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Tips to Help the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs The innovators of the future are roaming the halls of your local schools. But are they getting enough encouragement? Here's how you can help.

By Erika Napoletano

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

U.S. public schools may serve up a lot of lessons to the 49 million students who roam their halls, but most don't offer entrepreneurially minded kids much help in pursuing their passions.

On a recent trip to Atlanta, I met Matt Smith, a freshman at Georgia Tech who already has two startups to his credit, GoRankem.com and, now in beta, Insightpool.com. Smith was 13 when he realized he wanted to learn something different from what was being fed to him as "important" at school. He knew that if he ever stood a chance of learning about entrepreneurship, he was going to have to cook up an extracurricular program for himself.

A self-professed nerd, Smith was interested in technology at a very young age. Barely into his teens, he was already devouring tech-related blogs and news feeds and attending Atlanta tech conferences. The key, he says, was getting out there and meeting people. Many encouraged him, and he never got the impression that others believed he was too young to be taken seriously.