Miami high school senior Blaise Pronesti had the insight that each year, thousands of notebooks and other school supplies go to waste, when they could benefit students in need. Kids That Do Good talked with Blaise about the program that grew from that idea, Bind Us Together.
TELL US ABOUT BIND US TOGETHER. WHERE DID THE IDEA COME FROM?
In May 2015, at the end of 9th grade, I started a non-profit organization called Bind Us Together, Inc. It was Memorial Day Weekend and the following week school was letting out for the summer. I was looking for a way to make a difference. My nephew actually came up with the idea to collect school supplies that kids were going to discard. I thought it was a great idea. My school has “locker cleanout” the week before school ends, so it was perfect timing. At that time, our “team” consisted of me and my mother.
WHAT WAS THE PROBLEM YOU WANTED TO SOLVE?
From experience, I knew that during locker cleanout, most kids just empty everything from their locker into the garbage. Many of those items could be reused but instead were going to the landfill. I wanted to stop that from happening. The opportunity was there to change the way it was being done. I spoke to the Dean of Students and he gave his approval for me to put out bins for students to donate their new and gently used school supplies.
WHAT CHALLENGES DID YOU RUN INTO AND HOW DID YOU SOLVE THEM?
Actually, the first year we were just going to collect from the high school. Immediately, we realized that the older kids weren’t getting rid of very much. At that point, my mom ran over to the middle school and they were already in the process of locker cleanout. My mom asked the head of maintenance if he could leave all of the garbage bags at the maintenance building for us to go thru. I actually spent many hours after school going through a dozen industrial sized garbage bags. Believe it or not, in the garbage, I found hundreds and hundreds of NEW and gently used school supplies: binders, notebooks, pens, pencils, markers, erasers and so much more.
HOW DO YOU MEASURE THE IMPACT YOU’VE MADE?
We deliver thousands of new and refurbished supplies before the start of school each year. The first year we delivered about 1200 items. This year we will be delivering more than three thousand. In addition, each year the quality of our refurbishing improves. We’ve figured out what products work best. The best part is that we know our supplies are going to be used by students and not going to the landfill.
HOW HAS YOUR PROJECT GROWN?
We started off the first year collecting just from Miami Country Day School and donated everything we collected to the Overtown Youth Center. The second year, we collected from three additional schools: RASG Hebrew Academy, Miami Beach High School and Nautilus Middle School. This past May we added three more schools: Gulliver Preparatory High School, Aventura School of Excellence Elementary and Middle School and St. Thomas Aquinas High School. It takes the entire summer to refurbish what is collected. In addition, we initially donated only to the Overtown Youth Center. Currently, we have two additional partners: a local food bank and Breakthrough Miami.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING NEXT?
In June, I will be graduating high school and leaving for college. I have developed a business plan to transfer Bind Us Together, Inc. to Breakthrough Miami so that it can continue to help others after I graduate.
HOW DOES HELPING OTHERS MAKE YOU FEEL?
Bind Us Together, Inc. has changed my life. Helping others makes me feel good about myself, but more importantly, seeing the enthusiasm from the kids that receive the supplies makes me know that all of the time and energy I put in is 100% worth it.
WHAT IS YOUR MESSAGE TO OTHER KIDS WHO WANT TO DO SOMETHING GOOD?
GO FOR IT! We live in a really busy world, where it’s usually go, go, go and it is so important to stop, pause, and help others. We all need to take the time to try and make the world a better place. If you have an idea that can help others, put it in motion!