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buildON Founder and Alum Inspires the World

By Kait Kisel, student writer

Can one person change the world? Jim Ziolkowski’s answer to this question would be yes.

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Ziolkowski’s passion has inspired its 5,000 U.S. students to volunteer 1.9 million hours. Around the world, over 2 million children, parents, and grandparents have attended buildOn schools [photo credit: buildON]
After graduating cum laude in 1989 from the Broad College of Business with a degree in finance, Ziolkowski went on to establish buildOn, a global nonprofit with a mission to “break the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and low expectations through service and education.”

Ziolkowski returned to the Broad College to speak to a class of start-up hungry students, and the overwhelming feedback reinforced his infectious and inspiring passion.

“Through buildOn, I have witnessed extraordinary courage in my life. The strength of the people I have met in our program is my strength, and because of them, I know what the body can endure and what the spirit can overcome,” Ziolkowski says.

buildOn creates service learning opportunities for youth in urban areas, including New York City, Chicago, Detroit, Connecticut, Boston, and San Francisco. buildON programs empower young people with the opportunity to give back to their communities through service opportunities, like tutoring younger children and spending time serving food in homeless shelters. Globally, buildOn travels to developing countries where team members volunteer to build schools to promote literacy among the community members.

The seeds for buildON were planted back in the early 1990s after Ziolkowski took a trip to Malawi and built its first school in a town plagued by HIV/AIDS and malaria. He knew that extreme poverty stifled hope for many, and knew when he returned to the U.S. that he wanted to build programs to engage urban youth in a profound way.

To date, buildoN has engaged over 100,000 urban youth to contribute 1.9 million hours of service, and the program has built 1,122 schools in developing countries.

Ziolkowski’s passion to create change has had a ripple effect around the world. Starting just as one person with a dream, over the years Jim has and continues to empower countless individuals to adapt his mindset and make a difference. “Each of us has the power to take action, to light a fire and be the ignition for others,” he said.

Learn more about Ziolkowski’s journey and impact by visiting https://www.buildon.org .


Eli Broad College of Business

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