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Students Finance Entreprenuers with Bulldog Bucks

March 7, 2011

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Josh is a Senior at A. J. Moore Academy in Waco. He's president of the Bulldog Bucks program at the school, and essentially, that makes him president of a micro-lending foundation. The project fulfills loans, or parts of loans, to people worldwide. Karla Leeper is a Partner in the Gear Up Waco program that helped supplied a grant to fund Bulldog Bucks.

The students lend through a website called KIVA.org. According to KIVA's website, since November of 2009, the organization has facilitated over $100 million in loans. The KIVA platform was chosen, because of the transparency the site offered. It offers information on the initiative the loan will fund, repayment period, and risk of default. Angela Reiher is the Principal at A.J. Moore Academy.

The program consists of about 15 students.The 9th and 10th graders in the program look for sustainable business plans that fit the project's mission, and then make presentations to the juniors and seniors of the program. The upperclassmen function like a board of directors. When a unanimous decision among the students has been made, the loans are sent to the principal for final approval.

The Bulldog Bucks program began in 2008, however the first year the students had to lay the groundwork for the project, and create a mission statement and outline the goals of their organization. In the 2009-2010 school year, students were able to make their first loans. However, a tragedy the summer of 2010 gave the students more real-world experience than they had anticipated.

Ron Smith, their teacher who was seminal in starting the Bulldog Bucks program passed away. When the students came back that fall, they had to piece together the previous year's work. Chris is one of the students in the program.

While the Bulldog Bucks program is overseen by an instructor, Marcus Walker. The success and continuation of the program depends on students making the right investment choices. And it's taken seriously.

The students do stick to some basic criteria: loan requests typically no larger than $500 and are in $25 shares, 6 months or less repaid monthly, awarded to under-represented business owners, especially women and trade cooperatives. They also look closely at awarding applicants recently posted and almost fully funded.

Currently all loans made by the Bulldog Bucks program have been repaid in full. For KWBU news, I'm Jacqueline Deavenport.

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