The top five Central Valley high school students from the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), a program offered by Fresno State’s Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, will advance to the final round of the NFTE Regional Business Plan Competition, “Dream it! Start it! Own it!” at a banquet, 5:30 – 9 p.m. May 21 at the Sunnyside Country Club on Butler Avenue just east of Clovis Avenue.

The top five students out of more than 1,000 will compete to be the regional winner and earn the opportunity to pitch his or her business idea in New York City in October at the NFTE National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge, competing for seed money to launch the business.

“This competition is really empowering for the high school students that are participating,” said NFTE Program Coordinator Casey Lamonski. “It allows them to look into the future, envision themselves running and owning their own business and choosing entrepreneurship as a career path.”

The keynote speaker at the event is Viliami Tuivai, a success consultant, life coach and team dynamics expert who previously coached football at UC Davis and Boise State. Tuivai, or “Coach V” as he’s known, says he has 125 wins and 18 lessons (not losses) in 11 years playing and coaching football.

Tuivai is now a professional speaker, who sits on the Rose Bowl Advisory Committee and the Blueprint Education Advisory Board.

NFTE has 18 high schools from the Central Valley that participate in the program. “Dream it! Start it! Own it!” will begin with a business expo where the top three students from each school site will showcase their businesses.

Also at the event, Steve Banevedes will be recognized as the NFTE 2012-2013 Teacher of the Year. Banevedes teaches at Carter G. Woodson Public Charter School in Fresno and also received an Enterprising Educators of the Year award from the NFTE program in New York City this past April. Tyler Hansen, founder of Central Valley Paintball in Reedley, a graduate of the NFTE program and current entrepreneurship student at Reedley College, will be honored as NFTE Student of the Year.

The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship’s mission is to provide programs that inspire young people from low-income areas to stay in school, recognize business opportunities and plan for successful futures. Since its founding in 1987 by Steve Mariotti, NFTE has worked with nearly 450,000 young people from low-income communities in programs across the U.S. and around the world.

For more information, contact Casey Lamonski at or 559.917.7971.

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