Helping to open doors to a career in STEM

By: Donna Epps
Rich Young
T. 202.515.2514
Helping to open doors to a career in STEM

Photo - top row from left to right:
Christian Penna (Verizon Government Relations), Karmalita Contee-Borders (Verizon Foundation), Unknown, Muriel Evans-Buck (NFTE, Interim DC Development Officer), Kathryn Procope (Principal, Howard U Middle School), Councilman David Gross (At-Large member DC Council), Karen Campbell (Director, Verizon Government Relations), Horatio Watkins (Verizon employee volunteer) Bottom row: Students in NFTE Expo

She is only in eighth grade, but as of this week, Raina Johnson can add “app developer” to her list of accomplishments.

The 13-year-old student at Washington’s Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science won first place in the Start-Up Tech Expo competition for developing ‘Homework Helper,’ an innovative app that uses trivia questions to help kids master math, science and English language arts subject matter.

The tech expo is one of many events made possible by Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship* (NFTE), a national nonprofit supported by Verizon. NFTE equips young people from low-income communities with an entrepreneurial mindset, teaching them to recognize opportunities, solve problems, and take the kinds of calculated risks that are so critical to innovation.

Merging street smarts with business smarts

Founded in 1987 by Steve Mariotti, an entrepreneur-turned-math teacher in the South Bronx, the program has worked with more than 600,000 disadvantaged young people across the country and around the world. Its goal is to help build a bridge between the innate “street smarts” that exist among so many at-risk kids, and the “business smarts” needed to become successful entrepreneurs.


$1 million for    750 underserved students 
in 16 middle schools

We’re investing $1 million in NFTE

The Verizon Foundation invested $1 million in NFTE to develop and implement a start-up technology course for 750 underserved students in 16 middle schools around the country. The two-year program introduces students to computer programming and entrepreneurship, and challenges students to solve problems and produce business plans to bring good ideas to market.

Why does this matter?

Because by 2020, the U.S. will have an estimated 1 million unfilled computer programming jobs. These jobs opportunities, all of which require a background in STEM, are growing at twice the national average job growth rate. And they will be opening in a myriad of fields, including healthcare, education, and technology, among many others.

For Raina – and thousands of other kids like her – our investment in NFTE and the Start-Up Tech Expo means she will enter high school with not only a newfound awareness of the hundreds of career opportunities that exist in STEM-related fields, but also the confidence to know she can solve problems, innovate and succeed in the 21st Century economy.


About the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE)

Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) is an international nonprofit that activates the entrepreneurial mindset in young people and builds their knowledge about business startup. Students acquire the entrepreneurial mindset (e.g., innovation, self-reliance, comfort with smart risk), alongside business, STEM, and presentation skills—equipping them to drive their best futures in the 21st Century. NFTE focuses its work on under-resourced communities, with programs in 23 locations in 10 countries.

Donna Epps directs Verizon’s domestic public policy team, as well as relationships with our external partners. Prior to her current position, Ms. Epps worked in Verizon’s Federal Regulatory Affairs group where she developed and advocated Verizon’s federal regulatory policy positions on key issues facing the communications industry, with an emphasis on issues related to competition, economic regulation, and consumer protection.