''Money doesn't grow on trees.''
Financial security is one of the long-term goals parents wish for their children. Being financially secure has connotations of knowing how to make money, how to save money and how to use money to help others. Financially secure suggests that we have a realistic expectation about the amount of work it takes to make a living while being aware of the traps and pitfalls that might become financial hardships.
The National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE, pronounced ''nifty'') is geared for student ages 11 to 18 years. An international program, NFTE has had a dramatic effect on helping junior high and high school students learn what it means to start and run a small business, thus allowing these young people to take control of their lives.
Started in 1987 by Steve Marotti, NFTE has helped over 80,000 students learn about becoming financially savvy by starting and working in their own small businesses.
How does it work? In some programs, each student may apply for a loan of $25 to $100 to establish his or her business after a business plan has been formulated and approved. As the students provide services, create products or resell merchandise, they learn basic accounting. Every month each student is required to create an Income and Expense Statement along with a Balance Sheet. Students are also required to give 10% of earnings to a charity and to pay and budget for taxes.
As students become conversant about the financial aspects of running their businesses and thus their lives, these young entrepreneurs become ready to create or join a school-based business.
A Harvard Graduate School of Education longitudinal study of NFTE students in six Boston high schools shows that NFTE participants are increasing their leadership and self-starter skills. NFTE participants are more likely to increase their career aspirations over the course of the school year in comparison to the study's control group.
At E-City, a NFTE affiliate in Cleveland, Ohio, students create individual small businesses—from the more traditional services such as babysitting and lawn care to specialized ventures that sell camo-gear, floral arrangements or even cold bottled water at the zoo.
These personal experiences, with the up-and-down realities of running a business—What? Nobody bought your water today? Customers didn't pay? Somebody stole your merchandise?—are joined together in a group effort of a community garden-based business.
The E-City entrepreneurs sell fresh vegetables from the garden and bottle salsa and spaghetti sauce made from their homegrown produce.
The NFTE E-City program has been so successful in changing the lives of Cleveland inner-city kids that the City of Cleveland, along with NFTE, will open an entrepreneurial school for 6th to 12th graders this summer. The students will start school this summer in order to take financial advantage of the summer growing season.
Through entrepreneurship, students discover that what they are learning at school has real-world relevance. NFTE students find out that money doesn't grow on trees, but on tomato and pepper plants, and through the busy-ness of their own minds and efforts. With their NFTE experiences, students understand that a method of creating wealth and wonderful lives can grow with entrepreneurial spirit and skills.
Next week: Five Dangerous Behaviors
Kids Talk™ is a column dealing with early childhood development issues written by Maren Stark Schmidt. Mrs. Schmidt founded a Montessori school and holds a Masters of Education from Loyola College in Maryland.
She has over 25 years experience working with young children and holds teaching credentials from the Association Montessori Internationale. She is also Creative Director for a video-based reading series for children ages three to six, The Shining Light Reading Series. Contact her via e-mail at email@example.com.
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