Entrepreneurship in the Hispanic community is not new. The form may have been greatly generated by subsistence entrepreneurship in our native countries for much of our western history, but nonetheless it is, in its essence, entrepreneurship. It is engrained and part of the rich cultural perspective that Latinos bring to this country. The stereotype of the sleepy Mexican sitting against a cactus (ouch!) has been cast aside as this trillion-dollar market is receiving much warranted attention from every economic sector.
In fact, the fastest growing sector of entrepreneurs in the U.S. is the Hispanic demographic, according to the latest report by the U.S. Census. Not only is the Hispanic population the fastest growing in the U.S., it is also the youngest. This should be good news for the economy, given that our youth are the largest consumers of technology. But couple this fact with the alarmingly high dropout rate for Hispanic youth – nearly 30% nationally, according to a 2009 report by Northeastern University – and the results could spell disaster for the U.S. economy.
In his report, “When Minorities Become the Majority – The Vision for 2050,” Dartmouth Tuck School of Business Professor Dr. Leonard Greenhalgh accented this issue: “This country is not preparing for this momentous demographic shift that will create a ‘new majority.’ The most pressing problem is that today’s minorities are getting neither the help they need to fully participate in the entrepreneurial economy nor the education they need to staff the workforce in the service/knowledge economy.”
Greenhalgh goes on in the article to say, “The country also needs a growing infusion of knowledge-based new ventures to sustain the entrepreneurial economy and to replace major corporations that have lost their competitive edge. Despite these growing needs, minorities as a group are not getting the education the country needs them to have, nor are their enterprises getting the help they need to survive, prosper, grow to scale, and take their place in the economic system.”
The perfect storm is at hand. The economic outlook in 2010 is extremely uncertain. We need to act now in order to prepare this next generation of entrepreneurs. In its report, “Racial Gap in Business Development,” the Center for Community Economic Development recommends the following.
- Incorporate entrepreneurship and business classes as early as junior high school in order to introduce students to key business concepts.
- Increase federal funding to programs such as The National Federation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) or the U.S. Hispanic Youth Entrepreneur Education (USHYEE), which cultivate an entrepreneurial spirit among disadvantaged youth.
- In post-secondary schools, teach cutting edge practices, including information technology, green efficiency and long-range business sustainability planning.
The U.S. Hispanic Youth Entrepreneur Education, or USHYEE, was founded in 2004 in order to address the high dropout rates among Hispanic youth and to introduce high school youth to entrepreneurship as a career option. Its goal is to use concepts taught in entrepreneurship to bridge the high school to college continuum in the minds of Hispanic youth.
Based in Baltimore, the nonprofit reaches out to Hispanic youth through a variety of forums, programs and workshops to communicate its message.
In late 2004, USHYEE and the Hispanic College Fund (HCF) partnered in order to bring an HCF program to Maryland. The program, the Hispanic Youth Symposium (HYS), was launched at the University of Maryland Baltimore County in July of 2005. Since the success of that initial program, USHYEE has developed an Entrepreneur Track for the HYS and is partnering with the HCF to teach the Entrepreneur Track across the United States as the HYS expands to other parts of the country.
In addition, USHYEE and Mirant Corporation began a STEM educational grant pool funded through a donation by the Mirant Corporation. The $5,000 educational grant is earmarked for Maryland Hispanic high school students with a minimum 2.75 grade point average who demonstrate a desire to pursue undergraduate study in science-, technology-, engineering- and mathematics-related fields. The $5,000 scholarship is dispersed to the student in four annual $1,250 increments.
Preference for USHYEE scholarship recipients is given to Maryland students who attend USHYEE programs and who are nominated by adults directly involved in the student’s life. They are chosen based on their outstanding academic performance, leadership ability and activities in the classroom and the community.
Luis Borunda is president and CEO of U.S. Hispanic Youth Entrepreneur Education (USHYEE) and is the former Maryland deputy secretary of state. He can be reached at 443-552-0088. Visit www.ushyee.org or www.youtube.com/ushyee for more information.