As a child who sold candy on the street in Medellin, Colombia, to support his family, Adail Cano Martin was an unlikely candidate to become a successful small business owner and catalyst for local economic development.

After his father was killed when Adail was only six, the young boy worked as a street peddler while his mother struggled to keep her four children in school and out of trouble in an often violent, drug-ridden neighborhood. Unable to find employment after graduating from high school, Adail took whatever odd job he could find—at one point working in a chicken factory.

His prospects improved in 2008 when Adail joined entra21, a regional job training initiative run by the International Youth Foundation (IYF) and supported by USAID and the Multilateral Investment Fund of the Inter-American Development Bank.

As a participant in entra21’s “Jovenes con Futuro” (Young People with a Future) initiative, Adail was trained as a technician in industrial textiles and gained valuable life skills that helped him to better communicate, resolve conflicts, and gain greater confidence. The initiative also offers entrepreneurship training, internships, and job placement assistance. Says Adail, “entra21 helped me to develop competitive skills and taught me that young people can achieve their dreams.”

Today, at 23, Adail runs a small, but growing, clothing business with three employees. “This program has taught me that it’s possible for young people to go forward without being part of the conflict and violence around us,” he says. While pleased with his initial achievements, Adail continues to sharpen his business management skills by taking classes and learning from others.

Between 2001 and 2007, entra21 assisted nearly 20,000 at-risk youth in 28 countries across Latin America and the Caribbean. Approximately 75 percent of graduates were placed in a job, started their own business, or returned to school. IYF and IDB launched a second phase of entra21 in 2007 that aims to reach an additional 50,000 disadvantaged youth in the region.