Act co-authored by Cortez Masto would connect underprivileged youth with business leaders
RENO, Nev. — Sixteen million. That is how many young Americans, ages 8 to 18, are projected to reach adulthood without ever connecting with a mentor, according to the aptly-named nonprofit MENTOR.
Put another way, one out of every three young people will grow up without an adult they can turn to for advice and guidance outside of their family at home.
And more than half of those young people — 9 million, to be exact — face a variety of day-to-day challenges that put them at-risk for falling of track.
Further hindering these underprivileged youth is the lack of mentorship programs that gives them the tools, support and — perhaps most importantly — confidence to innovate and start a business.
U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada) is determined to help change that, which is why she and Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) co-authored the 21st Century Entrepreneurship Act.
The act, which is scheduled to be introduced today (July 29) in Washington D.C., would connect students enrolled in federally supported after-school programs across states, including Nevada, with mentors in entrepreneurship and innovation to help them develop professional skills.
“My goal has always been to give every student the opportunity to achieve … and give them various paths that they can take to whatever future they choose for their business opportunities,” Cortez Masto said in a phone interview last week with the NNBW. “Mentorship for young entrepreneurs is important. Unfortunately, many children of color and other marginalized students do not have the same access to mentors as some affluent communities. They don’t have those opportunities to explore or experience any entrepreneurship or the fact that they can start their own business.”
Specifically, the bipartisan legislation would create a partnership between 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) and the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE).
CCLC is a federal program that supports after-school and summer programs for students with high potential at under-resourced schools, while SCORE is the nation’s largest network of volunteer business mentors dedicated to helping entrepreneurs reach their goals.
“I also know that it’s so important, as we look at K-12, that we talk to the students early on and we don’t wait until after they’ve graduated or made the decision not to graduate,” Cortez Masto said. “We talk to them early about their options. But we don’t do that enough, unfortunately, in K-12 in the state of Nevada. This is an opportunity for those students to now meet a mentor in the business community that can also talk to them about their options and potential to be entrepreneurs.”
According to a spokesperson for Cortez Masto, the 21st Century Entrepreneurship Act would require the Small Business Administration (SBA) to develop an entrepreneurship curriculum for 21st CCLC and encourage SCORE volunteers to partner with local chapters to provide training and mentorship.
It would also amend the Small Business Act and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to ensure these partnerships fall within the mission of each agency.
GROW WITH GOOGLE WORKSHOP
Along with striving to provide Nevada’s young entrepreneurs with the tools they need, Sen. Cortez Masto is also focused on aiding small business owners in the Silver State that are trying to stay afloat amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Nevada senator is partnering with Google, the Nevada Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the Connected Commerce Council for Nevada to co-host an online workshop for small business owners on July 30.
“This workshop invites small business owners to learn about how Google tools can help them connect with their customers and manager their business remotely,” Cortez Masto said. “With COVID-19, our small businesses are so hard hit. We want to make that they have the tools they need to operate online; to still reach their customers; to manage their budgets for online operations; and to distribute their products.”
The Grow with Google virtual workshop will be held July 30 from 9-10 a.m. Small business owners can register at g.co/Grow/NVSmallBiz.
“The thing that I like most about entrepreneurship is I can work toward something that I’m passionate about and be at the forefront of the change that I want to see happen,” said Priyanka Senthil, a senior at Davidson Academy in Reno and co-founder of startup company AUesome.