ANGEL'S STORY

When Angel came to us this year with a good plan for his success, and a need for support so that he could implement his plan, he looked familiar. Angel lived with his family in the public housing complex down the street from our offices. But he was about to start a new life far from his community. He wrote that:

On September 7th, I begin my journey to develop myself intellectually; It is my first day as a freshman in the Massachusetts college of liberal arts. As excited as I am to begin my life on my own, living about 150 miles away from home in North Adams, MA , I'm also very anxious. Coming from a very low income family, I have to find alternative ways to get the money I need to be able to afford my expenses.

We were thrilled to be able to provide Angel with $1,100 to cover the gap between his financial aid and his tution, and to help him pay for books and other educational necessities. Angel writes:

I cannot express my appreciation enough for the help that I have received and for the opportunities that you have opened up for me. These past few weeks have been a phenomenal experience, and it all gets better. College has proven to be the place for me, at least for now. It is a place to grow, to learn and to become the person I want to be. Massachusetts's College of Liberal arts is a good institution that I'm proud to be a part of. I'm happy with everything and do not have any complaints about the school. I have been able to rent my books, and pay for most of my tuition with the scholarship I was granted. I wish I could thank you enough. This money has given me breathing space, and a peaceful state of mind, which have helped me exceed in the classrooms and focus on my education. Expenses that I did not account for presented themselves, without this scholarship I cannot imagine what I would have done to gather the money I needed. The scholarship that was granted to me helped me economically to say the least. This money also gave me time, hours of the week where I would have been doing something else to earn the money I needed. It gave me a peace of mind in the sense of that I do not have to worry about making the money to buy books, or to pay the tuition. I have better and more important things to worry about now, like my classes, my homework, and both the Entrepreneurial and political science clubs. Once again, I thank everyone involved in the Endowment for Unexceptional Humans and I thank everyone who has made a donation or contribution. I thank you on behalf of myself and my family.

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MARA'S STORY

Grant recipient Mara writes:

In 2006 I took an AmeriCorps job working with children for Portland Community Gardens; little did I know I had stumbled upon both a calling and an emerging field. Since that time, my conviction in the value and importance of garden-based education has grown with every season, and I've discovered new passions for teaching, food, and working with children. Meanwhile, people around the country are taking a closer look at the food they consume and the public education system, wondering how we can address issues such as malnutrition, obesity, and nature-deficit disorder to restore and reclaim our communities. As my interest in this field has grown, so has the field itself gained popularity on an international scale.

Teaching in a garden is very different from teaching in traditional classroom; there are no walls or desks, no chalkboard or podium, and no certification process. Instead, you have an extremely dynamic and nuanced environment, rich with human history and culture, and a plethora of species in countless forms and life stages. Students come from throughout the community and through the summer in age groups spanning a over a decade. Conventional notions of what "teaching" and "learning" entails and requires are tossed to the wind, and the environment itself becomes instructor and curriculum. For this and many other reasons, training opportunities for those called to this profession are few and far between. Though programs throughout the country (and world!) are emerging with increasing rapidity, you still can't get a degree in garden-based education the way one can for Spanish language instruction or to become a science teacher.

There is, however, the Edible Schoolyard Academy, a three-day intensive training held at the renowned Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, California--and pioneered by chef Alice Waters, whose clout and support helped to establish the learning garden where I now work in Portland, Oregon. And thanks to the incredible support of the Endowment for Unexceptional Humans, I was able to attend this training despite the fact that funding for my position as Children's Gardening Coordinator was tenuous and short-term at best this year. I spent three incredible days working closely with a hundred other educators from across the globe, focused on teaching in a garden, teaching in a kitchen, and long-term program development. Thanks to this experience, I returned to my garden classroom this summer suffused with inspiration and purpose, armed with rigorous training materials and the reassurance that hundreds of others around the world share my excitement and conviction regarding the importance and validity of this form of pedagogy.

Receiving support from the Endowment to participate in this training revived my confidence in the power of community and mutual support, and has renewed my dedication to the notion that it is a human right to grow up knowing how and what to feed yourself, and why. I cannot fully express my gratitude for the support which enabled me to seize this rare opportunity, and know that through this experience I am better equipped to contribute in turn to both this emerging profession and my community at home. THANK YOU!!!

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BRENDA'S STORY

Brenda has worked in the field of architecture since 1986. This year, she wrote to us that:

The accomplishment I want to achieve is to earn my professional state license to become an architect. This goal has been important to me forever. I feel that my life cannot begin until I achieve this goal because although I have accomplished quite a bit in my 25 years within this profession, regarding experience and exposure along with earning a five-year professional Bachelor of Architecture degree, I cannot sleep at night because of the disappointment I have for my inability to achieve this.

I'm sure by now you are asking yourself why I have not achieved this yet. Well you see, during college I met and married the wrong person. I have happily raised two children without child support or alimony and I am proud to write that I was able to raise them in a good suburban neighborhood with good schools and I dedicated my time to be a Girl Scout, baseball, soccer, Boy Scout, karate and tutor mom. I even took in someone else's child and help raise him through the tough high school years because his mom walked out when he was little and his dad threw him out.

I did this because I was a foster child when I grew up. I mention this only because it is important to know that I am not a taker, I just need help.

The Endowment for Unexceptional Humans provided $1,210 to cover the cost of training materials, courses, and the cost of her first exam. Brenda wrote:

This goal has been important to me forever. The need for a professional state license is the number one most important part of my profession. It is because of the Endowment for Unexceptional Humans that I will be able to reach this long-sought goal. Thank you for giving me this grant of dignity and grace.

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PETER'S STORY

Grant recipient Peter writes:

In December 2010, a group of 60 incredible people came together to provide funding to get a dream of mine off the ground. In a single moment, Envision Skate Collective was transformed from a distant yet vivid dream into an extremely real prospect. The cash provided by these supporters was molded into a real, functioning company - with the potential to carry the dream to new heights.

Fast forward a couple of months: The company was still taking shape, boards and accessories were in stock, and we had attended a few events to help spread the word. Our money wasn't gone, but was low, and it was becoming increasingly apparent that Envision needed some supplementary camera equipment in order to capture high-quality product and promo photos to put on our website. We weren't sure quite how it was going to happen, but in our time of need, one organization stepped forward to fill the gap in our funding: The Endowment for Unexceptional Humans.

The Endowment for Unexceptional Humans believed in our dream and provided funds for exactly the equipment we needed, giving Envision a much needed boost.

Thanks to their generous provision, we are able to capture professional-quality images for the business and hope to eventually spin our photo (and video) production into a separate business. I don't think we could say it enough, so three times will have to suffice for now: Thank you, thank you, thank you to the Endowment for Unexceptional Humans for your generous support of Envision Skate Collective and our dream.

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ROSI'S STORY

In April of 2008, Rosi's older brother Luis was tragically shot to death on a basketball court in Jamaica Plain. Luis, known as "Mata," was only 20 years old. His death was unfortunately only one in a spate of violent incidents that have plagued this community. Inspired to keep the memory of her beloved brother alive, Rosi made a plan to found an organization dedicated to anti-violence work and youth empowerment. In 2009, the Endowment for Unexceptional Humans provided the Luis Troncoso Peace Foundation with $1000 to get started in our community.

Now called My Brother's Legacy, Rosi's foundation has worked closely with young adults, youth workers, and other supporters to "channel tragedy into something positive" and to "stop future violence from occurring."

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JENNIFER'S STORY

At the end of Jennifer's first year of college, she was in danger of not being able to continue her education because of financial hardship. Other scholarships and loans covered the bulk of her tuition, but she found herself $5000 short with nowhere to turn. The Endowment for Unexceptional Humans gave her a scholarship to close the gap and enable her to pursue her goals. She wrote us this letter.

I am writing this letter to thank you so much for your generous donation. The funds that you have provided me with will help to further my education at Pine Manor, my studies in Social and Political Systems and keep me closer to my dream of becoming a social worker. More importantly, I am no longer in a constant state of worry and the burden has been lifted about how I was going to finance the 2008 fall semester and be able to come back to school next year. My attention now has transformed to motivation and I know I will do well in school. I want to show that this money was not given to me in vain.

Pine Manor College is a natural fit for me. Its mission of preparing women for inclusive leadership and social responsibility in their workplaces, families and communities has sparked my desire to give back to the community. For example, I want to help young teens that come from disadvantaged backgrounds (similar to myself) realize their potential and become successful. Currently, I work as work-study in the Center for Inclusive Leadership and Social Responsibility, also known as CILSR. In this role, I have realized how aware I have become and also my responsibly to reach others about social responsibility.

Since joining the Pine Manor College community in 2007, I have already taken on leadership roles and have very been involved connected with the campus. Some of these co-curricular activities include the Campus Activities Board, Ladies of Various Ebony Shades, and outside of school I work with a variety of environmental programs. As a member of these organizations, I coordinate activities on campus for all students to enjoy, engage in volunteer and community work, and teach young women to build their self confidence and self love. Recently, I was selected to be a resident assistant (RA) for the 2008-2009 academic year. In this new venture, I will be able to show my leadership skills and take-charge abilities by being a role model in the residence halls, help new students feel comfortable as they changeover to a new environment and provide programs that are educational, social and cultural.

I tell you all of this because I want you to know the quality of young woman you helped to support. Once again, I feel very privileged and fortunate to have your support and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Sincerely, Jennifer

After receiving a $5000 scholarship from the Endowment for Unexceptional Humans in the spring of 2007, Jennifer has excelled in college and is on track to graduate.

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JEREMY'S STORY

Grant recipient Jeremy writes:

In the fall of 2009 I was setting up a small business to bring a boardgame to production. We had raised some money to cover our printer costs, but had very little in the budget for unexpected operating costs. And then, right in the middle of our pre-production phase, my laptop stopped working...

We are a tiny, unexceptional company, just beginning to get off the ground, and we didn't have the benefit of business loans. A catastrophic equipment failure at a key moment would certainly have spelled disaster for us. But we had already taken steps toward our goal, and we had a plan to achieve it. This left us in a good position to solicit help from the Endowment for Unexceptional Humans, and fortunately they came to our aid with a grant. Their generosity enabled us to obtain a working computer and allowed us to finish the project on time! I was so impressed with their good work and their mission that I expressed an interest in giving back to the Endowment in some way. I'm happy to now be a member of their Board of Directors, working to fulfill the Endowment's mission of providing sometimes small but always transformative scholarships and grants to worthy unexceptional humans with the potential for excellence.

After receiving a new computer from the Endowment for Unexceptional Humans in the autumn of 2009, Jeremy's company, Dystopian Holdings, has incorporated. The boardgame was released in October 2010.

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©2010 The Endowment For Unexceptional Humans
Amy L Clark, Jeremy P Bushnell, and Scott Thomson.