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High school entrepreneurs show their stuff

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Kaili Kellam stood tall in her pressed oxford shirt and black stilettos, looking coolly over an audience of 20 fellow teenagers in a Babson College classroom as she not only bared her personal struggles, but also masterfully married them to a mock business proposal.

“I want to start a dance studio for kids with both mental and physical disabilities,” the 17-year-old from Natick said confidently. “My mom went from being nondisabled to disabled, and I watched her struggle with that. But dancing builds confidence, and the classes would help these kids gain friends in a nonjudgmental setting.”

Kellam, a junior at Framingham’s Keefe Technical High School, was one of dozens of teenagers from Massachusetts communities who competed at Babson Friday in a rapid entrepreneurial business pitch contest, a format inspired by ABC’s “Shark Tank” reality television series. The students were allotted one minute to pitch their idea to an audience of teenagers from other local schools, who at the end voted for their favorite plan.

The annual competition is organized by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, a nonprofit program that teaches middle and high school students how to create a business from scratch.

The program targets schools across the country with low-income students, working with teachers to design a class in the school’s curriculum dedicated to dreaming up a future business. In Massachusetts, schools in Framingham, Malden, Quincy, Boston, Lawrence, and Lowell are among those chosen to participate.

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