An international non-profit group that teaches business skills to young people from low-income communities has honored a group of students for their entrepreneurial efforts. Victoria Cavaliere reports from VOA's New York Bureau that the young entrepreneurs have developed new businesses in the fashion, technology and public service sectors.

The National Federation for Teaching Entrepreneurship, which is known by its initials, NFTE, honored 30 students in 2008 for developing working businesses of their own.

NFTE was formed in 1987 by a New York City school teacher who believed business education could help further the economic and earning potential of underprivileged youth. The NFTE course requires every student to create and present an original business plan. It also covers topics ranging from supply and demand, to cost/benefit analysis, to business ethics.

Now, NFTE is in schools and community centers in 21 U.S. states and 13 countries, including China, India and South Africa. Maria Doherty, the Project Manager of NFTE Dublin says the program helps teach students to think for themselves.

"Our NFTE progam In Ireland ensures that students come up with a business product and not just a business plan. So they actually have something to show for what they do," said Maria Doherty. "In doing that, it increases their self-esteem, their self-confidence, and a sense of who they are."

Students were selected as "Global Young Entrepreneurs of the Year," after submitting their business plans to a panel of judges made up of business leaders and educators. Winners receive a cash award of between $750 to $1,000 to put toward their start-up or to further their education.

They also get a chance to show off their business plans during an award ceremony in New York City.

Cody Chang is a 17-year-old high school student from New York City. His business designs web sites for individuals and companies. He says he thinks his venture is succeeding because of the skills he learned in the program.

"In my history, I've actually three other businesses that all failed miserably," said Cody Chang. "I guess it was a good thing because now I learned what I shouldn't do and now I'm learning everything I should do."

Another honoree, 17-year-old Merissa Dominguez of Stamford, Connecticut,took her passion for the beauty industry and turned it into an entrepreneurial venture. Her business provides hairstyling services to senior citizens.

"It actually feels really good to be recognized so much, by so many people, and just to have this opportunity," said Merissa Dominguez.

Among the students honored was 22-year-old Ji Jianwei of China. He has developed a business that sells phone cards for mobile phones. He said business has been very good.

"Basically he found that there was a market there and then he conducts the research and got started," said Ji Jianwei.

NFTE says it has commissioned research to evaluate the effectiveness of its program. In its most recent survey, conducted by Harvard University's Graduate School of Education, results indicated that NFTE students said their interest in attending college increased 32 percent and their occupational aspirations increased 44 percent.