PENCIL’s 50,000 Futures Virtual Gala, individuals and companies will help preserve the future of New York City
by ensuring the next generation has equitable access to success through PENCIL’s programs.


As the City reopens, its renewal requires young people equipped with the relationships, skills, and opportunities necessary for success.

You can invest in their future and ours by helping PENCIL reach our $1 million goal.

Supporters of PENCIL’s 50,000 Futures Campaign and Gala






 Scott and Melissa Beattie | Howard and Leslie Chatzinoff

Christopher and Susan Hayward  | Cindy Ma and Friends


John and Elizabeth Fosina | Michael Maslansky and Susie Coulter

Meringoff Family Foundation Inc.


Gerd Alexander and Claudette Bailon | Susan and David Cosgrove | GFP Real Estate

Debbie Kenyon and Peter Hess | Jo Lambert and Duncan Heilbronn

Abbe Raven and Martin Tackel | Bernard Tubiana | Lisa and Lewis Warren


Gregg and Karen Betheil | Civic | Deloitte Supporters | G & M Rufrano Fund

IIS, Ltd. | Josh Kuriloff, Cushman & Wakefield | Bruce Malashevich | McKinsey & Company

Marc and Giulia Weisman


Karen and Jon Ballack | Matthew Barr | Marisol Collazo | Joshua Elkind | Kathleen Hamilton

HPE | KKR | Lew Leone | Spencer Lee | Oath Inc. | Ann O’Leary | Stuart Ruderfer | Soraya St Clair

The 2021 #InfyAppChallenge: 12 students, 7 mentors and 3 apps

Earlier this year, PENCIL received a grant from Infosys Foundation USA to support our school-year programming efforts. The generous funding supported the 2021 Infy App Challenge Program at Thomas A. Edison CTE High School.

Seven Infosys volunteers from across the country mentored three student cohorts and engaged 12 students interested in pursuing a career in tech. Each team had to develop a working app that improves New Yorkers’ lives. Through this program, students became creators of ground-breaking design and technology and change agents in their communities. 

The first team called Earth’s Companions focused on climate change: “We have very little time left, which has caused concern for our generation. It’s preventing many of us from following our dreams,” the students said. 


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Their app called ‘Planet B’ aims to fight climate change by increasing awareness. The in-built features include “tip of the day,” news and articles related to climate change, daily statistics about carbon levels and rise in sea levels, and a dynamic list of protests and organizations based on location.

The students also identified areas of growth that they can work on in the future: carbon footprint tracker, article of the day, project section, and an option to enable notifications and conduct live streams. They also carried out in-depth market research and competition analysis.

“Earth Hero, Live Green, and UN Climate Change are apps that only provide climate change-related statistics,” Jacky on the team said. “Usually, users go through at least five different apps to get the all the information we mentioned. That’s about to change because our app will be the first in the market to have all the features in one place.”

At the end of their presentation, Earth’s Companions also shared reflections and what they learned throughout the process.

“In the beginning, my group was all over the place. We would do all our assignments last minute. But, after our mentor had an informative talk with us, we realized that we have to manage our time better. And that’s exactly what we did,” Jacky said.



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The second team aptly called themselves Danger Waivers. Their team’s mission was to preserve wildlife, protect endangered animal species and save wildlife habitats. “Addressing this issue is important because our team aims to save vulnerable animals from going extinct,” the students said of their decision to focus on the animal kingdom.

Their educational app called Animal Companions aims to help users learn about the animal world, showcase the wide variety of fauna roaming the planet and add a sense of unity and urgency to the conservation movement. The app’s cartooned format makes it easy for the target market, aged 10-18, to understand the issue.

“We want more people to become aware of their surroundings, as well as the large animal kingdom they neglect and can’t see,” Sindy, from the team, said.

Through participating in the challenge, Danger Waivers said they gained leadership, team building and time management skills. At the end of the presentation, one of the judges, Ramgopal, asked: “Why would kids or young adults choose to download this app over simply doing a quick Google search on animals?”

“We hope that teachers will introduce this app in classrooms,” Bikram from Danger Waivers replied. “It’s more effective than worksheets, and we believe that children are tech-savvy these days and prefer gamified information in apps.”

Leo from the team also spoke about the importance of the app: “There are not many organizations that focus on the issue we chose. The big ones like WWF or National Geographic don’t do a great job in equally representing all animals. They garner support for the most popular animals but weed out the uglier (non well known) ones that go extinct quicker.”


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The third and last team to participate in the #InfyAppChallenge challenge this year were The Devz. Their innovative app, Splash Mask, allows users to customize face masks to match their personalities. The team said they hoped to help their communities fight COVID-19 by giving them easy access to masks at an affordable price with delivery perks. 

“The entire world has changed lifestyles because of this virus, and it has become the new norm; it is almost impossible to think of a world where we didn’t have COVID-19,” the students said. 

Since children and teenagers are not yet required to get vaccinated to go to school and have to continue wearing masks, the team hoped that this app prove to be beneficial. “It’s for people like me who have to wear masks but would rather make a statement while doing so. I don’t want to wear a plain mask; I want to have fun with it.” Nabila from The Devz said.

The team also said that they would like to partner with Snapchat in the future so users can pick their favorite Snapchat filter and use it as a mask design. Users can also follow other users and influencers on the app.

“Why do we have a feature where people can follow each other?” Michelle on the judge panel asked.

“If you want to engage with a user personally or ask for what the inspiration behind their mask design was or just appreciate their creativity, this feature would allow you to do so,” Nabila said.

Through participating in the challenge, The Devz said they learned entrepreneurial skills, app prototyping, team-building skills and “expecting the unexpected.”

At the final presentation held on June 18th, four judges from Infosys chose the best working app and announced the winner: Earth’s Companions.


Infosys Foundation has partnered with Show The Good to feature the students and mentors from the winning team on Infosys’ platforms, allowing them to present their app to non-profit and education leaders, business executives and industry influencers. 

In addition, every student who participated in the program will receive a Tech Kit and Infosys Merchandise from Infosys Foundation USA. 

We are proud and amazed by the talent of all the students who participated in the program. This program helped students network with industry professionals, learn more about their field and access an unmatched opportunity! Simply put, it helped open eyes, minds, and doors. 

Infosys Foundation USA is committed to expanding access to computer science and maker education in K-12 public schools across the U.S. This program is one of the many initiatives that leverage Infosys’ employee network and its mission to offer public school students access to opportunities.

These Students Benefited From PENCIL’s Partnership Program. Now They Are Starting College and Internships

PENCIL’s school partnership program creates a unique opportunity for businesses to partner with public schools in New York City and supports thousands of students every year.

During this school year, PENCIL conducted 248 partnership program sessions between 27 firms and 33 public schools. More than 530 volunteers supported 1,012 students. These sessions included PENCIL’s signature workshops on networking, interview skills, personal branding, resumes, career panels and sessions led by volunteers to introduce technical skills related to an industry.

We met with four students: Oleg, Md, Jennifer and Leilani, at the start of the semester to understand the impact of our work on a more personal level. They all came from different public schools that PENCIL paired with Houlihan Lokey, Bloomberg LP, JPMorgan Chase or Dotdash.

We knew that students who had participated in PENCIL programs in prior years reported increased confidence and self-efficacy, developed a growth mindset, learned essential skills, and grew a sense of belonging in diverse professional settings.

But to understand student needs and continue telling their stories, we did a mid-year check-in with Oleg, Md, Leilani and Jennifer to document what they had learned so far.

Leilani had already started learning about new career pathways at Bloomberg, and Jennifer was refining her interviewing skills through Chase volunteers’ support.

Oleg was exploring his passion in the finance industry. He even got a chance to have a conversation with PENCIL’s Executive Leadership Council member, Asher Kennedy, Assistant Vice President – Financial Planning Director at Morgan Stanley, after Asher learned about Oleg’s goals. Md was also getting regular feedback on his resume from professionals at Dotdash.

By the time we did our last check-in, some of our students had already gotten their college acceptances and applied to internships.

All of them reported feeling college and career ready. Jennifer said her participation in PENCIL’s program helped solidify her decision to minor in finance. Oleg thought that he was a step ahead of the incoming freshman class because of all PENCIL’s networking sessions. Md said he felt prepared for internship and job interviews, while Leilani said she worked on her confidence issues, resume and elevator pitch.

Thousands of students like Oleg, Md, Jennifer, and Leilani benefit from PENCIL’s school partnership programs. But there are 1.1 million students in NYC’s public school system. PENCIL has launched its #50kFutures campaign to address to support student success by increasing access to internships, mentorships, and life-changing opportunities. By being a part of this campaign or PENCIL’s other initiatives, your company can invest in the future of your company and New York City.

Run the 2021 TCS NYC Marathon with PENCIL!

PENCIL is proud to be an Official Charity Partner of the 2021 TCS NYC Marathon. The Team PENCIL application is now open.

PENCIL’s work to connect students to success has never been more important. The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed how students learn and will continue to impact the 1.1 million students in NYC for at least the next year. Further, systemic racism has limited access to opportunity for the students in our programs, who are overwhelmingly working class or low-income and identify as Black and Brown. PENCIL seeks to close this opportunity gap. By joining Team PENCIL, you can help New York City public school students develop their career skills and achieve their goals.

Race Details

Sunday, November 7, 2021, 8:00AM

Fundraising Commitment: $2,500

Race Registration: $255 for NYRR members / $295 for non-members / $358 for non-U.S. residents

As a member of Team PENCIL, you will be joining a community of active philanthropists who are passionate about raising funds in support of PENCIL’s mission and meeting their own personal fitness goals. Spots are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Join us and run on behalf of New York City public school students.

All Team PENCIL members will receive:

Guaranteed entry into the 2021 TCS NYC Marathon

PENCIL shirt

A personal, online tool to track your fundraising progress and help you meet your goal

Individualized support and advice from a team of professional fundraisers

The opportunity to help deserving NYC youth to reach their college and career goals

Volunteer opportunities and general access to PENCIL network events. Currently all PENCIL programs and events are virtual. In-person opportunities will resume when safe.

If you are interested in joining Team PENCIL, please contact Lauren Carll for more information or to apply.

Your support can help PENCIL unlock the possibilities by engaging thousands more students in programs that open eyes, open minds, and open doors.

Cindy Ma Supports Students By Biking

Cindy Ma on Navigating the Finance Industry and Supporting Public School Students

Dr. Cindy Ma is a known name in the financial industry. Most recently, she was featured in the “50 Leading Women in Hedge Funds 2020” list. But aside from her contributions to derivatives, risk management, valuation, and corporate governance, Cindy also sits on PENCIL’s board.

We recently spoke to her about her support of public education, why businesses should support organizations like PENCIL and her experience as a woman of color in the financial sector.

How did you first learn about PENCIL?

I learned about PENCIL from John Fosina, a fellow board member. John has been my client for several years, and we have regular lunches to catch up on business. One day, over lunch, I told him about my interest in joining charitable initiatives, and John said, “why don’t you consider PENCIL?”

So, what about PENCIL stood out to you?

I met these exceptional students who told us their stories of overcoming disadvantageous situations and building their careers through PENCIL’s support.

We heard students visited you at Houlihan Lokey’s office! Can you tell us more about that?

So, you know, we invited close to 30 students to see our office. It was amazing to see the curiosity on their faces. We have five different floors, and they got to walk through all of them and meet people from various departments. It helps them identify more career pathways and make connections. For some of them, it’s their first time seeing an office building from the inside.

That was last year before everything went virtual. I cannot wait to see the students again and visit their school this time around.

Why is it so important for you to support student success?

I firmly believe that education is the key to changing one’s life. Take my situation, for example; I grew up in a poverty-stricken family. My parents were both uneducated, but they believed in providing good education to their children. They worked extremely hard to put us through school. I went to public schools in Hong Kong and worked very hard to make my way to the U.S.

Of course, there are many other charitable activities that you could partake in, but to support young people’s growth is of utmost importance, especially those who attend public schools. Like myself, most of these students come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and can use mentorship and guidance to succeed in college and career.

What was your experience like in school as an immigrant and person of color?

I was one of those students who went to office hours and asked many questions and asked for career guidance. Even though I have been in the U.S. for several years, I speak with an accent. In the early stages of my career, it mattered a lot. So, I used all the resources I could find to compensate for that.

The financial sector, as it currently stands, is highly exclusive. Did you face any hurdles getting to where you are today?

As I mentioned, English is my second language. As an immigrant, the hardest thing to assimilate to is the culture. I still have a tough time relating to my colleagues when they talk about American football or boxing. Secondly, me being Asian, many people assume that I work in technology. They believe that I can do computing and quantitative reasoning but that I can’t be a manager. Then there’s hitting a glass ceiling (a metaphor used to represent an invisible barrier that prevents a given demographic from rising beyond a certain level in a hierarchy).

Because of my language barrier, people assume that I am not a good communicator. They have to pay extra attention at times to understand me. So, I try to add humor to my presentation to keep their attention. And then, I use the skills I learned during my PhD to impress clients.

Why should NYC businesses support PENCIL?

Everybody now is focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion. Companies are chasing young people of color to bring to the workforce. But they seem to be lost because they think they are chasing a small subset of people. Organizations like PENCIL have direct access to a young and diverse workforce. PENCIL trains hundreds of students each year. Investing in PENCIL would save companies money and the time they invest in training students.

I am also really concerned about students, especially in public schools, who may be missing out on opportunities due to the pandemic. Remote learning is complex, especially for them because they may have Wi-Fi issues, too many people living in small spaces, making it difficult to focus. The pandemic has widened the gap between public and private school students. Businesses in NYC need to step up and increase funding for organizations like PENCIL who support these students if they want to continue to have a diverse workforce pipeline in the long term.

Last year, you biked more than 100 miles to raise funds for PENCIL. Tell us more about the experience?

I ended up riding for 132 miles! Even though I’m an avid cyclist, I had never ridden that kind of distance. I was happy to use what I am passionate about to raise funds for PENCIL and the students they support. I never really thought I would be able to finish. But then I thought about all the people who were counting on me and helping me raise funds. Honestly, I had a great experience, and I plan to do it this year again.


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Our readers are interested in learning more about you. What have you been reading recently?

I’ve been reading several articles focused on Asian American and Pacific Heritage Month. I am learning about how Chinese people have contributed to American history, Japanese American history, Korean and Hawaiian history!

Wow! Who is your biggest inspiration?

It is my mother! My mother was born in China and never went to school because she was born during World War II and lived in a village. She started working when she was seven to provide for her family. At a very young age, she told me that education is the easiest way of escaping the poverty trap. She gave me the confidence to create my path. And she never had a day off. She worked 24*7 to provide for us. I owe everything to her.

That’s why it’s even more critical for me to support students and young adults.

That’s a great reason to support PENCIL! Thank you for taking the time out to speak with us today, Cindy.

PENCIL’s Principal For A Day® Goes Virtual!

During the week of April 26th PENCIL hosted the first ever all virtual Principal for A Day.® For over 25 years, Principal For A Day has been New York City’s most unique annual event that allows business leaders to support public education. This year was no different and the week was full of exciting activity!

Over the course of five days, 22 public schools opened their virtual doors to 27 executives to learn about the inner workings of NYC schools and interact with thousands of students. The week kicked off with a principal’s panel discussion moderated by former schools chancellor Dennis Walcott and we wrapped up the week’s festivities by celebrating NYC principals on social media for Principal Appreciation Day on May 1st.

Principal for A Day® School Visits

The virtual school visits took place during the week of April 26th. Overall, the program impacted more than 2,500 students300 teachers and 60 other school staff members.

“I deeply appreciated the level of organization and the efficiency of the program — great to pop into multiple classrooms in 15-minute increments. It was wonderful to have conversations with such talented and devoted teachers and administrators,” Michael Koenigs, Executive Director and Creative Producer at ABC News, who visited John Jay School for Law, said.

Complementing Michael’s efforts, Erin Hogshead from John Jay School for Law said: The kids’ reaction was priceless. They were so excited to be able to have an honest conversation with a producer. This not only allows our students to engage with different members of our New York Community, but to network, gain wisdom, and be inspired.”

Business executives who participated in the program got a chance to join principals and school leaders as thought partners and advisors, interact with students, offer insight into their education and career trajectories and share opportunities within their company and industry.

PENCIL engaged professionals from 20 companies in different industries like healthcare, law, finance, communication, transportation, sports and more. Whether it’s pairing the head of the new terminal One at JFK with Aviation High School or a pairing a partner from a major global law firm to the Bronx School of Law and Finance, these matches were made keeping school and student interest in mind.

“Thanks to PENCIL and the Bronx School of Law and Finance for such an enjoyable experience! I appreciated the questions from the students and the opportunity to share my career path and thoughts (and hope both were helpful), Bryan Barreras from Mayer Brown, a major global law firm, said. He was the Principal for A Day® at The Bronx School of Law and Finance.

“I just wanted to extend a huge thank you to Mr Barreras for his visit today,” Dr Jessica Goring, Principal of the school, replied. “What a highlight this was! About 60 students came to one of two potential Q and A sessions, and Mr Barreras was warm, welcoming, interesting, and engaging. Thank you for coming, for listening, for sharing, and for advising.”

Principal for A Day® Webinar 

On April 26th, four principals also participated in a panel discussion to reflect on the school year and provide more insight into school re-opening plans for the fall.

Dennis M. Walcott, former Chancellor of the NYC Department of Education and President and CEO of Queens Public Library, moderated the panel.

More than 50 business professionals, corporate partners, and educators joined the discussion to hear from NYC principals: Uche Njoku, EdMKaren PolsonettiMoses Ojeda, and Dr. Asya Johnson. All our principals had unique perspectives and insights to offer.

Uche, for instance, spoke about the need for authentic long-term commitments from NYC’s business community.

“If you are going to be a partner to public schools, it can’t just be lip-service. What are you bringing to the table? Because the reality is that we are preparing the next generation of students who will become the leaders whom you will hopefully hire. And we need your support,” he said.

Principals also spoke about their educators’ concerns, their students who are dealing with loss and grief, and personal hurdles. They also shared helpful guidance on how the business community could step up to lend their expertise and resources during these challenging times.

“It’s so amazing to have partners where they bring the business to the school or bring our kids to the business either virtually or in person,” Karen Polsonetti, Principal, Manhattan Business Academy, said.

“I find that opens many doors, and then you get all these internships because our kids are amazing; they are hungry, and they are sponges… I love those doors that open because of PENCIL!”

Principal Appreciation Day on Social Media

Principals shoulder many responsibilities: overseeing staff, coordinating curriculum and providing students with a safe and productive environment to learn. To celebrate the principals in our network, we invited students to share their favorite memories with their principals or reflect on the qualities they admire about them.

Our team then invited Hazel Roseboro, Principal, University Heights High School and Moses Ojeda, Principal of Thomas A. Edison CTE School to a meeting under the pretext of a partnership update. But instead, we played them the video messages their students shared! We celebrated this moment by posting Hazel’s and Moses’ reaction videos on PENCIL’s social channels.

Our team also took this opportunity to thank their past principals, give a shout-out to principals in PENCIL’s network and recognize the hard-work of principals across the country.

Principals, often the first to arrive and the last to leave, spend a great deal of time with the students and their staff. Their work is of utmost importance now when students are maybe grappling with personal losses and a virtual school environment.

“It’s incredibly important work. It’s been done incredibly well, especially in one of the most unprecedented and difficult times in our history,” Jessica Bynoe, Chief Strategy Officer and VP, PENCIL, said.

“You provide the hope, the leadership and the inspiration for our students to pursue their passions, follow their dreams and cultivate the skills and talents they have inherently, Devaughn D. Fowlkes, Associate Director of Programs, PENCIL, said.

“Thank you for being that guiding presence and shining light in our lives. We appreciate you.”


Innovations in Summer Youth Employment to Support Scale, Equity, and Quality

PENCIL is proud to release Innovations in Summer Youth Employment to Support Scale, Equity, and Qualitya paper sharing reflections about the creation, outcomes, and implications of Career Explorers — a new model for summer employment and work-based learning.

For over 25 years, PENCIL has been creating and managing programs that bring together students, business leaders and educators in innovative programs that connect students to success. PENCIL has worked with over 37,000 students increasing their access to mentors, skills, and opportunities. Since 2007, over 5,000 of those students have participated in PENCIL’s summer internship and employment programs.

After placing 589 students in internships in 2019, the PENCIL team started 2020, preparing to once again place over 500 students in paid summer internships. With the advent of the pandemic, the economic downturn that followed, and overall uncertainty in the city, summer internships were on fragile ground by early spring. In April, the city announced the cancellation of the Summer Youth Employment Program.

Throughout the spring, major corporations were disbanding summer internship programs. By May, many workers and students were experiencing fatigue with remote work and learning, leading to questions about how students could thrive in summer programs after an exceptionally challenging school year.

Throughout the spring and early summer, the PENCIL team worked tirelessly with new partners and new models to secure paid work experiences for students while also considering sustainable solutions to the challenges that have always plagued summer youth employment. Ultimately, PENCIL successfully placed 342 young people in paid summer work experiences through four programs – Remote Internships, Career Explorers, SYEP Summer Bridge, and a partnership program with New Visions for Public Schools. Additionally, PENCIL provided enrichment and training for an additional 700 students who were enrolled in SYEP Summer Bridge with other providers.

One of PENCIL’s most successful innovations was the creation of the Career Explorers program. PENCIL served 46 high school students through the Careers Explorers program and engaged more than 99 volunteers from 16 companies. PENCIL created this model in response to the decreased availability of traditional internship placements by designing a paid simulated internship program with high-quality, high-touch, work-based learning that was decoupled from a business placement.

Career Explorers offers a unique blueprint for PENCIL and other partners to examine as part of the solution to scale high-quality summer youth employment in New York City. Through a data-based approach, the paper presents the program’s outcomes compared to virtual internships, opportunities for even more substantial impact, and the possibilities embedded in the model to add capacity and equity in the summer youth employment and youth talent development pipeline in New York City.

To download the full paper, click the image below:

How One Business Leader in NYC Is Changing Students’ Lives

How can you use your business expertise to change student lives? Ask Michael Maslansky, one of corporate America’s leading communications and research strategists. Since 2016, his firm, maslansky+partners, has supported students from Manhattan Business Academy in their college and career journeys.

Michael advises Fortune 500 corporations, industry associations, major litigation practices, and non-profit organizations. He became a member of the PENCIL Board in 2017 and is currently Chair of the Communications Committee.

We caught up with him to find out more about how his firm is inspiring thousands of public-school students through PENCIL’s partnership program.

How did you first find out about PENCIL?

So, at Maslansky and Partners, we decided that it was time for us to give back to the community. And as a communication strategy firm, we wanted to connect to literacy and education. I was introduced to Gregg Betheil (PENCIL’s President) and the PENClL team as a potential organization to help us do things that we wouldn’t have the capacity to do as a small company ourselves.

What was your first PENCIL event?

We jumped straight to a partnership! Every year we partner with an 11th grade class from the Manhattan Business Academy in Chelsea. It’s perfect because the students are getting ready to go through college preparedness and prepare for the workforce.

How does your team help 11th graders in their journeys?

We help students focus on the core communication skills fundamental to getting into college and succeeding in life. So, it’s everything from helping them understand how to be better at interviewing, building their LinkedIn profile to start networking, and adopting a more empathetic and effective communication style. These are skills that they probably would not learn in school, yet they are critical.

What’s your favorite memory with the students?

One of the things that we have the opportunity to do is invite them down to our office in SoHo because their school is in the city. For many of them, they’ve seen these tall buildings all around them their whole lives, but they might not have family or friends that work in these kinds of office buildings. And so, for some of them, it’s been their first time in a real office environment. You can see how it opens their eyes to an environment that they have never been exposed to before and that in and of itself can be life changing.

Opening eyes, minds, and doors goes both ways. How has the partnership opened your eyes?

It opened up my eyes to the reality that these schools in Manhattan are training students to take on different futures, and in many ways, businesses can step in to help. Over time, we’ve learned that we’re not stepping in to replace the government or compete with the education system. We can be a great partner with educators to offer things that aren’t part of a traditional curriculum that schools don’t always have the resources to deliver. If we can bring our resources and expertise, we can provide some valuable insight and perspective to the students and open more doors.

Have any of the students you met through PENCIL joined your team?

Right now, we have a fantastic intern who is in his senior year at Columbia University who’s doing incredible work for us. We have another former intern who’s at Princeton now. Hopefully, he’ll come back and maybe want to work for us down the road. We definitely see the partnership as a workforce development opportunity.

How has PENCIL’s partnership program impacted your team members?

Fortunately, we live in a moment where it’s not hard to encourage Millennials and GenZ members of our workforce to volunteer. There’s already a powerful desire to do that. They come to us and ask us what opportunities there might be to give back. And so, we don’t have to push hard to do that. Once we do it and participate in these programs, it is a learning experience for them. I think getting to know people from different backgrounds is always a positive step to take. Even though they live relatively close by, these students often come from different backgrounds, ethnicities and offer unique perspectives on the world. And there’s learning that goes both ways.

That’s good to hear! Is there anything else you would like to tell us?

I can’t imagine being able to do what we do with a group of people at any school, much less Manhattan Business Academy, without PENCIL facilitating the partnership. PENCIL steered the conversation with the principal and school staff, helped us shape the curriculum and navigate the logistical challenges. We kickstarted the program without really having to do a whole lot of work. So, for an organization like ours that just wanted to get down to work, PENCIL did everything to make that possible, and it is worth a tremendous amount to me and our organization.

Thank you for joining us today, Michael!


How Christopher Hayward Uses His Expertise to Support Students in NYC

One of Christopher Hayward‘s fondest memories with PENCIL is taking fifth-graders from the East Village Community School to the New York Stock Exchange. While that may sound unusual to some, Christopher believes that the future of NYC depends on exposing students to diverse careers and that early career awareness is key to their success.

From volunteering in classrooms to serving as Principal for A Day® to being an engaged Board member, Christopher has been an essential part of the PENCIL community since his first commitment in 2004.

His passion and dedication led to him becoming PENCIL’s Board Chair in 2019.

We spoke to him earlier this week about his introduction to PENCIL, the partnership between his current firm, GoldenTree Asset Management LP and the public school, High School for Math, Science & Engineering, as well as how the pandemic has shaped his routine.

How did you first learn about PENCIL? 

I was working in finance in New York City at Merrill Lynch. Our company had a relationship with PENCIL before I joined the firm. A few colleagues participated in PENCIL’s annual event, Principal for a Day®, and they talked to me about it.

Tell us more about your first PENCIL experience at the East Village Community School. 

I chose an elementary school to partner with Principal for a Day® and our ongoing partnership with my firm because my children were young at the time. Working with 5th and 6th graders made sense to me, and I had an excellent relationship with the principal for several years.

The only reason the partnership ended was that the principal ended up relocating outside of New York. And at the time, I moved on to another partnership.

What makes PENCIL different from other non-profits in the city?

For me, it always comes back to the kids. Having impact on the city’s 1.1 million students can make a big difference. That’s a lot of young humans that are going to be going out into the world. If we can contribute in some way by giving back through our expertise and guidance, it also makes the world a better place.

A partnership with PENCIL is constructive and fun. It’s very tangible, and you can see the impact you make because you’re dealing directly with students, not three or four layers away from them.

For High School students, PENCIL does college and career readiness training. They also have a paid internship program to place students who attend NYC public schools in businesses throughout the city.

Nothing is better for a high school student than to have real work experience when thinking about college and what’s next for them. All of that is fun and rewarding for us at GoldenTree and other partner organizations.

Coming back to when you took students out to the NYSE, what happened on that day?

We rang the bell during the day, which was a wonderful experience and 5th graders didn’t know what to expect from the New York Stock Exchange, obviously. And, this is when the floor was jam-packed and active.

It was just one of the many things PENCIL helps achieve: It’s exposure to things that children might not have an opportunity to witness even though it’s in their backyard. It was about opening their eyes and minds to a world with new possibilities.

We have also taken students to our offices at times.

That’s sounds like great exposure! How would the students react?

I heard 5th and 6th graders say, “Hey, you know, maybe down the road, I would be working in a building like this” or “Oh, there are so many computers here!” They could see what a working environment looked like and possibly imagine a future there. That’s what PENCIL is all about.

Your current firm, GoldenTree Asset Management is partnered with High School for Math, Science & Engineering. What does the partnership look like in a virtual environment?

Like everybody, we’ve pivoted and adapted where we can. Yes, we miss the classroom. Yes, I miss physically seeing the kids regularly. I am sure all of us involved in partnerships feel the same way. But we respect the situation we’re in and try to adapt.

So, yes we’ve gone virtual. We are using Zoom and other mediums to make ourselves available, conduct the same activities on the topics we focused on at school, and continue to help.


What are some of the topics you cover during the virtual webinars?

Interviewing skills, resume writing, personal and professional branding, interviewing etiquette on Zoom and more. In my current partnership, we work with 11th and 12th graders and they benefit a lot from these workshops. Not only is this useful for college applications but also for internships.

When we talk about opening eyes, minds and doors, we are also talking about businesses. How has PENCIL impacted you and others at your firm?

My wife is from the Philippines. I’m a Caucasian American. We met via graduate school in the city.  So our children are mixed. Our children have grown up thinking about what being mixed means to them. And hopefully, that has informed me and shaped how I approach things, especially in my professional work and in my work with PENCIL.

Working with PENCIL is an authentic reminder that our community does not always look like our business environment and that we need to bridge that gap. The school system that surrounds us — attended by over a million children — is comprised of mostly Black, Brown, and Asian students, and many of them have difficult economic situations. Through our work with PENCIL, we aim to close the opportunity gap by increasing awareness and access for these students.

Our readers are interested in learning more about you. What are you currently reading?

The book I’m reading right now is called ‘Trillion Dollar Coach.’

How do you stay organized and focused every day? 

Sometimes you end up working more hours when you’re at home, and end up being on call 24/7. At our organization, we talk a lot about wellness, mindfulness, taking time off and mental health. We are taking initiatives corresponding to that.

One thing I’ve learned during this process of dealing with the pandemic is that each person navigates and manages things uniquely, and so there’s no one size fits all. The impact of the pandemic is different on everyone but none of it is positive.

So, stay in touch with your colleagues and employees, think about their wellness and always stay connected and go the extra mile on communication. That’s what I have been practicing.

Who or what has shaped you into who you are today?

So, only second to my parents were some of my early bosses. They treated me with respect and integrity and that really had a huge impact on me. I am constantly reminded of that now that I manage a lot of people. It’s such an important role. Especially for young people when they’re starting their career, you have to not only be their boss and manager, but be a friend and a mentor.

That is all great advice. Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?

Yes! I mentioned earlier that I was first a volunteer at PENCIL then joined the executive committee and now chair the board of directors. So I have first-hand experience of how powerful the journey is. I welcome anybody who has thought about public education here in the city, and would like to learn more about PENCIL to contact us. There are so many playbooks about how executives and others in different organizations have worked with PENCIL to partner with individual schools and principals and teachers and children.

It’s very rewarding and very impactful. So, please, come join the PENCIL partnership club!

Thank you, Christopher!



As the Pandemic Persists, Compassion & Empathy are the Keys to Resilience

Dear PENCIL Partners,

As we welcome in 2021 and the fresh start to the new year, we want to thank each of you for your time, effort, and compassion towards the students PENCIL serves.  For nearly a year, New York City schools and their communities have faced unprecedented challenges. As such, now more than ever, PENCIL volunteers are an invaluable resource.

We realize that the pandemic, the economy, and the country’s reckoning with racial injustice has impacted everyone for much longer than we could ever have anticipated. We know you are eager to see things “back to normal” and to work with our students in the robust and interactive ways we did before 2020. At the same time, we ask for your continued patience, flexibility, and understanding as we all continue to navigate this difficult time. We know you all want to put our students and their success first. To help you do that, we wanted to share a few reflections and observations that may help you further appreciate why programming looks different this year.

Student Engagement: The devastation of COVID-19, transition to remote learning, and a general sense of unrest have had a significant impact on our schools and students. Students who once thrived in afterschool clubs, professional internships, and exciting and engaging hands-on classes, no longer have access to those outlets for socialization and support. Many students now shoulder additional responsibilities at home, including overseeing remote learning for siblings, caring for ill or elderly family member, or additional financial responsibilities. Others struggle with a lack of reliable internet or insufficient access to technology. When students do not turn on cameras or microphones it is important to remember not to take it personally or as a demonstration of disinterest. Many students cannot use these features because of other things going on in their homes, a lack of bandwidth, or the device they have access to.

Attendance: Schools across the City are experiencing record low attendance and student disengagement. While the DOE continues to report attendance rates around 87%, this number represents students having any contact with staff including responding to emails and texts, or turning in assignments. Many educators report in class attendance at 50% or lower and that student engagement is at a record low. Low attendance and engagement can disproportionately affect the engagement of students who need additional supports and programs like PENCIL the most. In the past, students had to report to the building and, once there, could access all the resources that came to them. Now those students have limited support structures and sometimes a school just getting a student on the phone for a wellness check is a win.

Resilience: School communities continue to grapple with the very real impact of COVID, the economy, and the current social and political climate on their students and faculty. Many students in New York City come from communities that have been disproportionately affected by illness, death, economic hardship, lack of safety, and mental health issues. The fact that they still show up for school and programs like PENCIL demonstrates incredible resilience and while we are with them it is important to continue to mentor and guide them with empathy, patience and heart.

We understand partnership sessions may feel different this year- smaller student groups, shorter sessions, more blank screens than smiling faces, and conversations in the chat rather than face to face. However, in this time of unprecedented challenge, PENCIL’s work and your participation is more critical than ever. Conversations with you around college and career help students maintain focus on goals that feel removed from their daily existence. The connections students make with volunteers can motivate them to stay engaged in class and ultimately their futures.

We are all learning and adapting our work to meet students where they are and address a new set of needs. We are also seeing our students and volunteers bring incredible grit and resilience to their work together. Your presence and energy help to deepen a sense of community and connection students need during these times and your feedback to the PENCIL team has been invaluable as we continue to refine programming.

We want to thank you for your contributions and recognize the important work you do with us at every session. Whether on any given day you work with 1, 2 or 20 students, you are making a profound impact worth that time and effort.

Thank you!

Gregg Betheil, President, PENCIL & Jessica Bynoe, Vice President & Chief Strategy Officer, PENCIL

Learn How PENCIL Helps Companies Do Well By Doing Good

Over 25 years, hundreds of companies like JPMorgan Chase, Verizon, Bloomberg LP,  and more have partnered with PENCIL to participate in programs that connect public school students to success.

Company leaders cite PENCIL programs as an effective way to: increase their diversity pipeline, enhance team culture and innovation, and animate their company’s social responsibility values.

“From the first meeting, our team knew partnering with PENCIL could be an incredible hands-on opportunity to bring our passion and expertise into a classroom and have a meaningful impact on students’ lives,” Michael Maslansky, CEO of Maslansky + Partners said.

Access and Prepare for a Diverse Workforce

Companies around the globe are looking for ways to enhance the diversity of their workforce. Not only do they want to ensure their workforce better reflects the population, but they are also working to increase equity in their hiring practices and create a culture of inclusivity to retain and develop talent.

PENCIL helps companies achieve these goals by:

Ensuring diverse students gain access to and awareness of career possibilities. Early awareness among students increases the likelihood that they would consider opportunities in the industries and companies our partners represent.

Learning what the next generation needs. PENCIL partners gain real time insight into how they can make their companies more accessible and approachable for young professionals from all socio-economic and racial backgrounds. This unique access also give companies a chance to learn what future employees will expect of the work culture and opportunities available to them.

Accessing diverse, young talent. 90% of the students in PENCIL programs identify as Black, Latinx, Asian or Indigenous. Companies that volunteer in PENCIL programs have direct engagement with talent they may not otherwise access or attract.

“Businesses have the obligation to support our local community and to make sure that we have a pipeline of talent coming through up into our businesses,” Susan Cosgrove, CFO of DTCC said.“Also at the same time, businesses reap the benefits because we are exposed to so much more diversity and talent through the PENCIL program, based on the communities that they serve, than we normally would be.”

Enhance Team Culture

Several studies have shown that volunteering enriches the workplace by reducing turnover, increasing employee engagement, and improving employee happiness, leading to higher productivity. One of the most crucial benefits of being part of PENCIL’s program is the value it adds to an employee’s work life. Especially during COVID-19, when most people are working remotely and staying at home, interacting with students can give employees a morale boost and add to work-life balance.

Specifically, PENCIL’s programs add to team culture and innovation by:

Giving teams a creative project to work on outside the daily tasks. By designing, facilitating or participating in PENCIL sessions with students, volunteer teams collaborate on new projects that may stretch their own abilities or provide an outlet for an underused talents.

Stimulating energy and morale among staff. PENCIL programs give corporate teams a fresh perspective on their own industry by exposing them to the creative thinking of our students. Additionally, through collaboration and teamworkvolunteers learn more about one another and create new bonds with colleagues ultimately leading to more positive team culture.

Fostering equitable leadership opportunities for staff. Anyone at a company, from a first year associate to the CEO, can become a lead volunteer for a PENCIL partnership. As a result, staff at any level can become the project manager and demonstrate or grow their leadership skills through the responsibilities of coordinating the program with PENCIL.

“This summer I had the privilege of remotely volunteering as a mentor with PENCIL, Inc. through its Career Explorers Program. I mentored Evelyn N., a NYC high school senior, as we worked on her summer project researching a Supreme Court case,” Shade Quailey, Judicial Law Clerk at NYSC Appellate Division, First Department, said. “I am grateful for this wonderful experience that allowed me to give back a little while working from home during quarantine.”

Animate Social Responsibility

Now more than ever, employees are looking  to company leaders and assessing how they are responding to the current crises, and broader issues facing the global community. The company’s response will demonstrate to its employees whether or not its social responsibility strategy is actionable and authentic. Supporting students through PENCIL’s programs is a great way to increase your firm’s business values while simultaneously addressing social issues like education equity, access to opportunity, economic mobility and more.

PENCIL’s programs helps companies live their values by:

Making it easy for employees to volunteer in a meaningful way. The clear entry points, program process and codified curriculum that are part of PENCIL’s work, limit the amount of design and planning needed by a corporate partner to become involved. After a few planning sessions and volunteer orientation, teams can quickly get engaged in a school and students in authentic and impactful ways.

Offering customized, yet turnkey, models to satisfy nuanced social responsibility goals. PENCIL offers a handful of program models grounded in research and experience that can help companies meet their goals. While there is a consistent model framing the programs, there are lots of opportunity to customize the engagement to feature specific skills, industries and experiences that will be valuable to students.

Adding capacity for program logistics, content, and facilitation. PENCIL program managers are an extra set of hands for our corporate partners to engage with the community. Rather than recreating the wheel internally, partners gain access to the expertise and experience of PENCIL’s team to run high-quality programs.

“Education has the power to transform and instigate change to better ourselves, society, and future generations. We truly value our partnership with PENCIL and Murray Hill Academy'” Josue Sanchez, from L+M Development, said. “We enjoyed building relationships with students as we navigated the challenges of inclusive real estate development for a better tomorrow.”

Through support from New York City’s business community, PENCIL has supported the futures of over 35,000 public school students who were previously unable to access opportunities that align with their ambitions. Nevertheless, there are about 1.1 million students in NYC’s public school system who can use the same support.

PENCIL has launched its #50kFutures campaign to address this concern and increase access so more students can access internships, mentorships, and life-changing opportunities. By being a part of this campaign or PENCIL’s other initiatives, your company can reap the many benefits outlined above while simultaneously working towards an equitable future for the world.

PENCIL Supports NYC Students’ Return to School

New York City is home to the largest school system in the country, with 1.1 million students enrolled in public schools. Earlier this month, New York City became the only large city to bring its public school students back into the school buildings for a hybrid semester, comprised of both in-person and remote classes.

Much like everything else, the return to school this year isn’t like anything anyone has experienced before. To meet social distancing measures effectively, principals were required to choose between several models that divided students into multiple cohorts and schedules of in person/remote learning.

At any point in the school year, students can switch from the blended learning model to full-time remote learning.

Students were initially expected to return to school buildings for in-person blended learning on Thursday, Sept. 10, though that timeline has been changed a few times and updated to a phased schedule to allow additional time for educators to get ready for the new school year.

Return to School Schedule 
  • Monday, September 21 – All students begin remote instruction. Students in Grades 3-K and Pre-K begin in-Person Learning
  • Tuesday, September 29 – All Elementary Schools (K-5 and K-8) including students in Grades 6-8 in K-8 schools begin In-Person Learning
  • Thursday, October 1 – Middle Schools (Grades 6-8) and High Schools (Grades 9-12) began In-Person Learning


The DOE return to school plan shifts as new information becomes available and discussions continue with teachers, families, and students. The Mayor has committed to close schools if the citywide infection rate rises above 3% for seven straight days.

Already 91 schools were forced to close after COVID-19 cases surged in certain zip codes.

“This school year is anything but usual. As students adjust to the ‘new normal’ in schools, it is critical not to let their college and career goals be put on hold,” Jessica Bynoe, VP and Chief Strategy Officer of PENCIL said.

“The pandemic and its economic implications have exacerbated the inequities in our city by limiting access to programs, internships and mentors supporting student success. At PENCIL, we are determined to close the opportunity gap and create equitable access to programs that help students develop the relationships and skills essential to their current and future success.”

In April, during the start of the pandemic, PENCIL became one of the first organizations to provide virtual programs to NYC schools and successfully served nearly 2000 students.

Continuing the trend in the school year, PENCIL launched its open source programming, that delivers live online workshops and career panels at appointed times every Monday, Tuesday, and Friday with volunteers from a variety of industries on October 5th.

Open to all students from over 100 PENCIL partner schools, these sessions fill a gap in instruction and provide access to corporate volunteers that teachers need and cannot achieve alone.

PENCIL will also continue programming for over 40 school partnership programs. This year-long program allows a company to work in conjunction with a designated school to regularly engage with New York City students through virtual workshops and events.

“We are all trying to do our part to make sure that students and families and schools are getting all the support that they need. This time is certainly unprecedented,” Gregg Betheil, PENCIL’s president told News 12 earlier this week.

“With a lot of kids stuck at home and challenges of virtual learning, bringing in a different set of adults that can provide students much needed mentorship — an important of the work that PENCIL has been doing.”