They buildOn:High School Sophomore Corinne Lowe Raises to Build an Entire School in Nicaragua

[pullquote]buildOn was something I immediately wanted to be involved in.[/pullquote]

Over the phone, Corinne Lowe doesn’t sound like an average high school sophomore. Despite being out of breath from running home after a late lunch to catch our interview, she smoothly and confidently launched into the story of her recent accomplishments with buildOn. “It started in the summer of 2010,” she said. “My family had dinner with the O’Connors [editor’s note: The O’Connors are enthusiastic California-based buildOn supporters.] And they were talking about their experience and how they’ve been building schools all over the world. It was just over a casual dinner but it was something I immediately wanted to be involved in.”

Lowe’s involvement over the past year has blossomed into a full chapter at Sage Ridge High. Like all buildOn chapters, Lowe’s is a closely knit group of passionate buildOn advocates who support our international development programs. But she has achieved an unprecedented feat for a buildOn supporter her age — her chapter has now raised enough money for an entire school in Nicaragua.

“Most student chapters only raise like $5-10k,” she noted. “But I liked the idea of building an entire school. I know $30k is a pretty lofty goal, but I thought I’d be able to do it. And with the help of a bunch of my friends and other kids at school, I was.”

Lowe admits, however, that the path to achieving this goal was not easy. Getting her school on board with the project, and corralling interest around a fundraiser with such a steep objective, was no small task. “There were a lot of people who didn’t think we could actually do it, and there wasn’t a lot of motivation. The faculty and administrators at the school were somewhat reluctant. But through the year, as it became clearer that our goal was attainable, the support has really increased. We’ve been featured on the front page of our local paper.”

Located in Novato, just underneath Northern California’s world-famous wine country, Sage Ridge and its students have access to a rich community of philanthropically active individuals. Still, I was curious what tactics Lowe used to differentiate herself from the world of asks in her neighborhood. “Back in February we had a fundraiser that brought in nearly $10k,” she responded. “We had a friend who knows an astronaut. So we held a ‘Meet an Astronaut’ benefit event and got a bunch of people to donate.”

“In addition to benefits and fundraiser events,” she adds, “We make a lot of phone calls and house visits. Generally they’re people we know. That’s the most efficient way to raise money…really it just took a lot of outreach.”

It’s clear, however, that Lowe’s passion for buildOn’s mission allowed her campaign to succeed so wildly. She explained with great conviction her dedication to international development. “I find education to be very important. I have a wonderful education and most people, especially people in third world countries, don’t have that luxury.”

[pullquote]We think we HAVE to go to school, but so many kids don’t have that opportunity.[/pullquote]

She added, “When I was in China a few years back I saw some people who live with next to nothing…in homes the size of my bedroom, and don’t have access to education. My dad also went to Ethiopia a while ago, and while he was there he heard about the building of a local school and how happy it made the people there. That’s something we don’t often appreciate, we think we HAVE to go to school, but so many kids don’t have that opportunity.”

Lowe and her buildOn chapter will now get the opportunity to personally observe just how much a single school can do. “In mid-August we’re gonna go down to Nicaragua and live with the residents and build the school,” she mentioned. “I’m incredibly excited…I just love traveling and I think it’ll be an amazing experience.”

If you are interested in starting your own buildOn Chapter to help support the construction of schools worldwide contact Tom Silverman at