In 2008, Dave Smith was seeking a project for his seventh-grade students that would demonstrate the value of “paying it forward.” He first discovered Kiva when he was invited by a friend and it turned out to be exactly what he was looking for – an actionable way to teach students about global development. So Dave put forth a challenge to his school and local community in New Holland, PA: raise one million dollars for Kiva borrowers. The social studies classes would be using microfinance and Kiva U as a vehicle for learning about other cultures and geography. Now in its 6th year, the team has lent to nearly 3,000 borrowers, totaling over $73,000.
The project started with a $25 donation from the school board to each of Dave’s five classes, seeding the students’ very first loans. After that, students started their own fundraising projects, selling baked goods and handmade jewelry. You can hear Dave and his students tell their story in the 1st place video from the Kiva U video contest, created by filmmaker David Crowther. Members of the Million Dollar Team also took 2nd place in the contest for their own video, and won a prize in the ideation stage for coming up with such a great idea for the video pitch. Their prize money has since been put into their Kiva pot, to help them reach their goal. Dave was recently named a teacher of the year for 2012-2013 by Izzit.org for his efforts integrating Kiva and technology into the classroom. This award provided him the opportunity to share his experience with colleagues who have since launched their own Kiva projects in classrooms around the country.
Last year, Dave was approached by a student who committed to raising $500 for the team, more than any other single student had done. She reached her goal at the end of the school year, and came back as an 8th grader with an increased goal of $1000.
This year, the first class that participated in the Million Dollar Team as 7th graders will be graduating from high school and we suspect they'll continue spreading the team's message wherever they go next. Dave sees their progress as a way to make an “eternal impact,” because the students are able to receive updates from the borrowers they support, see their loans repaid, and then recycle the funds to new entrepreneurs around the world.
As Dave sent his students into the Thanksgiving holiday break last week, he pointed out that “Thanksgiving is about giving someone a reason to say ‘thanks.’” It's safe to say that Dave’s initial goal of helping his students realize the value of giving back has been met, and that those touched by this project will continue to pay it forward for years to come.
If you want to be a part of their inspiring progress show your support by joining the Million Dollar Lending Team and attributing your next loan to the team. We're so thankful to have the Million Dollar Team in the Kiva family, and can’t wait to watch them meet their goal.
Polly Peterson Polly grew up in the Pacific Northwest and moved to the Bay Area from Salem, OR in September 2012. She just finished up a year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA working with high school-aged youth trying to integrate into higher education. She is excited to get going as the new Community Education intern; particularly the opportunity to interact with students who are pumped up about microfinance! Having been a Kiva lender for several years, and spreading the love by giving loans as gifts, it is so fun to now be a part of the team, working to inspire more young lenders. Polly studied Political Science, Spanish and Social Justice at the University of Portland and graduated in 2011. She loves to travel, read, play would-you-rather, and dance!