Educate!'s Founding Story

Educate! started in 2002 when our first founder, Eric Glustrom, an American high school student, visited a refugee camp in the poorest corner of western Uganda. He made a range of contributions at this time – from distributing anti-malarial medicine to filming a documentary – but the act that felt most important and lasting to him was giving a young refugee named Benson a scholarship to go to school. Benson believed with a formal education he could change his life and solve the problems in his community.

Eric came back to the U.S. energized by the opportunity to make a difference in young people’s lives in Uganda, sharing Benson’s story and inspiring others to help more youth like him. In Eric’s efforts to grow his impact, he recruited our second founder, Boris Bulayev, during their junior year at Amherst College. Boris was a refugee himself who believed in giving other young people access to the opportunities he had found when he came to the U.S. Together, Eric and Boris traveled to Uganda to visit Benson at school. They were shocked to meet student after student struggling to stay in school because they couldn’t pay their school fees, fending off deadly diseases, growing their own food, and surviving in some of the worst conditions imaginable. Boris and Eric saw the huge opportunity to transform classrooms into training grounds for students to learn to help themselves. By teaching students leadership skills and techniques to start small businesses, students could not only pay their own school fees, but would also have the skills and opportunities necessary to succeed after graduation. 

Eric and Boris hired our third founder Angelica Towne to craft this solution. Angie knew firsthand what it meant to be literally saved by youth organizations, growing up in inner city New York. She had graduated from Middlebury College after writing her senior thesis on leadership programs she implemented in Jamaica and the U.S. Angie moved to Uganda, launching the first Educate! Experience model in March of 2009.