Francis Scott Key Student Wins Regional Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge

| June 25, 2024 | 0 Comments

Francis Scott Key Elementary/Middle School (FSK) 7th grade student Atman Patel recently won the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) Capital Regional Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge. Patel’s business idea, titled Story Crafters, earned him the top prize among approximately 5,000 total submissions from Maryland, Washington D.C., and Virginia students.

Patel’s business idea makes custom digital books about the customer, “aiming to ignite a love of reading in all children.” Patel won $1,500 in seed money for his business after taking first place.

FSK 7th grader Johns Williams was also a top-four finisher in the competition with his business idea Earbud Buddy, a tool made to extract earwax out of earbuds.

Both Patel and Williams will go to the NFTE National Finals in New York on October 10th to compete for the National Champion title and cash prizes. There will be 24 total business ideas selected.

7th Grade FSK Social Studies Teacher Deneen McDonald has been teaching the NFTE course at the school since 2012. This year she was named the NFTE Capital Region Teacher of the Year. In 2018, McDonald was honored at the National Finals as the NFTE Global Enterprising Educator of the Year. 

This is the fourth consecutive year an FSK student has taken the top prize at the Regional Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge.

McDonald said Patel is “one of those prodigies” and “the total package who puts the work in.” McDonald added, “he’s fully prepared to win.”

McDonald added that Story Crafters could be “game-changing” because it centers around literacy.

Story Crafters always makes the customers the main character of the custom books. McDonald spoke about how Patel always loved when his mother would tell him stories about himself when he was younger. He thought similar stories curated for Story Crafters‘ customers could give kids a spark for reading.

Patel gathers information about the customer and uses AI tools to create the stories.

Patel already has customers and is hoping to use the seed money to market and develop his business. First prize at the National Finals is $15,000, as well as mentorship from well-known entrepreneurs.

Patel is also a member of FSK’s Middle School soccer team that won three straight city championships.

Every 7th grade student at FSK takes the NFTE course in McDonald’s social studies class. This year FSK had 75 7th grade students and next year there will be 90.

“I’m excited for the next batch of kids,” said McDonald. “Kids always come up to me with business ideas.”

McDonald keeps the entrepreneurial spirit alive in her class with different pitch contests, often offering up her own money as cash prizes.

McDonald wants her students to be “comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

Part of being uncomfortable is competing with students much older. The NFTE Entrepreneurship Challenge is for students from 7th grade to 12th grade.

“I can prepare any student, I just happen to teach 7th grade,” said McDonald. “I tell the students, the standard is you complete this and someone is going to New York.”

Photos courtesy of Francis Scott Key Elementary/Middle School

Johns Williams, Ms. Deneen McDonald, Atman Patel

Dr. J.D. LaRock, CEO of global nonprofit Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, poses with the four finalists at the 2024 NFTE Capital Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge. The students will present at the national finals in New York on Oct. 10.

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