By Kate Materese
When reflecting on my NFTE experiences this week, I couldn’t help but entertain a few philosophical musings. Please indulge briefly, since I believe these highlight a unique facet of what we at NFTE do.
Despite all of the interconnectedness of our modern technological society, America is often a nation of fragmentation. It’s the 99% v. the 1%; Unions v. corporations; Democrats v. Republicans; race v. race; religion v. religion—the list goes on. Especially in a city as large as New York, it’s easy to forget that the 8 million people living here do collectively comprise a single community. Divisions are easy to spot, and instances of real unity between groups of people are often invisible. Yet one of the best things I’ve noticed about NFTE in the past few weeks is the program’s ability to leverage human capital from a variety of sectors and bring them all together to grow not only businesses, but to grow capable, confident, and empowered young people.
I recently had the opportunity to attend extended sessions of NFTE’s Startup Summer program, as well as our Generation Tech program. At each of these sessions, I (former teacher, current non-profit employee) had the opportunity to work with young people willing to commit their free time to business-related projects after school. I truly enjoyed working with such driven adolescents, but moreover, I became cognizant of the community of adults that NFTE has brought together to support these youths’ endeavors.
Working diligently besides me at both Startup Summer and Generation Tech were teachers, NFTE staff, and volunteers from organizations such as Ernst and Young, Deloitte, the NYC Economic Development Corporation, the Varick Street Incubator at NYU Poly, and more. Each adult I saw had already finished a full day of work, and had come on his or her personal time to mentor high school students. Many arrived at the NFTE sessions still wearing professional dress. Regardless of their personal stressors, these adults from diverse settings all endured teenage distractedness or apathy with smiles, patience, and true caring, as they guided student work sessions. They dedicated several hours to supporting NFTE students, earning only snack food or pizza as a reward.
Looking back on these events, it strikes me that NFTE has provided a unique platform for adults as well as children. It is not often that people of all races, socio-economic backgrounds, political leanings, and professions come together, united to pursue a single goal. In this way, NFTE provides something more than the entrepreneurship programs we espouse. We are a conduit for community in a world of dividers.
I am proud to be a part of the NFTE movement.
Carlos & Kate blog every week about their first year experiences working in the NFTE NY Metro program office