Head of the Class
Sandra Sowell-Scott is convinced that today's youth will be the salvation of our inner cities -- if they get early training in the basics of business
Entrepreneurship Educator of the Year
An individual who has pioneered effective ways to teach entrepreneurship
Youth Entrepreneurial Training Program, Small Business Development Center, Temple University, Philadelphia
Inner-city high school entrepreneurship-training program Launched in 1991
700-plus graduates to date
Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, University of Houston, College of Business Administration, Houston
Undergraduate program involving local businesspeople as mentors
Launched in 1993
170 students to date
The Entrepreneurship Program, Ball State University, Muncie, Ind.
Undergraduate and master's degree program incorporating interactive TV
Launched in 1983
270 graduates to date
In Philadelphia's Health District Number Five at 1900 North 20th Street, hungry, thirsty, and bored patients pack the waiting room. With no vending machines and no stores close by, there's little to distract patients who wait their turn. The young children might be calmer if they had something to chew on.
Thomas Ketter, 17, who grew up in the neighboring Strawberry Mansion section of Philadelphia, has a plan. Last summer he evaluated the potential opportunity in the health-care center's refreshment problem, and he organized and managed a task force to draft a solution. Ketter and 25 other teens polled the neighborhood to determine the residents' snack preferences and frequency of health- center visits. Older people, they found, preferred springwater and fruit; younger people favored potato chips, candy, sodas, and juices, and were willing to pay 50¢ to $1.50 for them. With the help of a local community-development agency, Ketter's group won a $1,000 grant from the state Department of Human Services and secured a snack-bar license.
Ketter had never thought he might lead a business endeavor until last year, when he spent two semesters in the after-school Youth Entrepreneurial Training Program (YETP) at Temple University's Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Now he credits one person with his accomplishments: Sandra Sowell-Scott, the creator and director of YETP, the assistant director of Temple University's SBDC, and this year's Entrepreneurship Educator of the Year.
Sowell-Scott launched YETP three and a half years ago with funding provided by the Pennsylvania Minority Business Development Authority (PMBDA). Working with state senator Roxanne Jones, Sowell-Scott designed the statewide program for high school students like Thomas Ketter. "If we don't train kids from an early age, we can't expect to have good businesspeople in the future," says Sowell-Scott, who administers the program and instructs both YETP students and their teachers. So far, more than 700 students have attended four hours of after-school classes every week in the program's 14-week sessions.
Sowell-Scott's curriculum emphasizes "real world" entrepreneurship: visits with local businesses, simulated and actual business endeavors, budgetary responsibility for individual $300 stipends, and readings in the Wall Street Journal, Black Enterprise, and other business publications. Her strategy is to encourage students always to consider how they can improve conditions in their communities.
"Mrs. Scott rarely answers questions," her students report, "so don't go in there believing you'll get away without thinking." Sowell-Scott, who earned a bachelor's degree in education from Carnegie-Mellon and an M.B.A. from Wharton, objects to teaching that leaves students "spoon-fed, never forced to think for themselves. Most of the time they have the answers. They just haven't thought about it."
Sowell-Scott has thought a lot about the best ways to teach and inspire minority youth. She spent high school summers working with inner-city children in Philadelphia's recreation centers, and she taught for several semesters in Pittsburgh's schools.
In 1987, determined to make a contribution to her own community, Sowell-Scott, an African American, ended a 10-year career at Xerox, where she had specialized in training programs, to join PMBDA as a loan analyst. In 1990 she joined Temple University's SBDC. At Temple, she concurrently works toward a doctorate in African American Studies, with an emphasis on economic development.
With the opening of the Health District Number Five snack counter, last fall, Ketter joined the ranks of more than a dozen fellow YETP graduates who in the past two years have launched successful businesses, including a florist/gift shop, a T-shirt silk screener, and an organizer of volleyball tournaments. Sowell-Scott wants their ranks to grow. "I told my teachers this is the year it's all coming out of my head and onto paper, so we can make this into something that can be duplicated," she says. "You can talk about doing great things, but I want to make them really happen."