We are hosting our NFTE “Dare to Dream” Gala next Wed, April 29th, at the Marriott Wardman Park.  We will be honoring our good friend, Mark Ein, as this year’s honoree.  Mark, who is the CEO of Venturehouse Group, is a long-time friend who’s an incredibly successful entrepreneur and philanthropist.

I’ve blogged about NFTE in the past.  It’s one of my favorite non-profits.   What is NFTE?  It’s the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship.  The DC chapter has provided nearly 20,000 students — from low-income families — life skills and entrepreneurial education.   This has helped a vast majority of these students to start their own small businesses and / or pursue their college education.

I work with over 10 non-profits in DC.  Nearly all are focused on helping students from lower-income families attend college and / or start their career.  These include Hoop Dreams Scholarship Foundation, Year Up, Posse Foundation, Asian-American LEAD, etc.

I first got involved with NFTE in 2006 when I was asked to serve as one of the judges in the finals of the business case competition.   Since AOL was one of the sponsors, we hosted the finals competition on our AOL campus.  Before the finals started, NFTE hosted a luncheon for the 12 judges.   They asked each one of us to explain why community service is important to us.

As they went around the table, I was one of the last ones to speak.   When it was my turn, I spoke about the importance of education — and how we can use it to create a more level-playing field for children from lower-income families.  But, then as I tried to talk about an important topic to me, tears came to my eyes and I started crying.  My mentor, Ted Leonsis, who was at the head of the table yelled out, “Jimmy, are you crying?”   Then, he said, “stop, I’m starting to cry!”  🙂

What made me tear up?  I had just been named that previous week one of the recipients of Time Warner’s “Andrew Heiskell” Award, which honors TW employees for outstanding community service.   I asked if I could bring my long-time mentee, William Richardson, as my guest (I’ve mentored William since his freshman year in high school and am paying for part of his college tuition).   I was trying to explain how cool it is that I’m able to bring and introduce a young African-American man from the Nation’s Capital (where only9% of its public high school graduates from a 4-year college) to Dick Parsons, an African-American who’s the Chairman and CEO of Time Warner, the world’s largest media company.   The thought of making the introduction and connection is what me tear up — but it was tears of joy and happiness.

In summary, this is why organizations like NFTE are so important.  It provides the training and skills to help people from lower-income families learn new business skills.  These lessons will help the students learn how to start and operate a small business while also learning business skills which will help them as they pursue their college education.

We still have a few seats and tables available for our gala next Wed night.  We’re expecting over 400 guests, including Mayor Fenty and Senator Warner.   If you can attend the gala and help support NFTE, we’d greatly appreciate it.  You’ll have the opportunity to meet many of the outstanding young men and women from the NFTE program.  If you are interested in attending, please contact Amy Dickstein at amy@websterconsulting.com.    Trust me, it will be time well spent on your behalf.   Thank you.