BENTONVILLE – The NorthWest Arkansas Community College’s Students in Free Enterprise team recently returned from the 2012 SIFE National Expo in Kansas City with the top prize in the Campbell’s Soup Let’s Can Hunger competition for the college’s canned food drive.
The team also received first runner-up honors in the overall opening round competition, falling just short of advancing to the next round. At the National Expo, teams prepare a 30-minute presentation of their service projects and present to a panel of business executives. Teams are judged against the SIFE criterion and other teams.
NWACC’s Students in Free Enterprise team also was second runner-up in the Sam’s Club "Step Up for Small Business" competition and was a finalist and top 10 selection in the Walmart Women’s Economic Empowerment category. The student team earned $7,500 in prize money.
In the Campbell’s Soup food drive competition, the NWACC team came out on top of 600 other SIFE teams from across the country with its hunger relief and awareness program. NWACC’s team was called to the platform at the National Exposition to receive the honor in front of 3,500 SIFE students, teams and business executives. The team also was third in the Campbell’s Soup project partnership challenge, which consists of awareness, immediate hunger relief and long-term empowerment.
As part of its award-winning project, the team held a dozen food drive events, coordinated a corporate food donation program and delivered classes and training to combat food insecurity.
Kathryn Lowe, the 2012 Outstanding Business Management graduate, led the hunger initiative. Her project team was able to generate more than 85,000 pounds of food donations for the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank.
“We had a great Campbell’s team that delivered tons of food to the Food Bank to help alleviate hunger,” Lowe said. “In addition to multiple food drives, we taught cooking and nutrition courses to the community, involving school kids all the way to senior citizens. We partnered closely with the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank, and Melissa Vest, director of development for the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank, was instrumental in our success. During the past two years, NWACC SIFE has contributed a quarter-million pounds of food to combat hunger.”
In the Sam’s Club Step Up for Small Business competition, the NWACC team worked with a new nonprofit organization, Sustainable Aerodynamic Concepts, to provide jobs for college-going veterans while manufacturing fuel saving products for tractor-trailers. Sustainable Aerodynamic Concepts and SIFE partnered to secure donations of decommissioned trailers used for transporting products. The veterans then deconstructed and recycled the aluminum, wood and other products. New fuel-saving side skirts for tractor-trailers were manufactured from the old trailers, and these were installed on over-the-road trailers. The team received the second runner-up recognition for its innovative project.
Becky Hudson, SIFE adviser and Sam Walton Fellow, said, “I am extremely proud of these students and our team. They did a great job this year of using free enterprise principles to bring hope and help to many people in our community and around the world. Such great results at competition were a reward for all they have done and the prize money will help us continue our projects.”
The NWACC team was led by team President Robert Gearhart, and this year’s presenters included Lowe, Adrianna Sandoval, Melissa Veach and Nahid Karim. Competing with the top 175 SIFE teams from universities and colleges across the country, NWACC’s SIFE team advanced to the National Expo May 22-24 by winning the regional championship in March.
George Tanner, NWACC’s Entrepreneurship Coordinator and a Sam Walton Fellow, said the team had an incredible National Expo.
“For a small community college SIFE team to win national awards in multiple categories and to compete with the top teams in the country was validation for all that our students do during the year,” Tanner said. “There are nearly 600 teams in the United States, and NWACC SIFE finished near the top. That’s an amazing outcome and we are proud of all they’ve done.”
This summer, some of NWACC’s SIFE team members will be teaching summer entrepreneurship camps, hosting business start-up events and planning for fall projects. The team graduated some members and will be recruiting new students to continue award-winning team projects in the coming year.
“We are attempting to get new recruits by using multimedia resources,” said team member James Miskimen. “People who are not involved are missing out. We are looking for people to help us grow further and win the SIFE USA National Expo next year.”
Melissa Veach, a SIFE project leader, said, “SIFE doesn’t end with the school year or even graduation. Once you get ‘SIFE’d,’ you’ll always have a head for business and a heart for the world!”