UMKC Students Help Kansas City Families Stay Driven

Students participating in Enactus partnered with Operation Breakthrough to keep Kansas City families on the road

Reliable transportation can be a domino that holds a family’s opportunities together. It can be the difference between someone getting to work, holding a job and being able to access much-needed resources. With their latest project, Stay Driven, UMKC Enactus sought to help families in need, while making Kansas City their classroom.

During summer 2023, students had the opportunity to visit Operation Breakthrough, a nationally accredited not-for-profit in Kansas City that offers childcare, education and wrap-around services for families in need. While there, staff explained the need for families to have reliable transportation and the difference having it can make on their lives.

“Using public transportation to get to a job can take upwards of 90 minutes each way for working parents,” said Mary Esselman, president and CEO at Operation Breakthrough. “Having reliable transportation allows people to get to those jobs that also have things like benefits and paid time off.”

Ga Ji Wang, a Bloch student with seven years of automotive experience in the Kansas City area, recognized the need to solve this problem. Wang came up with the idea to offer families a car-care clinic.

“Having the working background and skillset that I do, I knew we could find a way to make a difference,” said Wang, a senior studying business administration with an emphasis in entrepreneurship. “Doing something as simple as an oil change can make a big difference in keeping a car on the road.”

The team began work on their Stay Driven project at the start of the spring semester. Together, they worked to recruit volunteer mechanics, manage inventory, plan for the event and coordinate with the staff at Operation Breakthrough. The team also needed to secure funding for their project, which inspired them to turn to UMKC Giving Day.

"Enactus always bootstraps projects through spring fundraising campaigns and the timing was perfect for us to tailor our Giving Day campaign to Stay Driven,” said Imani Lemon, president of UMKC Enactus. “Our theme centered around people donating just $5, which would help cover the cost of oil, a windshield wiper or a light bulb.”

By taking part in Giving Day, the Enactus team was able to raise nearly $1,300, which covered the cost of supplies for Stay Driven. The team was also able to secure donated parts and supplies, as well as help from volunteer mechanics.

On April 5, UMKC Enactus held the Stay Driven event at Operation Breakthrough, helping families receive minor repairs like oil changes, headlight replacement, battery replacement, securing bumpers with zip ties and fluids top offs. In total, they helped 29 families, saving them $3,000 in repair costs.

Sixteen Enactus volunteers participated in the event including Wang, who once again found himself working under the hood. By doing so, he was able to see the difference the team was making first-hand.

“Many of the cars were low on oil and you could already see the damage being caused,” Wang said. “We helped keep multiple cars on the road by simply performing that routine oil change.”

For UMKC Enactus, Stay Driven is anything but a one hit wonder. The team hopes to bring the event back, potentially with help of other Kansas City students taking part in Operation Breakthrough’s Ignition Lab.

“Allowing them to participate in performing minor repairs gives them invaluable experience as they work toward their future,”Esselman said. “Our team and the families who participated in Stay Driven were blown away and we’re excited to continue to support this event and UMKC Enactus.” 

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