Global Leadership Class at Belmont High School Increases Students' Global Awareness

4 December 2010


Imagine a classroom of twenty-seven high school students discussing how microfinance can improve the lives of people all over the world. Primary Source is helping teachers like Belmont High School's Jeff Shea to design experiences like these for their students.

After attending Primary Source's 2010 Teaching for Global Understanding in the 21st Century summer institute, Mr. Shea was inspired to create a microfinance project for students in his Global Leadership course. Shea's social studies elective, open to 11th and 12th graders at the high school and designed to increase students' awareness of international issues, asks students to examine human rights challenges and consider solutions through the frameworks of finance, leadership and diplomacy. With Primary Source's help, Shea has also introduced a number of new online resources and technological tools, including a class blog, into the course.

On a recent day in the course, students explored Kiva, an international online lending and microfinance platform that allows applicants for loans, via their sponsoring partner organization, to post their projects with expected outcomes. Donors can then choose recipients and aggregate their money with other people interested in a particular project.

Working in small groups, the class identified potential recipients based on a set of criteria they had discussed in a prior class, which included whether the project would offer benefit to an entire community, the ability of the borrower to repay the loan, the perceived need and the relative value of the need based on all of the applicants' proposals. Students engaged in spirited discussions about the merits of various projects and the relative importance of funding projects that meet a greater good versus projects that primarily benefitted the loan recipient. Finally, students made their recommendations for loans through PowerPoint and Prezi presentations to the entire class.

Ultimately, Shea's class chose, through a text message voting system, two Kiva projects to support. Kyoshavire Jovia of Rukungiri, Uganda, will receive funding to expand a dairy farming business she runs. In Monrovia, South Liberia, Gabriel Yance will be able to add more money to the foreign exchange business that he operates in the center of town.

Both projects will be funded with a small pool of money donated by the students, a local parent, and Mr. Shea. Primary Source looks forward to following the class as the year progresses.



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