Talent is important. Talent is everyone's unique competitive advantage that, with hard work and persistence, can enable a successful career to begin and flourish. This interaction and ultimately, introduction to the marketplace is a beautiful process that must be nurtured. It determines many things that happen in life: a great sports team, a successful business, a world-class city are all based on the development of talent.
Perhaps the top factor in what shapes the future and who owns it -- the recruitment, training, and incentivizing of people is the root of human action.
Last week, I saw talent at the Business of Sports School. With 56 graduates in its first graduating class, the school was founded just four years ago through a team effort lead by a wonderful educator and a personal mentor of mine, George Friedman. He was also the founder of Comprehensive Day and Night School, a transfer school that pioneered evening school for kids that had to work during the day. For me it was like a homecoming with almost every student also a graduate of NFTE.
Fifteen years ago, George took the time to meet with me and one of our joint supporters, Lari Stanton; and spent two hours discussing how to integrate entrepreneurship into New York high schools. He was one of the most talented educators of his time -- something I became even more aware of during the BOSS graduation at the Cowin Auditorium at Columbia University and sat near his wife and two sons. I told them about my experience with George and that he would never be forgotten.
George got together a team of people including Gary Hoenig Executive Editor of ESPN and during a six-year struggle, finally got the school off the ground in 2009.
The program was magnificent. One of the graduation speeches given by Emony Robertson (NFTE alumna, BOSS Class of 2013 president and Cornell University Class of 2017) made everyone cry and is a moment in time I will always remember. She captured what it was like to take the risk of going to a brand new school and her tribute to Mrs. Tara Bellevue (NFTE teacher and Senior Advisor) and the principal Dr. Joshua Solomon (an Ed.D. from Columbia University Teachers College) was beautifully done. When it was my turn to give the Outstanding Entrepreneurship Award to NFTE Grad Marcus Purvis, I almost choked up.
This is also one of the top high schools in New York City in youth entrepreneurship, with nine of their students becoming finalists in our New York city business plan competition in the past two years. In Emony's own words (as written in the class song):
When you're the first
You can make it
First you can break it
All the barriers
Go to the top of the moon
Yeah, we can
Now that is talent.