New President Brings Funding and Community Building to Enactus Capilano

A community on campus that helps students build ideas into operational projects, and share them with the world

Kirsten Wiltshire (she/her) // Crew Writer
Shruti Karthikeyan (she/her) // Illustrator

“They’re not only Enactus members that are listening to me during the meetings… at the end of the day I can say honestly that these people are all friends,” said Enactus President Rigo Cely Cardenas.

Cardenas is in his final year of the Bachelor of Business Administration program at Capilano University and got involved with Enactus Capilano in 2019, becoming president in August of this year.  

He was originally inspired by the Enactus team that came and taught financial literacy workshops at his high school, Argyle Secondary School. Then, on his first day at CapU, he was recruited by a fellow student, reigniting his curiosity for the program he was taught in high school. 

While Enactus is a global non-profit that helps students turn their ideas for projects and initiatives into a reality using business as a framework, Enactus Capilano began in 2016 with a project called Counting on Action that taught students about sustainability and entrepreneurship within business practices. 

Enactus Capilano is currently working on two projects; Square One and U-Belong.

Square One was created in 2017 with the goal of educating youth on financial literacy and life skills. The Square One team has developed five distinct workshops: banking smart, budgeting, savings and taxes, basic credit, and career development. These workshops have been taught in high schools in North Vancouver and Burnaby. 

With Square One, Cardenas started out as a project representative, then a presenter, eventually stepping into the project manager role to fill a gap. Now, he is president of Enactus Capilano. 

“I think the best thing I’ve gained from this is obviously the professional experience, but also just the confidence around myself and the abilities that I have,” Cardenas said. So far this year the Square One team has already doubled their program reach from the previous year and is on track to reach over one thousand high schoolers. 

This spring, Cardenas competed in the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards in Victoria after placing in the top eight at Enactus National Exhibition in Montreal. His presentation, a personal account of his life and the work he has done with Enactus Capilano won him the Impact Award and $20,000. 

“It was honestly a surreal experience to be on the stage,” said Cardenas, who didn’t expect to get called onto the stage and awarded the Impact Award. He added that sometimes it felt like people didn’t see all the hard work he was putting in. “But when people do see it, it’s the most rewarding thing you can feel.”

Cardenas’ wants to build longevity and sustainability into the Square One project. His approach is to create an app that allows students to take the information they’ve learned in workshops with them into their everyday lives. The app will be a way for students to remain accountable to their goals and healthy habits. He hopes to graduate with Square One in his pocket and turn it into a CRA-registered non-profit. 

The other project, U-Belong, started in 2020 and focuses on mental well-being and belonging within the CapU community. 

The Enactus team is in the process of developing a third project: a free budget tracking app, just like the Square One courses they teach in high schools. They’ve paired up with two software companies, Softcaribbean and OpenWorks Canada, to build the app. Both of which outsource labour to his home country of Columbia, a serendipitous collaboration for Cardenas.

Although it’s challenging making time for two part-time jobs, a girlfriend, school, friendships and Enactus, Cardenas thinks it’s worth it. “Doing things like this will make your university life a lot better and you’ll gain a lot more knowledge than if you were ever at a normal job that a university student has,” Cardenas asserted. “I’ve learned way more doing Enactus than any university course and any job I’ve ever had.”  

Although CapU is known for being a commuter school, Cardenas has managed to find a community and a home for innovation, creativity and passion through Enactus. He encourages students of all faculties to join. “If anybody in this school has an original idea, whether it’s a business or a non-profit project… Enactus is the place you should start,” said Cardenas. “You can get the funding and resources you need to build this project into whatever your dreams are.”

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