Bellport HS students make a difference in the world

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Under the direction of Bellport High School social studies teacher Andrew Budris and South Country Central School District Director of Humanities Jaclyn O’Hagan, ninth grade Global History students competed for three weeks in an unprecedented problem-based learning challenge to make a difference in the world. In conjunction with the South Country Education Foundation, the students donated microloans totaling $2,000 to individuals in underdeveloped countries. 

Called the Kiva Challenge, teams of students chose a deserving individual from one of the nations included on the Kiva organization’s website. Kiva’s goal is to provide access to affordable and fair sources of credit to set up a business or build financial stability for individuals in underdeveloped nations. The basics of a problem-based learning experience such as the Kiva Challenge first asked a driving question to be solved with real-life relevance that encouraged critical thinking. 

Each team was instructed to collaborate on a project which described their chosen country and its economic conditions and a profile on one person who needs a microloan. There were $75 winners for each class and 20 students then competed in the finals, where they won larger grants totaling $250 (first place) and $100 (second place). Third place winners were also allocated $75. During the finals, presentations for the microloan grants were judged by South Country Director of Humanities Jaclyn O’Hagan, Hofstra University professor Andrea Libresco, Bellport High School senior Luca Scharpf and South Country Education Foundation Vice President Diane Zanazzi. 

Sara Abdelbasset, Madeline Day, Nikki Hirschkind and Rachel Li were first-place winners for their Kiva Project on the Philippines. Second place winners were Karen Aguilar Soriano, Carla Benavides Ventura and Andres Reyes Chacon for their project on El Salvador. Two teams tied for third place: Ryan Grell, Edgar Osorio Ramirez and Andrew McLaurin for their project on the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Emily Angamarca, Vanessa Perez and Destiny Rivera for their project on Ecuador. 

Ms. O’Hagan explained to the students that the Kiva Challenge is “not just about making a grade, but about making a difference in the world and experiencing empathy.” She also explained that the Kiva Challenge was an excellent opportunity for students to learn about their world and to advocate for those in need. 

Principal Timothy Hogan explained that the success behind the challenge was that it brought meaning to content and made an impact. “You’ll probably remember this project for the rest of your life,” he told the students.

Photo captions: 
Photo A: From left, Bellport High School students Nikki Hirschkind, Sara Abdelbasset, Madeline Day and Rachel Li presented their first-place Kiva Challenge Project on the Philippines, which included artwork.

Photo B: Winners of Bellport High School’s Kiva Challenge were presented during the South Country Central School District’s Feb. 12 Board of Education meeting.