Middle College students are using what they have learned in their classes to raise awareness about poverty, the power of educating girls and to support entrepreneurial women.
All proceeds from raffle and food sales at an Oct. 10 screening of Girl Rising go to fund $200-$400 microloans for women in Guatemala. The effort began with the Hillsdale Effect, started by Hillsdale High School teacher Greg Lance with students through a partnership between Namaste-Direct and the San Mateo Rotary Club.
“We want to help fix the imbalance and get the world to realize this too,” said Oryan Levi, a student representative for the Middle College Effect, a club that spawned last year out of the Hillsdale Effect. Both schools are part of the San Mateo Union High School District.
Since it began in 2009, the Hillsdale Effect has funded microloans for 55 women in Guatemala looking to start sustainable businesses and led 44 students on the study tour. A core group of Middle College students have become active in the club, but all 60 students in the Middle College are involved in planning and promoting the event through their classes. Students use a combination of social media, crowd-sourcing and face-to-face marketing techniques to draw people to the event.
“Students learn so much from their involvement in this program,” Lance said in an e-mail. “They come to recognize the privileges we have in living with the relative wealth we experience in the Bay Area, compared to a place like Guatemala. They develop financial literacy in understanding both how the conventional banking system works and how microcredit specifically addresses the needs of the poor. They begin to learn about international development issues and the ways non-governmental organizations play a role in that. They develop a whole host of authentic skills — public speaking, marketing, event planning, fundraising and networking.”
The students screened Girl Rising, a movie about the power of education to empower girls, at the College of San Mateo, where Middle College is located. Students in Lance’s 11th and 12th grade English classes have been studying literature exploring how education, especially of women, can lead to social change in the developing world and will seek to inform the public more about this issue on the night of the event.
“I felt like a lot of people are ignorant to others things happening in the world,” said Angie Marsland, student representative for the Middle College Effect. “I wanted to be part of something that is actually making a difference. We’re all part of the same world and there’s a big illusion of separation between us and the people who really need our help.”
Senior marketing teams are competing against each other to see whose campaign is most effective in drawing people to the film screening. The juniors and seniors are competing to see which group can sell the most raffle tickets. The winner gets a pizza lunch.
Melissa Diaz, now a sophomore at Stanford University, was part of the Hillsdale Effect when she was a student at Hillsdale High School.
“The Hillsdale Effect initially helped me understand the intricacies of international poverty, and later gave me the tools and inspiration to continue to work to find innovative and efficient solutions to international issues,” Diaz said in an e-mail. “As a group, we would attend documentary film screenings, leadership in human rights conferences and, as a result, we learned so much about loan cycles, banking, poverty traps and NGOs. After the study tour, my passion for international development was cemented forever; I now continue to be a part of various development and human rights groups at Stanford, and I plan on majoring in international relations with specializations in Latin America and social development and human well-being with a minor in economics.”
Kristin Houk, president and CEO of Namaste-Direct, said she met Lance through a Rotary Club member interested in starting a project like this one. She said the microloans mean a lot to the women receiving them.
“For many women that may mean that they can attain greater purchasing power by buying goods in bulk, or that they have capital to purchase a much-needed item for their business like a sewing machine, or kitchen equipment,” she said in an email.
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