To recharge, I often reflect on the words, “My dream is not to die in poverty, but to have poverty die in me.” Those are the words of Michelle Araujo, then a teen entrepreneur who I met 19 years ago on my first week volunteering for a nonprofit called NFTE. Michelle is one of thousands of students who have learned that they don’t have to simply take a job, they can make a job! Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (www.nfte.com) continues to be widely viewed as a world leader in promoting entrepreneurial and financial literacy among youth.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said : “Not every young person wants to work for a big business so we need a systemic approach to teach them entrepreneurship. NFTE has the best program in the country.” As you know, entrepreneurship education, if done right, impacts students’ basic academic and life skills through a hands-on program and curriculum (think Mini MBA) that enlivens math, reading and writing, and develops skills in critical thinking, teamwork, communication and decision-making.
I have been thinking a lot about the DC job market, where pockets of our city have upwards of 30% unemployment and 91% of our local students don’t graduate from college! 72% of jobs according to Georgetown University, require a college education so we recruit from outside the ‘best and brightest’.
But what about our own local kids? Entrepreneurship education can truly transform how we approach talent development. It is based on the premise of meeting needs in the neighborhood and local community, which makes it an effective response to regional economic shocks we are experiencing.
Entrepreneurship training prepares youth to create jobs and become superior employee candidates with a winning entrepreneurial mindset. We need to prepare the youth of our nation’s capital to become economically self-sufficient by giving them options and training to take charge of their lives and their futures. Youth entrepreneurship keeps them engaged in high school and often inspires them to pursue a college degree.
Since 1995, we have served over 24,000 students in DC, Maryland and Virginia public and charter schools, and this year we will work with an additional 1,000 students at 25 area schools. We also have created nationally a community college curriculum (Pearsons Publishing) to expand our mission to another underserved population. This field needs to scale so that every low-income child in our region has the tools to build their own exit strategy from poverty!
Career readiness has often been marginalized at best, if we can tie this work more to academic outcomes, perhaps its the time to make it front and center!
Julie Silard Kantor Executive Director Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, DC Region (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I SAID YES- Youth Entrepreneurship in America’s Schools by Julie Silard Kantor (Gazelles Publishing) is now available on Amazon KINDLE and as a paperback edition at http://amzn.to/zecvjr