Obama highlights Fremont teen's accomplishments


Will Kim and his 17-year-old school buddies were discussing their latest ventures Wednesday, while 3,000 miles away Obama was talking about what Kim had already achieved.

"There are students like Will Kim from Fremont, California, who launched a nonprofit that gives loans to students from low-income schools who want to start their own businesses," Obama said.

The wow factor followed Kim and his friends all over the school.

"Yeah, it's all like walking on air," Kim said.

Kim started a non-profit called Happy Day Microfunds. Soon, a few classmates from Mission San Jose High School in Fremont were helping him.

Kim had read about microlending and the microcredit movement, lending small amounts of money to local people to start a business, in this case students who have no credit history.

"It's just like a friend-to-friend loan; there is no collateral, no interest, no legal ties, it's all like a friend asking for the loan back at a certain point in time through monthly repayments," Kim said.

The money he lends out comes from multiple fundraising events.

So far Kim's non-profit has helped start two businesses, one of them in Oakland belonging to 17-year-old Erika Simmons.

Simmons borrowed $100 to buy the materials needed to make waist beads -- a trend that started last year at her high school.

"At first I wasn't going to take this further, it was just going to be a school project, I was going to be done with it, then the ladies said you can get somewhere with this, you should go further and they introduced me to Will and I went from there and I am starting to get started and getting more excited about it," Simmons said.

The waist beads sell for $5 and up. Sumukh Sridhara, the organization's technology expert, is helping Simmons design her own website.

Kim's project has created a buzz at the school.

"I think they all believe they can do it, that even as a 15,16 or 17-year-old you can make a difference," Mission San Jose High School Principal Sandy Prairie said.

Copyright © 2024 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.