By Capt. Kevin Sandell, 11th Public Affairs DetachmentMay 19, 2014
COPPERAS COVE, Texas -- It's been said, "a number 2 pencil and a dream can take you anywhere." For an 8-year-old boy from Copperas Cove, Texas, his dream was simply to help students half a world away inscribe their own ambitions for the future of their young nation.
Matthew Northrop, a second-grade student and son of U.S. Army Capt. Steven Northrop, who serves as a battle captain for Kosovo Force's Multinational Battle Group-East, crafted a simple plan to raise money to send pens, pencils and other writing supplies to Kosovo students.
His theme for the distinct supply drive: "Helping Kids in Kosovo Write Their Future."
"[This drive] gives [students] supplies so they can practice and do their work or homework. It would be hard for kids to do class work without much school supplies," said Matthew. "Maybe their moms and dads have no money, but they really want to learn and need the help."
With his father deployed for nine months to Multinational Battle Group-East on Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, Matthew began researching the area where his father would serve. He learned that Kosovo is still developing and schools there often lack basic supplies and necessities for their students. To Matthew, having supplies to learn formed the basic foundations of a good education.
"I was researching in my dad's books and found out that schools are poor [in Kosovo] and kids may not have the supplies they need. You need supplies to help you in getting a good education," Matthew said. "I started because I was curious about the place my dad was going, so I looked in the books his unit gave him to read before deploying. I then went to the internet and was looking up facts and pictures about Kosovo, that's when I found out how poor the schools are."
The project quickly expanded, and Matthew found himself presenting the idea to the school's principal and the local school board. From there, he created handmade posters to hang around the building, and publicized his plan to every classroom and grade level.
Steven said his son's fundraising idea was entirely his own and that Matthew would find the challenge inspiring.
"It was his idea and his goal. This goal came from him doing research for his topic of his semester research for his gifted and talented class," Northrop said. "If we suggested ideas, it could cause some to question is this really an 8-year-old's idea, so we entertain his inquisitive nature, but ultimately he has to decide what approach, who and how to ask for assistance."
Receiving donations from his family, friends, and even a full line of women's clothing stores in Georgia, Matthew rapidly raised over $500 and was able to purchase enough pens, pencils and colored pencils to fill 12 large boxes for shipment to Kosovo schools. The boxes will be distributed through Multinational Battle Group-East's Civil Affairs Officer to schools throughout the eastern and northern areas of Kosovo with one special instruction.
"My son wants pictures showing his supplies are well received," Steven said. "Ideally, [he] wants us to focus on the small schools in poor areas, not large schools that already may be receiving support. He told me once, 'You can't forget the small people,' meaning people living outside of big communities."
Donating the writing utensils to Kosovo students, Matthew said he hopes the pens and pencils not only help children learn with fun, but help children write their own future.
"I hope this makes learning more fun and easy, so [children] don't have to worry about buying [pens and pencils] and good school work leads to a good education," Matthew said. "Learning and having fun at the same time can help you get a better education, in the end which can help you get a better job. Plus learning and doing well makes you feel good about yourself."