Q&A with NFTE New England: Changing the World One Young Entrepreneur at a Time

| MSNE Staff

Coaching NFTE students on developing Apps for our World Series of Innovation event, sponsored by Microsoft (www.nfte.com/innovation)

Since opening its doors in 1991, NFTE New England has reached more than 15,300 students from low-income communities with entrepreneurship education programs. Microsoft proudly supports NFTE as a National YouthSpark partner. Last month, we had a chance to sit down with NFTE New England’s Executive Director, Jennifer Green:

1. What is NFTE?  What schools are offering NFTE?

NFTE (Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship), founded in 1987, has grown from a drop-out prevention program in one New York City high school to the largest entrepreneurship education program for low-income youth in the world, educating over 500,000 youth to date. NFTE partners with all the major public school districts in the US to bring entrepreneurship into the classrooms, including Boston, New York, DC, Miami, LA, San Francisco, Chicago, and more.  In Massachusetts, we partner with schools in Boston, Lawrence, Lowell, Chelsea, Malden, Worcester, Framingham, Quincy and New Bedford.

2.How do teachers incorporate NFTE curriculum into their classes?

NFTE has created a full wrap-around, hands-on entrepreneurship curriculum complete with an extensive certification and training course. Teachers who attend NFTE University walk away with the tools and resources necessary to teach entrepreneurship. NFTE is aligned with Common Core academic standards, and reinforces key academic and career-readiness skills.

Aimee- NFTE
MSNE’s own Aimee Sprung visiting a NFTE class that Microsoft is supporting at the West Roxbury Academy.

3. What impact have you seen NFTE have on students over the years?

Impact studies performed throughout NFTE’s history, from institutions including Harvard and Brandeis, as well as our latest Alumni study of 1,300 past participants, show our students are succeeding both academically and professionally at higher rates compared to their non-NFTE peers. NFTE students are enrolled in school at a higher rate (90% vs. 60% nationwide), graduate high school at a higher rate (89% vs. 69% nationwide), earn 58% more base salary in their first job and start companies at a rate of 22% compared to 11% of the general population.

Laura Martinelli
Laura Martinelli of EHFAR films.

4. Tell us about a success story / student innovation?

“It’s been over a year since my NFTE experience has come to a close, but I still consider it to be one of the most important and valuable opportunities I’ve had.

“Through the NFTE course, I launched my company, EHFAR Films. EHFAR Films’ mission is to share stories that capture the humanity behind organizations and businesses in a documentary, heartwarming style. The purpose of developing my NFTE business plan and founding EHFAR Films is to give small businesses the opportunity to market themselves through film since they are often times overlooked and left behind by larger companies. Clients I have secured since the founding of EHFAR Films in April of 2013 include MassChallenge, the Barbara Lynch Foundation, YMCA, and Southern New Hampshire University among others. Some of these videos can be viewed on my company’s website, www.ehfarfilms.com.

Winnings from my first round of NFTE’s business plan allowed me to purchase my first camera for my business. After competing and placing 1st in the regional competition at Babson College, I was named the 2013 Ernst and Young Youth Entrepreneur of the Year in New England and EHFAR Films placed in the top 12 out of 20,000 NFTE business plans in the country. Here is a great feature about my business and personal story in The Huffington Post.”

– Laura Martinelli is a NFTE graduate 2013, CEO and Founder of EHFAR Films, and ready to take on more business! Contact her through her website at www.ehfarfilms.com

New English High School
English High School NFTE students on their New York City Wholesale Buying Field Trip.

5. What role does technology play in entrepreneurship for students?

We are seeing an increase in technology-related businesses and apps created by our students. They have developed facial recognition software for schools to eliminate the need to take attendance, and created wearable technologies to charge phones or track down lost pets.  Others have created apps that help people manage school meal accounts, provide out-of-school time curriculum to manage snow-days, as well as educating young children about diseases such as diabetes or seizures that affect their family or friends.

6. What is new for NFTE New England this year?  Talk about NFTE NE growth!

During my four years leading NFTE New England, discussions about entrepreneurship and the innovation economy have taken center stage in many of the cities and districts we work in. It’s no wonder then, with the help of local partners like Microsoft and the Barbara Lynch Foundation, we have increased our enrollment over last year by 50%! We added four new school partners in Boston Public Schools and have doubled our enrollment in four districts. This growth is unprecedented, and we are proud to deliver entrepreneurship education to the youth of our region.

7. How can our Microsoft New England community get involved?

This year we are educating 1,226 young entrepreneurs in high schools across the region, and we can’t do it without the support of the entrepreneurial community – volunteers to act as guest speakers, business plan coaches, and judges at our business plan competitions.

Get started on Thursday January 8th by signing up to be a business plan coach at our 9th Annual Youth Entrepreneurship Conference at Babson College where 500+ NFTE students will be in attendance. Sit with students, learn about their businesses and help them think through their business plans.

Check our volunteer site often to see new opportunities as they emerge.

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