KOKOMO, Ind. — Indiana University Kokomo's Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) will compete in the SIFE USA National Exposition in next month, demonstrating to a panel of judges how they have used their business skills to benefit their community. The team won the Chicago regional to earn the trip to the national exposition, May 22-24, in Kansas City, Mo.
Team members say the chance to win a national championship means almost as much to them as knowing their volunteer work has contributed to improving the lives of more than 1,300 people in north central Indiana.
Mary Harlan, the chapter's vice president for external relations, said they won the April 14 regional based on their service, and their ability to show they were empowering those in need, and improving their campus and community.
"It isn't enough to show up with a program. We have to show that our program makes a difference for people," she said. Each team member had to complete at least 50 hours of community service to qualify for the regional, she added.
SIFE is an international organization that mobilizes college students to make a difference in their communities while learning to be socially responsible business leaders. Approximately 135 teams will compete at nationals, for a chance to represent the United States at the SIFE World Cup.
SIFE faculty sponsor Jason VanAlstine said the program's goal is for students to use the skills they learn in the classroom to make their community a better place.
"I am so happy to see the efforts of the SIFE students acknowledged by the judges," VanAlstine said. "They have put in so much time, not only to prepare for competition, but also in helping many people in our community this year."
SIFE's volunteer services has included preparing women, housed at the Family Service Association's domestic violence shelter, to enter the workforce. They have also sponsored a canned food drive for Kokomo Urban Outreach and have presented a financial literacy program to IU Kokomo freshmen.
Harlan said the Campbell's "Let's Can Hunger" food drive, by itself, provided food to 613 people through Kokomo Urban Outreach's food pantries. The team collected 5,000 pounds of nonperishable foods.
"That is really a lot of food, and a lot of meals to Kokomo people in need," Harlan said. "We are proud of how well we did."
At the domestic violence shelter, SIFE members conducted workshops to help the residents write résumés and complete job applications, and also taught about workplace and interview etiquette. At least one of the women applied for a job and was hired as a result of their work, she said.
"Because of our work, that woman has a job and is on her way to providing for her family on her own," Harlan said. "We empowered her to take charge of her own life."
The experience also helps SIFE members prepare for their future careers. Many members are business students, though they welcome students from all majors.
"This is a great opportunity to help people and get real-world business experience," Harlan said.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.