Greater Memphis Chamber 7/21/2013

Southwind High School Students Travel Through MS Delta to Explore ”Microfinance In Action”

Cora Texas Manufacturing, White Castle, LA

Students at Southwind High School recently returned from a week-long trip traveling through the Mississippi Delta down to New Orleans, Louisiana, to explore “Microfinance in Action.”  With the aid of a generous 3- year field-research based grant from the McCarthey Dressman Foundation, students were able to take this trip to produce a video documentary of poverty in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana and show how microfinance (lending of small amounts of funds to individuals/groups that normally do not qualify for business loans through commercial banks due to lack of credit and/or collateral) can serve as one of the tools to eradicate poverty.

Thomas Brown

Determined to provide an opportunity for her students to go beyond their textbooks to experience economics in real life situations, Ms. Biba S. Kavass, Economics teacher at Southwind High School, planned a trip that included a visit to the 2nd largest sugar refinery in Louisiana, a meeting with ASI Federal Credit Union to hear about their KIVA microfinance loans and community redevelopment programs in the 9th Ward in New Orleans, visits with several entrepreneurs that have received microfinance loans, and a meeting with the founder of the Good Work Network in New Orleans, a nonprofit that focuses on aiding minority and women owned businesses start, grow, and succeed. Kentesha Green, a senior at SHS, wrote, “Going on this trip helped me understand the possibilities of eradicating poverty. I was able to meet interesting people and receive inspiring advice. Seeing what all these people are doing and what they are trying to become has encouraged me to not only support them but to also encourage others to help out as well.”

The trip turned out to be even more inspiring than was imagined. The individuals that we interviewed were remarkable survivors who had overcome really harsh times to become successful small business owners. One individual that inspired the students more than any other we met was Thomas Brown. Landon Hawthorne, a senior at SHS, wrote, “A great inspirational story that I feel should be told to all upcoming graduates and promising entrepreneurs. Thomas Brown started from rock bottom and made his way out of poverty to open a commercial cleaning business. Formerly, a janitor for a large commercial company, Mr. Brown was told one day by his boss to climb a 6 foot ladder. He complied and when he reached the top of the ladder his boss told him ‘that was the highest he was ever going to get in life.’” From that day on Mr. Brown was determined to start his own business. He told us that motivation was the key to his success and staying focused on his goals was the main force in bringing him that success. He pointed out some of the stark realities that come with starting your own business and how the assistance of Good Work Network and a microfinance loan were able to get him going. Mr. Brown’s story needs to be told to everyone so others can be inspired by his tremendous accomplishments. He can inspire so many young teenagers to strive for excellence in education and stick with whatever plans they make.”

Students will now spend the next couple of weeks editing the video that was shot to produce Part I of their video-documentary. Personal stories from the field will be published in a guidebook being written entitled “Microfinance in Action: A Guide for Teenagers.”  This year’s seniors will focus on poverty in and around Memphis and how microfinance loans are being used in our city to aid in business development. We are hoping to get other high schools in the area involved in a collaborative effort to work on this part of the project. Finally, next summer, several students will be joining Ms. Kavass to travel to the Lakota Indian Reservation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, and then in the summer of 2015, students will be traveling to the Dominican Republic to finish up the video documentary.

For further information on this project, please visit our website at http://shskivamemphis.weebly.com


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