The local chapter of Students in Free Enterprise, a nonprofit organization that works with business and higher education leaders to motivate university students develop sustainable entrepreneurial projects, has no plans of slowing down on its mission to leave a positive mark on Puerto Rico.
Last year, SIFE Puerto Rico’s student teams representing most of the island’s universities and community colleges, dedicated more than 80,000 hours to develop 36 business projects that have directly affected the lives of 5,000 people in socially and economically challenged communities in Puerto Rico.
The result of their efforts yielded $4 million in economic reinvestment, SIFE executives said during a recent news conference held in San Juan.
For 2012, the organization has laid out plans to “divide and conquer” again, through more than 30 projects to take place islandwide, including: “Impacto Señorial,” an economic, social and environmental development project lead by UPR-Ponce students; ONE Development, an environmentally sustainable tourism business to strengthen the development of the Northeastern Corridor, headed by students of the Inter American University in Fajardo; and, Eco-Libros, a college student-run business to sell used books and materials to college students, headed by the UPR-Bayamón student team.
But to see those projects through and benefit more lives than in 2011, SIFE needs more college students to join the effort and a higher number of employers accept the challenge of helping a new generation of leaders committed to creating community empowerment, said Lola Yglesias, executive director of SIFE Puerto Rico.
To achieve its goal of increasing participation, SIFE Puerto Rico recently launched an advertising campaign inviting college students to join the efforts and unveiled its redesigned website.
“SIFE leads to action, to commitment, to appreciating the value of work, to social, economic and environmental sustainability through community projects with a business focus,” she said. “By developing these projects, students strengthen their analytical skills, teamwork and creative critical thinking, while they value people and their circumstances.”
SIFE Puerto Rico has teams in 17 universities, where more than 250 youth prove through actions what can be done to “build a better Puerto Rico” and develop the island’s next generation of entrepreneurs, she said.
“We’re talking about students who research, design business projects and empower communities to increase the level and quality of life,” she said, noting that “the effectiveness and excellence of these projects has been recognized internationally.”
In October 2011, the 2011 National Team from the UPR- Humacao, took third place among more than 1,600 universities in the latest SIFE World Cup held in Malaysia. This year’s local competition will take place June 13-15, when the island’s representative in the international event to occur in Washington DC in October will be selected.