Entrepreneurship Students Embrace the Power of Service Learning

Haywood Community College has always made service learning an integral part of the education process. This initiative means that before graduation, HCC students learn to use their newfound skillset to give back to the community. Entrepreneurship students volunteered to integrate service learning into their Entrepreneurship Issues class last semester. “This project-based class is where we put the puzzle pieces of all the other classes together. It felt good to know that our efforts would produce more than just a grade,” commented Entrepreneurship Student Christy Brunson. 

The objective of the class was simple: conceptualize, produce, and sell a product before graduation. Why throw service learning into the mix? Entrepreneurship Instructor Meredith Carpenter explains: “This was an opportunity to remind students that intrinsic rewards come from fulfilling a purpose. It also made the project tangible and invoked a real sense of deadlines, responsibility, and goodwill. HCC exists to serve our community and I wanted them to remember that spirit as they graduated.”

To kick off the semester, students were introduced to Asher Collie, founder of Sole Hope. She informed them about a parasite called Jiggers, which live in the topsoil in Africa. This parasite enters the body through the feet and can lead to organ failure and eventually death. It is completely preventable with a pair of closed toed shoes. Sole Hope creates jobs and seeks to eliminate the parasite issue by teaching African widows to make shoes. The soles are made from recycled bike tires, which make them virtually indestructible. During their time with Collie, students asked questions about starting a non-profit and cut out the “uppers” (the fabric portion that connects to the rubber sole) for 12 pairs of shoes. It was the second day of class and students were already making a difference.

After brainstorming possibilities, students decided to manufacture Sole Hope magnets and chalkboards. They turned to fellow machining students for help in cutting the sheets of aluminum. It was here that they learned about deadline flexibility, product waste, and the true costs of production.

Throughout their journey, students maintained a blog of their adventure at http://studentsforsolehope.blogspot.com/. Their goal was to raise awareness of Sole Hope and the Jigger parasite. With only one week remaining in the semester, students sold enough products to purchase 37 pairs of Sole Hope shoes for children and provide significant revenue to the widows-turned-entrepreneurs in Africa.

If you ask an Entrepreneurship student at Haywood Community College the value of an asset, they will research and calculate a dollar amount for you. Ask them the value of a pair of shoes and they will tell you they are worth a life.

For more information on the Entrepreneurship program at HCC, contact Instructor Meredith Carpenter at 828-565-4014. For more information on how you can help Sole Hope, check out their website at www.solehope.com.