SIFE Okanagan sweeps Western Canadian Championships

Penticton college students were part of the team that brought home a triple-win from a regional business competition

SIFE Okanagan has brought home the gold with not one, but three wins at the regional Students in Free Enterprise competition.

Fifteen students from Okanagan College’s Students in Free Enterprise team managed to beat out the competition and establish a new bar for the competition, finishing first in each of the three main categories: Financial Literacy, Entrepreneurship and the Go Green challenge.

“It’s the only time it has been done by a school from Western Canada — to win all three topic competitions — and only the second time in Canada,” said Sheilagh Seaton, SIFE Faculty advisor at Okanagan College’s Penticton campus.  Memorial University in Newfoundland is the only other post-secondary institution to win all three.

The winning team included two business students from the  Penticton campus, Kacie Sawri  and Drew Vincent, who is just getting his feet wet in business education, returning to school at age 25. It’s just his first year in the business program, as well as his first year with SIFE.

“It’s been a very full on and exciting experience, that’s for sure,” said Vincent. “Going back to school and having an opportunity to apply what I am learning and be a part of this has really changed my perception of school.”

The Okanagan team was up against some pretty stiff competition, facing down 18 teams sent by universities and colleges from B.C. to Manitoba. In all, 400 students, faculty and administrators took part in the competition and more than 130 business leaders judged the events.

The students delivered presentations on a range of SIFE Okanagan’s outreach projects,  each of  which addresses social, economic and environmental needs in the valley communities.

One of the winning projects will be very familiar to Penticton residents. InStill Life, a partnership with the OliveUs Foundation, was developed by local restaurateur Nikos Theodosakis for students at Naramata Elementary.

The project, one of three the SIFE team presented to win the Financial Literacy competition, focuses on elementary school children.

“There was an opportunity to go in and connect the dots for kids,” said Vincent. “We go in and teach kids about the environment and the importance of food, and focus on that idea of local sustainability and try to tie in their lessons about geography and social studies.”

All the while, the elementary students are also learning about the concept of money and social responsibility, creating cards which they sell to raise money to invest in micro-lending programs in developing nations.

“It’s a really good opportunity for us to go in and make a difference at the grass roots level,” said Vincent. “It’s pretty easy to come in as a student and say that we want to make a difference and we want to make a change, but the differences aren’t usually this tangible.”

It’s an opportunity, said Seaton, for business students to see the principles they are learning about in action.

“For them to be able to use the skills that they learned in the school and see how it actually applies is a memorable experience,” she said. “It is very rewarding to see the students’ incredible effort and success recognized and awarded with three first place finishes.”