Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Isn't That Nifty?

There are two organizations that serve teenagers and young adults whose abbreviations are often pronounced "nifty": One, NFTY, is the North American Federation of Temple Youth, which, according to the history section of its web site, "was founded in 1939 as the youth arm of the Union for Reform Judaism (formally known as the Union of American Hebrew Congregations)." I am familiar with NFTY from my time as a member of the Hebrew Choir at Georgetown University, which over three sucessive years placed first, second, and third in Georgetown's annual foreign-language Christmas carol contest. Somewhere among my vinyl record albums is an LP called "Songs NFTY Sings."

The other, NFTE, is the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship, one of the lesser-known organizations in the large family of libertarian movement groups. NFTE's history is summed up like this:

Founded in 1987 by Steve Mariotti (a former business executive and entrepreneur) while he was a public high school teacher in New York City’s South Bronx, NFTE began as a program to prevent dropout and improve academic performance among students who were at risk of failing or quitting school. Combining his business background with his desire to teach at-risk students, Steve discovered that when low-income youth are given the opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship, their innate “street smarts” can easily develop into “academic smarts” and “business smarts.” Through entrepreneurship, youth discover that what they are learning in the classroom is relevant to the real world.

NFTE is widely viewed as a world leader in promoting entrepreneurial literacy among youth. When young people participate in our programs they begin to unlock their unique entrepreneurial creativity, have a greater understanding of the free enterprise system, improve the quality of their lives, and dare to dream for bright futures.

To date, NFTE has worked with over 150,000 young people from low-income communities in programs across the U.S. and around the world.

NFTE came back to my consciousness on Monday when I saw a Washington Times article about a D.C.-area teenager who received one of its awards.

The business-section article describes how Montgomery Blair High School senior Thomas Dant
won a $5,000 prize in a national competition for teen entrepreneurs, taking second place in the Youth Business Plan competition for his proposal to provide fine-art photography as a business.

Thomas stood before a panel of judges and explained his business plan for Fine Foto, exhibiting his "Passion for the Planet" series of photographs featuring Montgomery County firefighters.
Dant, 17, was one of 28 students from across the country who were invited to participate in the competition. He plans to attend business school at the University of Maryland and continue growing his small enterprise.
As for his Fine Foto business, Thomas said, he will focus on selling his works in regional galleries.

"I'm going to invest the money back into the business to make more prints of the artwork for my prospective galleries," he said, adding that several local art retailers have asked him to display his photos in their galleries.

"Thomas is just one of the bright lights that could be out there," [Montgomery Blair teacher] Mr. [Derek] Sontz said. "There's too many kids that get into trouble for doing something wrong, and Thomas is one kid who should get recognition for doing something right."
It's good to learn that NFTE is still out there, promoting free enterprise among high school students.

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