Combining a passion for community service with her love for the arts inspired an area high school freshman to create Performing for Pencils. With the help of her fellow students and relentless dedication, John Burroughs School (JBS) student Jessica Goldberg co-founded the nonprofit Performing for Pencils in the fall of 2013 to provide local youth-in-need basic school supplies.
Performing for Pencils features a culturally and socio-economically diverse group of high school students from all across the St. Louis Metropolitan region. The students come together and share their remarkable talents in an annual high school talent show. The ticket fee for admission to the performance is a donation of simple school supplies.
“The inspiration for Performing for Pencils stemmed from serving as a teaching assistant with Aim High St. Louis, a tuition-free personal and academic enrichment program for highly motivated middle school students who largely come from difficult circumstances and challenging environments,” Goldberg said. “I quickly discovered that these dedicated students wanted to succeed in school, but lacked the necessary school supplies to enable them to realize their full potential.”
Goldberg quickly sprang into action, enlisting other students throughout the St. Louis area and local businesses for their help.
The show features an array of performers from dancers, to musicians, to comedians, and even a hula-hooping contortionist. “These extraordinary students wow and amaze the crowd who is not only entertained for the evening – but also inspired by the power of diversity and inclusiveness in our community,” Goldberg said.
The talent show also includes a raffle of wonderful items donated by local businesses, t-shirt sales and a bake-sale.
The organization has completed its third talent show, raising more than $73,000 in monetary contributions and donations of school supplies combined.
All of the supplies have been donated to the Ferguson-Florissant and St. Louis Public School Systems. Students from schools that receive supplies from Performing for Pencils also perform at the talent shows.
Lily Orchard, a freshman at JBS, is an active volunteer with the organization. “My favorite part of the show is seeing all my friends participate and give back to the community,” Orchard said. “I love giving the supplies to students.”
People have a myriad of ways to become involved, “Of course, we are always looking for tremendously talented performers to be in the show as well as help backstage in the light and sound booth. But we also have needs for people to help with marketing, advertising, soliciting raffle items, selling t-shirts and raffle tickets, baking for the bake sale and generally promoting the show within their own high schools with posters and signage,” Goldberg said.
Although Goldberg is currently senior at JBS she is confident that the organization will continue to grow and thrive under the new leadership team after she graduates, taking Performing for Pencils to new heights.