Jim Ziolkowski

TAGS: CEO, Entrepreneur, Inspiration, Innovation, Leadership

Jim Ziolkowski

Jim Ziolkowski is the Founder, President and CEO of buildOn, a non-profit organization that builds schools in developing countries while also running community-service programs for high school students in America. At home or abroad, Jim’s goal is to break the cycle of poverty, illiteracy and low expectations through service and education. Inspired by his own travels to some of the most impoverished cities in the world, Jim derailed his promising career in corporate finance to dedicate his life to an unabashedly idealistic mission.

Since it was founded in 1992, buildOn students have contributed more than 1,000,000 hours of service. Many of these students have also been involved in building over 500 schools in Haiti, Nicaragua, Mali, Malawi, Senegal and Nepal. More than 72,000 children, parents, and grandparents attend these schools every day.

More than two decades later, Jim is still the guiding force of buildOn. Deeply influenced by his own religious faith, shaped by his personal meetings with Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama, and hailed by President Barack Obama, Jim likes to say, “We’re not a charity – we’re a movement.” He graduated cum laude from Michigan State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Finance, and he has been featured on many news outlets, including NBC’s TODAY Show, CNN, CBS Evening News, and the Big Ten Sports Network.



Ignition: How to Create the Spark

In 1991, Jim Ziolkowski left a fast-track job in corporate finance with General Electric to become the Founder, President and CEO of buildOn, a non-profit organization breaking the cycle of poverty, illiteracy and low expectations through service and education. Over the last 21 years Jim has mobilized the inner-city high school students and rural villagers in developing countries to rise above their circumstances and create change not only for themselves, but for their communities. Through innovative business lessons and personal reflections, he tells a unique story of motivation and determination, rich with parallels to all types of industry and enterprise. Jim explains how creating the spark within can lead to much bigger results.

To watch the full keynote click here.

Walk in Their Shoes: Can One Person Change the World?

Walk in Their Shoes is the powerful, personal story of Jim Ziolkowski, the man behind the buildOn movement — which builds schools in developing countries and empowers inner-city youth through community-service programs in the U.S. — and his inspiring mission to change the world one community at a time. Blessed with relentless optimism and capable of overcoming staggering adversity, Jim shows us that when we give, we also help — and heal — ourselves. Walk in Their Shoes is the story of buildOn’s inspirational work with at-risk teens, its indelible influence on communities around the world, and of the man whose vision, faith, and conviction made it all possible... MORE →


  • Book site: Walk in Their Shoes
  • buildOn.org
  • Video: Return to Misomali, Malawi
  • Jim on the The Today Show
  • buildOn Overview Video
  • buildOn CBS Profile
  • @jimzbuildon: Follow Jim on Twitter