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Software Engineering, University of Waterloo

My Enactus Nationals Experience

What a difference a year makes.

Enactus Cover One year ago today I was counting down the days until high school graduation. Suffering from boredom and “senioritis”, I did my usual thing and scrolled through Facebook, hoping to find something remotely interesting. Fifteen minutes later, I managed to come across this video.

I was probably thinking at the time “Interesting… A 23 minute long video with the title Enactus National Champions. What does Enactus even mean? There’s no chance my attention span is going to last for more than 5 minutes watching this.” Little did I know this video was going to change my life. Anyways, I watched the first few minutes of the presentation and was instantly hooked to their passion and projects. If you haven’t watched Enactus Ryerson’s presentation yet, I would strongly recommend it. I will personally guarantee two things.

  1. You will be inspired.
  2. The line “turning ideas into reality” will get stuck in your head.

After hearing “turning ideas into reality” a gazillion times, I had an idea: I wanted to start an Enactus team at the University of Waterloo and change the world just like Enactus Ryerson. It wasn’t easy, but Enactus Waterloo officially joined the Enactus family in November 2014. My idea would not have turned into reality without the support of Annie Chen (other co-founder), Julie Marin (our lovely program manager), and David Rose (faculty advisor).

Our team recently attended the Enactus Canada National Competition in downtown Toronto. It was truly an incredible and empowering three day experience.

Enactus Presentation Team

The first day consisted mainly of registration, meetings, and the opening ceremonies. The opening ceremony was pretty damn epic. I’ve never seen that much spirit and passion contained in a single room. We witnessed the first presentation of Enactus Nationals, presented proudly by the Enactus Canada head office team. Simply put, it was informational and quite humorous. Next up, Ricardo Martin, Vice President of Marketing of Unilever Canada, delivered a wonderful, humbling keynote speech. I was also fortunate enough to be the recipient of Enactus Canada’s Rising Star award. Although winning this award was sweet, the highlight of my night was watching Acacia (from Enactus Thompson Rivers) win the HSBC Woman Leader of Tomorrow Award.

On Tuesday, I woke up bright and early at 5:00AM, so I could commute from Vaughan to Toronto and attend the 7:00AM tech checks. Our entire presentation team actually commuted from home, since we wanted to save some money. Abhishek, Amy, Annie, and Nirupan made up the presentation team, and I was on tech. Overall, I thought our presentation team did a great job. Later in the day, I found some time to watch a few of the National Challenges presentations. I particularly enjoyed Enactus Ottawa’s soccer officiating program and Enactus St. Mary’s University’s Start Up 100 project.

Enactus Early Morning

Finally, it was the moment everyone was waiting for. Brett Wilson’s awesome talk. His speech had everything you expected a great speech would have and much more. The most powerful part of his talk was when someone asked “Who do you look up to in life?” He initially responded with a very influential Canadian businessman (name which I sadly can not remember). He thought about it a bit more and then changed his answer to “someone who spends time with their children and family.” This response left me in deep thought for quite a long time.

Enactus Brett Wilson

Tuesday night concluded with the announcement of the winners from the opening round. We were in the last league, so it took a while before the results from our league was announced. The play-by-play went something like this. The spirit award goes to Western, the runner-up goes to SFU, and the semi-finalists are… the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University! Just wow. I couldn’t believe it, though at the same time, I knew we did the best we could do. Having our neighbours and friends Enactus Laurier move on with us made the moment even more memorable.

The only downside was the fact that one of our members flew back to Korea after our first presentation. As you might guess, this led to some obvious problems. That night, I had to memorize her entire set of lines and then present the next morning. Needless to say, it was an interesting and stressful experience, especially when you’re not staying overnight at the hotel. We presented and once again, I thought our presentation went very well. Unfortunately, this time we did not move on to the finals.

Enactus Laurier Team

The four finalists were University of Ottawa, St. Lawrence College, St. Mary’s University, and University of Windsor. The four teams were all well deserving finalists and they all had fantastic presentations and projects. Several announcements later, Enactus Ottawa was chosen as the National Champions, with Enactus St. Mary’s winning runner-up.

I was invited to the Reception of Champions, which may have been the best part of my first Enactus Nationals experience. I had the opportunity to meet many of Enactus Ottawa’s dedicated members and learn from their experiences. I also had the chance to talk with members and faculty from exceptional Enactus programs: Lambton College, Ryerson University, University of Windsor, St. Mary’s University, and St. Lawrence College. I learned from a conversation with Ian Aitken (Founder and Chair of Enactus Canada) that he and Preston weren’t related. He also noted that in other Enactus Nationals, the two finalists are actually led on to the stage and then the winner is selected in a American Idol fashion. Finally, I met David Primmer, the donor of Enactus Rising Star Award. Awesome guy.

Anyways, this was quite a long blog post. I’ve never been more inspired and I’m ready to take our Enactus Waterloo program to the next level. This is going to be one incredible year.