— The next generation of entrepreneurs is ready to tackle the future, and many of them were in Durham Thursday night to pitch their ideas before business leaders at American Underground.

The students devised a plan, fine-tuned the details, and made the pitch.

Around 100 students from 38 historically black colleges and universities traveled to downtown Durham for the Thurgood Marshall College Fund’s week-long Opportunity Funding Corporation program – a crash course in business startups.

The program is designed to “train future innovators from historically black colleges and universities in the skills needed to generate economic success.”

“Our Opportunity Funding Corporation is the future of TMCF because we are literally identifying the next generation of global entrepreneurs from the Black College Community,” said Dr. Harry L. Williams, TMCF president & CEO in a statement.

'I know I can do it:' Students from around US travel to Durham for entrepreneurship summit

“(It was great) to really understand, that I can do this and I will do this because I got to (learn about business) for days,” said Fatima Edwards, a Delware State University student.

The future innovators and entrepreneurs were given educational tools and interactions with business leaders to hone skills that ultimately lead to economic success.

“It’s an honor to be able to bump shoulders talk to people who are actually doing some of the things I want to do,” said DeRonte Craig, a Bowie State University student.

At Durham’s American Underground on Thursday, the program culminated with a pitch, before of panel of business gurus who wouldn’t go easy on them.

The judges gave constructive criticism and idea-provoking feedback. The goal was to make sure the next generation of entrepreneurs is equipped.

“People care enough to see the potential in me without even know me allows me to want to pay it forward,” Edwards said. “To see people who look like me in successful positions gives me the ability to keep going because I know I can do it.”

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