HARTSVILLE, S.C. – The Coker College Enactus team was named third in the nation at the Enactus United States National Exposition held May 20-22 in Kansas City, Missouri.
There are 440 Enactus teams that compete in regional competitions across the country; the top 100 go on to compete at the National Exposition and the final four teams present in front of more than 1,000 people.
Coker's team improved on last year’s 11 th- place finish. The teams' win at regional competition on April 16 in Dallas, Texas, qualified it for nationals.
Enactus is an international nonprofit organization whose members influence their communities and the world through entrepreneurial projects.
In the first round of competition, the Coker team competed against the following teams: West Texas A&M University; Pittsburg State University in Kansas; Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, Iowa; and Blue Ridge Community College in Virginia.
The winners of each league picked their spots for the second round, said Gabriel Mens, director of Coker College Enactus.
Teams were given 17 minutes to make their presentation and five minutes for questions from the panel of judges.
Prior to competition week, team member Henrik Hellbe of Sweden said they were placed in a very competitive group. While he had not competed against these teams, he said, he was knowledgeable about some of them.
This is the eighth year of Enactus on the Coker College campus and its seventh year in the competition.
“We speak on behalf of the entire group,” Hellbe said of those chosen to make the presentation.
The students have to go through a selection process to be one of the presenters.
“The team has continued to improve,” Mens said. “Last year, we made a lot of progress with our projects and were rewarded with the school's best finish yet, 11th in the nation. This year, we have had a stronger impact on even more people's lives, both here in the community and abroad.”
He said he was looking forward to competing against other teams and seeing the impact they have made as well.
The team has six members along with two alternates and a question-and-answer teammate. More than 44 students have been involved in the club’s projects this year. That includes work with Carolina’s Kids to provide children with food on the weekends. The Coker students have provided weekend food bags for local children, and a grant helped them launch a food pantry at Hartsville High School. According to the team, 100 percent of the food items at the pantry have been directly from their efforts. They collected approximately 10,000 food items.
Another project presented at the competition was their Rent-a-Fridge project. Enactus collects mini-refrigerators from graduating seniors and rents them to underclassmen the following year. This project is a recurring revenue source for funding other Enactus projects. From this project, the students created a market place website to sell products specific to other campuses, broadening their ability to affect others.
Not only are these students making a difference on campus and in the community where they go to school, but they are also making a difference for impoverished people around the world.
The students said their third project was one of hope and determination. Myanmar in Southeast Asia was the focus of this project. In an effort to provide the community with clean drinking water and sustainable food, Enactus students traveled to Myanmar to help with the installation of several aquaponics systems and work on a reverse-osmosis water system.
Using a sustainable ecosystem, fish and plants are grown together to improve the people’s food source.
The Enactus team crowdfunded $12,000 to install the reverse-osmosis water system in the township of Dala.
The money helped to install a water system that provides five gallons of clean water every day for 70 families, affecting the lives of 350 people.
This project was in coordination with New Hope, a nongovernmental organization in Myanmar.
In addition to aquaponics and clean water, they helped empower the women in this struggling third-world country to run a local business to produce low-cost sanitary napkins for females that will reduce the risk of illness and at the same time create jobs for these women.
The students helped raise funds for a machine that would manufacture the hygiene products.
The students have learned valuable lessons from their work with Enactus and skills that will stay with them well beyond their college years.
The week before the competition, Hannah Baird of South Carolina said she was both excited and nervous about her first trip to national competition.
“I am real excited to see the stage,” she said.
Baird joined Enactus in September. From her association with Enactus, Baird said, she has gained better communication and leadership skills from her time in Enactus have broadened her horizon, too.
Lexi Baughman of Maryland was attending the competition for the second time.
“It is very intense competition,” she said. “Everyone is working to make a better world for everyone and yet is very competitive.”
This was also Joao Victor Santos’ second year in the competition. He said that last year he learned how the competition works and hoped it would serve him well this year.
“I learned how to answer questions in a better way,” he said. “I learned how to present in English.” English is not his native language.
Santos is from Brazil and a student athlete at Coker. He said he has learned better time management from being a part of Enactus.
“Our projects are way more advanced than last year,” he said. “If we get to the top 4, we have a real good chance of winning.”
Hellbe said he has learned to take initiative if he wants something done.
“I am grateful to have been able to help,” he said.
This will be his last competition. Hellbe graduated on May 12. He will be working with Sonoco and hopes to continue to affect people’s lives in a good way.
“This was my baby,” he said. “I am always going to stay involved.”