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Entrepreneurship for K-12 Children

Children who are taught about entrepreneurship are more likely to start their own businesses and more likely to succeed with these businesses.

Most new entrepreneurs can point to a parent or close relative or family friend who ran their own business.

What happens to kids who live in impoverished communities where entrepreneurial businesses are rare, and parents are unemployed, underemployed, or simply struggling to get by?

That's what entrepreneurship education is designed to attack -- it seeks to provide the rest of us with the skills and education that the children of entrepreneurs get from simply sitting at the dinner table and listening to their parents.

The Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership poll found that nearly seven out of 10 youth (aged 14-19) were interested in becoming entrepreneurs. Yet, 85 percent responded they were taught little or nothing about how business and the economy work.

The best known and most effective programs work with disadvantaged youth or youth who reside in distressed urban or rural settings. Among them:

REAL (Rural Entrepreneurship through Action Learning) Enterprises, targets rural youth. Started in Georgia and North Carolina in 1990 is now utilized in more than 500 schools and community centers in 37 states. REAL trains both teachers and students, from kindergarten through high school. REAL programs help students write business plans and include a tight linkage with local entrepreneurs. These community links help ensure that student-run business also meet pressing local needs. REAL has also created REAL Online, an internet-based course for distance learning.

The National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) is perhaps the America's best-known entrepreneurship education program. Founded in 1987 by Steve Mariotti, NFTE targets students in grades 7-12. Its work is focused on low-income, at-risk youth, many of whom reside in inner-city areas. NFTE also trains teachers. Since 1987, it has trained 1,200 teachers, and more than 30,000 young people in 43 states and 14 countries. NFTE offers a number of different programs. They are typically offered in public schools as an accredited course, but some community non-profits, like the YMCA, YWCA, and the Boys and Girls Clubs, also offer such programs. The NFTE Comprehensive course is the most extensive; an abbreviated version is taught as a Summer "Biz-Camp." It requires each student to write a business plan for a real business, and the best plans receive "venture capital grants" that range from $50 to $500.

To learn more about entrepreneurship education, check out these resources:

Consortium on Entrepreneurship Education

Junior Achievement

Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership


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