Pencils of Promise – Silistra Fundraiser

In a previous post, I told you a little about the variety show my students organized in pursuit of our $25,000 fundraising goal with Pencils of Promise. With our campaign completed (successfully!) and the school year winding down, I finally managed to carve out some time to elaborate a bit more on the event. Fortunately, we had a photographer and videographer, so you can relive it yourself! To quiet the crowd and get things started, we played a fun, uplifting Bulgarian music video. To be honest, I don’t know the backstory behind it at all, but it was catchy and served its purpose.

  • The first concert act was Svilena, one of my exceptionally talented 9th grade students. I ran across a video of Svilena on Facebook one of my first weeks of school, and was amazed that such a young girl could have such a powerful voice. She displayed her incredible range in a performance of “Hallelujah.” Unfortunately, the first installment from our videographer was truncated after only four minutes, so only the beginning of Svilena’s performance was captured.
  • Dorotea and Koko were cut out as well, but they did an awesome job welcoming everyone to the event and explaining our project; we watched a video about Pencils of Promise that they dubbed over in Bulgarian and showed the video my students made.
Koko Dortea concert

Koko and Dorotea. Both brilliant.

  • Yoana read some well wishes sent by the mayor who was unable to attend the event. He did, however, make a generous 50 leva donation a couple of days after the show!
  • Every high school teacher has encountered the occasional uninterested, “checked-out” student. During my first few weeks teaching, that was my impression of Christian. He routinely fell asleep in class and didn’t seem to show much initiative. That’s what makes the transformation I witnessed this year so miraculous, and one of my favorite stories from my experience here in Bulgaria. During a lesson on ISIS, Christian’s curiosity and interests were piqued. While I usually struggled to get him involved, this particular lesson, I struggled (albeit, not very hard) to make him stop talking so others had a chance to participate. That was a turning point for Christian, and there was no turning back. Since that class, Christian has not only been much more active in our lessons, but he has gone above and beyond outside the classroom too. He joined my debate team and competed in a national tournament (one of the debate topics was about military action against ISIS) and started taking theatre classes to explore his interest in performing. Seeing that transformation underway, I was not the least bit surprised when Christian stepped up to the plate in a big way during our fundraising project. He shared his passion for what we were trying to accomplish by volunteering (along with fellow 10A classmate Krisiyana) to Skype with potential donors, securing a $250 donation along the way. Additionally, to help promote our fundraiser he wrote a rap song with verses in English and Bulgarian to spread the word about our cause. Unfortunately, the video cut out his live performance.

  • The first dance performance was a group called Лиденс. One of the 10A students, Desi, is a member of this dance group. The colorful costumes and upbeat music made for an awesome act!
Great act!

Great act!

  • 3:35 – Christian and Veronica did a great job elaborating on our vision in a section they called “Philosohpy of Life.” These two had such great stage presence, and I was really proud!
  • 6:18 – Denitsa and Iliyan are the singer and lead guitarist of a local band named Blood Sugar (influenced by the name of a famous CD by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, one of my favorite bands). I’ve gone to see their band perform 3 or 4 times, and they always put on a great show. Tonight, they performed “Standing Next to Me” by The Last Shadow Puppets.
  • 9:13 – The next dance group included four girls from 10A (twins Raiya and Denitsa, Miriyana, and Maria). They immediately had the audience clapping along to their dance interpretation of “I Want Candy.”
  • 11:58 – Dorotea introduced Mert (stage name “Floppy”) who gave what in my impression was one of the most entertaining performances of the night, which is quite impressive for an 8th grader. His beatboxing act had the audience on the edge of their seats. You don’t want to miss this one, especially once the harmonica comes out at 13:18.
Killin' it

Killin’ it

  • 14:54 – The next singer is a bit of a mini-celebrity in Bulgaria. Introduced by Yoana, Christina was a contestant on Bulgaria’s version of The Voice, and has one of the most unique voices I’ve ever heard. On this particular night, she performed “One and Only” by Adele.

  • After Christina finished up her performance, Veronica and Christian continue working through the script written by 10A students!
  • 1:22 – Krisiyana is my 10A student who first read The Promise of a Pencil. I thought it was awesome that it was one of only two books she had decided to read in English (the other being Harry Potter). Her dance group, Axel, performed an interesting piece at 1:22. Enjoy it!
  • 5:17 – Meli and Mecho, introduced by Dorotea, are the other half of Blood Sugar, the band I mentioned earlier. These two are both in 10A, and I rarely see one without the other. They are incredibly close friends and both a joy to teach. They also have an infectious energy that brings out the best in those around them. This act was no exception as they performed “Barton Hollow” by The Civil Wars. I’ve had this song stuck in my head ever since!
  • 8:57 – Desi from the first dance group goes solo. You can check out her captivating performance starting at 8:57.
  • 11: 12 – As I mentioned in my last post, my students pulled off this charity concert pretty last minute. As a result, I didn’t even know the full set list when the show started. That’s why I was surprised when 8 adorable kids walked out on stage to sing. The young Do Re Mi group put on a great show starting at 11:12.
  • 14:18 – While the rest of Do Re Mi cleared the stage, two kids stayed behind and effectively stole the hearts of the audience with their duet. This was one of my favorite parts of the show. I could not believe the stage presence these two had at such a young age!
  • 17:30 – Interested in hearing some Bulgarian folk music? Fast forward to 17:30 to hear a group of students (Добруджанче) sing traditional songs. Four students from 10A were amongst the performers: Preslava, Vasilena, Dayana, and Daniela.

  • 2:21 – Once Добруджанче finished up, Christian and Veronica explain more of the history of our project and even give Kremena and me a shoutout at 3:21!
  • 3:51 – The older kids in “Do Re Mi” perform a catchy song in Bulgarian. These kids can sing!
  • 8:15 – Kremena and I take the stage with my brilliant student Koko, who translates for me. Kremena expresses gratitude to everyone who helped us with the fundraiser and the variety show as I unabashedly try to sneak a couple more peaks at the lyrics I’m trying to memorize.
  • 11:48 – I give a quick update on the project and the money we raised throughout the evening
  • 12:45 – My fate is sealed; I’m going to be embarrassed.
  • 14:20 – I explain why things are going to get ugly
  • 15:04 – My costume goes on; I put wig together about 10 minutes before leaving for the show; I think it was a good last minute touch.
Oh geez...

Oh geez…

  • 15:56 – The crowd starts waving their hands!
  • 16:16 – 10A students come out unplanned
  • 16:45 – Forget words for first time! Oh no…that’s a long pause!
  • 16:59 – Continue fumbling for words…
  • 17:06 – Luck out by remembering a couple of words
  • 17:13 – Thank goodness everyone knows the chorus
  • 17:56 – ufff, forget words again
  • 18:13 – WENT FOR IT…and missed
  • 18:48 – Group hug
  • 19:00 – Apologize to the crowd; I’m glad that’s over
  • 19:25 – Birthday wishes to one of the performers!

  • :14 – The last song starts: “We are the World” by Michael Jackson
  • 1:36 – Caught up in the moment, 10A comes out with all performers
  • 3:20 – Kremena joins us onstage!
  • 3:38 – Don’t leave out the youngsters from Do Re Mi; they wanted to join in on the fun!
  • 5:22 – Give flowers to our amazing director who was unbelievably helpful

Want to see more pictures from the show? Check out Mila Dragomirova’s “The World Through My Lens” blog! Mila helped us out by photographing our event free of charge. I also tutor in English at my mentor Valentin’s private language center, and she’s a great student! Thank you Mila!

I was so proud of 10A for pulling this performance together, and so pleased to see the school and community come out to support us en mass! This was one of the most memorable nights of my life, and I can’t watch these videos without breaking into a huge smile. The youth of Bulgaria have so much potential, and these kids are living proof of that obvious fact.