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University of Charleston students take time to give back

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At the University of Charleston, Enactus team members Sa Le, Adam DeBriae, Marc Jn-louis, Jordan Wallace and Rhys Batt do much more than merely keep up with their course loads.

In addition to studying for tests and completing class work, DeBriae said the Enactus team has done at least 3,000 hours worth of service.

The type of service work the student organization formerly known as SIFE focuses on meets needs both on the campus and in the community.

"We look at the environmental, social and economic impact," Batt said. "So any projects we look at, we try to meet those three criteria. 

"It's developing sustainability solutions based on that need and based on our resources."

Working with variety

The group describes itself as "a community of student, academic and business leaders committed to using the power of entrepreneurial action to transform lives and shape a better, more sustainable world."

Because Enactus works with both the campus and community, Batt said the people the team comes in contact with are as varied as the many projects.

"We work with members from the community," he said. "We work with our local administration and staff here on campus to develop these projects and we work on them all year long."

Some of the projects include working with Charleston's Boys and Girls Club, creating recycling programs and working with local businesses to reduce energy costs and improve the bottom line.

One of Le's favorite projects is work the team does with the Boys and Girls Club. Through the project, the Enactus team members teach diversity and skills that eventually enable the children to graduate high school.

Learning new things

Because of the many obligations and responsibilities Enactus members take on in addition to a regular college load, everyone agrees time management is a skill learned early.

"You learn time management pretty quickly," Batt said.

DeBriae said it's very similar to juggling a job. 

"It's almost like having a full-time job in addition to being a student," he said.

The hours especially add up when competition time draws closer. Batt said the team members develop a presentation based on the projects they've done and then go to a regional and national competition each year to present against different teams from across the country who are doing similar projects. 

Getting ready for competitions requires lots of preparation and hours spent rehearsing the presentation, DeBriae said.

"There's so many things we have to do," he said. "We have to get our whole 17-minute script together for our presentation — it's completely rehearsed. 

"We have to do a year-end annual report that has an outline of all our projects and what we did. We have to do our technology piece with the keynote, so that has to be all timed to a tee."

While getting ready for competition, DeBriae said some nights the lights didn't go off until 2 or 3 a.m. He said practices sometimes began at 9 or 10 p.m., after having already put in a full school day.

"It's crazy but it teaches you so much time management that's going to be so useful to you in future endeavors and down the road," he said. "That's what you're going to have to do if you have a family … have a job. You come home from work all day (and) you have to take care of this and that. It's helping us better prepare for our future, I feel."

This year, there were more than 200 teams that the UC Enactus team competed against. The team advanced through the quarter final and fell short of advancing to the semi-final round. Batt said for the past several years, the UC team has been in the top 40.

Favorite take-aways

Through the many hours and the project, Jn-louis said motivation comes from other members.

"We get the motivation from one another," he said. "(From us) having the same passion. It's just a natural thing."

For him, helping others is the ultimate satisfaction.

"We have been able to make a difference and help other people (like) they helped me when I was a kid," he said. "I feel like I'm giving back and doing what I should be doing."

Wallace said she most enjoys interacting with students from a variety of majors as well as developing better teamworking skills while learning how to contribute in an individual's own way.

Meeting people and having new projects every semester is what Le  looks forward to, while DeBriae said the experiences he has gained makes him feel better exposed to things he might not have been exposed to otherwise. 

Because the university doesn't provide any direct funding, everything happens through outside grants and sources, DeBriae said. Last year, DeBriae applied for a Lowe's grant from Lowe's Community Improvement and received $1,500 toward a project with the Boys and Girls Club. The team received an additional $5,000 when the project won national awards for the project proposal.

"Being a science major, I would never know anything about a grant if I wasn't involved in Enactus," he said. "I feel like I'm better well-rounded and more desirable by future employers, as well as just more educated as a whole (that) more than just sitting in a lecture can provide me."

DeBriae said he also enjoys getting to take skills learned in the classroom and applying them in a practical sense.

Batt said knowing he's part of something bigger is his biggest take-away from the Enactus experience.

"Not only are we working together as a team here at our school to make a huge change on our campus and in our community to affect lives and improve lives, but we're part of a great organization that's working around the country and around the world," he said. "(Enactus is) an international organization and people across the globe are doing projects just like what we're doing and the total impact is what motivates me each day."

Despite the long hours and juggling of numerous different responsibilities, all agree the lessons, experiences and skills learned far outweigh the lost hours of sleep.

"It's challenging but I think we're all up to the challenge," DeBriae said.