Since its founding in 1990, Teach for America has become an attractive post-graduate option for college students. The program has placed more than 33,000 graduates as teachers in low-income schools.
Inspired by Teach for America’s model, a new organization, Venture for America, is looking to develop the next generation of entrepreneurs. It is a promising organization whose ambitious goals of job creation and community revitilization should be praised.
Finance and consulting are considered the most highly sought-after career paths for business majors. Complete with generous entry-level paychecks and stable career progressions, these careers typically snatch up the brightest college graduates. As a result, the start-up realm is often neglected. The problem is especially pronounced outside of start-up-friendly areas such as Los Angeles and the Silicon Valley.
To alleviate this problem, Venture for America recruits college seniors to work at start-ups in struggling cities for two years. Founded last summer by serial entrepreneur Andrew Yang, the program plans to place 50 fellows at start-ups and early stage companies in Detroit, New Orleans and Providence, R.I., in its inaugural year.
In addition to providing its fellows with support and resources, such as a five-week introductory boot camp, Venture for America will help struggling cities that might not have attracted top talent otherwise. There is no guarantee, however, that graduates will stay in these cities when their two years are up.
Venture for America should work on providing incentives for fellows to stay in the communities. It should give fellows extensive opportunities for alumni networking and support. Still, Venture for America does come with a natural incentive: If you were to grow a company for two years and witness its burgeoning success, would you really want to leave?
Flaws aside, Venture for America is doing something different and bold. If the program can ease students’ doubts, provide them with adequate support and lead them to pursue entrepreneurship rather than taking the safer, uninspired path, that’s certainly something to celebrate.
Jasmine Ako is a freshman majoring in business administration.