Posted: December 3, 2009 in Education

Tanya’s Story- Youth Entrepreneurship in America – NFTE Presentation YESG 5-6–09


Looking to Entrepreneurship Education During the Economic Crisis

By Julie Silard Kantor, Vice President,

The National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship

(NFTE Washington Office)

As the whirlwind of news surrounding the vast global economic crisis continues, I stopped to reflect on why providing an entrepreneurship education to low-incomes youth – the primary cause of our Foundation – matters so much, especially at this time.

Obviously, this is an important contemporary civil rights issue. Power and influence in our country is granted to those who own – own their own land, their own houses, and their own businesses. Yet interestingly enough, we teach our students to be employees and not business owners. Many high schools have job placement programs to help their students, but rarely do we see the possibility of entrepreneurship presented as an option. Many also fail to see the correlation between the health of the economy and the people who have a vested interest in its health: entrepreneurs.

Of equal importance is the simple fact that our country’s 1.2 million dropouts costs over $329 billion in lost wages annually, according to Bob Wise,[1] who spoke to the YES Group at the Aspen Institute’s Wye Center, where additional compelling research was presented by Robert Balfanz of the Center for Social Organization of Schools at Johns Hopkins University about high school dropouts.

The decision to drop out is a one-million-dollar decision in lost wages for each child who makes it. Further, 90 percent of the fastest-growing employment categories in America require a college degree – and our kids won’t be able to compete. Then, even more jobs will have to go overseas. In addition to Balfanz’s eye-opening research, I encourage you to read John Bridgeland’s “The Silent Epidemic.”[2] In this research, Bridgeland interviewed high school dropouts and asked them why they dropped out of school:

81% said they would not have if the subjects were more relevant to real life.

Teaching children how to make it financially (and we are strong proponents of the growing financial literacy movement), how to own their futures as economically productive members of society, is both real life and relevant. Getting business leaders into classrooms to share their expertise and optimism is key. Youth entrepreneurship engages young people and gives them a good reason to go to school. The drug war taught kids to say No to drugs. Starting a legal enterprise is a concept our young people can say yes to.

In a 2006 survey by Junior Achievement 71% of middle and high school students wanted to be self-employed at some point, up from 64% in 2004. In 2006, the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) released a critical report calling for a major overhaul of the country’s educational system. A report titled “Tough Choices, Tough Times,” written by YESG’s Vice Chairman, Thomas Payzant, highlights the link between education and the economy and provides policy recommendations for America’s schools.

General Colin Powell recently spoke at an event for America’s Promise that I attended to kick off the Drop-Out Summits that will be taking place in 50 cities — to bring national awareness to this epidemic. As General Powell notes, the dropout crisis impacts our economy and even our national security. We cannot remain a world superpower if we do not give our children the resources they need to succeed.

Adding to this argument is research by the Harvard Graduate School of Education has found that students, having taken a 50-plus-hour entrepreneurial course show:

  • increased interest in attending college and heightened career aspirations
  • increased feeling of control over their lives
  • increased leadership behaviors

NFTE findings further indicate that these entrepreneurial courses:

  • increase engagement in school
  • increase students’ sense of connection with adults in business and the community
  • increase independent reading
  • Increase business and entrepreneurial knowledge

Balfanz maintains that youth entrepreneurship is:

  • a reason for kids to come to school
  • an avenue for short-term success
  • a help in providing a clear pathway to adult success
  • a way to develop neighborhood assets

Many years ago, a NFTE graduate and business owner, Michelle Araujo, summed it up:

My dream is not to die in poverty, but to have poverty die in me!

We need to fast-track our work so we reach these kids and not lose another generation of students before we can teach them to fuel their dreams and have belief in their own potential. This in turn will reward our country handsomely, not only with a more educated workforce, but one that adds to and nurtures our economy’s health – because it impacts their own.

We can’t afford to let 1.2 million kids fail annually.

[1] President of the Alliance for Excellent Education.

[2] John M. Bridgeland, et al., The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts. A report issued in association with Peter D. Hart Research Association for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Washington, DC: Civic Enterprises, March 2006.

Trying to reinvent how teachers teach– using experimental multimedia– Lucas felt movies and computers could come together– go into schools and find and capture best practices. 

George Lucas Foundation–

No one was recording best teachers, best ideas, put them online.  What is best way for people to learn?

Asked if education is a lost cause?

Lucas-” we only fail if we give up– we are drowing as a society– do we want to give up or keep going– single most important thing we have as a uman race is to create knowledge and pass it on to the next generation.”

“our brain doesn’t work well unless we tell it things…”


GREAT ideas– how do you access them and learn from them


We need to adapt to survive on this planet…


we will have to learn a lot in next 400,000 years


we have to keep doing it today to get there…

George Lucas just shared that his father taught him to ‘Buy Low, Sell High… and never make a movie out of a hobby’ imagine if he heeded that advice!  There would be no Indiana Jones, No Star Wars…  I can’t imagine my childhood without seeing Star Wars– 26 times at the Uptown Theater with my brother Tony… This man has been a GAME CHANGER business leader who says he puts writing first, business second and producing third… hmmm

Learn more about the Worl Business Forum at

NFTE History and Overview 6.09

Imagine a World…
Where young people are trained to make it in the market economy.  Where high school is relevant and real life and young people learn skills they will need to build their pathways to prosperity.
At the Aspen Ideas Festival… the US Secretary of Education shared his support that young people learn entrepreneurial skills.  The NFTE Program Highlighted Several Times as Best Practice by  US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan talk with Robert Schieffer of CBS’s Face the Nation.
“To find those practices and to scale them up… all this discretionary money we have  All I want to do is invest in those schools those school districts those nonprofits that are both closing the achievement gap and raising the bar for everybody.  So We have an unprecedented opportunity to do that and to take to scale what works.  There is a program, you guys are going to watch a movie tonight, the NFTE Program.  This Ten9Eight movie that focuses on this idea of teaching entrepreneurship.  Well they are doing a phenomenal job… we should have more students engaged in that.  I am a big fan of Teach for America- they are doing a great job of producing in the next generation of teachers… we should invest more in that.  My job is not to come up with the next great idea.  My job is to figure out what’s really working around the country and help those folks take to scale those best practices.. its a unique, unique opportunity.”
– Arne Duncan at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Aspen Colorado,
LINK TO INTERVIEW– quote above featured in minute 29 – 31

Dan Sharpe with the Institute for Large-Scale Innovation:

“I’d like to ask you to comment on a recent quotation of Tom Freidman’s.  He said the stimulus program will help our economy recover, but only innovation will help us retain our competitiveness.  You’re bringing great innovation to the process of education; what changes are you doing in education to enhance the ability of our students to be innovative?”


Arne Duncan:

“That’s a great question.  I think so much of that is providing students with a range of opportunities to pursue their skills and pursue their passions.  So again, just an example, you guys have been watching here tonight, this NFTE program is taking children from some very very tough backgrounds and giving them a chance to be entrepreneurs, to be innovators, to build their own businesses.  There is a young man, I don’t know if he is here, but he is in the movie, Rodney Walker – yeah he’s coming up next.  I don’t want to start crying up here but this young man has overcome some things that most of us think is just unimaginable, but because he had those opportunities, he was on the Dean’s List this year, a freshman at Moore House, class president – very, very tough background, never seen a mountain before he came her today – never seen a mountain.


So we have to find more opportunities to help students find their passion, find their creativity, to give them the ability to innovate, and despite their tough situations they can do great things.”


This is an amazing piece in the Washington Post Magazine today– Happy Easter– about women — and even a class at GWU– putting entreprteneurial skills to handle the many dimensions of life– check it out– I am so proud of BFF Kathy!!