SHERATON ATLANTA HOTEL, GA –Hundreds of young entrepreneurs are pacing throughout the corridors rehearsing lines, realigning ties, giving their team tiny pep talks, and keeping an eye out for the competition.
It’s the 2016 ENACTUS United States Regional Competition. This region covers schools all across the South, but only twenty teams out of the hundreds of schools will advance to the national competition in Missouri.
The Tuskegee ENACTUS team—Phillip Stringer, Rylei Lemoine, Alexus Young, and Louvins Pierre—is standing outside of the ballroom hastily preparing themselves. Their slot is moved an hour earlier than originally scheduled. On top of last minute changes, Stringer is their only veteran. The rest of the team was completely new to competing, and have only presented in front of their coaches, Drs. Nickey Jefferson and Jack Crumbly. They had yet to experience the debilitating stare from a panel of judges.
Are they doomed to fail? You’d think so, but they’re actually ecstatic—laughing about how they stayed up until 3 am practicing. Pierre is composed, his face says it all, but he adds, “They don’t know what’s coming. We’re gonna hit the competition like a tsunami.”
As they make their way into the presentation room, a handful of students, professors, and business professionals are watching them. Most people have been passing the time watching the myriad of student presentations. Seated before the audience are three rows filled with judges, all of them deathly silent and facing the team. It was do-or-die.
Stringer opens the presentation detailing what the Tuskegee ENACTUS team has worked on over the past year. In essence, the team has been working on providing entrepreneurial potential to Tuskegee’s economy by introducing financial seminars to local businesses, helping a local Tuskegee entrepreneur get his water business running, and the signing of a memorandum of agreement with Tuskegee University and the African Diaspora in Honduras to create the African Descendant University of the Americas patterned after Tuskegee University.
After a round of questions, it’s all over. Lemoine admits, as they exit, that she almost lost it when she noticed the scrunched up face of one judge nodding at every point they made. They were all glad the hard part was done, however, the pressure hadn’t subsided. There was still the wait to see if they would be traveling to St. Louis in a few weeks.
A few of hours of networking with students, hustling for internships at big name corporations (Walmart, Coca-Cola, Sam’s Club) was the scene as time passed and the team made its way into the ballroom for the results. Dr. Jefferson, like the coach out of an underdog sports flick, pulls the team in and reminds them that no matter what the outcome, they’ve already won. Tuskegee University has found a strong team of bright students to carry the legacy of its founders. Everyone takes a seat at the table eagerly crossing their fingers and hoping for the best.
Lo and behold, as a student is randomly announcing the names of the winners, she enunciates into her mic, "Tukegee University," and the table erupts with joy. Tuskegee had won!
Great job students, thank you for your contribution to the prestige of this illustirous university. You truly re champions!