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Learning through Lending

For nearly ten years now, Third Grade students at The College School have been making a worldwide impact as microlenders through According to Kiva’s website, “more than 1.7 billion people around the world are unbanked, and can’t access the financial services they need.” Third graders are working to put an end to this, one microloan at a time.

A natural progression from Second Grade, when students learn about systemic issues around food access and insecurity, third graders are tasked with lending capital to the underserved, helping them break through barriers around financial access. None of this happens, however, until the students have learned more about what a community is and what it means to be a part of one. In addition to studying and writing about local historical and present-day civilizations and imagining their ideal community, students create businesses for our miniature River City located on the LaBarque Campus. During two “Market Days,” Third Grade entrepreneurs provide goods and services for sale to parents, students, friends, and alumni who’ve traded in US dollars for River City dollars. Not only do students learn about free-market exchange, but a portion of the funds raised become the basis of the microloans that have positively impacted hundreds of individuals around the world.

Market Day for Third Grade Kiva’s tagline is “make a loan, change a life,” and third graders are empowered by this knowledge. Using the easily-navigated Kiva website, students work with teachers Matt Diller and Will Langton to identify to whom they wish to give microloans. Spending just a few minutes reading through borrower profiles quickly makes clear just how much of an impact our students have on the lives of others. Recent borrowers include a restaurant owner in Ecuador greatly impacted by COVID-19 who needed assistance with buying goods for her business; a Peruvian farmer who purchased fertilizer for his coffee crop; a farmer in Timor-Leste who added more chickens to his poultry farm; and a Maldovan family in need of a new bathroom and sewer system to provide better living conditions for their children. 

Throughout the last ten years, TCS third graders, and, by extension, those who’ve supported their River City businesses, have provided more than $25,000 in loans to hundreds of individuals around the world. With a 96.1% repayment rate, Kiva makes clear that these are loans and not donations. There is strength in the “partnership of mutual dignity” that the loans through Kiva represent, and students can see how lifting the life of one individual can have a ripple effect on that person’s immediate family and the larger community. That’s a lesson worth learning.

By Leah Zueger, Development and Communication Associate

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