PROGRAM TEACHES STUDENTS ‘ENTREPRENEURIAL MINDSET’
More than 1,700 middle and high school students are developing apps, honing their business plans, and even taking their ideas to market in the Dallas and Irving school districts.
The students are enrolled in the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship program, part of a national nonprofit aimed at sparking young entrepreneurs.
The classes are taught by certified teachers in seventh through 12th grades. NFTE has been active in DISD and IISD since 2005, but the program dates back to the 1980s in New York.
“We foster entrepreneurism. Our concentration is on problem solving and recognizing ideas.”
Next school year, it’s expanding to the Mesquite, Garland, and Grand Prairie school districts.
“We foster entrepreneurialism. Our concentration is on problem-solving and recognizing ideas,” said Liza O’Connor, development director for NFTE’s southern region. “We really focus on an entrepreneurial mindset, which is how you see the world. This is something that we can encourage in our kids. Not every kid wants to go to college.”
The best business ideas come from the challenges, inconveniences, and pain points people experience in their lives, she said.
“Whatever you’re frustrated with, you’re not the only person who is frustrated,” O’Connor said. “Stop. [Realize] that’s an opportunity.”
Students enrolled in NFTE then take that idea and find a solution, much like their older cohorts are doing in tech accelerators and incubators from the West End to Frisco.
“The students actually create a working app that applies to a problem or need that they see in the career cluster that they’re interested in,” said Karen Ezell, director of NFTE North Texas. “They are judged on the functionality of the apps.”
“Whatever you’re frustrated with, you’re not the only person who is frustrated. Stop. [Realize] that’s an opportunity.”
The students use MIT App Inventor, which allows them to drag and drop to customize the app.
EVOLVING ENTREPRENEURSHIP WITH SOCIETY
When NFTE first came to North Texas in 2005, students were selling T-shirts, jewelry, or starting dog-walking businesses. The popularity of smartphones and apps revolutionized what student entrepreneurs can do.
“Their ideas have changed because society has changed,” Ezell said. “The capabilities of what they’re able to do is very different. They’re still student-based businesses.”
Some of the cool ideas NFTE has seen include:
- An app that maps shopping malls and directs customers to the best parking lot based on where they are going.
- A history game where players can change key events in the past and see how events fold out differently.
In all, NFTE is in 18 schools teaching 64 classes with 22 teachers in North Texas. That will grow exponentially as the program moves into three new school districts.
It will also be launching a program at the Pathways to Technology Early College High School at Seagoville High School. P-TECH schools allow students to earn up to 60 hours of college credit towards their associate’s degree.
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