BuildOn: Empowering through Education

BuildOn is a youth program that breaks the cycle of poverty, illiteracy and low expectations through service and education.

As they like to say, “We are not a charity, we are a movement!”

Local high school students participate through in-class and intensive after school programs. But they don’t just learn, they also do. First, with local community service, but also globally as they bring literacy and new schools to youth and adults in developing nations. In the 2010 academic school year, BuildOn ran 118 U.S. after-school programs, located in 6 states (Chicago being one of its largest-run regions with 29 programs).

was founded by Jim Ziolkowski in 1991 after he witnessed the immense sense of hope and pride radiating from local villagers in Nepal as they celebrated the opening of a new school. This inspired Ziolkowski to launch an organization that would empower local youth to make a positive difference in their communities, while also helping those in developing nations increase their own self-reliance through education.

Ziolkowski believes that today’s youth are our answer for tomorrow’s problems as he states, “It is imperative that we engage exponentially more youth in this life-changing work. One day we hope to live in a world with empowered youth, strong communities and access to education for all.”

BuildOn’s core values of compassion, responsibility and empowerment contribute to the organization’s tremendous and inspiring achievements both domestically and globally. Since 1991:

  • Students have contributed over 761,682 volunteer hours
  • Students have touched the lives of over 1,428,615 in their own communities
  • 95% of BuildOn students in the U.S. have attended college
  • BuildOn has contributed to the building of 383 schools in rural, developing countries
  • Over 140,000 youth and adults have attended schools built by BuildOn

This year marks the 20th anniversary of BuildOn, as well as the building of its 400th school, fittingly located in the organization’s inspirational foundation of Nepal.

To get involved or to contribute to BuildOn’s mission, go to

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