I graduated from high school in 1970, a time of tumultuous change in the United States and the world. Like many of my generation, I wanted to make a difference. I went to journalism school because I believed a career in journalism would help me change the world.
Changing the world--it's a heady idea thinking one group of people can have such a significant impact on so many others. But the world did change back then in many ways. New attitudes, like believing you could be in charge of your own destiny or transform a dream into reality, were born in the '60s and '70s and, in many ways, led to the entrepreneurial surge in the '90s.
Many people mistakenly believe that the nation's baby boomers owned the "We can change the world" mantra. But that wasn't true back in the '60s, and it's not true today. While many folks today are out there making their own impact, I want to talk about one group, a group that recently adopted the slogan, "Changing the World." That group is Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE).
Regular readers know about SIFE because I've been nagging you at least once a year for the past six years to get involved. This year is no different. You need to get SIFEd. First, a few details. SIFE has grown to encompass some 1,400 colleges and universities in more than 33 nations. SIFE's mission is to give its student members "the best opportunity to make a difference and to develop leadership, teamwork and communication skills through learning, practicing and teaching the principles of free enterprise." In other words, SIFE is taking the kids of today and turning them into the leaders of tomorrow.
Every year, SIFE teams carry out projects to help pursue this lofty mission. And once a year, they come together to compete. I am always amazed at the caliber of students, projects and professors I encounter at the SIFE nationals. This year, the only difference was that the competition was the toughest I've ever seen. The winning two-year school, Louisiana State University, Eunice (pictured below, left), showed young students that it takes a global village (oil from Saudi Arabia, factories in Taiwan, nylon hair from Japan, clothes from China and molds from the United States) to create the symbol of American culture known as Barbie.
Drury University, in Springfield, Missouri, the wining school in the four-year division (pictured below, right), expanded their YEA! (Young Entrepreneurs Association), which teaches business basics to elementary and middle-school kids through distance learning and reached 25,000 students in 19 countries.
The kids at Arizona Western College in Yuma helped local residents get jobs by staging a career fair, which attracted more than 2,000 local attendees. At La Sierra University in Riverside, California, the students have helped about 65 women launch their own child-care businesses. And at California State University, Chico, students took the SIFE concept to the high school level with their SAGE (Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship) program. Illustrating how well the program is working, the high school students from Fremont Business Academy in Oakland, California, just beat the team from Poland for the championship slot. Want to know more? You'll be able to "meet" the winning teams, since their photos will be featured on boxes of Kellogg's Frosted Flakes and Corn Pops.
SIFE is a nonprofit organization and needs help--your help. Chances are there's a SIFE team near you. Go to www.sife.org to find out. Then, offer them your assistance. Remember, they need more than money. SIFE students are looking for businesses to help and entrepreneurs to learn from. They need your input, your time and your wisdom. It's a hard job, changing the world, and SIFE can't do it alone.