Members of the Movement: Sandra Cotuna

At buildOn, we celebrate the creative and adventurous steps that members of the buildOn movement take to support education and service at home and abroad. Our “Members of the Movement” series highlights the vital work these supporters are doing to help empower youth and end the education crisis.

We recently met Sandra Cotuna, a buildOn supporter dreaming of building not one, but three schools in communities that previously had no access to quality education.

After running her first ever marathon in November, Sandra has signed up for four marathons to raise money for buildOn. What is even more amazing is that by 2020, she’s aiming to run a marathon on all seven continents – including the 2018 Antarctica Marathon!

She found buildOn last year while researching non-profit organizations that build schools in developing countries and fell in love with buildOn’s mission and commitment to changing lives. Sandra already knew just how important it is to invest in education and literacy. When she was growing up in Romania, she saw the way that education can lift people out of poverty and empower them. Though her family didn’t have much, Sandra did have the chance to go to school.

“As a child, one of my favorite things to do was sitting on the top of my bed and reading children’s books. Sometimes I read by candlelight because the electricity was out. I wish every child in this world could read and get immersed into the magical and beautiful world of books,” she says.

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buildOn support Sandra Cotuna is fundraising to build three schools in developing countries. At home in New York City, she’s inspiring others to remember the importance of education.

Sandra has also committed herself to making a difference in the lives of others.

“When I immigrated to America, it wasn’t always easy. Sometimes, I got lots of support and many times I didn’t. Now that I am in a better position, I want to spend as much time giving back as possible,” she says.

Now, much like youth in buildOn’s Service Learning Programs, Sandra volunteers in her community in New York City. She spends time with the elderly, fundraises for community youth programs and passes out food to the homeless with friends.

“It’s a very simple equation for me,” she says. “I help others and I get happy.”

In order to reach her goal, Sandra is sharing her story on social media and inspiring others to donate to her campaigns. She is motivated by the fact that building schools brings education to people across the world and inspires others at home to learn to give back. She plans to build each school on a different continent where buildOn works. She also wants to honor her two nephews and niece through the school building projects, and pique their interests in giving back as well.

“I want them to learn that being grown up isn’t just about school, grades, college, and finding a career. Have the courage to dream big, be passionate, work hard, and not let their caring be wasted,” she says. “By involving them early in building schools, they will have the experience and awareness to see if [giving back] is something that enriches their lives. Maybe it will become a part of who they are and their own story.”

Sandra Cotuna is an actuarial analyst. She works for AIG in New York City. Because of her commitment to increased access to education, hundreds of villagers from some of the economically poorest communities in the world will have the opportunity to build both a school, and better futures for themselves, their children and generations to come.