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Change Brings Change

There’s an old African proverb that best-selling author Greg Mortenson, NC State’s 2009 convocation speaker, often quotes as the driving force behind his humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan: If you educate a boy, you educate an individual – if you educate a girl, you educate a community.

It’s a mindset shared by a group of NC State students who have implemented Mortenson’s Pennies for Peace program on our campus in hopes of helping bring a shared philosophy of equality in education to children halfway around the world.

“As a former high school teacher, I truly believe education can give a child hope, and if that child has hope, he or she can do anything,” said Sarah Starkey, a master’s degree candidate in higher education administration at NC State.

After reading Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea and learning about the Pennies for Peace program, Starkey proposed that a penny drive be held at convocation, in conjunction with Mortenson’s appearance on campus. Each penny collected could be used to purchase a pencil for a needy student, while just $20 could pay for a one student’s annual school-supply needs.

“Although a penny is virtually worthless in our eyes, it can mean everything in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” she said. “And although we are currently in an economy where people tend to cut back on contributions and donations, the reality is anyone and everyone can donate a penny.”

A team of eight student volunteers – four from the Women’s Center, where Starkey is a graduate intern, and four resident advisors from Alexander Global Village and Turlington Arts Village – raised more than $3,000 that evening – enough to fund five teachers’ salaries for an entire year, according to the Pennies for Peace Web site.

“I really appreciate programs like Pennies for Peace that can be implemented at the collegiate level because of the power it has on influencing students to become global citizens,” Starkey said. “It truly promotes local, national, and global citizenship as students learn the effects of geography on lifestyle and economy, and definitely broadens their understanding of the world and the roles they play in it.”

Of course, convocation visitors chipped in more than pennies – larger denominations of coins filled the donation buckets along with their increasingly valuable paper counterparts.  Knowing NC State students’ history of philanthropic and public service efforts, the amount of money her team raised wasn’t surprising, Starkey said.

“We’ve all heard the terms ‘globalization’ and ‘global citizenship’ – I think they are buzzwords on every college campus right now,” she said. “But it’s interesting to see how many higher education institutions truly practice what they preach in creating students who are truly global citizens.

“NC State does a great job in creating opportunities where students can really develop an increased awareness of the political, economic, social, and cultural issues that transcend across the world.”

Editor’s Note: Pennies for Peace collection buckets will be available through the end of August at the Women’s Center and Student Organization Resource Center inside Talley Student Center.