In anticipation of David Oliver Relin’s President’s Forum appearance, Hobart and William Smith Colleges have launched a Community Read of “Three Cups of Tea,” co-written by Relin and Greg Mortenson. Through a partnership with Geneva City School District, The Finger Lakes Times and the Geneva Public Library, much of the greater Geneva community has been participating in the reading.
Geneva Middle School students have not only been reading the book but interacting with the ideas in the text in a very concrete way.
The title of “Three Cups of Tea” is taken from the custom of sharing three cups of tea to become acquainted with someone: the first cup is shared between strangers, the second between friends, the third between family.
Middle school students had their first cup of tea in the Geneva High School auditorium. Geneva Mayor Stu Einstein spent the afternoon talking with students, discussing his experiences in the Vietnam War and listening to the students’ reactions to “Three Cups of Tea.”
On Thursday, Jan. 14, the students came to Albright Auditorium, where they discussed with Geneva City School Superintendant Dr. Robert Young, William Smith Dean Lisa Kaenzig and Katie Flowers, associate director of the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning the ways “Three Cups of Tea” has affected them.
From being “inspired to look beyond the walls of my home,” to slowing down to “make building relationships as important as building projects,” the student reactions were broad and insightful as they learned about the humanitarian efforts of people like Mortenson and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“Doing something for others-that’s the simple version of what it means to be a humanitarian,” said Kaenzig, who spoke about King in anticipation of this week’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemorative events.
“Dr. King, though he was only one person, made a huge difference,” Kaenzig said. “He got people to join him, to listen to him, one day and one person at a time. He said that even if the world ends tomorrow, I’m going to plant my seed today.”
Watching an online Q-&-A session with Mortenson, students were able to hear about the big differences listen to questions other readers had about the book and to Mortenson’s thoughts about the title, about failing to summit K2, the reactions of military personnel to the book and his new project, Pennies for Peace.
Pennies for Peace, a program of the 501(c)3 non-profit organization, Central Asia Institute, was founded by Mortenson in 1994 at Westside Elementary School in River Fall, Wisc., when students, through their own initiative, raised 62,340 pennies to help Mortenson build his first school in Pakistan.
The Geneva Middle School students are now participating in Pennies for Peace, which, along with reading “Three Cups of Tea” and engaging with HWS and Geneva community members, is “giving them a deeper appreciation for their education,” says Mary Hurley ’75, a William Smith grad and Geneva Middle School teacher.