JLN Partner Agency Spotlight: Angie Adams, President & CEO of PENCIL

An interview by JLN Vice President of Community Kara Apel
September 2021


As we celebrate 100 years of the Junior League of Nashville’s legacy, we also believe it’s important to highlight the local leaders who are making significant impacts in our focus areas of literacy and human trafficking.

This year, as part of our Centennial celebration, we will be featuring the leaders of many of the agencies we’ve partnered with over the decades on our JLN blog.


In honor of National Literacy Month, we did a Q&A with PENCIL President and CEO Angie Adams.

PENCIL (Public Education Needs Community Involvement and Leadership) works to build strategic partnerships between different community groups to meet the biggest needs for Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS). During 2019-2020, the organization was able to distribute over $1.8 million worth of supplies to students and teachers. JLN provides both volunteer and funding support to PENCIL. And don’t forget this fun fact: PENCIL was founded by former JLN President Sue Spickard in 1982!

What motivated you to get involved in the literacy space?

I sincerely believe that the skill of literacy is absolutely critical for a successful and happy life. So, it’s been incredibly rewarding to support the work that PENCIL has done for decades — connecting volunteers with elementary school students to tutor and mentor them to increase their literacy skills. I’ve personally been a literacy tutor for the past five years because I believe increasing a student’s literacy skills and instilling a love of reading is the most important work adults can do.

How can access to literacy resources change the life of a child?

To see the pride and joy a young child exhibits when they have a book of their very own is so powerful. And how can you really expect a child to embrace the idea of literacy being both critical and enjoyable if they don’t have easy access to literature and books to call their own? Assuring that children really do have books of their own that they can return to over and over again — like an old friend — is key to instilling in them an appreciation for the way reading can keep opening up their lives.

How has the Junior League of Nashville benefitted your organization and the students and teachers you serve?

JLN’s support of PENCIL’s literacy work with MNPS students has allowed us to provide much deeper support and resources to many MNPS students and families. I’m particularly excited about our deeper impact with non-native English-speaking families at Tusculum Elementary. PENCIL has been able to provide students with books of their very own that they can read at home with their families. We’ve also provided literacy guidance to the families to help them gain excitement for supporting their student’s English literacy growth — often while building the parents’ English literacy skills as well!

(Pictured left to right: Margaret Smith, JLN PENCIL Committee Chair; Sandra Harris, Senior PENCIL Partnership Manager; and Sarah Timaeus, JLN PENCIL Committee Member.)

In honor of National Literacy Month, what’s your favorite book?

It feels impossible to pick just one! I’ll say that I keep going back to The Mists of Avalon, which tells the Arthurian legends from the perspective of the women involved. It’s pure escapism to a completely different period of time and delves into the roles of women in a very different culture. A recent find was The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant, who wrote The Red Tent. Clearly, I favor novels with strong female characters!

What is a book on leadership that you recommend?

Since I’m a huge fan of Southwest Airlines, I have to say that Lead with LUV is high on my list of leadership books. Life and leadership are all about human connections, and this book is a great reminder of the importance of putting people first.


Learn more about PENCIL at https://pencilforschools.org/