Students Empty Pockets on a Dare
Dozens of Michigan Tech students opened their hearts this summer to build schools for the poorest of the poor.
About 75 orientation leaders were preparing to mentor 1,400 incoming students when leadership trainer Paul Wesselmann issued a dare based on the Summer Reading selection, Greg Mortenson’s best seller, Three Cups of Tea. The book recounts Mortenson’s struggle to educate the poor, especially girls, in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“Mortenson’s book addressed the difficulties of raising money, and I said, ‘It would be so cool if you guys had a basket of money to hand him when he visits,’ ” says Wesselmann. He also promised the students that, if they raised $1,000 by 3:00 pm, he would match it.
It was noon.
“He got us all fired up and pulled this challenge,” says senior Nick Puroll. “It was intense.”
“We had people run over to the Wads dining hall with a bowl,” says senior David Walters. One student after another pulled out ten- and twenty-dollar bills. “They said, ‘I don’t need this,’ ” Walters said. “One wrote a check for three-hundred dollars.”
When the dust cleared, they had raised $2,915.62.
“I heard so many times that these students are amazing,” Wesselmann said later. “What they did was remarkable.”
Blown away by their effort, he upped his original $1,000 pledge and matched the students’ total dollar for dollar, raising the donation to nearly $6,000.
“The Tech students have basically funded half a school in just a few hours,” Wesselmann said. “That says something to me about their determination. In their minds, there was never a question that they would do it. And even after we announced that we’d made the goal, students were still giving money.”
Former Michigan Tech Board member Dave Brule upped the ante with an additional gift of $21,000, from his company, Northern Star.
“After reading Three Cups of Tea, I can see one person can make a huge difference,” sophomore Haki Kiema said. “Some girl from Pakistan will be educated, will make a difference in her community, because we helped her out.
“It’s a really good feeling.”