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The U.S. Small Business Administration and Shaw University are joining forces to help educate current and future small-business owners at the school and in the community, according to the News & Observer.

The two-year partnership is one of 59 that the SBA plans to establish with historically black colleges and universities in the Southeast, and the first of 10 with North Carolina schools.

Cassius Butts, the SBA’s Southeast Regional administrator, and Shaw President Dorothy C. Yancy formally signed the agreement in a ceremony Thursday morning in the campus’s Estey Hall, built in the 1970s as the first brick, four-story dormitory for black women in the state.

“It is very appropriate that we have this signing in this room,” Yancy said. “If this country is to survive and do well, we have to make sure that our minority students do well, and that they are put in the limelight so they can do what we all know they can do.”

The free program evolved after Butts had a conversation with Yancy a few years ago, and Yancy pointed out that about 60 percent of the country’s historically black colleges and universities are in his region.

“I thought to myself what can I do to help young, aspiring minds,” Butts said. The agreements give the schools access to SBA resources and staff, while raising awareness about the federal program that seeks to help small businesses.

“It will be another activity in the business program that students can engage in,” Yancy said. “It will be a community outreach too, between Shaw University and small businesses in this area, and people who are interested in entrepreneurship.”

In addition to Shaw, the first historically black university in the South, the SBA also plans to partner with Barber-Scotia College in Concord, Fayetteville State University, Livingston College in Salisbury, Winston-Salem State University, Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N.C. Central University in Durham, St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh, and Bennett College in Greensboro.

This fall, the SBA will host a conference to explore extending alliances to schools across the nation, Butts said.

Each school can create their own custom program to develop entrepreneurial skills by providing access to SBA literature, programs and staff, along with mentors and other resources, Butts said.

Shaw officials plan to spend the summer developing the program and open a small-business center on Blount Street this fall. The center will be open to students and the community, Yancy said.

“I think it gives students another opportunity to be engaged in the real world,” she said. “People have dreams, but when you can see the possibilities and you can touch and feel, it is a different thing.”

Mma Kalu, chair of Shaw’s Department of Business and Public Administration, said the school doesn’t offer a small-business program, but has some entrepreneur-centered classes. The SBA alliance, Kalu said, would bridge the gap between what students learn in class and what it being done in the real world.

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