For those unfamiliar with Virtual Enterprises International, the idea of transforming high school students into successful entrepreneurs might sound like “Mission Impossible.” But for everyone involved with VEI, that transformation is not only “Mission Possible,” but “Mission Accomplished.” And the 2012 Youth Business Summit, held on March 27-29 in New York City, is proof positive that VEI students are on a mission to success. See photos of the 2012 Youth Business Summit!
The annual Youth Business Summit brought together budding entrepreneurs from around the corner and across the globe to take part in VEI’s three signature student events—the National Business Plan Competition, Global Business Challenge, and International Trade Show. Organized in collaboration with the New York City Department of Education, this year’s Youth Business Summit challenged VEI students and their counterparts in other countries to show what they know in the areas of entrepreneurship, communications, computer technology, and global business management—all key components of the VEI program.
VEI students learn by doing. During the school year, they collaborate with their classroom teams to create, develop and then implement business plans while simultaneously engaged in running their virtual businesses. Through VEI’s National Business Plan Competition, students and their business plans take center stage.
This year, teams from around the US demonstrated their global business expertise by presenting their business plans during the preliminary round of the Competition, which was held at the headquarters of the United Federation of Teachers. Six finalists competed in the championship round at the McGraw-Hill Companies the following day. Top honors went to Bon Voyage Travel from Ft. Hamilton High School in Brooklyn, NY, with the Great Park Wildlife Center from Costa Mesa High School in Costa Mesa, CA and Solarity from New Dorp High School in Staten Island, NY taking second and third places. The prizes—supported by Hofstra University, Mercy College, Monroe College, and Pfizer—included Apple iPad 3s for the first-place team and the top three teachers, Amazon Kindle Fire tablets for the second-place team, and iPod Nanos for the third-place team. See videos of finalists’ presentations!
“It was truly the highlight of my career to see my students being so engaged in a world that was created just for them. It gave me the opportunity to step back and watch them in action,” reflected Rachael C. Monaco, VE coordinator from Susan E. Wagner High School in New York City.
On Wednesday, March 28, students from Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Germany, Indonesia, Romania, and the United States gathered at The McGraw-Hill Companies for VEI’s Global Business Challenge. There, students worked in multinational teams to identify the challenges, opportunities and risks involved in a global business by examining a business case study and presenting their findings to a panel of judges. Santos Valenzuela, from Greer, SC, best summed up the global nature of the experience when reflecting on his team’s presentation.
“I was one of two Americans on my team, but I am from Mexico originally,” he said. “Who would have known I would be helping a team member from Bulgaria find the right translated word to use in English during our presentation?”
During the closing ceremony of the Challenge, Jane Ubell, cofounder of OpenEduTalk, motivated and inspired students and guests as she shared the 10 things entrepreneurs need to know.
On the Summit’s final day, Thursday, March 29, nearly 3,000 young entrepreneurs from around the world came together for VEI’s International Trade Show, a forum for students to exhibit and sell the products and services of their virtual companies in a competitive marketplace. The event was not only a huge success, but went on record as the highest volume global trading day ever for Virtual Enterprises International. During the Trade Show, the 150 exhibitors competed for awards in the categories of Best Sales Pitch, Best Booth Design, Best Advanced and Basic Web Design, and Best Catalog. Cat Greenleaf, NBC Universal Features Reporter and Host of NBC’s Talk Stoop, delivered introductory remarks.
Earlier that day, VEI staff, board members, regional directors, teachers, students, parents, business partners and invited guests from government, education and the business community, convened at the Partners’ Breakfast to acknowledge and thank VEI’s key sponsors and supporters. The highlights of the breakfast included the presentation of awards to individuals whose dedication and support are the foundation of VEI’s success. First, Sterling Roberson, Vice President of the United Federation of Teachers, and three VEI alumni—Clemente Diaz, Simon Chow, and Michael Williams—inducted three exceptional teachers—James Caracciolo of Urban Assembly School of Business for Young Women, Mary Grace Alfredo of Ft. Hamilton High School, and Paul Presti of New Dorp High School—into the New York City VEI Teacher Hall of Fame.
Next, the VEI’s 2012 Crystal Leadership Awards were presented to Ernest Logan, President of the Council of Supervisors and Administrators, Anthony Lodico, Principal of Edward R Murrow High School, Melanie Mortimer, Executive Director of the SIFMA Foundation and President of VEI’s Advisory Board, and Chris Park, President of the New York Life Foundation.
In her remarks, Park noted that, above all, VEI teaches young people about the power of people working together to build bridges, realize dreams and accomplish goals. Without the support of these key individuals and organizations, she said, VEI wouldnot be where it is today or be in the process of bringing the program to thousands more students across the nation. The New York Life Foundation’s generous $1 million gift to VEI not only helped to underwrite the Summit, but is supporting VEI’s current expansion efforts.
The Partners’ Breakfast concluded with a big announcement, when leaders of VE programs from Indonesia, Bulgaria and Austria revealed the three winning teams from this year’s Global Business Challenge. But from the students’ points of view, there were no losers at the 2012 Virtual Enterprises International Youth Business Summit.
“From day one, each student who enters VE is a winner because I can honestly say I know more about business now than I ever did before…I entered VE as a regular high school student and now I will be leaving this program as a young entrepreneur with talents some CEOs today in real-world companies wish they had,” explained New Dorp High School senior Tony Santangelo.