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SIFE teaches business basics to inner-city kids

Students In Free Enterprise is a nonprofit group with 15,000 clubs in over 40 countries-more than 800 in the U.S. Its goal is to educate through financial literacy programs. They work with after-school programs, teach adults financial literacy, and help citizens of third-world countries start and maintain businesses.

SIFE is not religiously affiliated, so its mission seems sketchy to some Eastern students, club president Taylor Kirkland said. Some students misread SIFE as being a kind of capitalist club, putting money ahead of ethics.

“Our goal isn’t to… give [people] goals to be rich,” Kirkland explained. “Our goal is… to help people learn sustainability.”

For three semesters, Eastern’s chapter of SIFE has met on campus once a week under Dr. Albert Socci, head of Eastern’s business department.

Each Wednesday, Eastern SIFE members ride by train or car into west Philadelphia to the very rundown and imposing Rudolph Blankenburg School and spend two hours teaching business basics to students. The students in this after-school program will design a project or service, market it, and decide how to spend the profits. Last year, the children participating in the after-school program earned 163 dollars, which they decided to donate to a homeless shelter.

But SIFE isn’t just about making business connections. It’s about making personal connections.

“[SIFE is…] like a big brother, big sister type thing with these children,” Kirkland said. “We’re trying to be mentors …make [college] a reality to them.”

And, in April, those students will visit Eastern’s campus to see what college is really like.

“Out of the nine students in this room, at least one might move on to attend college after graduation,” Sue Gibbons, volunteer coordinator for the West Philadelphia Alliance for Children said. “To a lot of students, college is like another world.”

This year, the SIFE team plans to host a program for graduating seniors in March and April, and use a 750 dollar grant to start an off-campus program to help adults learn to deal with debt and budgeting.

For more information about SIFE, visit www.sife.org.

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