‘Three Cups of Tea’ author to visit campus

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Three cups of tea

Courtesy Photo / wordpress.com Three cups of tea

Josh Brunsting

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After garnering a nomination from students in the Honors College, “Three Cups of Tea” will be featured in the latest event of the Grand Valley State University Community Reading Project.

“Three Cups of Tea” follows author Greg Mortenson and journalist David Relin as they recount their journey from a failed 1993 climb attempt to reach Pakistan’s K2, the world’s second highest peak, to ultimately set up schools in that very area.

In 1993, Mortenson was descending from his failed attempt to reach K2 when he wandered from his group to some of the more desolate reaches of Pakistan. He then stopped in an impoverished Pakistani village and recovered. While he was recovering, he discovered the people of the village were so poor they could not afford the $1-a-day salary needed to hire a teacher. Mortenson vowed to change that and documented it in “Three Cups of Tea.”

In an effort to raise money, Mortenson penned more than 580 letters, with only one response in the form of a $100 check from Tom Brokaw. So, after deciding to sell everything he owned, Mortenson organized a group of elementary students in River Falls, Wisc., to help inspire other groups to donate money, which culminated in the building of the Braldu Bridge and has spurred Mortenson to start a total of 78 new schools.

Mortenson will be on hand for the reading and will sign copies of The New York Times Bestseller afterward.

“The book was originally nominated for the reading by students in the Honors College and has since been selected … based on its truly and deeply inspiring story,” said Susan Mendoza, director of Integrative Learning at GVSU. “It shows how one person can have an impact and overcome failure. The book is also in three editions, which has allowed the program to collaborate with local community groups and schools to further expand.”

The reading is the newest installment of the long-running Community Reading Project. The event is a collaboration among the College of Interdisciplinary Studies, the library and the University Bookstore.

CRP distributes over 100 copies of the selected text each year to the GVSU community,” said Bob Kozminski, member of Zumberge Library Services. “The distribution is meant to encourage community members to read and discuss the book. It provides venues for discussions, among other activities.”

Through the year, the project sponsors discussion groups, speakers, films, panel discussions and various other events that focus on the themes of the community read.

“Providing the community with an opportunity to connect with an author is an important part of the program,” said Mendoza. “Oftentimes when we read books, we don’t always think about engaging in dialogue with the book and looking at it through a critical lens. In past years, an author visit allows students and community members to ask the questions that lingered after finishing the book.”

This year, however, will be a bit different, as it has now expanded to younger students as well.

“This year, elementary students and high school students will have the chance to sit down and talk to artists as well,” said Shelley Sickrey, office coordinator of Integrative Learning.

In a February story time, many of the students expressed the same question for Mortenson: How did he build the bridge?

“To have a parent answer the question is one thing, to have Dr. Greg answer will create inspiration and wonder,” Sickrey said.

“Conversation with Greg Mortenson” will be held on Tuesday, with doors opening at 6 p.m. Mortenson will speak from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. and then sign books. The event is free and open to the public and will be held in the Fieldhouse Arena on GVSU’s Allendale Campus.

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