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Should entrepreneurship be taught in more public schools? NFTE New England says 'absolutely'

Posted by Scott Kirsner  December 6, 2011 08:16 AM

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Anthony DeFelipo is a living, breathing, 16-year old argument for why entrepreneurship should be an elective at every public school. DeFelipo and a friend placed third at a recent Boston Startup Weekend event with a mobile app called BiteRight, and he's planning to launch a jewelry business soon, Earth Custom Designs, that will use non-precious stones imported from developing countries.

And DeFelipo tells me he probably wouldn't have discovered entrepreneurship if not for a course offered at his high school, Providence's MET Center. "I wasn't doing good. I got Ds and Fs. I had problems with showing up late," DeFelipo says. But ever since taking a course designed by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, DeFelipo says, "I found a passion in entrepreneurship. I carry a notebook with me, and whenever I see a problem, I try to think of a solution." (DeFelipo is pictured at right, holding a prototype piece of jewelry from Earth Custom Designs.)

DeFelipo is one of the speakers at Wednesday's nights "Friends of NFTE Showcase" in Cambridge. The event, intended to help NFTE expand to more schools, is expected to bring out techies, investors, and company founders such as David Fialkow of General Catalyst Partners, Len Schlesinger of Babson College, Mary Mazzio of 50 Eggs Films, and Doug Hunt of IBM.

Two decades after its launch, NFTE New England reaches 1000 students in 16 high schools with an elective course that is taught as part of the normal school day. (Thirteen of those schools are in eastern Massachusetts, including places like Chelsea, Lynn, Malden, and New Bedford.) That sounds like a tiny number to me — so why not get involved in helping NFTE grow? Executive director Jennifer Green says there are four ways that entrepreneurs can get involved: "We can always use guest speakers to inspire the students; professionals who can coach and mentor the students as they develop their business plans; judges for the business plan competitions we have; and people who can bring students out to visit local companies." Today, there are about 100 volunteer entrepreneurs working with the students. Again, that number should be a lot higher.

DeFelipo, now a junior at the MET Center, is a great voice for the organization. "Everybody has a spark inside of them that's just waiting to be lit," he says. "They just have to find something they're good at, and that they love. Entrepreneurship was my spark."

Tomorrow night's event, at Microsoft NERD in Kendall Square, is free to attend.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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