Pando wins the $25,000 prize at the WeMedia Pitch It! Challenge (includes video)

Earlier in April, Pando Projects won the $25,000 prize at the WeMedia Pitch It! Challenge in NYC.  Below is me, accepting a massive check that later served as an umbrella, as we walked home in the rain.

Trying not to fall over from excitement

About 170 people submitted ideas for businesses.  8 finalists were selected to give our 8 minute pitches before 150 people and a panel of judges.  It was one of the coolest experiences of my life.   As a former high school drama geek, I relish in the opportunity to stand up before an audience and tell my story.

I was able to connect with some amazing people, including:

  • Craig Newark, the founder of CraigsList.  We talked about squirrels (he loves them; I hate them.)  We also talked about CraigConnects.  He claims that I sound like Sarah Jessica Parker when I speak into a microphone.
  • Charlie O’Donnell, a Principal at First Round Capital.   He advised me to take a few months and do in-depth market research to understand the web product we’re creating.  He’s also ridiculously nice and made me less scared of venture capitalists.
  • Esther Dyson, an Angel Investor who invested in Flickr and MeetUp.  She hooked me up to speak at New York Tech MeetUp last week.  I crave more time with her, but she seems very busy.
  • Steve Rosenbaum, author of “Curation Nation.”  He strongly recommended that I set Pando up as a for-profit business, and offered to introduce me to investors if I do.  He has a really great mind (and an office that looks like a leggo set.)

Here is a video of me, after the win!

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Pando covered by Epoch Times

Tara MacIsaac, a reporter from the “Epoch Times” recently interviewed me and 3 Project Leaders: Joyce, Jazzmine, and Jermel.  Check out the article!  Here’s a preview:

“There is a grove of quaking Aspen trees in Utah called Pando. A marvelous natural phenomenon, what appears to be an expanse of separate trees is actually a single organism connected by a massive network of roots.  Pando Projects is a nonprofit organization taking root in New York City. Pando is composed of smaller, individual projects growing all over the city. The goal is to empower people who see problems in their communities to start up their own initiatives, and work to solve them.”

Joyce, one of the Project Leaders, helping kids in Chinatown to make celtic bracelets as they learn about NYC's Irish heritage

The article has a few great interviews.  Check them out! 

You can also get involved with the projects of Joyce, Jermel and Jazzmine by visiting our pilot site.

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Pando BBQ on Tuesday May 3rd

We brought together volunteers, Project Leaders and potential Board Members.  Thanks for coming to the barbecue!!  All photos were taken by Sheldon Adamson.

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Updates on the projects…

Here are some updates from our pilot Project Leaders.  Basically, they are rockstars doing amazing things to create change in NYC.

The father of a domestic violence picks up a TV donated by "A Gift of Love"

Jermel Royal

Jermel is delivering free household items to the victims of domestic violence.  He had his first furniture pick-up last week and a foundation is going to donate $1,000 to his project!  14 people have signed up to help him with “A Gift of Love.”  Learn more –

Battle of the Books volunteers and students pose at Columbia University

Ashley Williams

Ashley successfully completed her project, a fun after-school reading program in West Harlem.  You can read more about Ashley’s story and vision here.

Ashley participated in Battle of the Books when she was young and she says, “I can honestly say that Battle of the Books increased my confidence in my own academic and leadership ability. I became someone who was proud of her reading ability and excited to talk about books.” She started a Battle of the Books program in West Harlem to bring that experience to kids that otherwise wouldn’t have access to a fun literacy program.

Jodi Tatum

Jodi is starting an after-school dance class to help kids develop their confidence and creativity.  Her first dance class tomorrow!  Learn more here.

Hannah Brandt

Hannah has already organized four art classes for kids that attend a school without an art program.  She say that it’s going well and will be posting the first photos next week.  Learn more here.

Some of the teachers helping Ying with her community garden project

Ying Guo

Ying organized the first Growing Gardens Growing Kids class last week.  Check out photos!  She will be helping kids to learn about nutrition and start a community garden.   Learn more here.

In two weeks, Ying will begin planting the Earth Boxes with kids.  Spring is sooo close…

Joyce Chen

Joyce has been holding weekly classes in Chinatown, to teach the kids about different cultures.  Learn more here.

That’s just a few of the updates.  You can join any of the projects at

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Preview our new website – launching in April 2011

The current website is old and tells an outdated story.  It’s time for a re-vamp!  Check out a preview of our new website, launching in the third week of April!  I feel like a proud, expectant mother.  Perhaps it’s uncouth to show pictures at such an early stage, but I can’t help it.  🙂

This website will do a better job of highlighting our pilot projects and linking you to their websites and stories.   It will also make it easier to donate $$ and sign up to volunteer.  We will seduce the masses with our feel-good, inspiring vision.   Yes. <– This link will allow you to see different elements of the design.

A preview of the new Pando website - launching in April 2011

Thank you so much to Traci Paris, Tae Sayama, and Shaun Scovil for helping to design and build this pro-bono.   Love!!

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Featured at the Points of Light Tribute!

Last Monday, the Points of Light Institute honored President and Mrs. George H. W. Bush (41) for their leadership in founding and advancing the modern-day service movement.  This was a massive fundraiser, raising $30 million for service initiatives across the United States.  The event was attended by four presidents (Carter, Bush, Bush and Clinton) and will be broadcast on NBC on Monday (3/28) at 8pm.  You can check out a video of the event here.

I was there!  Michelle Nunn, the CEO of Points of Light, mentioned my story at the President’s Circle dinner that led up to the event.  Awesome!  The most bizarre moment was probably talking to Dan Quayle about fly-fishing in Botswana.  One of those “how is this my life?” moments.

Here are some pictures!

Me at the President's Circle dinner

Descending the staircase to the dinner, feeling like Scarlett O'Hara

At my parent's house, getting ready to leave for the Tribute event in DC. Yes, it felt like prom.

Bill Clinton!! ❤

I met some amazing people that I hope can support Pando as we grow.  I won’t list out names because they might read this blog and that would be embarrassing but… it was an amazing group!

What is Pando’s relationship to Points of Light?  Well, David Ray (the Chief of Strategy and Public Policy) is on our Advisory Board and we are developing the relationship.  Once Pando is fully funded and has scaled up, Points of Light can easily advertise Pando at more than 250 action centers across the U.S., marketing us to millions of volunteers and potential Project Leaders.  We’re getting there…

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Raffle to support Sherill-Marie’s project

One of our Project Leaders is Sherill-Marie Henriquez, a sophomore at Columbia University.  She is starting an after-school program to empower young leaders to advocate for social justice.

To fund her project, she has organized a raffle for a 3-month membership to CLAY Health Club + Spa.

CLAY is a private boutique health club in Union Square with private saunas, a rooftop deck, and comprehensive group fitness classes taught by only the most highly trained professionals. This gift card for a three month membership to the club and two complimentary private training sessions – a value of $840 – is being raffled off at just $10 a ticket. Only a limited number of tickets will be sold, which means there is a very high chance that you can win this package.

Proceeds from the raffle will help Sherill-Marie pay for museum admission and transportation for her students. 

To be entered in the raffle, make a $10 donation at:

To learn more about her project, keep reading…

Growing up, Sherill-Marie felt that the young people in her neighborhood were not motivated to question what they were taught about the nation, society, or their history.  This problem is especially acute at urban public schools, where students are often taught one perspective of history and are rarely encouraged to question its accuracy.  Sherill-Marie is starting a project called Bounce School to empower high school students by helping them see history as just that – a story – the details and interpretation of which are as dependent upon the listener as they are on the story-teller. At Bounce School, students become the storytellers as they compare documents, examine the relationship between social and political developments, and finally, add their own experiences into the mix.

Students at one of the first Bounce classes

Sherill-Marie writes, “I believe there is great potential for leadership in urban youth when they are empowered and motivated to become agents of social justice. The history classroom is where we acquire our vision of the nation and of our place in it.” Unfortunately, many students in urban classrooms only learn one perspective of history, which, “can be detrimental and discouraging to students, especially those whose rich racial and ethnic history is not  traditionally expanded upon in the American classroom.”

Her solution
Sherill-Marie envisions a classroom in which all of the students teach each other through their own stories and opinions.  She is pursuing this vision by starting an after-school program for urban students where students are encouraged to share their stories, think critically, and figure out their own version of the “truth.”

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