Two Memphis seniors that we featured on Classroom Chronicles this fall for their research on poverty are gaining national attention. In September we told you the story of Kelia Williams and Landon Hawthorne, both students at Southwind High School in Shelby County Schools. Williams and Hawthorne were part of a student group that traveled to the Ninth Ward of New Orleans this summer to study the effects of small business loans on poverty. Their work on examining poverty at the local level has now garnered them national attention.
Just last month, Williams and Hawthorne were invited to be the only high school student presenters at the Kiva U Global Youth Summit. Williams, Hawthorne, and their economics teacher, Biba Kavass, traveled to San Francisco for the conference in October put on by Kiva.org, a national non-profit organization dedicated to giving out small business loans to eradicate poverty worldwide.
Williams and Hawthorne led a presentation for other students from across the country on, “Understanding and Messaging Poverty in High School.” During their presentation, participants collaborated to collectively define poverty. Hawthorne remembers an incredible level of engagement during their presentation. “We were both completely astonished at each student’s definition for poverty,” said Hawthorne. “Participants really tapped into all that they knew were essential ingredients for life. I could tell these teenagers were not your average high school students, but instead, the future leaders of Kiva and the fight against poverty.”
Williams and Hawthorne serve as the vice-president and president of the Southwind High School KIVA Club. They are currently editing video footage of their journey this summer for a documentary. The pair will also travel with their economics teacher next summer to the Lakota Indian Reservation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, to continue their documentary on small business loans and poverty. For more information about Williams and Hawthorne’s work in their Kiva club, you can visit the club’s website.
You can also watch footage from their drive through the Ninth Ward in a sneak peak of their documentary on poverty at the top of this post. Listen as Williams narrates the lessons they have learned.