The National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship’s success in developing young leaders will be on display at The Philanthropy Roundtable’s annual meeting when it opens November 13.
There, young people from Los Angeles will present the business plans they conceived and developed as part of a special entrepreneurship mentoring program offered by the Center for Talented Youth (CTY). The year-long program, launched in 2000 with a NFTE curriculum, is studied by some 60 students a year across the country.
The program is a newcomer to CTY, a Johns Hopkins University group that has been working with intellectually gifted students since 1972. Beginning in 1979, CTY launched the first of what would become an annual nationwide Talent Search to identify America’s most gifted students. Selected students typically take part in three-week summer programs on college campuses across the country, where the aim is to provide an intellectually vigorous and challenging environment. Last year, some 90,000 students participated in CTY’s Talent Search, with 9,900 being selected for the summer programs.
When Dr. Lea Ybarra took the reigns of CTY after a 25-year career in academics, she was proud of CTY’s success. “However,” she says, “there was an important element missing: we were not reflecting the face of America, in terms of ethnic and economic diversity.” To correct this, Ybarra joined forces with the Goldman Sachs Foundation and created the Goldman Sachs Scholars program, which takes 100 middle-school students a year—60 of whom participate in the entrepreneurship mentoring program.
The Goldman Sachs Foundation was funded in 1999 to advance academic achievement through innovative programs, develop high-potential youth, and promote entrepreneurship and business education. Endowed by Goldman Sachs with $200 million, the foundation makes a small number of large grants each year. Stephanie Bell-Rose, the foundation’s president and a speaker at The Roundtable’s annual meeting, says, the CTY/Goldman Sachs Scholars program aims to ensure “that bright students from all backgrounds will have access” to the opportunities they need to succeed in college and beyond.
With the support of the foundation, CTY is able to search for these talented underserved students. More importantly for Ybarra, these students prove minority students don’t need lower standards to succeed: “People think that if you bring in minority students, you have to lower standards. That is definitely not the case. We do not have to decrease standards, we just have to increase outreach.”
From October to April, students selected for the entrepreneurship component meet each Saturday to conceptualize their products and develop their business plans. Above and beyond the NFTE curriculum that guides them through the training, the students also work with volunteers from Goldman Sachs who serve as their mentors. It’s an opportunity that Goldman Sachs employees have embraced.
Gee Smith, who works in the Philadelphia office of Goldman Sachs, was the first in his office to sign up for the program. The caliber of the students involved caught his attention.
“The kids in the CTY group are really quite exceptional, and by taking on a mentoring role, you’re making a real difference in their lives,” he says.
Interaction with mentors isn’t limited to weekend face time. An “e-mentoring” component provides students with e-mail so they can confer with their mentors throughout the week.
At the end of the year, students take part in a competition. Their plans are submitted to and reviewed by a panel of judges. Winners typically receive a small financial reward that they can apply toward their business venture. From there, only their dreams limit how far they can reach.
Martin Davis is managing editor of Philanthropy.