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Entrepreneurship education gets seeded in Philly with NFTE

Curriculum has been provided for Philadelphia school children for 20 years by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, a nationwide organization that provides entrepreneurship education programs to young people from low-income communities.  But it wasn't until Peter Boni, president and CEO of Safeguard Scientifics, attended a gala for the Washington D.C. chapter and was so impressed he pushed the organization to expand its presence in Philadelphia.

That was three years ago.  Last month, Boni was honored with NFTE's 2009 Visionary Award at the Philadelphia chapter's very own Visionary Gala 2009. Temple University president and NFTE Philadelphia board member Dr. Ann Weaver was the recipient of the NFTE's 2009 Outstanding Community Service Award. Both have been instrumental in the organization's growth--Boni has helped provide funding and other resources through his company and others, while Weaver's school provides an office for NFTE Philadelphia executive director Sylvia Watts McKinney and her small team.

"It's only appropriate to name it the Visionary Gala and honor those who got the program going," says McKinney, whose organization received $500,000 in seed funding for five years from the likes of Boni's Safeguard and Doug Alexander's Internet Capital Group.

NFTE Philadelphia engages 500 students and 15 teachers in 13 schools in low-income areas throughout the city. In addition to promoting the program among 30 targeted schools and training interested teachers, the organization runs several programs throughout the year.

They include a city-wide business plan competition in May in which students compete for cash prizes--or "venture grants." Also, NFTE teams with the Community College of Philadelphia for the Youth Entrepreneurship Conference in February and hosts a Day of Credit education program with Bank of America in October. 

Watts says her chapter will be launching a website in January and is aiming to reach more city students.

"We're trying to get kids to think about controlling their own destiny and get creative," says McKinney. "We believe they're innately entrepreneurs, because for some of them, going from their home to school and back, that's survival. That's a critical part of being an entrepreneur."

Source: Sylvia Watts McKinney

Writer: Joe Petrucci

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