The challenge:  how to spur and encourage entrepreneurial skills among the District of Columbia’s youth.
In one group, there were the local entrepreneurs – Washington, D.C. startup leaders in businesses that ranged from Italian ice to bouquets. In the other, a half dozen George Washington University students intent on addressing the challenge at hand in an innovative way.

The students spelled out the dismal odds they were up against: For the first time in 35 years, American business deaths now outnumber business births — placing the U.S. at number 12 in startup activity. And although startups accounted for four in 10 new jobs, half of American startups didn’t survive past five years.

Meanwhile, in U.S. schools, American youth are becoming less and less engaged as they continue their education. Among elementary school students, more than three in four are engaged (76%). By the time they reach middle school, this figure falls to 61%. And by high school, less than half are engaged (44%). In the District itself, the high school dropout rate was several times the national average — 30% in D.C. versus 7.1% nationwide. And even for students who graduate in the nation’s capital, they enter a population with a higher unemployment rate than the national average.

The Clifton Foundation worked with GWU to select summer fellows with high energy for entrepreneurship and ideas for changing the school experience.

The students created a high school roadmap for budding entrepreneurs, and sought feedback through workshops with teachers, students, entrepreneurs and city leaders.

The District, where approximately half the population is black as of the 2014 U.S. Census, can be the perfect setting for such an endeavor. In 2014, Gallup found that nonwhite students in grades 5-12 were significantly more likely than their white counterparts to say they plan to start their own business. The District, where approximately half the population is black as of the 2014 U.S. Census, likely has many young students who would thrive at a school for entrepreneurship.

Phase One of the plan the fellows created begins Summer 2016.

GWU Fellows pictured are: Leah Terhune of Columbus, Ohio; Chris Youssef of Fairfax, Virginia; Alexandra Goodison of San Luis Obispo, California; Andrew Lopez of Columbus, New Jersey; Asha Omelian of Milpitas, California; Shawn Franz of Naperville, Illinois.