Students discover penny’s power


Greg Mortenson, author of “Three Cups of Tea,” the book selected for the 2008 One Book, One San Diego program, visited students and guests at La Jolla Country Day on Feb. 20 to discuss his mission of promoting peace … one school at a time.

“Three Cups of Tea” is Mortenson’s story about how failure in life can sometimes show people where they really need to be. The title is based on the Pakistani belief that with the first cup of tea you are a stranger, by the second cup of tea you are a friend and the third cup of tea makes you family.

In 1993, a failed attempt at climbing K2, the second highest mountain on earth, led Mortenson to become friends with impoverished Pakistani villagers as he made his way back to civilization.

While there, he discovered the children did not attend school because there simply was no school. He promised the kids he would change that.

“Little did I know it would change my life forever,” Mortenson said.

Back in the U.S., Mortenson sold all of his belongings and sought donations from businesses and corporations. Discouraged by the lack of support he received in his mission, he shared his tale with students at a local elementary school.

Eager to help, the children took up a collection of pennies and donated all 62,340 to Mortenson.

Since then, his organization Central Asia Institute and the Pennies for Peace campaign have established over 60 schools in rural, politically-volatile regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan, educating more than 25,000, including 14,000 girls.

“If the girls are not educated, nothing will change,” Mortenson said, sharing a quote that reads, “If you educate a boy, you educate an individual; if you educate a girl, you educate a community.”

Following Mortenson’s presentation, La Jolla Country Day juniors Hallie Stevens and Amanda Mulligan, both members of the community service board, announced that the school would collect donations for Pennies for Peace through March 7.

“I personally think people are surprised that they can help with so little,” Stevens said.

In accordance with the Pennies for Peace program, La Jolla Country Day students will be able to choose the region where their funds will be used to provide educational opportunities for underprivileged children.

For more information about Mortenson, “Three Cups of Tea” and Pennies for Peace, visit