By Darla Martin Tucker
|The national championship-winning La Sierra University Enactus team with Tom Zapara, far left, and Sam Walton Faculty Fellow John Razzouk and Zapara School of Business Dean John Thomas, far right.
Photo supplied by La Sierra University
After months of work and hours of practice, the La Sierra University Enactus team of 20 students earned a first-place win at the Enactus National Expo in St. Louis, Missouri, a national competition that showcases young business talent.
The students, led by a six-member presentation team, were declared the champions in the final round against 118 universities and colleges from across the United States at the expo held on May 15-17. La Sierra will represent the United States during Enactus World Cup competitions in Toronto, September 28-30.
The La Sierra students’ winning projects include a micro-lending program with cows in India and a mobile grocery market for low-income customers in southern California.
“We are so very proud of these students who have invested so many volunteer hours on significant projects that are continuing to impact hundreds of people in the local region and in India,” said La Sierra University president Randal Wisbey.
|La Sierra Enactus presentation team member Xavier Watson holds the Enactus national trophy just after his team won first place.
Photo by John Razzouk.
This is La Sierra’s seventh national title during its 25-year history, an unprecedented string of national wins. The team last brought home the national trophy in 2007, going on to win the world cup that year in New York City.
During competition, teams from each school give 24-minute, multi-media presentations on the impact of their school’s Enactus projects that aim to economically empower and sustain communities locally and in other parts of the world through entrepreneurial endeavors. Panels of judges comprised of executives from America’s leading corporations decide winners during opening, semi-final, and final rounds.
La Sierra Enactus Team Projects
Mobile Fresh, a partner project with Family Service Association in Riverside, California, involves use of a renovated Riverside Transit Agency commuter bus that functions as a mobile grocery store, bringing reduced-rate fresh produce and dry goods to areas with few supermarkets. The team, which manages marketing and educational programming for the project, took the Mobile Fresh bus to 40 locations throughout the Riverside area. They achieved 1,800 customer transactions per month this school year with 3,824 people directly impacted. Customers saved up to 50 percent on food costs.
Enactus Field Station, Denkanikottai, India, where an Enactus Cow Bank micro-lending program started in 2013 has more than doubled the income of participating families who receive milk cows on loan from the team, sell milk, repay the loan, and ultimately buy the cow while earning significantly higher income. The team has purchased and loaned 117 cows thus far. Cow Bank entrepreneurs have invested $154,740 into the local economy and none have defaulted on their loans. The field station last November also established a new micro-lending program that involved sewing machines and a sewing school. Thirteen young women will complete the program in June, ready to earn additional income with their new skills.
Innovation Camp in California schools impacted 840 high school students with lessons in innovation and human-centered design. Since 2012, more than 3,500 students from Canada, Mexico, India, China and the United States have experienced the program, creating new ideas and prototypes.
|The La Sierra Enactus presentation team prays before competition in St. Louis, Mo.
Photo by Otto Mejia/Enactus USA
The team is also launching this spring a Riverside Water Project focused on the water crisis and a new program for the Family Justice Center Project that will provide financial literacy, training and employment assistance for victims of domestic violence.
“What a moment for La Sierra Enactus,” says Wisbey. “We are gratified and thankful that leaders from America’s top corporations also see the value in our students’ projects and have rewarded them for their superb work.”
La Sierra’s Enactus team is based out of the university’s Zapara School of Business. John Thomas, business school dean and an instrumental founder of La Sierra’s first team, accompanies the Enactus teams to their competitions.
“These projects are making a difference and the students are doing it on their own time,” Thomas says. “We were nervous, but our strategy worked out. We wanted to make sure the students believed in their projects. It was totally student empowered. We let the students lead.”
The business school is named after entrepreneurs and education philanthropists Tom and Vi Zapara who have supported the school and its Enactus teams for more than 20 years. This year, for the first time Tom Zapara, at age 93, attended the team’s national competition and had the opportunity to witness their first-place win. In a meeting with the team afterward, Zapara told them he believed he was divinely inspired by God to attend this competition.
More Than First Place
|La Sierra University Enactus presentation team at national championship competition. Left to right, Joe Rees, Andrew Ranzinger, Sharina Carruthers, Eliza Hakobyan, Branden Lai-Lau, and Xavier Watson.
Photo by Otto Mejia/Enactus USA
The team’s first-place win caps a two-day event that brought the team additional prizes and scholarships. These include first place in the Unilever Bright Future Partnership Competition and first place in the Johnson & Johnson Care Enables Progress Topic Competition.
La Sierra student presenter Joe Rees won the $5,000 RILA/Unilever Retail Scholarship and the $10,000 Jules and Gwen Knapp Ambassador Scholarship, and was interviewed on May 15 for a St. Louis Public Radio story about the competition.
Additionally, John Razzouk, La Sierra’s Sam Walton Faculty Fellow (an Enactus designation), was named Sam M. Walton Free Enterprise Fellow of the Year during the national expo. Two La Sierra Enactus students were also offered jobs by the Walmart corporation.
Razzouk, a business school alum who as a student led the team to its 2007 national and world cup victories, shepherds the Enactus teams through their projects and competitions.
“I was kind of speechless,” says Razzouk, describing his reaction when the team was announced national champion. “I was so proud. I felt kind of like a dad. We set out to prove what students are capable of” — and achieved that goal.
Enactus, an international organization, has 533 universities and more than 16,800 students participating in its U.S. division. The organization began in 1975 as SIFE, or Students in Free Enterprise and changed its name in 2012 to Enactus.
Watch a video of the La Sierra team in their Enactus National Expo final round presentation.
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