By T. Brooke Fisher
The day I first sat down to shadow the executive student leaders for the Walla Walla University branch of Enactus I had mixed emotions. I was excited, but it had been a hard day. My body was sore from long hours of studying, and I had rushed out of my apartment without any dinner. My brain was swirling with things I needed to do, and my thoughts were starting to turn to sludge. I was tired, and I really wanted to cross the next thing off my list. The experience that followed turned out to be an unexpected blessing.
Enactus is a worldwide organization that invests in students who want to be entrepreneurs and social innovators. Educators and business leaders from various college campuses team up with their students to help out in local communities. According to enactus.org, there are 72,000 students across 1,730 campuses located in 36 different countries that engage in helping make a better world for us all. It is estimated that 1.3 million lives and counting have been impacted by students from Enactus, and that includes students from WWU.
My job was to learn what it was like to be an Enactus student leader for the WWU chapter. The first order of business was to join the executive committee in their weekly meeting. As soon as I pulled out my computer and started taking notes, I realized there was an unexpected atmosphere in the room. This didn’t feel like a dull business meeting, this felt like a planning party with friends.
Kent Ballard, senior product design student and executive secretary for Enactus, was catching the crew up on the meeting’s agenda and excitement was circulating the room. Each team member took turns explaining the most recent updates in their specific department. Over the next several days, I would have the opportunity to join some of the leaders as they showed me first-hand what was happening in their various departments.
This year, Enactus WWU has two key projects to run. This includes a glass recycling project and a community garden for the city of College Place.
McKenna Bulter, another senior product design major, works as the glass repurposing project manager. She spends an average of three to six hours a week checking glass levels in the collection bins, transporting glass for crushing, and communicating with internal and external partners.
Butler’s job is to get the word out about the glass recycling bins that are located behind the village housing office. Once the bins are filled with clean glass bottles, she facilitates bringing them to the house of community member Chris Lueck, where they are then processed through his Expleco GLSeries Single Feed 300kg/ph Glass Bottle Crusher.
The potential uses for the sand that results from the crushing machine are nearly endless. “We are currently trying to find a consistent buyer for our crushed glass sand byproduct,” said Butler. “However, the sand created by this machine in other locations is being used to replenish vanishing beaches in Australia, for gardening and landscaping, aggregate in concrete, sandbags for flooding, and for spreading on ice for traction.”
Butler feels that being a part of the Enactus team has enriched her time at WWU. “I’ve learned so much about project management and leadership, and I’m so grateful I chose to get involved,” said Butler.
Another student, Megan Lersbak, a junior studying entrepreneurial business, serves as the garden project manager. During the winter months, Lersbak spends approximately two or three hours a week working for Enactus. Once the weather becomes consistently warmer, she’ll add more time as she works to upkeep the garden plot located just behind the College Place Fire Department.
Currently, Lersbak only has one helper who works in the garden alongside her. This means that one of her jobs is talking to the Enactus financial vice president, Nyasha Pazvakawambwa, a sophomore studying business finance and accounting, about securing grants for the project. On top of that, she is responsible for finding good soil to nourish the plant beds, talking with local gardeners who want to purchase plots, looking over any documents that need to be addressed, and making sure everything in the garden runs smoothly.
“I absolutely love Enactus and all it stands for,” said Lersbak. “It equips students to come alongside the community they are in and teaches them real-life skills on how to start programs where they see a lack. I have learned so much about how to operate in the business world and help people while I do so.”
As Enactus president, Madlyn Ellis, a senior product design student, also devotes about three hours of her week to making Enactus WWU a success. “Part of my focus is on keeping everyone on task and headed in the right direction,” said Ellis. “I lead out our weekly executive meetings and try to help the project managers as much as possible. We are all students who have other things on our plates too, like school and work. I offer the extra support to make sure we stay on track.”
As for me, I left that first executive meeting with the Enactus crew feeling a renewed sense of inspiration. I realized that even work can be refreshing when you are surrounded by people who are genuinely excited about what they are doing and motivated to make a difference in the world. I went back to my apartment with a rekindled determination to do every task to the best of my ability. Throughout the next few days, I found myself genuinely looking forward to hanging out with the Enactus team as I helped with the glass project and toured the garden.