Enactus Comes to Aid of Foster Children

The teenage girl’s happy dance started while she unwrapped gifts containing the clothes that she had hoped for.

When the next present was opened and the latest Adele CD was discovered, she could no longer contain her excitement. The happy dance boiled over into unrestrained jubilation.

It was that kind of evening inside one of the cottages at Southern Christian Home in Morrilton on Monday, Dec. 7, when Arkansas Tech University students from the Enactus organization delivered Christmas presents to four girls in foster care between the ages of 12 and 16.

Skylar Combs, an Arkansas Tech junior marketing and management student from Bryant, started the community service project with a very specific goal in mind.

“I realized that most foster children are not introduced to sports until middle school, and by that time their skills are underdeveloped,” said Combs. “As a result, they don’t make the teams and it can prevent them in the long run from earning scholarships. Originally, that’s what made me want to get involved with this project. My first instinct was find the closest foster home, and I found Southern Christian Home in Morrilton. It started out with just sports, and we started looking for other ways we could help.”

Those other ways have included providing tutoring in challenging subjects such as chemistry, doing art projects with the girls, teaching them about budgeting skills and helping the older girls develop their resumes so they can gain employment.

“Our first time going to the house…the 16-year old girl pulled me to the side and told me that the toughest thing about being there is that everyone leaves,” said Combs. “At some point, everybody leaves. People are always coming and going, and it hurts. For me, that hit pretty hard. I told her that I wasn’t going to be one of those people. I’m a junior so I only have a year-and-a-half left here at Tech, but whether it is through telephone or e-mail, even after I graduate I want them to know they have someone there for them.

“This project has become so much more than what I ever could have imagined,” continued Combs. “The first time we went out there, we had a group of 15 Enactus students who went to help. They came back the next time…and the next time…and the next time. We have had all 15 people show up each and every time.”

Stacie Underwood of Carlisle serves as co-leader for the Enactus outreach program. Other Arkansas Tech students involved in the project include Ahmed Alabdan of Russellville, Tori Barnes of Russellville, Tyler Dixon of Hope, Brooke Edwards of Okarche, Okla., Haley Frost of Russellville, Ashley Green of Russellville, Hunter Johnston of Greenwood, Kyler Keddie of Greenwood, Samantha Prince of Dardanelle, Beatriz Sanchez of Danville, Terrell Shephard of White Hall, Gabriel Smith of Little Rock, Megan Tucker of Fort Smith, Madison Vigil of Ozark, Austin White of Bentonville and Kalin Williams of Stuttgart.

Enactus is a registered student organization that provides Arkansas Tech students of all majors with the opportunity to participate in community service projects with an emphasis on educating target audiences about basic business practices.

Formerly known as Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE), the organization is housed in the Arkansas Tech College of Business. Alice Batch, assistant professor of business, is serving as the Enactus advisor during the 2015-16 academic year.

Batch succeeded Dr. Linda Bean, who founded the program and served as its advisor until accepting a new role as interim associate dean of the Arkansas Tech College of Education on July 1, 2015.

Giving back to the community through Enactus has changed Combs’ perspective.

“I am a girl who loves to go shopping,” said Combs. “I’ll go out, and if I am at Walmart or Target now, I’ll look at things I like and realize I already have this at home…maybe in a different color, but I already have it. And then I realize who doesn’t have it, so I end up buying things for them.”

Combs applied her shopping skills to make one girl’s holiday wish come true. The girl wanted a brown North Face jacket, so Combs went to the Internet in hopes of finding a used one in good condition for a good price. A few minutes later, the exact jacket the girl wanted was on its way to Arkansas for $30.

“I was so excited to get to watch her open that,” said Combs. “It was the most…we did that. We put that smile on her face. I just can’t explain it. Many of us have been blessed in life, and it’s up to us to share that blessing with others. Talk to people, learn their stories and realize there’s so much more out there that you can do. That’s the biggest thing to me.”

Photographed: Fall 2015 members of Enactus at Arkansas Tech stand outside Rothwell Hall, home of the Arkansas Tech College of Business.