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BUTTONS AND BOWS BOOST CITY KIDS

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by Jeri Dayle

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As parents, we're often asked to contribute not only art staples like markers, glue and crayons; but also paper bags, plates and various materials for classroom projects. When that happened to Barbara Randall, it inspired her to help develop a unique solution to the lack of art supplies in our city's schools. The resulting program, BID FOR KIDS, has been a boon to the environment, by keeping fabric, buttons and trims out of our landfills. But it's been an even bigger boon to our children - encouraging creative expression, fostering teamwork, and teaching them about a major New York City industry of which they might not have been aware.

BID FOR KIDS was launched three years ago by the Fashion Center's Business Improvement District (BID), a group dedicated to improving New York City's fashion district through a variety of marketing, economic development, business improvement and public/environmental safety initiatives. The district, which extends from 35th to 41st Streets, and Sixth through Ninth Avenues, is mostly comprised of fashion designers, manufacturers and contractors. BID FOR KIDS is a self-sufficient BID unit run by a staff of three. According to Barbara Randall, who now directs the program, it is "an important effort by the fashion industry and its rising stars."

The program works as follows: a team of fashion designers develops and conducts a curriculum specific to each classroom. The curriculum focuses on art and design, yet several educational by-products - including research, reading, mathematics and history - are program components. During the six-week program, children research particular historic periods or ethnic cultures, and under the direction of a design volunteer, outfit two-dimensional mannequins appropriately. According to Randall, the results - 21 different mannequins - made a dazzling display, well-received by all who visited the lobby of 1411 Broadway this fall.

To date, more than 200 New York City children in grades 3 through 9 have benefited from BID FOR KIDS. Last spring, participating schools included P.S. 86 in the Bronx, P.S. 205 and 120 of Brooklyn, P.S. 140 and Wadleigh of Manhattan, and I.S. 145 in Queens. The spring 1998 design team included Feroze Alam, Vincent Falls, Deborah Moissinac, Carolyn Ritterbrush, Alfonso Suarez, and Aitim Turnbull, and was headed by Joy Suarez of Jerry Joy Music. Due to their efforts, the seven participating schools were able to augment their stock of art materials and enrich their arts education programming without incurring any expense.

BID's six-week 1999 program will premiere in 12 more New York City schools in the coming months. For additional information, call (212) 764-9600.

A "Nifty" Way to Learn Business

By Jeri Dayle

The saying "bad things happen for a good reason" certainly rang true for New Yorker Steve Mariotti, who turned his back on a lucrative business career after being mugged in 1981. Instead of feeling resentful, he chose to make a difference in the lives of disadvantaged youth.

After a brief stint at teaching the underserved - during which he realized students cared and learned more about mathematics and related fields when they understood the in-business applications - Mariotti founded The National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), a national, non-profit organization known best by its moniker, 'Nifty'.

Since its establishment in 1987, NFTE has conducted youth development programs in school and community settings here in New York City and across the nation, and has left a positive mark on the lives of over 24,000 teens from low income families. A high percentage of graduates have become successful business owners; while those who chose different paths have become better students, highly productive employees, and standout members of the community.

According to NFTE's C.E.O., Mike Caslin, "We show kids who have effectively been rooted out of the system that they can learn and they do have value." NFTE's aim, he says, is to "get in front of the social curve and invest positively, before we have to invest negatively."

NFTE's message of entrepreneurship is being delivered in many forms - in books written by Mariotti, high school-based seminars, web-based learning tools, and in partnerships with businesses, community organizations and colleges. NFTE programs are essentially "mini MBAs", providing enterprising youth with the marketing/advertising, business planning, legal licensing, and financial record-keeping foundations they need to actualize their dreams.

Another way of imparting this knowledge is through NFTE's Summer Business Camps, one- to two-week intensive courses that function as entrepreneurial apprenticeships. During the program, students start and track their own businesses, take field trips to places such as City Hall and the New York Stock Exchange, and practice their customer service and marketing skills. Recent summer programs have focused on particular areas of interest, such as Art Enterprise, in which aspiring website designers, animators, filmmakers, designers and craftspersons learned how to keep their creative talents marketable and succeed finally in artistic endeavors.

The Art Enterprise Business Camp, under the direction of Del Daniels, is an ongoing program sponsored (in partnership with local colleges) by the NY Metro Division of NFTE. If you would like more information about Summer Business Camp or any other NFTE program, call (212) 232-3333, or sample their entrepreneurial missive on the web at www.nfte.org.

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