‘Penny War’ commences

Marquette Alternative High School raises money for micro-loans

Brian Prill, right, social studies, Spanish and career/college readiness liaison at Marquette Alternative High School, and senior River Mota display pennies that have been raised during this year’s Penny War. Money raised in the effort, which runs through April 14, will be lent to impoverished people in the developing world. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

MARQUETTE — A “war” is going on at Marquette Alternative High School at Vandenboom, but it’s for a good cause.

Students and staff are raising funds while hoarding pennies and “bombing” others with “silver” coins like quarters or nickels during the Penny War, which began in late March and runs through April 14.

The effort will raise money for Kiva, which specializes in micro-loans for people in developing countries.

Although the ultimate goal is charity, a little competition is in order.

“Students bring in pennies for their advisory class, and leave them in their class, and then if you want to reduce the points one class makes, you put silver into theirs,” said Brian Prill, social studies, Spanish and career/college readiness liaison. “You bomb their penny jar, and that reduces their money. It’s just kind of a fun way to have competition among our advisories.”

Advisories, he explained, basically are homerooms. In the Penny War, the winning advisory will be treated to an ice cream social.

Kiva helps fund people in the developing world who want to start a business, he said.

“They might buy a goat or they might buy chickens, or a new motor for their fishing boat,” Prill said, “It’s just one of the partial solutions to ending global extreme poverty.”

According to kiva.org, a borrower applies for a loan, which goes through an underwriting and approval process. Then the loan is posted to Kiva for lenders to crowdfund in increments of $25 or more. After fundraising is complete, the borrower repays the loan. Lenders use those repayments to fund new loans, donate or withdraw the money.

At least one student supports the Penny War.

“This doesn’t really necessarily deal with the community, but we’re about helping others out and teaching others to be kind and giving to others, and I think this is a good way to get that point across, that a little bit can help someone else,” MAHS senior River Mota said.

The idea for the event began in Prill’s Spanish class.

“We’re looking at global poverty, and the statistic out there is that one in seven people live in extreme poverty, which is living on less than $1 a day,” Prill said. “Looking at the conditions of what it’s like to live in extreme poverty, there’s a lot of things that we take for granted that they don’t have access to.”

A cycle ensues in which children can’t attend school because they have to stay home and work for the family, he said.

“One of the ways of breaking that is to help them either buy the heifer or the goat or something to just kind of bring an income where they can keep the kids in school or pursue a degree themselves,” Prill said.

The MAHS goal is to raise $100, with letters put out to the community to match funds, he said. School representatives then decide the five Kiva borrowers they want to fund. By next year, after the loans are paid, MAHS will hold another Penny War to raise more money.

“It kind of has this multiplying effect where every year we recycle the funds back into the loan site,” Prill said.

All donors and the total amount raised will be displayed and announced at the annual Empty Bowls celebration at MAHS on April 21.

To help with the Penny War or match the money raised, email bprill@mapsnet.org or call the school at 906-225-4321.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.