Inspiring Entrepreneurship: How One Teacher Empowers Students to Build Their Own Businesses

Inspiring Entrepreneurship: How One Teacher Empowers Students to Build Their Own Businesses

Lorena Izzo, an Academy of Finance teacher, shares her passion for entrepreneurship education and how it transforms the lives of her students.

Lorena Izzo, a business teacher at the Academy of Finance and Enterprise in Long Island City, Queens, has been inspiring and empowering her students to become entrepreneurs for nearly 17 years. Through her entrepreneurship class, Izzo guides her students in creating business plans from scratch, taking them on a journey from research to viable business ideas ready to be presented at national competitions. Her students have even won seed money for their ventures, showcasing the real-world impact of their entrepreneurial skills. In this interview, Izzo shares her experiences, insights, and the transformative power of entrepreneurship education.

Discovering the True Calling

After working as an accountant, Izzo discovered her passion for teaching when she was assigned to oversee a college intern. This experience led her to pursue a master’s degree in math education, on top of her MBA, at her alma mater, Hofstra University. She joined the Academy of Finance and Enterprise and has been teaching entrepreneurship, financial services, and accounting ever since.

The Impact of Real-World Workforce Experience

New York City schools Chancellor David Banks emphasizes the importance of real-world workforce experience and financial literacy in education. Izzo’s entrepreneurship class aligns perfectly with this vision. Banks visited Izzo’s class to witness firsthand how her students are preparing for their futures. By participating in national competitions, going on job-shadowing trips, and attending career readiness workshops, Izzo’s students gain valuable experience and develop essential skills for the workforce.

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The Transformative Power of NFTE

Izzo’s journey into entrepreneurship education began when she attended a class for educators hosted by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), a nonprofit organization focused on empowering students to build their own businesses. NFTE provides Izzo with a comprehensive curriculum, professional development, mentors, and coaches for her students. Through NFTE, Izzo’s students gain exposure to real-world entrepreneurship and receive guidance and support from industry professionals.

From Challenges to Solutions

Izzo’s students have participated in the National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge organized by NFTE. These competitions have showcased the creativity and problem-solving abilities of her students. One team created a subscription company for culturally diverse treats, inspired by their own challenges in finding authentic Vietnamese and Algerian desserts. Another student developed an app that recommends styling products and tips for curly hair, addressing a personal need for more assistance in styling her own hair.

Applying Skills Beyond the Classroom

Izzo’s entrepreneurship class goes beyond memorizing facts and dates. Students learn to apply the skills they acquire to various aspects of their lives, regardless of their career choices. The ability to identify problems, think critically, and come up with innovative solutions opens doors for her students in any field they choose to pursue. The class also incorporates hands-on activities, such as a LEGO project that combines entrepreneurship and accounting, making learning engaging and fun.

Adapting to a Diverse Community

Izzo’s classroom has seen an increase in English-language learners, leading to the need for curriculum adaptations. With the help of tools like Google Translate, Izzo ensures that language barriers do not hinder her students’ learning experience. One of her students even started a bilingual tutoring company to cater to both English and Spanish speakers, emphasizing the importance of inclusivity and addressing language barriers within the community.

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Navigating Changing Dynamics

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented challenges in providing students with extracurricular experiences outside the classroom. Field trips and job-shadowing opportunities have become more challenging due to remote work and limited access to physical workplaces. These experiences, however, play a crucial role in broadening students’ horizons and providing insights into different career paths. Izzo believes that these experiences are invaluable and hopes to resume them when circumstances allow.

Conclusion:

Lorena Izzo’s passion for entrepreneurship education has transformed the lives of her students at the Academy of Finance and Enterprise. Through her dedication and the support of organizations like NFTE, her students develop essential skills, gain real-world experience, and learn to think critically and creatively. Izzo’s class not only prepares students for entrepreneurship but also equips them with valuable skills applicable to any career path they choose. As the dynamics of education evolve, Izzo continues to adapt and inspire her students, ensuring they are ready to navigate the challenges of the future with confidence and resilience.