Valdosta State University News (Georgia)
By: Thressea Boyd
VALDOSTA -- For the past seven years, members of Valdosta State University's Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) have taught basic computer skills and financial literacy to school-aged children at the Ora Lee West Community Center. The after-school program is packed with neighborhood children eager to learn. The enthusiasm and energy of these children inspired and challenged SIFE members to do even more -- it is from this passion that the SIFE Skills Success Center was developed.
Members of SIFE and its Business Advisory Board rallied community-wide support to build a multipurpose learning facility that will address the social, economic, and educational needs of children and families who live near the community center. Construction on the 1,700-square-foot dynamic learning center is scheduled to be completed in December.
"The SIFE Skills Success Center is a prime example of how this community takes responsibility for the welfare of its citizens," said Dr. Wayne Plumly, SIFE's faculty adviser and interim dean of the Harley Langdale College of Business Administration. "The children of Ora Lee West are our children and they need the same opportunities to learn the skills necessary to succeed and lead a meaningful and fruitful life."
Within the center, students will be encouraged to explore music in a grand sound-proof room, with personalized instruction from VSU music students. For those students who want to further develop their artistic talents, VSU art and art education majors will be available in the art center to help the students discover their artistic talents. The center will also feature specialized areas for science and math, reading, and computer instruction.
"The Skills Success Center is a place where children can come to get one-on-one assistance with their school work," Plumly said. "They will be able to work on their homework then create art work or take piano lessons. They will get off their school bus and be greeted by college students that care for each and every one of them. They will have strong mentors that want them to succeed."
The project continues to gain community support and many businesses and individuals have provided financial assistance and professional services. First Federal Savings and Loan, Pinnacle Prime, Southeastern Federal Credit Union, McCall & Associates, Ace Electric, Georgia Power, and the Valdosta Housing Authority have contributed to the realization of the center. Regional law firm Colman Talley is donating legal services to the project.
"Over the years, SIFE members have realized that as a group they could do so much more to assist these children in reaching their full potential," Plumly said. "Part of a well-rounded education is learning the importance of giving back to the community. The SIFE students will go home each night from the center knowing that they helped a child and they can feel good about themselves. They build self-confidence that they can make a difference in their world."
SIFE is a nonprofit international student organization with more than 1,500 teams in 47 countries. VSU SIFE students work as team to design educational outreach programs that help people develop the skills needed to succeed in the free enterprise system. Last year, VSU's largest campus group -- with more than 200 members -- completed 42 service-learning projects and volunteered more than 10,000 community hours. The organization, which has finished in the top four in the nation four out of the last eight years, is known for its high-impact programs completed with quality and passion.