Local fifth grade students collect pennies for peace

MINERVA - Following in the footsteps of Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin and their number one New York Times Bestseller Three Cups of Tea, Minerva Central School (MCS) students are seeking to make a difference in an international community.

Fifth grade students at MCS, under the guidance of their teacher Candice Gereau, are collecting spare change to send to remote ares of Pakistan and Afghanistan. They have joined tens of thousands of other students around the world in an effort to improve the educational health of these foreign places.

After Dru Piper, the grandmother of one of Gereau's students, suggested the book, she donated a copy for each student to read. Gereau saw an instant interest from her students toward Three Cups of Tea.

All elementary students in Minerva must complete service projects and this will serve as that project.

"This is something that they care about and will be a project that means a lot to them," said Gereau. "They have been on the edge of their seats while reading the book. They saw the poverty and the lack of education and wanted to do something that may seem little, but will make a big difference."

Three Cups of Tea follows Mortenson in a failed attempt to climb Pakistan's K2 in 1993. Despite his failure, he successfully established schools and educational systems. He replaced violence with education in an effort to bring both peace and prosperity to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In an early effort to raise money, Mortenson wrote letters to 580 celebrities, businessmen, and other prominent Americans. His only reply was a $100 check from NBC's Tom Brokaw. Mortenson sold everything he owned and still only raised $2,400.

When a group of elementary school children in River Falls, Wisconsin, donated $623.40 in pennies, Mortenson changed his approach. He founded Pennies for Peace as part of the Central Asia Institute (CAI) to promote and provide community-based education and literacy programs, especially for girls, who are severely discriminated against. Founded in 1996, CAI has built, to date, nearly 100 schools, serving more than 28,000 students, 14,000 of whom are girls.

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