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Hartnell College Student Club Wins Regional Business Competition

April 2nd, 2007

The Hartnell College Students In Free Enterprise Team (SIFE) returned to Salinas as winners after participating in the Los Angeles SIFE USA Regional Competition on March 21, 2007. The event was one of 17 SIFE Regional Competitions held across the United States in late March and early April.

The winning Hartnell College SIFE Team at regional competition on March 21, 2007 in Hollywood: Top row, left to right:  Orlando Cota, Judy Man, and Alexander Hendrix; Bottom row:  Amanda Stefani, Melina Nunez, and Maria De Leon.
The winning Hartnell College SIFE Team at regional competition on March 21, 2007 in Hollywood: Top row, left to right: Orlando Cota, Judy Man, and Alexander Hendrix; Bottom row: Amanda Stefani, Melina Nunez, and Maria De Leon.


SIFE is an international non-profit organization active on more than 1,400 college and university campuses in 48 countries. SIFE teams create economic opportunities in their communities by organizing outreach projects that focus on market economics, entrepreneurship, personal financial success skills, and business ethics.

Hartnell was one of 24 teams from California, Arizona, and Nevada competing in the Los Angeles Regional. Team competition consisted of a written report and a 24-minute live presentation of the teamís year-long community outreach projects. Hartnellís projects reached a wide audience in the Salinas Valley, ranging from elementary school students--who were taught about the value of saving, the global market, business terminology, and business ethics--to migrant farm workers, who were taught about identity theft in a seminar conducted in both Spanish and English. The team organized and presented a dozen projects in the community this academic year.

Winning their division of the one-day regional competition made them eligible to advance to the SIFE national competition, to be held in Dallas, Texas, May 6-8.

"To see where we started this year and where we ended up as a group was just amazing," said Hartnell business instructor Robert Maffei, Samuel Moore Walton Fellow and the teamís faculty advisor. "These students really learned how to pull together as a team."

"As individuals, many of them have overcome incredible odds to get to this point in their lives," said Maffei.

Take Maria De Leon, for instance. When she moved to Salinas from Mexico, the only jobs she could find were working in the fields during the day and at a fast food restaurant at night. Her husband encouraged her to have loftier goals that she could achieve if she could learn English. Since she had been a certificated accountant in Mexico, he was confident that she could get a better job here. So she began attending Hartnell College in 2003.

She became a full-time student, got a part-time job in Hartnellís Academic Learning Center, learned English, and found SIFE.

Just five years after toiling full-time in the fields, Maria was one of six Hartnell students standing on a stage in Hollywood, California, making a presentation in English to a panel of 20 of the countryís top business leaders.

Maria acknowledges that the opportunity made her nervous, "but also excited."

"When I was waiting for the judges, I felt my mind was locked, and I asked God to help me out," Maria said in an interview a day after the competition. "When it was my turn to speak, everything came back to my mind. It was very emotional because it was so personal to me. My daughter was in the classroom of students I worked with at Bardin Elementary for my SIFE project, and thinking of the children helped me to promote passion in my presentation. At the end, I told myself, ĎI did it!í Everyone on the team did a really good job."

But to get to Dallas, Maria and her team will have to overcome one more obstacle. Although Hartnellís SIFE chapter has raised money over the year, they already have spent money going to the regional competition. The trip to compete in Dallas will cost an additional $7,000.

Maffei is hoping that area businesses will see how much SIFE is changing lives, both in the community and among team members, and will want to help out. For more information, or to help Hartnell SIFE get to Dallas, please contact Robert Maffei at (831) 755-6744, or maffei@hartnell.edu.