Friday, February 24, 2012

UMass Boston Welcomes SIFE

by Shannon O'Neill

An attractive aspect of UMass Boston is that it encourages the success of its many clubs and organizations and eagerly welcomes new ones. SIFE, short for Students In Free Enterprise, is one of the university’s newest organizations – in fact, it just became officially recognized on February 2nd. I spoke with Jared Ward, founder of the UMass Boston chapter, to learn more about SIFE, how it made its way onto campus, and what the organization has planned for the future.

SIFE is an international organization that strives to empower communities on a local, national, and global scale. Jared elaborated on this, informing me that “the types of empowering community service can be anything from beach cleanups to going into a small business and working with the owners to create and implement new, improved business plans that will contribute to their economic growth and success.” For SIFE, temporary results are not good enough. Instead, the organization focuses its efforts on projects that will have lasting impacts on communities. “For instance,” Jared explained, “if we were to do a beach cleanup, we’d clean the beach but we would also establish some sort of trash maintenance plan where a company would come and empty the trash each week. We want to empower communities, not just find the problem and implement a short-term ‘fix.’ The emphasis is on sustainability.”

Jared heard about SIFE from a friend who attends Stonehill College in Easton, MA. He had no idea what the acronym meant, so he Googled it (“when in doubt Google it out,” in his words) and was instantly enthralled by what the organization offered. While Jared was initially disappointed that UMB did not have a chapter of the organization, he quickly decided that he wanted to be the one to introduce it to the school. “I don’t really know why UMB didn’t have a chapter already,” he said, “but in a way I am glad that I was able to start SIFE at UMB. It has given me the chance to become more involved on campus and further appreciate my school.”

Jared got SIFE up and running in what seems like record time. In less than a month, he heard about the organization for the first time, collected enough signatures to create an on-campus group, composed a “very long, very detailed constitution,” then submitted everything and waited for the university’s approval. By February 2nd, SIFE became a legitimate, recognized organization on the UMB campus eager to begin service projects.

Despite the organization still being in its infancy, it already has some big plans. On February 29th SIFE will be hosting a discussion lead by Professor Lageson of the Criminal Justice department on the topic of Restorative Justice, why it is important, and the positive impact it has on both criminals and victims. The discussion will be open to all and will be held in a Question & Answer format.

While the dates have yet to be determined, SIFE is planning a number of fundraising events. To name a few, there will be a “Mr. and Ms. UMass Boston” contest, a scavenger hunt along the Harborwalk, and a volleyball tournament.

In addition to the open discussion and fundraising efforts, SIFE is developing three empowering project initiatives all centered on youths. While the details of these projects are not completely worked out, Jared shared that “on a local level, we [SIFE] will be working with juvenile offenders and restorative justice. For a national project, we will be mentoring high school students who are at risk for juvenile delinquency and/or dropping out and we will encourage them to get involved in their communities. As far as a global project goes, we will work with the Invisible Children to spread awareness about child soldiers in Uganda.”

UMass Boston’s chapter of SIFE is taking on quite a bit in a short amount of time. “Some people have expressed doubt in the amount that we will actually accomplish this semester” admitted Jared. “I don’t blame them for doubting us because we are taking on quite a lot.” There is much work to be done but Jared has confidence in his Executive Board, Extended Officers, and general members. Also, he feels that keeping the purpose of SIFE in mind will motivate the group to accomplish the goals that they have set for this semester. “We are not doing this for ourselves. We are not asking how SIFE can better our résumés for our future careers. We are, however, asking what we can accomplish by using SIFE as an outlet to empower others. I hope that will, in turn, also empower the UMass Boston SIFE members.”

Jared would like to stress that “anyone and everyone can get involved in SIFE in one way, shape, or form.” To find out more and to get involved, “Like” UMass Boston SIFE’s page on Facebook, visit www.sife.org, or contact Jared at Jared.Ward001@umb.edu.

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