Marlborough – Michael Tirpak, a 2012 Marlborough High School alum, is now a junior studying business administration at Daytona State College (DSC). He’s also learning valuable lessons in philanthropy.
Tirpak has spearheaded a fundraising campaign with a goal of $13,000 to build a two-bedroom school in Guatemala with Hug It Forward. Joining him in the fundraising effort are members of the college’s Rotaract Club, Student Government Association and Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.
“These clubs at DSC are working together to make a change in the world,” he said.
Hug It Forward is a grassroots organization that facilitates communities in Latin America to build “bottle schools.” Volunteers and Guatemalan students create “eco-bricks” by stuffing plastic bottles with inorganic trash.
According to the Hug It Forward website, “Because bottle schools are built using upcycled trash and volunteer labor, they are much cheaper than traditional cinder-block schools, costing an average of $6,500 per classroom.” So far, 50 schools have been built within 62 months.
Tirpak learned of Hug It Forward last spring while attending a corporate event where a promotional video was screened.
“Seeing this video gave me a sense of purpose,” he explained. “I got really emotional and attached to this idea of going to Guatemala to help build a school. I have strong ties within my community at home in Marlborough, where a lot of my best friends are Latin American. I grew up around their culture. I wanted to expand my perspective of the world.”
In addition to charitable events, an online fundraising page collected donations ranging from $5 to $500. After raising $4,000, Tirpak traveled to Guatemala last July and helped construct a school.
“The Marlborough community was very supportive,” he said of his hometown donors. “A substantial number of people helped to make that dream a reality.”
The experience in Guatemala gave him a new perspective, he noted.
“These kids have smiles on their faces because they’re so excited to help build the school,” he said. “I saw the way they live and how happy they are with what they have.”
He shared a particularly memorable moment with an 8-year-old girl named Matilde.
“The last day that we were there, she took the necklace she was wearing and put it around my neck,” he relayed. “And then I gave her my ring. That’s probably one of the best memories of my life.”
Soon afterward, Tirpak took the first step toward creating a nonprofit organization called For the Kids. He plans to tap his business background to further develop it within the next few years.
“For the rest of my life, I want to have this organization to help children around the world,” he said. “I want to help empower these communities so they have a sustainable future.”
Throughout the fall, For the Kids was integrated into the current fundraising campaign at DSC. For the Kids bracelets were distributed on campus and collected about $400. To raise awareness, Guatemala was the theme of a Cultural Festival held Nov. 5. Businesses sponsored students who participated in “No Shave November,” which raised $1,000.
“We’re focusing on word-of-mouth advertising and the power of social media,” Tirpak noted.
On Jan.19, the fundraising campaign was launched online. Donations can be made at impact.wvfoundation.org/ForTheKidsDSC.
Tirpak is looking forward to his next visit to Guatemala.
“I’m thinking about going to Guatemala for a month this summer with Hug It Forward,” he said. “This time I really want to find out more about their culture. I was the happiest I’ve ever been when I was in Guatemala.”
Follow For the Kids on Facebook at