Verizon phones in donation

By Jess Hoogendoorn

A program founded by a Rider professor that teaches the fundamentals of business to low-income youth in Trenton recently received a $20,000 donation.

Verizon donated to the Minding Our Business (MOB) program that Dr. Sigfredo Hernandez, a marketing professor in the College of Business Administration founded, more than 10 years ago.

“With the help of others, I developed the Minding Our Business Spring Program,” said Hernandez. “It’s a service-learning program where Rider students guide teams of Trenton kids through the process of starting and running a business.”

Hernandez said that $20,000 is the largest donation MOB has ever received. It will be used in the expansion of the program that is intended to take place in 2008.

According to Hernandez, the expansion is expected to cost $75,000 and will double the program’s size from 125 to 250 Trenton students, from two to four Trenton schools, and from 30 to 50 Rider mentors.

“One of the major expenses is, for the first time, we’re employing somebody to help us run the programs,” said Hernandez. “It’s a part-time program administrator. That person alone is going to cost $20,000 a year. With the Verizon money, we’ll be able to pay that person.”

The Verizon donation was first mentioned in 2005 when MOB held its 10th anniversary fundraiser in Trenton. Invitations were sent to the Metropolitan Trenton African American Chamber of Commerce (MTAACC). One of the members of MTAACC was the director of external relations for Verizon. Hernandez said the member was familiar with MOB and knew how it helped urban youth.

“[The MTAACC member] told me that the Verizon foundation could support this idea,” said Hernandez. “So we were very happily surprised about getting a $20,000 check.”

Hernandez said he started the program because he was “trying to bring more meaning” to his life. He said that when he was in high school in Puerto Rico he developed an interest in helping low-income youth. Rider students who have participated in the program also found MOB to be a rewarding experience.

“Minding Our Business showed me the importance of working well within a group to achieve a common goal,” said Kellie Montgomery. “The best part was going to P.J. Hill [Elementary School] in Trenton and interacting with the kids, while teaching them the ropes of entrepreneurship.”

Hernandez said he would like to see MOB expand across the country but that it is important to start “close to home.” He plans to first expand the program in the state.

“Newark and Camden are the large urban areas in New Jersey where there’s a lot of low- income youth who need the opportunities for development that this program offers,” said Hernandez.

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