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Future's So Bright Put on your shades to check out an inner-city entrepreneurship program and one of its stars.

By Geoff Williams

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When you attend an affluent or middle-class school, it's easy enough to imagine yourself in the not-so-distant future, running touchdowns or running a business. But it's difficult to dream when you're in a graffiti-ridden high school, dodging gunfire and gangs on campus. That was the motivation when the nonprofit group Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, or ICIC, started the Growing Up CEO program with Merrill Lynch.

The program annually selects 25 youths age 20 or younger. Those chosen spend two days in Boston at the Inner City 100 Summit, where they mingle with top-notch business gurus and attend seminars.

The hope is that these young entrepreneurs will start companies back home and help revitalize inner cities. Urban areas have a bad image, concedes Deirdre Coyle, ICIC's director of communications, but she cites several advantages to placing a business in the inner city, such as being strategically located near transportation and communication hubs and in the midst of a large population of consumers.

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