By Don Bolding
Killeen Daily Herald
This is the year that the Central Texas College Students in Free Enterprise team broke through the ceiling with a string of "firsts."
It was the first year the team won the national championship among two-year college teams and the first year a Texas team has won the honor. Their adviser, John Frith, was inducted into the SIFE Hall of Fame for Sam M. Walton Free Enterprise Fellows for leading ever-changing teams to regional championships and placing high in national competition year after year.
Leading members of the team, each wearing a medal suspended around the neck by a red, white and blue ribbon, had a reception last week in the Mayborn Planetarium rotunda on the CTC campus for about 50 people they wanted to thank for their help leading to the win in Philadelphia.
"This is a real chest-thumper for all of us," said CTC Chancellor James Anderson, who has attended the team's national presentation for four years. "Some of those teams were big, and the judges were mid- and senior-level executives from some of the biggest companies in the nation. But I thought, as soon as I saw our people's presentation, that this would be the year for them."
Team president Chastity Clemons, who graduates this year, said she started biting her fingernails when she learned one of the biggest teams had a large project that burned down during the year, and they rebuilt it.
"It was really tough," she said. "There were three finalists. The second runner-up was announced first, and we started screaming when they announced the first runner-up because we knew what that meant.
"I'm sorry I can't be a member of the team anymore because you have to be a student, but I'll be working here and will be able to help."
Frith said the judges made clear that eco-friendly projects would play a big part in the competition from now on, and the CTC team was prepared for it this time. It finished lower than members were accustomed to last year, partly because they hadn't expected so much emphasis to be put on that.
Another project that probably helped was financial assistance to a small business in Iraq selected by the State Department.
Frith and the team were introduced at the reception by Les Ledger, former owner of Ledger Furniture who retired to become a CTC business professor and SIFE adviser.
Ledger delivered his accustomed line, "They did it all; I just drive the bus," before announcing Frith's induction into the Hall of Fame. Ledger and Frith both are Sam M. Walton Free Enterprise Fellows, the pool from which the inductees are drawn.
Team members besides Clemons who went to Philadelphia included vice president and media coordinator Rhaiza Luna, who developed the PowerPoint presentation, Jennifer Napolez, Rendell Harrell, William Smith, Kara McVey, Mark Hyde and Charles McManus.
Student Bobby Shaw prepared a detailed and compact annual report for the judges.
They were among about 30 active members of the team. Frith said that in the 2008-09 school year, the CTC team "completed 46 free enterprise education projects reaching 3,318 school children, college students and local citizens directly with free enterprise programs in market economics, personal success skills, entrepreneurship, personal financial literacy, environmental sustainability and business ethics."
He said that since 1996, the team has used competition winnings and money from fundraising to contribute $26,500 to the CTC Foundation for SIFE scholarships.
SIFE has 1,400 member teams at colleges in the U.S. and 42 foreign countries.
Contact Don Bolding at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7557.