Extra credit; Program lets students lend a hand to local entrepreneurs

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The Boston Herald
By: Rochelle Stewart Rubino
December 6, 2011

Extra credit; Program lets students lend a hand to local entrepreneurs

College students looking for real-world experience and a way to make a difference have a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the world of microfinance. The Campus Microfinance Alliance is a nonprofit coalition of student-run microfinance groups that have lent more than $150,000 to disadvantaged entrepreneurs. Their new website (campusmfi.org) lets students apply to their internship program. If selected, they learn to help other students create microfinance organizations on their campus.

"The idea is we match selected students with one of (our members)," said Vanessa Carter, director of College Microfinance Alliance. "Students spend the summer learning hands-on skills and then receive support from us to go back (to their school) and start their own group."

Andy Posner, co-founder of the Capital Good Fund, a microfinance organization he started at Brown University while com-pleting his master's degree in environmental studies, said starting his own microfinance organization was "experiential learning" at its best.

The mission of the Capital Good Fund is to provide small loans to struggling entrepreneurs as a way to "empower people to move out of poverty and become leaders on environmental issues," Posner said.

Initially, he said this was just a "fun project that took on a life of its own." Now, three years later, he runs the organization full time.

"We believe college students have creativity and imagination," Carter added. "We believe in their potential as young leaders in innovative ways."

Carter said the students who get involved in microfinance are "really driven because they care deeply about their communities. They are hungry for meaningful opportunities to get involved."

Posner advises college students to "dream big."

"Don't think of this as a student project," he said. "Say, 'How can I take advantage of my youth and creativity and make this a career for me?'"

Posner admits running a microfinance organization and balancing coursework can be challenging, so he suggests students look for a way they can receive course credit. For example, students could see if their college offers independent study credits.

Carter said the Campus Microfinance Alliance can help college students create "real learning experiences." It was founded in October 2009 as a way for college students to spur economic development in their campus communities. Its mission is to raise awareness, provide technical assistance and create networking opportunities for student-powered microfinance organizations.

"You're not working in a cubicle," she said. "You are dealing with real businesses and real money. You are on the front lines of the economic recession and are part of creating solutions to help re-create and realize the American Dream for people."

Campus Microfinance Alliance is accepting applications for its summer internship program.

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This page contains a single entry by CFED published on December 15, 2011 4:21 PM.

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