A Penny For Your Thoughts: Brittanae Veal Is Funding Her Italian Education One Cent At A Time

February 22, 2014  |  

The saying is “Find a penny, pick it up. All day long, you’ll have good luck.” The luck comes from passing the penny to a friend.

If the cliche is true, then Brittanae “Ana” Veal has made quite a few people lucky.

In a unique take on college fundraising, Veal has received 250,000 pennies sent from all over the world. The copper coin donations have allowed Veal to put down a $4,000 deposit to attend Domus Academy in Milan, Italy and have also inspired her blog, Pennies For School. It’s a concept that Veal also hopes to turn into an organization that will help further education for kids throughout the United States.

While Veal still needs three million pennies to reach her goal, she said she’s cruising on “a hope and a dream,” and she’s confident the penny flow will take her right where she “needs to be.”

MN: Where did this idea come from?

Veal: A few months ago I found out I was accepted into my first-choice school, Domus Academy in Milan, Italy. The school is not on the U.S. List of International Affiliates which means I can’t qualify for federal student loans. I’ve been working and saving my money, but I don’t have nearly enough to attend the business design graduate program. So I began researching fundraising ideas. That’s when I read the story of Mike Hayes. He was a college student in Illinois in 1987. He wrote to Bob Greene, who at the time, was a nationally-syndicated newspaper columnist. Mike asked readers through Bob’s column to mail one penny to him. In the first month, Mike received 2.8 million pennies, which translates into $28,000. I am replicating Mike’s idea in the hope that I’ll have the same success.

MN: After learning about Mike Hayes, what steps did you take to make your vision known?

Veal: Once I found out that there really was a Mike Hayes and that his penny drive really did happen, I just thought that was so amazing. So I began to utilize social media and created my blog Pennies for School. I also wrote to “PostSecret,” an ongoing community mail art project, created by Frank Warren, where people mail their secrets anonymously on a homemade postcard. I wrote in to them and they tweeted about my project and my blog. Overnight I got over 4,000 hits from that one tweet. I began to get pennies from all over the country – and all over the world – from as far away as England. People often send a few pennies, nickels, dimes, or even $20 or $60. But it just all really adds up and I’m so grateful.

MN: What inspired you to really take this project on?

Veal: My goal is to earn my master’s in business design from Domus Academy. It is a unique program and it took me three years to find it. I studied psychology and graduated from Xavier University in Louisiana in 2011 and have since been looking for the right graduate program… It costs 20,000 euros to attend Domus – which is $30,000. Initially, I felt like it wasn’t going to work out for me. But then I began this project and its taking me places I never thought I could go.

MN: What other strategies have you been using to get the word out there?

Veal:  I started a church tour. I have a lot of pastors in my family and they have been really supportive. So, I’ve spoken at churches all over New Orleans and I am organizing other speaking engagements. I also made a video for a high school in New Orleans and another teacher from the area saw that video and showed it to her class. So word of mouth is really working and I’m just hoping people will keep talking about it.

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