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Kids join school mission

The Baltimore Sun

In separate book clubs, Angie Jones and Martha Banghart read the book Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time.

In the book, Greg Mortenson, co-writer with David Oliver Relin, gives a detailed account of his failed attempt to climb to the top of K2, the world's second-highest mountain. But then he succeeds in building schools in some of the most remote regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Jones and Banghart, who serve as choral directors in the county's public school system, were so touched by the book they were inspired to do something to help.

"I cried all the way through the book," said Jones, the North Harford Middle School choral director. "It made me feel like I needed to do something to help."

Jones' chance came when Banghart, the North Harford High School choral director, approached her about collaborating on a benefit concert. Jones was immediately on board.

After months of planning and preparation, the 40 eighth-graders in the middle school choir, 147 high school choir members, and 60 members of the Deer Creek Chorale - an adult choir that Banghart directs - will hold a benefit concert.

Called "Inscription of Hope - Promoting Peace, Education & Dreams," the concert will be held at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at North Harford High School.

Proceeds from the concert will be donated to Central Asia Institute, a nonprofit organization started by Mortenson in 1996 to provide aid to people in the remote mountain regions of Central Asia.

In 2005, the institute began to focus on rural education and literacy, especially for females. The institute has raised money to build about 64 schools that are attended by about 25,000 children (predominantly females). The cost of building each school is $20,000, and the cost of operating each school for one year is about $10,000.

Jones and Banghart have set a goal of raising the $20,000 needed to build a school. By the end of the week, they were about halfway to their $20,000 goal with advance ticket sales, said Banghart.

Shelby Pridgeon was saddened by the predicament of the children of Central Asia, she said.

"Reading Three for Tea made me realize how lucky I am," said Shelby, 13, an eighth-grader from Whiteford. "Even though people here don't love or even like to go to school, I think that it is important for everyone to be able to get an education if they want one."

Sydney Billings, 12, of Whiteford said she thinks that everyone should be allowed to get an education. She was amazed that some children don't get to go to school.

"The kids in the book didn't have schools, and they had to write in the dirt," she said. "I think that would be disgusting. They need a better learning environment than that."

In addition to the concert, the students are collecting money for Pennies for Peace, a second initiative that was started by the institute, Jones said.

To participate, the school registered online to hold a campaign, during which they collect pennies for a predetermined time, she said.

Students at North Harford middle and high schools, and Norrisville, North Harford, North Bend, and Jarrettsville elementary schools participated in the program. They began collecting pennies in mid-September and will complete their efforts Thursday.

"All the kids who are participating are very excited to do it," Jones said. "This project gives the kids a chance to help other kids. A penny is worthless in the United States, but a penny buys a pencil in Afghanistan or Pakistan. And the pencil allows the children there to write."

Although the children warmed to the project immediately, some people were a harder sell, Jones said. Some told Jones they didn't want to support a school for terrorists, she said.

"I was frustrated because they weren't getting it," Jones said. "The Taliban breeds people who don't get a fair and just education. If we help provide them with an education, maybe they won't be brainwashed into being terrorists."

To go: Advance tickets may be purchased for $30 general admission or $60 reserved orchestra, by visiting, or by calling NHHS at 410-638-3650 or NHMS at 410-638-3669.

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