Pathway to Prosperity: Giving Back to our Community

Posted by | June 25, 2010

At Safeguard Scientifics, we often talk about the importance of our partnerships with the life sciences and technology companies in which we deploy capital. There’s another partnership that I’d like to highlight that also reflects Safeguard’s commitment to entrepreneurship as well as giving back to our community — the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE).

Safeguard was the founding sponsor of the Philadelphia chapter of NFTE — NFTE Philadelphia — in December 2006. NFTE provides entrepreneurship education programs that target youth in low-income communities who think that school and education have little relevance in their lives.

NFTE’s unique approach is focused on experiential learning with community volunteers and business coaches playing an important role in bringing the real world into the classroom. By learning entrepreneurship, students begin to develop the personal vision, skills, stability, and independence, all of which they need to become productive adults and responsible family and community members.

Since launching its program in 2007, NFTE Philadelphia has served a total of 900 students, including 500 who are enrolled this school year alone across 13 public and charter schools located in Philadelphia and Camden, N.J. And we’ve only just begun.

Recently, NFTE Philadelphia hosted its third annual Citywide Business Plan Competition where 12 students from 10 NFTE partner schools presented their business plan to a panel of judges made up of entrepreneurs and visionaries from throughout the Greater Philadelphia area.

I was thoroughly impressed with the confidence and poise these students exhibited during their presentations — qualities that the NFTE program prides itself on teaching its students. Winner Jeremy Garrett was especially strong in his business plan, exuding poise and resolve well beyond his years.

As a result of his success, he won a laptop, $1,500 of seed capital from NFTE, $1,000 from Ernst & Young along with recognition at its recent awards gala as E&Y 2010 Student Entrepreneur of the Year, and two free tickets courtesy of Southwest Airlines — a very impressive winnings package for a young entrepreneur to get started on his “pathway to prosperity.” Check out this article published in the Courier Post about Jeremy’s achievement.

Research shows that students from low-income families are six times more likely not to finish high school than those from high-income families, limiting their employment prospects to low-wage positions with nominal job security. This has played out in Philadelphia where 45 percent of students never graduate from high school.

I always say being a successful entrepreneur requires vision, focus, and the gathering of good, high-quality people. Jeremy and the young people in NFTE exemplify these characteristics.

Educating our youth about entrepreneurship is vital to the success of the Greater Philadelphia area. The future of American business rests in the hearts and minds of our youth. In line with Safeguard, I believe that successful business leaders have a responsibility to foster the next generation of entrepreneurs who will bring economic prosperity to this region and throughout the country. There is no better way to do this than support and empower NFTE. All of us at Safeguard are proud to be part of it.

For more information about NFTE Philadelphia, visit their website at philadelphia.nfte.com or follow them on Twitter @NFTEPhilly.

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