CEO Parents

Denise Sutherland

As students in the Pencils for Africa program, thanks to the support of Chyah Weitzman and Karim Ajania, and the many board members and consultants for Pencils for Africa, our middle school age students have started learning not only about Africa, but also about the complexities of education and its ability to improve the lives of individuals, families and entire communities.

Education is not a right, a requirement, or even a possibility in most African countries.

Ours kids are learning and understanding that it is often only those that boldly challenge social norms, sacrifice their safety and diligently pursue their education, despite poverty, that have the opportunity to go to school.

As CEO parents, we feel blessed that our kids are proactively using the knowledge they have gained to creatively engage in the global community and share what they have learned in the Pencils for Africa program. The CEO’s have all identified challenges facing access to education.

Through their respective Pencils for Africa entities, they are educating others about Africa and the educational hurdles of millions of kids around the world, developing intelligent ways to help facilitate more opportunities for kids to go to school and reaching out to corporations and NGO’s to encourage their support for education for less privileged people worldwide.

Although the mostly high school aged CEOs are full-time students, have several hours of homework each night, are engaged in sports/music/theater/language studies and volunteer locally to support their communities, they enthusiastically and unselfishly pursue their roles as CEO’s to provide educational opportunities for others. They may or may not be able to appreciate that their efforts will make a positive impact on others lives, perhaps for generations to come.

As parents, we are proud.


Denise Sutherland

Joyce Meringolo

PFA students in Tiburon, California

Education and gender equality are universal themes.

What we have in common far exceeds our differences. 

We’ll be discussing this at our kitchen table over dinner!

 — Joyce Meringolo, CEO Parent


Akili Dada students in Nairobi, Kenya

Peter Meringolo

Empathy is a lifelong journey. We often take shortcuts. Sometimes, we do not even feel like getting on the path. Some people, perhaps even some people here in Marin County, do not even know that there is a path or where it starts. This is precisely the gift that PFA gives to our children.

PFA teaches our children empathy. PFA exposes our children, at a deep level, to the culture, environment, and other relevant issues of our neighbors in Africa. PFA teaches our children the process of discerning our neighbors, in this era of globalization. Our children will be able to take the skills, the tools, and the experiences of PFA and apply them to all neighbors.

— Peter Meringolo, Chairman, PFA Executive Board


Peter Meringolo

Leslie Kennedy

I still remember the day when I received an email from Karim stating that my then sixth grade daughter and eighth grade son were about to become CEO’s of two PFA organizations.

“How can two middle school students, especially my middle school students, take on this type of leadership role?” I thought. As we talked at home about the qualities of an effective leader, we immediately realized that we were describing Karim. He embodies all of the key characteristics of a strong leader and more importantly, leads by example every day.

As parents of the next generation of leaders, we are so fortunate that our children have been given such a rare opportunity to spread their wings in a supported environment. The lessons they will learn about continued confidence and commitment, even when faced with the inevitable setbacks, will be invaluable to all of them as they move into adulthood.

Thank you Karim for this precious gift.

— Leslie Kennedy, PFA Executive Board Member


Leslie visiting an art project at an orphanage she supports in Cambodia