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Some Students Are Just Better Connected Than the Rest of Us

April 11, 2013
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WINNING LOOK: Success always draws a crowd, as these Enactus members show.

WINNING LOOK: Success always draws a crowd, as these Enactus members show.

K Street lobbyists in Washington D.C. and Wall Street traders in New York City aren’t the only ones who are powerfully connected.

There are 65 students from the University of La Verne who are leaving their imprint all over Southern California, spearheading food drives, career preparation workshops, business camps and a host of other community improvement projects.

What connects them is their membership in Enactus, a global community of students, academic and business leaders committed to using the power of entrepreneurial action to transform lives and shape a better, more sustainable world.

Their goal isn’t just to provide the underserved and underprivileged with a hand-out or hand-up, but also to work side by side with these groups. With such a meaningful mission, it’s no wonder Enactus is the largest organization on the ULV campus.

“I joined to improve the community around me by utilizing the skills and knowledge I’ve gained at the University of La Verne and also to connect with others who share the same passion,” said Melissa Gutierrez, current Enactus president.

This past week, Gutierrez joined Ralph Saldana, last year’s Enactus president; Sajaed Shaw, executive director of media production for Enactus; Dr. Issam Ghazzawi,  associate professor of Management and academic advisor; and several other Enactus members at a regional competition in Garden Grove, Calif., where a panel of business and community leaders recognized the excellence of their community involvement and told them they would be advancing to the USA National Exposition competition in Kansas City, Ks., next month.

Enactus members display one of the trophies they won at the regional competition.

Enactus members display one of the trophies they won at the regional competition.

In Kansas City, one team will win the honor of being named national champion and go on to represent the United States at the Enactus World Cup.

Dr. Ghazzawi, of course, is thrilled for his University of La Verne-based Enactus members, who will have the opportunity to brush shoulders and talk shop with a number of Fortune 500 CEOs and captains of industry.

“The CEOs of Walmart, Campbell’s, Pepsi, Hershey, Nestle are all there,” Dr. Ghazzawi said.

Last year, Saldana said he spoke freely with a top Walmart executive about basketball. Now that he’s nearing graduation, he hopes to steer their conversation toward more business-related topics and opportunities.

While ULV’s Enactus members look forward to sharing their local community projects with a national audience, they also look forward to participating in the Enactus career fair.

“It’s the best career fair I’ve seen anywhere in my life; it’s second to none,” Dr. Ghazzawi said.

At the same time, no Enactus member will forget what brought them to Kansas City in the first place.

“Our mission is to enable progress through entrepreneurial action,” Saldana said.

La Verne has seen the commitment and take-action mindset of Enactus members close up. Throughout the year, they always have a handful of projects going on in the community.

In their “A Can at a Time” project, sponsored by Cambell Soup, Enactus members have been raising awareness about those who don’t have enough to eat in our community. As part of their outreach, they partnered with the La Verne Police Department, City of La Verne, NAFTA food distribution, Hope for Homeless Youth Organization and its affiliated churches, Sowing Seeds for Life, The Dream Center of Los Angeles and the University of La Verne community to collect and distribute more than 100,000 pounds of food.

Meanwhile, many Enactus members last summer welcomed 45 middle school students to the ULV campus for the three-week REACH business camp, where students were exposed to a host of business and career skills.

Enactus members seem to travel in large groups wherever they go. On recent field trips to the Metropolitan Water District’s Diamond Valley Lake, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Southern California Edison’s Energy Education Students, they brought along an entourage of high school students in hope of stimulating their further interest in business and the sciences.

Enactus members also have shown they’re not afraid to get a little dirt under their fingernails, recently helping plant three gardens at the LeRoy Haynes Center in La Verne. Meanwhile at the Pomona Valley Workshop, they gave the facility a facelift, sanding, painting, installing blinds and carpet, landscaping and rebuilding a covered eating area.

According to Dr. Ghazzawi, “success breeds success.” The successful community outreach by Enactus members has not gone unnoticed by the nation’s major corporations, who recognize the project management skills his students have been developing through their schoolwork and community involvement. Indeed, many Enactus members have recently landed internships or job offers upon their graduation from the University of La Verne.

Currently, Gutierrez, Saldana and Shaw are fielding phone calls and weighing serious career leads from Sam’s Club, Enterprise, Aramark, Home Depot and others.

“They know what we’re capable of,” Gutierrez said. “They see us as the best of the best.”

Like we said, these Enactus students from La Verne are well connected and high-powered, which should play well next month in Kansas city.

For more information about Enactus in La Verne, you can contact Dr. Ghazzawi at

From left, Enactus members Sajead Shaw, Melissa Gutierrez and Ralph Saldana share a moment with Dr. Issam Ghazzawi, their academic advisor.

From left, Enactus members Sajead Shaw, Melissa Gutierrez and Ralph Saldana share a moment with Dr. Issam Ghazzawi, their academic advisor.

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