Students raise money for the Central Asia Institute

Posted: Monday, April 12, 2010

How long would it take to collect 1.2 million pennies? How heavy would they be?

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Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

Just what could they build?

Students in Shanna Galluzo's Advanced American History class at Juneau-Douglas High School are finding out as they raise money for the Central Asia Institute, which builds schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan for about $12,000, or 1.2 million pennies.

The institute is run by Montana native Greg Mortenson, co-author of the bestselling book "Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time."

Galluzo and fellow teacher Sara Hannan went to a national social studies convention and saw Mortenson speak; they then decided to incorporate the project into their JDHS classrooms.

The project has since expanded into more classrooms than their own, as Mortenson also donated 300 copies of his new book, "Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan." Galluzo, who shared them with Thunder Mountain High School, said some English classes are reading them.

Special education students are counting the pennies, Galluzo said, and Wells Fargo has agreed to help out, too.

Students Kaci Hansen and Amanda Roemeling said the class has raised a little over $700 so far, with jars in all the elementary schools and in numerous businesses around town.

"It's a cool idea," said JDHS junior Nathan Fosket. "Pennies are normally a worthless thing. We're using a normally worthless thing for a good cause."

"We're trying to do one big push to see how many pennies we can get before the end of April," Galluzo said. "That's the goal we're working on right now."

If they don't raise enough for a school before the end of April, she said they'll likely continue the push next school year, when she'd also like to expand the idea to more schools.

• Contact reporter Mary Catharine Martin at 523-2276 or

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