College & Workforce Readiness

Inner-City Youths Tackle Business

By Sean Cavanagh — April 26, 2005 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Sixteen years ago, Steve Mariotti took a group of high school dropouts from the South Bronx on a tour of a wholesale watch dealer’s operation. The trip was meant as a real-world business tutorial, but Mr. Mariotti remembers that one of his young charges soon surprised him with an observation of absolute capitalist clarity.

The teenager remarked that it wouldn’t make sense for him to buy the watches, even if he personally liked them. What mattered, he explained to his older guide, was that he couldn’t resell them for a profit in his neighborhood.

“He was thinking about the marketplace,” Mr. Mariotti recalled with admiration.

A former New York City special education teacher, Mr. Mariotti came to believe that many disadvantaged youths from the inner city possessed the sort of intuitive business skills he witnessed that day. In 1987, he launched the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship, which seeks to teach teenagers business lessons and helps them establish their own business enterprises—a process that supporters say also builds academic and life skills.

With support from the Microsoft Corp., the Goldman Sachs Foundation, and others, the NFTE ( to date has worked with more than 100,000 young people from poor communities in 45 states and 13 countries.

The foundation this week was expected to honor more than 30 business projects at an awards dinner in New York City. The awardees were to include Luis M. Villa, who, along with a few classmates at East Palo Alto High School in California, fashioned and sold canvas belts stitched with a bandanna design, for a business they dubbed Latin Style.

Mr. Villa, 16, and his co-entrepreneurs have made $580 so far, he said. Not all their salesmanship is about profit: They modeled color schemes for the belts to avoid any association with known gangs in their community.

“It’s a very big problem,” Mr. Villa said of those gangs. “We hope to make people come together and unite them.”


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Data Webinar
Education Insights with Actionable Data to Create More Personalized Engagement
The world has changed during this time of pandemic learning, and there is a new challenge faced in education regarding how we effectively utilize the data now available to educators and leaders. In this session
Content provided by Microsoft
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Accelerate Learning with Project-Based Learning
Earlier this year, the George Lucas Educational Foundation released four new studies highlighting how project-based learning (PBL) helps accelerate student learning—across age groups, multiple disciplines, and different socio-economic statuses. With this year’s emphasis on unfinished
Content provided by SmartLab Learning
School & District Management Live Online Discussion Principal Overload: How to Manage Anxiety, Stress, and Tough Decisions
According to recent surveys, more than 40 percent of principals are considering leaving their jobs. With the pandemic, running a school building has become even more complicated, and principals' workloads continue to grow. If we

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

College & Workforce Readiness Spotlight Spotlight on Critical Thinking 2021
This Spotlight will help you determine ways your district can integrate critical thinking into curriculum and more.
College & Workforce Readiness Opinion Can College-Going Be Less Risky Without Being 'Free'?
Rick Hess speaks with Peter Samuelson, president of Ardeo Education Solutions, about Ardeo's approach to make paying for college less risky.
5 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
College & Workforce Readiness Whitepaper
The State of Career and College Readiness in K–12: 2021 Report
In this report brought to you by Xello, uncover how educators across the US evaluate their CCR efforts today and the implications the COV...
Content provided by Xello
College & Workforce Readiness Opinion What Will It Take to Get High School Students Back on Track?
Three proven strategies can support high school graduation and postsecondary success—during and after the pandemic.
Robert Balfanz
5 min read
Conceptual illustration of students making choices based on guidance.
Viktoria Kurpas/iStock