Celebrating Overachievement

Since 2016, Pilot Pen has recognized extraordinary overachievers who go above and beyond their everyday duties to improve the lives of others. Below is a list of our amazing winners of the Overachievers Grant and Overachievers Student Grant from previous years.

Greg Thorpe

Greg’s Charity: JUST-a-BREAK

Greg is an inspiring person. He is a father of three and a high school Religion teacher. In 2013, the Thorpe family’s lives would change forever when their wife and mother, Jen, was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. Though the family travelled to various hospitals and treatment centers, Jen ultimately lost her battle with the disease on Dec 20, 2015. But, the Thorpe’s tremendous trial resulted in an amazing charity called JUST-a-BREAK.

In the final months of Jen’s life, Greg and his family spent numerous and days at a treatment center in Salt Lake City, UT. As is the case for most patients and their families, much of their time was spent waiting and worrying. How many more treatments? Will these test results be any different? What will the next appointment or procedure be? Out of their own funds, Greg and Jen began purchasing movie tickets and restaurant gift cards for nurses to anonymously hand out to other patients’ families. Their intention was to share a small blessing, help many in “desperate” situations by allowing them to literally take break and “forget about cancer” for a few hours, or a couple days. Cancer treatments are very expensive and can burden families financially, but with JUST-a-BREAK packages, hundreds of families have been given a breather and chance to spend quality time together when it mattered most.

Greg Thorpe's Plan for the $50,000 Grant Award

Thanks to Greg’s proven ability to secure dollar-to-dollar matching from many of the business he sources his gift cards from, he plans to make this $50,000 grant go as far as possible for the families he serves. He plans to purchase mini-getaways for them, and more toward setting up additional chapters of his family’s charity. Greg’s ultimate goal is to have JUST-a-BREAK chapters in every one of the fifty United States.

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Ian McKenna

Ian’s Charity: Giving Gardens

One Christmas morning, Ian’s mother unexpectedly woke him and his little sister before dawn and drove them to an underserved area in their hometown of Austin, TX. Their mission was to surprise his sister’s classmate – whose family had not been able to afford Christmas gifts – with presents from Santa Claus for the very first time. Ian started thinking about the kids in his school who receive lunch but don’t have (healthy) food available at home. This was how the Giving Garden was born. Ian wanted to create a place where kids could grow fresh fruits and vegetables for other kids who’s families might be struggling to afford fresh produce and healthy foods.

Ian’s first garden was at an elementary school. With his first harvest, he was able to feed nine families. He has expanded to several more student-run community gardens at multiple elementary schools. Giving Gardens lets kids explore real-world problems and use a hands-on approach to help develop solutions. Ian, who is now 14, travels to different schools and teaches cooking demos for people who are unfamiliar with certain vegetables. In Ian’s first year, he grew 750 pounds of vegetables, all of which were donated to places like the Central Texas Food Bank. The biggest challenge he faces is theft from his gardens, but he takes this in stride, saying he hopes that the kids/families who are stealing this food genuinely need it, but are too shy to ask.

Ian McKenna's Plans for the Grant Award

Ian plans to use his $12,500 grant for college tuition so he can gain the skills needed to hopefully make an even greater impact on social issues like hunger. The remaining $2,500 will go to Ian’s school to help continue fostering overachievement among their students.

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Jacqueline Norvell

Congratulations to Jacqueline Norvell, “Brown Bag Lady”!

Jacqueline is the 2017 recipient of the $50,000 G2 Overachievers Grant! Jacqueline is an overachiever who truly goes above and beyond to inspire and help others in her community. In December of 2012, Jacqueline and her son took her Christmas bonus money, made turkey dinners and hand delivered them to the homeless on Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles. She did it again in 2013, and by 2014 she had a mission: the “Brown Bag Lady” was born.

She and her team meet on the first Sunday of every month, make 200 brown bag lunches and distribute them on Skid Row. Through her tireless efforts to help and feed others, Jacqueline and her team have made and delivered over 50,000 brown bag meals, along with clothing, blankets and other resources to the homeless living on Skid Row.

Jacqueline’s overachieving work in serving her community has inspired people nationwide to help those around them! Congratulations to the “Brown Bag Lady” and thank you to all the volunteers she has inspired!

Are you, or someone you know, an Overachiever? Nominate them for the 2018 G2 Overachievers Grant.

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Erin Manuel

She is the first-ever recipient of the $15,000 G2 Overachievers Student Grant!

Erin goes above and beyond to help others and is working to help make the world a better place. Since age 7, she has raised over $16,000 to provide health, education and food programs for Haitians.

In 2016, she was invited to the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the What If? Foundation‘s new school, The Father Jeri School. For her trip, she raised enough money to bring 156 Luci Lights (solar paneled lanterns), about 30 pounds of school supplies, and a check for more than $900 for the school. After her visit, she learned that the school had 2-3 hours of sporadic power each day; so for her next trip, she developed and installed a solar USB charging station for students and teachers to charge cell phones and other devices.

She continues to focus on more education initiatives through the school and food programs supported by the What If? Foundation.

Erin is truly the epitome of an Overachiever and shows that when you are passionate about a cause, even as a student, you can really make a difference.

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Dr. Rebecca Constantino

Dr. Rebecca Constantino is truly an overachiever – a graduate Professor in language acquisition at the University of California, a mother of three, and the founder of Access Books. Access Books is a non-profit organization that refurbishes inner-city school libraries and has provided over 2 million books to underserved libraries and children in the Los Angeles area. Given the indisputable linkage between literacy and future success, Rebecca is a dedicated champion for these children’s futures.

“She is a tireless (and uncompensated) worker who overcomes all obstacles to ensure that there is no discrimination in literacy. All children should have access to great books and a great library. Poverty should not be a factor in learning and becoming a reader.”

Thousands of qualified candidates applied for the grant and were carefully considered over the course of the review process. Rebecca’s unflagging dedication and commendable achievements embody what it means to be an overachiever.

Dr. Constantino has been awarded the $50,000 “G2 Overachiever’s Grant” for her tireless efforts that have helped rewrite the stories of these at-risk children by giving them the tools to help them overachieve in the future.

Our heartfelt congratulations and thanks go to the amazing Access Books volunteers and to their inspirational leader, Dr. Rebecca Constantino.

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Send a handwritten story describing what you or someone you know did to be a difference maker. Share where it happened, how it worked, who it impacted and why it mattered. There’s a 2500 word maximum for each entry and you can submit them by uploading to our entry page or via mail.


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