Last night was the Washington, DC premiere of the outstanding documentary, “TEN9EIGHT,” at the National Portrait Art Gallery. This is a doc about the NFTE (Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship) case competition in 2008. This film follows the case competitions in seven cities as well as the finals competition in NYC last October.
Directed by the brilliant and award-winning Mary Mazzio, I strongly recommend this movie. It will make you laugh, cry and smile — and, most importantly, it will inspire you. It will inspire you to get more involved and to want to help others, especially the youth from low-income, urban families.
What does the title of the movie mean? Basically, it underscores the fact that every 9 seconds, another kid drops out of high school in the U.S. The percentage of young African-American, Hispanic and Native American children that drop out of school is staggering. But, with the right help, care and involvement, we can help make a difference in the lives of these young men and women. They want to succeed, but they face tough obstacles. But, with the right help, these deserving youth can get on the right track, finish high school, go to college, then go on to become a success and a contributing member to society.
As background, I’ve served as a judge for the NFTE case finals competition in Washington, DC on three occasions (AOL had been a strong supporter of NFTE). I do have a small role in this film (I introduced last year’s DC winner, who designed dance and cheerleader uniforms, to the Washington Redskins cheerleaders at FedEx Field). And, I just joined the board of directors of NFTE Washington, DC. I also served as a vice-chair for the NFTE Gala in DC this past spring.
But, it’s not just because I’m involved with NFTE that I’m strongly recommending this movie — it’s because the message of this movie is important. It shows how if we help others, much good can result. I wish each and every one of you had the opportunity to meet some of these young men and women. They will blow you away with their eagerness and desire to learn and grow.
I met this outstanding young man last night at the premiere. His name is Rodney Walker. He finished in 2nd place in the National Finals last year. And, he’s now a sophomore at Morehouse College. You would be so impressed with his poise. But, if you found out his background, you would be more amazed. Rodney was put into the foster care system in Chicago at the age of 5. And, he ended up living homeless on the streets of Chicago. He could have ended up living a misguided and directionless life. Instead, others stepped up to help him and he got involved in the NFTE program. He’s going to be a future business leader. Rodney is just one example of the dozens and dozens of students that have been helped by others that.
This movie is showing in 9 different cities at AMC theatres. It will then be aired on BET, starting in January. I highly encourage you to go see the movie this week (it runs until this Friday). I promise you — you will be inspired — and you might shed some tears (like I did as well as many others in the theater). Thank you.