Shawn Kaskie
Center for Rural Research and Development director, 308.865.8135

The Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) team at the University of Nebraska at Kearney took top honors in regional competition held recently in Hollywood, Calif., and will compete in the National Competition in Kansas City in late May.

The UNK SIFE team, a student business organization which is open to all students, was among the nearly 400 teams nationwide that took part in the 13 regional competitions. Only 120 teams will move on to the national competition. Members of the qualifying team, listed alphabetically by hometown, include: Bennington – Nicole Connor, Grand Island – Erin McMillan and Zachary Shultz, Kearney – Amanda Thee, Loomis – Allison Gray, Loup City – Jon Larchick, Millard – Michael Lechowicz, Morrill – Kasey Dietz and Kori Dietz, Norfolk – Margaret Fennessy, North Platte – Miranda Kluthe and Manhattan, Kan., – Stephanie Moorberg.

“SIFE has allowed me the opportunity to expand on the business concepts learned in the classroom through activities created by the team,” said Zachary Schultz of Grand Island, SIFE president. “I have enhanced my teamwork and leadership skills to become better prepared to enter the workforce.”

SIFE students participate in several projects, including the New Venture Adventure Day for high school students to develop leadership and entrepreneurial skills, and helping the Sandhills community of Cody start a new grocery store. This year, individual team members have spent 100 to 500 hours volunteering and implementing SIFE projects. The UNK SIFE team has made it to the national competition in six out of the eight years since Dr. Susan Jensen originally founded the UNK team in 2005.

“The SIFE Team has a strong passion for outreach service related to youth entrepreneurship education and community development,” said Shawn Kaskie, SIFE team adviser and director of the UNK Center for Rural Research and Development.

In addition to the team’s achievement in regional competition, SIFE was named the Outstanding School Volunteer Program in the state at the governor’s annual Rural Development Conference held in North Platte. Amanda Thee of Kearney and Jon Larchick of Loup City attended the conference and accepted the award on behalf of the SIFE team. The award is presented to the school that best demonstrates community involvement by encouraging and supporting student volunteerism through service clubs, service-learning, civic engagement initiatives and other activities.