Vergie DeNucci, a school liaison and owner of Off the Beaten Path Bookstore, talks with a group of eighth-graders Thursday about the book "Three Cups of Tea," which is the inspiration behind the Pennies for Peace community service project the students will take part in during the next few months.

Photo by John F. Russell

Vergie DeNucci, a school liaison and owner of Off the Beaten Path Bookstore, talks with a group of eighth-graders Thursday about the book "Three Cups of Tea," which is the inspiration behind the Pennies for Peace community service project the students will take part in during the next few months.

Teachers hope book will inspire students to donate to foreign schools

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— Three cups of tea may be the remedy for the standard school fundraiser malaise.

More precisely, teachers at Steamboat Springs Middle School are hoping the book "Three Cups of Tea" and its goal of building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan will inspire students in the National Junior Honor Society to put their hearts into a penny drive.

About 70 seventh- and eighth-grade students, including many in the honor society, made a trip to Off the Beaten Path bookstore Thursday to listen to bookseller Virgie DeNucci introduce the book by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver.

The story, first published in 2006, with a young-adult version released Thursday, chronicles Mortenson's travel through Afghanistan and Pakistan. In his journey, he failed to climb Pakistan's K2 mountain and was taken in by villagers.

"His story is amazing; it's going to set you on fire. It's going to give you goose bumps," DeNucci said to the students. "You're going to be positive this project is worthy."

By having students read and discuss the book, reading specialist and honor society co-sponsor Kerry Kerrigan said she hopes the project becomes more important to the students.

"I think there will be a higher accountability and more of a buy-in," she said.

All money collected by the students in a series of penny drives will be donated to the schools Mortenson has built and continues to build in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"The passion is going to come from knowing the story, and it will make the story more meaningful for them," DeNucci said.

Reading the book and participating in the study and fundraiser, scheduled for Feb. 22 to April 15, also will help students earn service hours in the school. Each eighth-grader is required to log eight hours of service before graduation, and honor society students are expected to gain additional hours to remain in the program.

Eighth-grader and honor society member Lucy Newman said she thinks the combination of story and project will help the program become more successful than previous fundraisers.

"Usually, when things come up like this, we're not the best, but I hope people will read this book and it will be important to them," she said.

Parent Brooke Graham approached teachers at the middle school after she found the book inspiring last year.

"It's inspirational, and it makes you want to do something," she said. Her reaction was to encourage the students.

The school purchased 50 copies of the book to sell to the students. The school also has set up a blog for student discussions and will host weekly book study sessions at the bookstore if the students show an interest.

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