Friday, August 21, 2009

Empowering Belmont Students to Make a Difference Around the World

I had an opportunity to visit with Dr. John Gonas, Director of Belmont University's SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise) program last month. I was fascinated by the stories he told of his 44-student SIFE team and the 1300 hours they have spent strengthening our community and our world. Here are some of the cool projects they did last year, as described on Belmont's website:

• The students taught market economics to recently resettled Burundi refugees.

• They wrote, illustrated and designed a children’s book titled Freddie’s Organic Farm, to educate readers on the benefits of organic farms written in both English and Spanish

• They scripted, story boarded and filmed an instructional DVD in four languages to teach the recently resettled Burundi refugee’s how to open, manage and maintain a checking account.

• They hosted an Ethics Essay competition related to the Presidential Debate and educated students in Metro Nashville Public Schools about voter issues prior to the elections.

• A recent graduate of the Magdalene Thistle Farm’s program expressed a desire to become a nurse, so SIFE students prepared her for college entrance exams and academics into Nashville Tech’s Pre-Nursing Program.

The SIFE project is especially powerful in regards to building Developmental Assets, because it builds Assets on multiple levels. The professor is promoting the categories of Support, Empowerment, Commitment to Learning, Positive Values and Social Competences. Then the college students are building assets for other people in the community through their various service-learning projects. Double impact!

SIFE is an international non-profit that empowers colleage students to create economic opportunities in their communities by organizing outreach projects focused on market economics, entrepreneurship, success skills, environmental sustainability, business ethics and financial literacy. For more information, visit