On March 3rd, Auburn High School will be welcoming Greg Mortenson, New York Times best selling author of Three Cups of Tea, Listen to the Wind, and Stones Into Schools. Each of these books describes Mortenson's efforts to build public schools for children in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
In 1992, Mortensonís sister, Christa died of a massive seizure after struggling with epilepsy her whole life. In memory of her, Mortenson climbed K2, the world's second largest mountain, located in Pakistan.
On his way down, Greg Mortenson recovered in Korphe, a small village located on the base of the Karakoram mountain range. Mortenson noticed that the village was lacking a school, and that the children were writing in the sand and dirt using sticks. It was then that he promised to help the village to build a public school for boys and girls.
constructing a school in Korphe, Mortenson didn't stop. He continued to build schools throughout Afghanistan, educating over 58,000 children, 44,000 of which are girls. Mortenson especially directs his efforts to the young girls and women of the area, since they have been so deprived of education in the past. He also believes that by educating women, terrorism can be further prevented, as more mothers become positive role models for their sons. He puts emphasis on educating girls, often saying, "You can drop bombs, hand out condoms, build roads or put in electricity, but unless the girls are educated, a society won't change."
Not only has he built over 60 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Greg Mortenson has been a part of the creation of the organization, Pennies for Peace. The organization
was thought of by children and teachers that realized that pennies are usually discarded and easy for even very young children to get, so why not donate them to schools that can buy pencils, paper, and other things they need to teach children?
Mortenson has become a hero in both the Middle East and the United States and an inspiration to many. He travels to numerous countries every year, speaking about his efforts and how lending a hand to these countries affects all of us.
The Auburn Education Foundation requested that Mortenson visit our town to speak about his efforts, and out of numerous requests all over the country, he
chose us as one of his next destinations- this is a great opportunity and honor. Through an essay contest, 300 students will be chosen to attend a dinner at which Mr. Mortenson will speak about his experiences. He will also be giving a seminar about his books and experiences that is now sold out. If you want to meet this spectacular man, enter the contest and have the chance of sitting down and sharing a meal with him.
On February 10th, Auburn High School welcomed four speakers to our library, to present to the students and staff a number of novels, autobiographies, and other works of literature written by African-American men and women. Bill Barry, Quadir Muntaquim, Mettis Jacobs, and Jack
Hardy were the readers that spoke throughout the day.
The idea of this read-in came from the National Council Teachers Organization, which Mrs. Rielly, an English teacher and one of the primary organizers of the event, belongs to. English teachers allowed their students to go to the library throughout the day to listen to the guests, who took turns speaking at different times of the day. As quoted from and article in The Citizen about this special day, Mrs. Rielly said, "The literature is wonderful in the way it encompasses everything. So much of the African-American literature is real. It's what the kids would say is real."
And the works were in fact, very real to us. Most of us found inspiration from the speakers and the books they presented. They each read mixtures of things from pop culture and sports, to more intellectual and inspirational endeavors.
One of the readers, Bill Barry is a contributor to an online journal named the Kweli Journal that publishes African-American writers, and former dean of Cayuga Community College and other SUNY colleges. He read Cuttin Up, by Craig Marberry, Kiss the Sky: A Novel, by Farai Chideya, and Destined to Witness, by Hans J. Massquoi. Destined to Witness, one of the most interesting of the excerpts that were read, was
about a young black man growing up in Nazi Germany. Upon the open of his presentation, Barry asked us to think to ourselves what makes us different, and how that has made us uncomfortable, and our lives difficult.
This day was undoubtedly a day that highlighted African-American achievement, but it also represented a bigger picture. Black History month doesn't only have to be about the great successes and achievements of African-Americans, but a general theme of overcoming adversity in any situation. We can all apply the messages that were sent to us from the speakers and the works they presented, and begin to understand this bigger message of acceptance and perseverance.