Microfinance: Let’s Get Youth Involved

>> Authored  by David Lu (Co-Founder, Student Board President, National High School Microfinance Initiative)

As microfinance programs become more prevalent on college campuses, the number of microfinance clubs at high schools is steadily growing as well. Microfinance combines learning basic financial concepts with helping one’s community, and has a natural appeal for high schoolers.

In contrast to college clubs, high school microfinance clubs often lack the resources and experience to loan directly to individuals. High school students are also generally less familiar with concepts of microfinance, and few summer programs or internships related to microfinance are available to interested high school students.

So where does a high schooler interested in microfinance start?

During my sophomore year in high school, I searched for active high school microfinance programs. As the new president of the Maverick Microfinance Club at St John’s School in Houston, Texas, I was interested to learn how other clubs were able to be deeply involved with microfinance despite a lack of resources and business experience.

I initially had trouble finding high school clubs that were active. Two programs really stood out: The Trinity Microfinance Project at the Trinity School in New York City, and Zawadi by Youth, the microfinance program at the Riverdale School in Brooklyn, New York. When I spoke to the the presidents of these clubs, we all agreed that creativity was necessary for getting high school students involved with microfinance. Each of our clubs had different methods of participating in microfinance, and every club I’ve met since then has its own strategy of introducing students to the concepts of financial inclusion and micro-credit loans.

For example, the Maverick Microfinance Club uses two online loaning platforms-Kiva and Zidisha, to provide loans online. In addition, Maverick Microfinance partners with the University of Houston Microfinance Initiative in order to create local change and to help local entrepreneurs become financially literate. The Microfinance clubs at Trinity and Riverdale similarly use Kiva for online loans. Members of the Trinity Microfinance project provide small loans to people in their community,and teach middle school students about microfinance using the book, One Hen. Members of Zawadi by Youth at Riverdale partner with the MicroLoan Foundation, and club members travel to Malawi during the summer to gain hands-on experience and see in person where their loans go. Zawadi by Youth also is heavily focused on raising awareness, hosting an annual Youth Social Entrepreneurship Conference.

The leaders of these 3 high school microfinance clubs came together and formed the National High School Microfinance Initiative (http://nhsmicrofinance.org/). The goals are:

  • To create a network of high school microfinance clubs to facilitates the exchange of ideas, methods, and projects
  • To provide a resource guide for high students to further knowledge and understanding of microfinance.
  • To raise awareness to high school students of microfinance as a powerful tool for alleviating poverty

Currently our network has six active high school microfinance clubs. We’ve communicated on blogposts, helped set up new microfinance clubs, and exchanged ideas about how our clubs can make an impact. We have an incredible Advisory Board of experts who have generously offered their expertise to us. Next spring we will have our first high school conference on microfinance initiatives.

In the next 10 years, I hope every high school has the opportunity to discuss financial inclusion and poverty alleviation. With 48% of the human population living on less than 2 dollars a day, informing the next generation about the problem and enlisting them to serve as part of the solution is crucial step towards reducing global poverty.

High Schoolers are powerful, and microfinance gives students a direct way to make a positive impact on the world.


Bio for Author: David Lu, Co-Founder, Student Board President, National High School Microfinance Initiative. David Lu is a Junior at St. John’s School in Houston, TX. He is co-founder and Student Board President of the National High School Microfinance Initiative. David is an active volunteer at the University of Houston Microfinance Initiative, and is passionate about  educating high school students about the power of microfinance to alleviate poverty locally and abroad.

3 Responses to “Microfinance: Let’s Get Youth Involved

  • Elena Savas
    4 years ago

    Hi I’m Elena Savas and I am a junior at the prep school of Hopkins in New Haven, CT. I’m looking to start a microfinance club using kiva and would like to connect with someone who has experience and knowledge that they will be willing to share with me.

    Thanks I look forward to hearing from you,
    Elena Savas

    • Andrew Tong
      4 years ago

      Hi Elena,

      David has graduated St. John’s but the Maverick microfinance club is still going strong! I can help with Kiva and I can connect you with our current president. Please reach me at atong20@sjs.org

      Andrew Tong

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