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Retired teacher heading up entrepreneur challenge

When Paul Tefft retired from his 37-year teaching career in West Fargo at the end of the 2007-08 school year, a group of students donned Tefft look-alike sweater vests in tribute to the well-liked teacher. Several former students stopped by to see him during his last weeks of class; attesting to the impact Tefft had made in their lives.

As a teacher, Tefft loved to force his students to think outside of the box and stretch their minds beyond their own expectations of themselves; encouraging them to aspire to higher goals in life. So when North Dakota Senator Tony Grindberg, R-Fargo, who graduated from West Fargo High School in 1979, was looking for someone to help launch a youth entrepreneurial program in the F-M area, Tefft seemed like a natural fit for the position.

Shortly after Tefft's retirement, Grindberg started calling Tefft, and they would talk about all of the possibilities for engaging students at a younger age. Joining forces with the NDSU Research and Technology Park, the pair have spent the past year and a half working with an advisory committee to develop an innovative youth entrepreneurship program. As project consultant for the fledgling program, Tefft hopes to help develop a network of innovative marketing and business opportunities for students at the eighth and ninth grade level.

Four goals of the program will be to work with the DECA program to help expand the development of marketing opportunities for eighth and ninth graders, create a youth mentorship network with area businesses, develop an annual innovation competition to promote technology-based career opportunities, and to create a virtual entrepreneurial challenge to help engage students as they learn about business and marketing strategies.

Tefft and Grindberg met with school boards from West Fargo and Fargo on Tuesday, June 30, to outline goals for the program and to encourage participation in a two-year pilot partnership. Complete details are still pending, however curriculum guidelines and financing strategies hope to be worked out by this fall. Implementation of the program is anticipated to go into effect by the fall of 2010. Funding for the program will be sought through a combination of corporate, school, and entrepreneurial avenues. The program may be expanded to include Moorhead at a later date.

A joint resolution to approve the two-year pilot program is scheduled to be voted on by West Fargo and Fargo school boards during their next regular board meetings. The West Fargo School Board meets on July 13, at 6 p.m. at the Leidal Education Center boardroom.