It’s great to see high school students involved in microfinance, and in turn learning lessons in finance, leadership and social entrepreneurship. Could this be used on a wider scale to help teach financial literacy to youth?
Reveca, a mother of four, struggles to support her family by selling flowers on the streets of her village in Peru. But thanks to a $325 loan from high school students in the United States, she recently expanded her small retail operation.
That’s right, high school students.
The budding bankers are trying their hand at microlending, a practice pioneered by Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus to help the world’s poor. Microloans allow entrepreneurs who lack the collateral needed for traditional financing to borrow small amounts — typically a few hundred dollars — to expand their enterprise.
American teens are beginning to see microlending as an opportunity to make a big difference through small loans. Justin Blau, a senior at Las Vegas’s private Meadows School, founded the Meadows School MicroBank, one of the first microlending initiatives based at a high school.
Under his leadership, students have raised $27,000 to invest in businesses in the developing world. Blau learned of microlending two years ago while doing research for a debate competition. “I realized that $50-$100 can transform a family’s life,” he says.
Around the same time, a program got under way at a public school in the Seattle area. Bellevue High School’s Microfinance Club has now made more than 1,100 loans in the Caribbean region. Its assets exceed $125,000, says founder Scott Bennett, a senior.
The schools’ microlending programs differ somewhat, but they share a purpose: to support developing economies while giving students a powerful experience with philanthropy. “It’s real money and real people we’re lending to,” says Blau. “That’s why we’re so motivated.”
-From Pocket Entrepreneurs Benefit from Teenage Philanthropists
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