Fresno Area Efforts to Enhance Youth Development

  • By: Doug Betts, Business/Education Committee Chairman

Our committee consists of people who are passionate about helping to prepare youth for successful lives as adults in our community.  Our members come from business, government and public institutions as well as educational entities.  This month I want to tell you about two of the entities that are represented on our committee.  Better yet, this will be in their words.  The information about Fresno Area Strive is provided by Eric Johnson, Executive Director of External Affairs for AT&T.  The information for Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) is provided by Casey Lamonski, Project Coordinator/Educational Outreach for Lyles Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship.

Fresno Area Strive
The primary purpose of the Fresno Area Strive partnerships is to strengthen educational and support systems for all children and families in the area to improve student academic success and better prepare them for higher education/training and careers.  Fresno Area Strive seeks to unite common providers around shared issues, goals, measurements and results, and then actively support and strengthen strategies that are successful.  Partners must commit to making an impact in assisting students in the attainment of the goals of Fresno Area Strive.  The program uses a data-driven process to focus community-wide needs, establish common strategies for success, and monitor progress.  The Fresno Compact, a business/education policy roundtable, is the sponsoring entity for Fresno Area Strive.

The goals of Fresno Area Strive are:

1. Every child will be prepared for school.
2. Every child will be supported in and out of school.
3. Every student will demonstrate components of a healthy lifestyle.
4. Every student will succeed academically.
5. Every student will graduate from high school and enroll in post-secondary education and/or career training.
6. Every student will complete post-secondary education and/or career training and enter a meaningful career.

The initial partners for Strive include California State University, Fresno, Fresno Pacific University, State Center Community College District, Fresno County Office of Education, Fresno Unified School District, Clovis Unified School District, Central Unified School District, Sanger Unified School District, First 5 Fresno County, Fresno County EOC Head Start, Central Valley Educational Leadership Institute, Central California Children’s Institute, Reading and Beyond, Fresno Business Council, and Promise Neighborhoods.

Since its foundation in 1987, the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) program has reached nearly 450,000 young people from low-income communities and has more than 3,700 Certified Entrepreneurship Teachers.

As a former entrepreneur turned math teacher in the South Bronx, Steve Mariotti founded the NFTE program to prevent dropouts and improve academic performance among students who were at risk of failing or quitting school. With his business background and desire to teach at-risk students, Mariotti discovered that when young people from low-income backgrounds are given the opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship, their “street smarts” develop into “academic and business smarts.” Through entrepreneurship, young people relate what they are learning in the classroom to real life.

The Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship coordinates all aspects of the NFTE program including teacher training, relevant site field trips, guest speaker appearances and networking events. The Lyles Center is the leader in entrepreneurship education on the West Coast and has created an entrepreneurial education pathway program with 12 community colleges within the Central Valley.

The goal of the NFTE program is to enhance the economic productivity of students by improving their business, academic and life skills. There are currently 18 high schools and one middle school that offer NFTE programs and classes to their students. Through a curriculum that corresponds to high school reading levels and complexity, NFTE programs teach students about business concepts, negotiation and pricing, and assist them in completing a business plan for their own individual businesses. At the end of the program, students participate in the NFTE Central Valley Business Plan Competition and the grand prize winner is eligible to apply for participation in national NFTE programs and win prize money.


These are just two of the many efforts underway in our region dedicated to improving the future for our young people and as a natural result our local economy.  If you would like to learn more or get involved please come and visit our committee at 7:30 AM on the second Tuesday of each month at the Fresno Chamber of Commerce.


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