The Man Behind Notebook
Name: Thomas Brown
Hometown: Battle Creek, Michigan
What is Notebook, and what is it to you? Notebook is a nonprofit organization devoted to battling the widespread problem that is poor education. To me, Notebook gives students the chance to learn in the way that is best for them. I’m a strong believer that no matter what age you are, you can learn anything you want to.
This means starting with young kids in elementary school and starting to teach them what they could learn as adults. It means giving them information and letting them interpret the things the way they want to and at the pace that they want to. Creativity is the most important thing, and it’s the reason why people get so excited about learning. There are many well-established nonprofits who do this type of thing, but Notebook takes pride in being able to be creative and to test the limits of learning.
What made you want to start Notebook? When I was in the third grade, I had to write a story that used my imagination. My interpretation of imagination was just real-life events because it’s what I knew. I failed the assignment because I wrote about real life. The teacher made everyone redo the assignment, but gave us small notebooks. In the notebooks we had to write every day about our dreams and whatever came into our minds. This was so important to harvesting dreams and allowing us to set no limits to ourselves.
After the month, we did the same assignment as before the notebooks, and there was such a shift in my mind. This was the main reason why I wanted to share this dream of implementing creativity as a major part in the education system. Notebook is different, though, because it is more community-specific, so it involves adults, parents, children, educators and anyone else who wants to be a part of this. This makes it individual to what each different community needs, since there are so many different backgrounds in different areas. It allows for reinforcement and support from the community.
What was the process of making the nonprofit organization like? It started in January, so the goal was to start and build the nonprofit in two months for the first destination of Belize. Everything happened so quickly, but with help from my mother who already has a non-profit organization, she helped me know what I needed. I started to hire people to help get this together. I had to find people who really believed in and were passionate about the dream of changing the way the education system is. After going through interviews, there is a team of six people, including me. The others are Shanice Pinson, Vatsal Patel, Sadie Shattuck, Emma Gessert and Aria Kaur. We really worked hard on what exactly Notebook was about, down to a tee, and gaining support from the communities since it is for the communities. We definitely worked hard with credibility, getting legality and building partners for the organization.
How did you feel first introducing this in Belize? I was very scared and extremely excited. Excited because my team and I had worked very hard to get things done so quickly and ready to go. I’m proud of this dream and I could not wait to show off the work that had been put into it. I was scared because I did not know how the community would react to it. A lot of nonprofits who do the same type of thing are already very prominent and have experience, so I did not know if the community would take Notebook seriously.
What were some challenges that are still prevalent currently? Getting donors; money is very important for the process to get the work done and the materials. It’s frustrating because there are so many amazing ideas that could be done, and so many communities that could benefit from this organization, but it’s hard to do when everything costs money. Having people, let alone a whole company believe in your dream as much as you do, is difficult. I put my own money into it because it’s something that is so important. It is tough to be in a world where everything is controlled by money, regardless of how amazing an idea could be, it is very hard to implement it without money.
Where do you see Notebook in the future? The ultimate goal is to work incredibly hard right now and then after college. It will allow the team to keep doing what they love to do. I also love science and the medical field; I would still go to medical school. It would be amazing to see how much it has grown just starting at freshman year. I would continue doing this because it is something I am genuinely passionate about, I believe it will go on for a long time. I would be the CEO of Notebook for 0 dollars, and I would do it for a million dollars. I love what it stands for and what it does, so I would do it no matter what the circumstances.
Where are the next Notebook destinations? Started in Belize in the beginning of May. Next is Battle Creek in August. The team has their sights set on Ionia, Lansing, and Detroit. Next summer possibly Costa Rica and Peru. In five to six years, we hope it would be implemented in Chicago and New York City.