The Lorain County Community College SIFE (Students In Free Enterprise) Team returned to Elyria as winners after participating in the SIFE USA National Exposition held May 13-15, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. The event had more than 140 teams competing – with more than 3,000 students presenting what they worked on all year to more than 650 business executives serving as judges.
After presenting a report of their yearlong community outreach projects, the LCCC SIFE Team placed as First Runner-up in the Two-Year Opening Round Competition for the second time in two years.
The team also won the SIFE USA Campbell’s Soup Stamp Out Hunger Challenge Competition. This was a special competition that was judged by Campbell’s Soup Company and was open to all SIFE Teams. Campbells’ challenged all SIFE Teams to create a project that would address world hunger. “It was the biggest accomplishment of the year,” said LCCC SIFE President Jay Kiska, who has been a part of SIFE for three years.
The LCCC SIFE Team used guidelines from the Oxfam America Hunger Banquet and hosted their own Hunger Banquet on campus. They invited local government, business, and educational leaders from around the county to share in an interactive feast that would highlight what it was like to be among those who live at or near poverty levels. The entry fee was one canned good and as guest entered they were given a card that determined where they sat and their status if they were rich, middle class, or poor.
Fifteen percent of the guests represented “The Rich” and were served spaghetti by waiters and sat at a table with fine china silverware. Thirty five percent represented “The Middle Class” and sat in folding chairs and had portioned rice and beans, and 50 percent represented “The Poor” and sat on the floor and shared a pan of rice and a pitcher of water.
“It was a great idea to put them in a situation like that,” said Rick Fernandez a member of LCCC SIFE. “It showed everyone the real meaning to be hungry.”
The mayors of Elyria and Lorain declared November 19 the LCCC SIFE Skip-A-Meal Day in which they asked everyone to skip a lunch and donate what they would have paid for their lunch to one of SIFE’s three charitable causes.
They also joined the Ford Local 2000 and Harvest for Hunger in a joint food drive and collected food to feed 640 families full Thanksgiving meals. Through these events LCCC SIFE raised approximately $1,000 for the causes.
Out of all the two and four year schools that participated in this competition, the Campbell’s Soup representatives voted almost unanimously to award LCCC’s SIFE team as its winner. “It is overwhelming to see what all of your peers from around the nation are doing through out the year. Some four year colleges have budgets of a hundred thousand dollars or more and we start off with nothing. We get ours donated to us,” said Fernandez.
During the academic year, the LCCC SIFE Team organized 30 projects that were delivered in the community and abroad including Leadership Ladder, which included a series of lessons created to teach young girls about self expectation, self respect, personal choices, ethics, and wisdom. The lessons were delivered to the FAWE Girls School of Science and Technology in Rwanda, Africa. The goal of this project was to encourage the girls to continue their education into secondary school. LCCC SIFE raised money to pay for three of the girls’ tuition. The girls were chosen by an essay contest. “It feels very rewarding to be able to help,” said Kiska. “We want the girls to hopefully help others, in a ‘Pay It Forward’ kind of way.”
“The dedication of this extraordinary group of students is incredible. Through their hard work and endless drive they have affected the lives of so many people. They are truly an inspiration to those around them,” said Professor Maria McConnell who is also the LCCC SIFE team advisor. The LCCC SIFE team through the year raised over $56,000 to go towards all its projects and charities.
Many of the members of SIFE agree that the skills they learn in SIFE are not learned in a classroom. “You are learning skills in a relaxed comfortable environment that you would usually learn on the job,” said LCCC SIFE Senior Vice President Margaret Box. “It can be a scary feeling to learn skills for the first time at work, but with SIFE you get experience to help you relax. You get to explore career options.”
SIFE is an international non-profit organization active on more than 1,400 university campuses in 47 countries. SIFE teams create economic opportunities in their communities by organizing outreach projects that focuses on market economics, entrepreneurship, personal financial success skills, and business ethics.