Planting seeds of ambition: Attorneys mentor students in entrepreneurship

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Foley & Lardner associates Katie Catanese and Andrew Balazer are among a handful of attorneys who volunteer with IDEA.

 

By Jo Mathis
Detroit Legal News

Martin Luther King High School senior Tanasha Anderson had planned to become a nurse until she signed up for Improving Detroit Through Entrepreneurship Advancement (IDEA) two years ago.

Now that she’s picked up so much business know-how, she’s decided to go on to become a nurse anesthetist.

“After learning so many new skills with IDEA, I realized I can push myself and be a great leader,” said Anderson, 18, who plans to attend Michigan State University in the fall.

“Already,” she said. “I’ve been able to use some of the organizational skills I’ve learned to help me with my work on different task forces.”

Anderson is one of the 90 Martin Luther King High School students who recently wrapped up their monthly sessions with IDEA, a community outreach project in which attorneys mentor MLK high school students in entrepreneurship skills such as public speaking, marketing, accounting and strategic planning.

Sponsored by the Detroit office of Foley & Lardner LLP, the program offers students hands-on learning experiences, opportunities to plan and present their own business ideas and mentoring sessions with business attorneys.

Katie Catanese is one of a handful of young Foley & Lardner associates who have taken leadership roles within IDEA.

“I feel so blessed, I want to give back to the community, and this is a great way to do it,” said Catanese, who specializes in both Chapter 11 and Chapter 7 bankruptcies and other insolvency proceedings. “Foley & Lardner is located in Detroit, and wanted to provide outreach to the Detroit community …No other organization does something like this.”

Catanese said members of the firm “wanted to put our name on the map, and provide outreach to the Detroit community.”

Student reviews were overwhelmingly positive about the program’s previous two years, said Catanese, who in addition to her administrative role taught the students how to speak publicly and conduct themselves in an interview.

Most sessions this year were held at local college campuses. Because so many students were interested in participating, IDEA this year also offered a monthly mentoring session, and a chance to meet in small groups with an attorney.

“That’s been really good for the students because they can ask questions directly,” said Catanese.

Catanese believes that all high school students everywhere benefit from mentoring.

“Every little bit helps no matter how little,” she said. “Any individual attention we give these students through mentoring in any way will help, even if it’s only a couple of hours a month.”

At the final IDEA event of the year, Foley awarded scholarships to teams and individuals who have demonstrated exceptional performance and promise as future entrepreneurs.

The top three students received scholarship money during the event held in late May.

“Students have come up and said, `Wow, this was a fabulous program … I really got something out of it,’” said Catanese. “From the beginning til the end, they’ve really grown up a lot.”
Tanasha Anderson agrees.

“Everybody should be involved in IDEA,” she said. “The life skills you learn help so much.”
 

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