By Hope Katz Gibbs
Editor and Publisher
Be Inkandescent magazine

Nearly 700 supporters turned out on April 28, when the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship hosted its 13th annual Dare to Dream DC Gala, which honored top student entrepreneurs in the Greater Washington area.

The event raised $520,000 for the Greater Washington program of the international nonprofit, an organization that has provided entrepreneurial education programs to more than 280,000 youths in 21 states and 12 countries since 1987.

A highlight of the event was keynote speaker Chris Gardner (pictured here with NFTE student Travis Key), the self-made millionaire, entrepreneur, motivational speaker, and philanthropist who, during the early 1980s, struggled with homelessness while raising his toddler son, Christopher, Jr. Gardner’s book of memoirs, The Pursuit of Happyness, was published in May 2006 and later that year became an internationally acclaimed motion picture starring Will Smith.

Other honored guests included long-time NFTE supporter Patty Alper, creator of the Adopt-A-Class program and Vice Chairman of the Alper Family Foundation, Blackboard Inc. CEO Michael Chasen, and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

“We were thrilled to have had the opportunity to put a spotlight on the wonderful business leaders who are incredible role models for the students we serve in our program,” says Julie Kantor, executive director for the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship-Greater Washington. “Each of the honorees has succeeded, despite the odds, and has the qualities that we hope all of our NFTE grads will embody as they launch their own firms, organizations, and ideas.”

Honoring students and teachers

The real stars of the evening were the students who the program is dedicated to helping. Each was invited to speak about their company before receiving their prestigious awards.

They included Jada Nicome (pictured right) of Northwestern High School in Washington, DC, who won the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship’s 2010 Global Young Entrepreneur of the Year award for her company, K-9 Couture.

Six other students were also recognized for winning the 2010 Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship-Greater Washington’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year award for the companies they created, including:

  • Kyle Calavetinos, Parkdale High School: C-6
  • Nina Maniphak, Garfield High School: Plum Porcupine Photography
  • Justin Mitchell, Bladensburg High School: Akketie
  • Kenneth Peters Jr., Duke Ellington School of the Arts High School: KenE’s Production
  • Andre Robinson, Garfield High School: Klassic Kernels
  • Jasmine Pearl Taylor, Woodrow Wilson Senior High School: Pearl’s Bakery

Teacher honorees for 2010 included:

  • National NFTE Teacher of the Year: Mary Ellen McCormick, TC Williams High School
  • NFTE-Greater Washington Regional Teacher of the Year: Beverly Jackson, Northwestern High School
  • NFTE-Greater Washington Rookie Teacher of the Year: Emily Heuber, Columbia Heights Education Center, Bell Multicultural Senior High School

Making it all possible

The evening wouldn’t have been possible without the help of dozens of volunteers, says Julie, who is pictured right with the chairwoman for the 2010 gala, Cynthia de Lorenzi, founder and president of the popular women’s networking group Success in the City (

“It was truly my pleasure to have been the chairman of the 2010 Dare to Dream DC event,” says de Lorenzi, who started the evening off with a bang by leading Julie, NFTE board members — and the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders — into the ballroom of the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel. “The students who NFTE works with deserve to be cheered.”

This year alone, de Lorenzi explained to the audience, the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship-Greater Washington is working with 700 students in 17 low-income schools in the region.

“Since 1994, it has served more than 22,000 students in the area,” she says. “Now that’s an accomplishment — not just because NFTE helps young people explore new opportunities and build toward a successful future. To me, this organization is incredible because NFTE’s leaders, from staff to teachers to the students it touches, learn the skills needed to live the American dream.”

“Indeed, we are a country of endless opportunity,” added de Lorenzi. “The fact that any American can rise up and start his or her own business is a reality that is unique to the U.S.”

The importance of engaging the entrepreneurial spirit

One of NFTE’s biggest goals is to keep our nation’s students from dropping out of school, Julie told the audience.

“The drop-out rate is alarming, and students are leaving school before graduation in epidemic numbers,” Julie said. “Through NFTE, this generation of students and our next generation of entrepreneurs are truly engaged with programs that teach real life and relevant skills in the classroom. We look forward to reaching many more thousands of students in the years to come.”

NFTE’s Adopt-A-Class Creator Patty Alper issues a challenge

Another highlight of the evening was the special tribute to one of NFTE’s greatest supporters, Washington, DC businesswoman and philanthropist Patty Alper, who since 1998 has given not only her money — but her time.

“My work with the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship-Greater Washington began with my giving $10,000 in seed money to low-income students in the program that would launch them into business,” Patty told the audience.

She explained: “In Jewish theology, this concept is based on the theory of 12th century philosopher Maimonides who believed that the highest degree of charity is that of a person who assists a poor man by providing him a gift or loan, by accepting him in a business partnership, or by helping him find employment.”

That is what she strives to do through the program she created called Adopt-A-Class program, which invites business leaders into a classroom in an underprivileged school to speak about their real-world challenges and work with the students one-on-one.

“I know that their experience and personal stories would augment what the students were learning from a textbook and enhance what the teacher was accomplishing,” Alper said at the gala. “We now have dozens of entrepreneurs going into the classroom, and consistently our students are winning the annual business plan competitions because they are working with professionals who know what it takes to succeed in business. It doesn’t get better than that.”

The Patty Alper Challenge

Patty wants even more business leaders to participate in the program, and has issued a challenge for 2011.

“I challenge everyone in the business community to do what I’m doing and make a difference in a high school student’s life,” she said. “The return on investment will be dramatic — and will come quickly because within a month you’ll see the impact you make.”

Julie added: “Thanks to Patty’s passion for the program, and insight into what makes a business work, she is responsible for helping me take the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship to the next level. I cannot wait to see where we’ll go next.”

About the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship-Greater Washington

Since 1987, has provided entrepreneurial education programs to more than 280,000 youths in 21 states and 12 countries. Its mission is to work with young people from low-income communities to show them that entrepreneurship is a pathway to prosperity.

The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship-Greater Washington is currently working with 800 students in 17 schools, and since 1994 has served more than 21,000 students in the region.

For more information about the program and the annual business plan competition, contact Julie Kantor, executive director of NFTE’s DC program, at