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Century students study, contribute to global peace

Diplomats in training, from left, Zach Hocking, Landen Burlingame, Olivia McDonald and Haley Alden agreed Pennies for Peace has been a learning experience for the fourth graders.

Century School students have become members of a global family dedicated to peace.

And they are collecting pennies to fund the mission.

The Century students are joining tens of thousands of school children around the world who hope to "empower communities" in remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan through Pennies for Peace.

The initiative is not only a gesture of philanthropy, but also offers students a glimpse into a culture far removed from what they experience, first grade teacher Beth Baker-Knuttila explained.

The children are watching videos and reading the children's version of Greg Mortenson's "Three Cups of Tea," which is "Listen to the Wind."

The books recount the journey that led Mortenson from a failed attempt to climb Pakistan's K2 (the second highest mountain on earth) to establish dozens of schools and promote girls' education in rural Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"It takes kids two hours to get to school," first grader Brody Hagen reported. "Walking."

The sparse trees and imposing mountains in the country impressed the first graders, as did the fact the students themselves helped build the school.

Prior to Mortenson founding the Central Asia Institute, the students wrote with sticks, on the ground. Teachers worked just half days, or were nonexistent.

"I felt so bad," fourth grader Olivia McDonald said of the revelation. "And they have to carry wood," she said of children's roles.

"Terrorist" has entered their vocabulary; but it's balanced by the understanding of the power embedded in grassroots efforts. Each project is locally initiated, implemented and managed.

Landen Burlingame said he was unfamiliar with the "dangerous" environment in Afghanistan, until the Pennies for Peace campaign began.

"It's a lifelong dream for kids to come here," Haley Alden said.

"And there are not as many bad people as we thought," the kids agreed.