Savannah State students win global competition with their honeybee-saving charity

Our Changing Climate

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Two Savannah State University students recently took the top prize in a global contest.

Master of Business Administration candidate Sade Shofidiya and senior Karen Perez beat out 33 teams from 24 countries to win the World Trade Centers Association’s 2020 Peace Through Trade Competition.

Shofidiya formerly interned at the World Trade Center Savannah, while Perez will be an intern there during the fall. 

The two students won for submitting their women-led project, Foster Beelief.

It’s a charity that works to promote sustainability by teaching people about the climate change-related risks facing honeybees and working to heighten interest in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Shofidiya, who serves as the charity’s founder and chief executive officer, says the win is “extremely exciting” for her team, which calls themselves “The Hive.”

“It also provided assurance for me, letting me know that I’m on the right path and doing what I’m supposed to be doing,” the 27-year-old Chicago native told WSAV NOW. 

She says she started Foster Beelief based on her own experiences as a foster child from age 2 to 14.

“The different environmental and faith-based organizations that came out into the really impoverished communities I lived in made a wonderful difference in my life,” Shofidiya shared. “It gave me and the other children in those communities something positive to focus on aside from the horrors from our day-to-day lives of being in group homes and foster care.”

She says Foster Beelief has been her way to give back. 

It’s why in addition to working to help save the bees, her team sends out quarterly Beeliever Box care packages to foster children with the help of products provided by the Savannah Bee Company.

“We want to get them involved and integrated into the environmental justice community and realize that it’s a wonderful opportunity for them to develop their environmental stewardship, and to also develop a better appreciation for the communities that surround them to become pro citizens,” Shofidiya said.

Foster Beelief also works to get more minorities involved in STEM fields. 

“Minorities have the lowest levels of participation and outdoor recreation, and that’s across all age groups,” Shofidiya said. “This also helps to expose a lot of minority groups and [students at historically Black colleges and universities] to STEM subjects and really seeing the application of these things,” she added, noting that HBCUs have had issues with retention for students in STEM fields.

Scott Center, former chair and current board president of the World Trade Center Savannah, says this is the Peace Through Trade Competition’s third year. 

He says there are a number of “remarkable” aspects about the award-winning Foster Beelief project.

“It deals with the problem we have locally and nationally about food deserts in urban areas and it deals with the problems of health and immunization, because there’s a lot of hard evidence that if you use honey from local hives, it helps you with ward off many different diseases and allergies,” Center told WSAV NOW.

The Foster Beelief team will receive an all-expenses paid trip to the next World Trade Centers Association General Assembly, scheduled to take place in Ghana.

They’ll then have the chance to showcase their project to the entire World Trade Centers Association membership.

“Going global is really important to Foster Beelief because the more people get involved in our mission and saving the honeybees, the more we can accomplish this goal,” Perez told WSAV NOW. 

“It is imperative that we take action in saving the honeybees because they need our help,” the chief logistics officer said.

Learn more about the Foster Beelief project by visiting their website here.

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