New year, new clubs, new outreach

Venezuela 180 board members from left to right: Valeria Boquin, Alexa Navas, Maria Leiva and Isis Lucchesi. (Submitted: Alexa Navas)

St. Thomas University’s clubs and societies have been forced to think of creative ways to engage with students in wake of the university offering the fall semester online.

Enactus STU and Venezuela180 are two new clubs on campus, both with the same goal of creating lasting change in their community.

Enactus is a global non-profit organization that focuses on student entrepreneurship and social change.

The University of New Brunswick had an Enactus chapter, where both STU and UNB students can join.

Sofia Paura, vice president of marketing for Enactus STU, said it was time for a change.

“It was time for STU to have its own Enactus team since so many STU students were interested,” said Paura.

The Enactus STU chapter has 16 members who run programs in Fredericton to teach high school students financial literacy and children between ages 8 to 13 about business as well as Spring Up, an event where people clean up waste around Fredericton.

Enactus STU board members Isis Lucchesi, Emily Green and Sofia Paura. (Submitted: Isis Lucchesi, Emily Green and Sofia Paura)

The club plans on having team bonding, professional development workshops and information sessions through Zoom and Microsoft Teams. 

Venezuela180 is a nonprofit that partners with organizations in Venezuela to fund community development projects. It was founded by former STU student Jimy Beltran who graduated in 2018. Beltran is Venezuelan and felt he had a duty to use the opportunities he gained by studying in Canada to give back.

“Through our work, we hope to see a 180-degree shift in Venezuela from a country of extreme crisis to a country of extreme potential,” Beltran said.

Venezuela180 was a club at STU two years ago, but when Beltran graduated, the club stopped and became a nonprofit in Fredericton. This year, Venezuela 180 is making a comeback.

STU students Alexa Navas and Isis Lucchesi collaborated with Beltran and the nonprofit’s executive team to bring the club back. Navas and Lucchesi are the club’s president and vice president. 

Fourth-year student María Leiva is the public relations officer of STU’s Venezuela 180 chapter. She said Navas and Lucchesi realized the organization was disadvantaged by no longer being present on campus while working with Beltran. 

“[The team] realized the organization was missing out on the opportunity to attract a strong pool of volunteers who would be eager to get involved, the student body,” Leiva said.

The students presented their plan to bring the club back to the St. Thomas University Student Union.

“The idea was warmly welcomed and approved by everyone,” said Leiva.

The STUSU was helpful when it came to drafting the constitution for Venezuela180.

Enactus STU had a similar experience with STUSU. Paura said working with them took a lot of stress off the team since drafting a constitution is a long process.

Paura said starting a new club is challenging, especially with the university being online. Despite this, the executives of these groups remain optimistic.

Both clubs use social media to engage students. Venezuela180 STU executives researched digital trends to learn how to recruit volunteers. Based on the positive response they have seen so far, Paura and Leiva are optimistic.

Paura said the team has been talking to friends and other clubs and faculties on campus to spread the word of Enactus STU.

“We are doing our best and constantly trying to think outside the box,” Paura said.

Leiva said that it’s important to focus on the positives during this unusual time.

“We still believe we can make the most of it. Following along with the greater picture of [Venezuela 180’s] mission. It’s all about shifting perspectives and finding the good in every situation we face,” said Leiva.