Celebrating 2017 National Volunteer Week

By April 25, 2017 News


From serving as competition judges, to providing marketing advice, to making connections to real-world professionals and opportunities, volunteers play hundreds of different roles in order to help transform VE students into business professionals. In honor of the 2017 National Volunteer Week, we proudly feature stories shared by VE participants to recognize some of the people who generously contribute their time and talents to help VE students succeed.

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Bakersfield Local Business Partners – Building The Pyramid with strong support
Felicia Demos – Serving students with restaurant business expertise
Doug Haaland – Providing inspiration about insurance
Naomi Hogarty – Producing quality commercials and quality students
Amy Owens – Keeping students up-to-date about HR
Roosevelt High School VE Students – Saving the community during tax season
Dean Scheske – Proving how volunteers are incredible assets
Tom Smith – Leading a team of Deloitte volunteers to mentor VE students
Mike Stepanovich – Energizing California students
Burt Wallerstein – Helping make winning business pitches
Douglas Weber – Dedicating years of service to students

Bakersfield Local Business Partners

Building The Pyramid with strong support

Numerous local business partners including Muscle Grub, CrossFit OD, and Fit Pantry helped support VE by helping conduct interviews, reviewing student resumes and cover letters, mentoring VE company The Pyramid’s CFO, reviewing the company’s financials, reviewing the company’s business plan, listening to the business plan presentation and practicing Q&A with the business plan team, volunteering as judges at the California State Trade Show, allowing students to visit their businesses, sharing real world knowledge, and financially supporting Trade Show field trips.

“We are so thankful to all the volunteers that support Centennial Virtual Business! We couldn’t do it without you! Thank you!”

Jaci Elliott, VE coordinator, Centennial High School, Bakersfield, CA

Be like Bakersfield’s businesses and join the transformation

Felicia Demos

Understanding VE’s mission and helping students

Felicia Demos, CFO, Demos’ Restaurants, has shared her knowledge and expertise with the VE students in Tennessee for over a decade. Ms. Demos has been a leading judge for numerous VE business plan competitions locally and nationally. She truly believes in VEI and is always available to mentor, judge competitions, or just speak with students.

“We are truly fortunate to have a businesswoman that understands VE’s mission and continues to support and help our teachers and students. Thank you Felicia Demos!”

Cindy Boyd, Midwest and Southern VE Regional Director

Be like Felicia and join the transformation

Doug Haaland

Providing inspiration about insurance

A parent of a former VE CEO, Doug Haaland, Mid-South Regional President, Humana Inc., has been a mentor for Bearden High School’s VE program for 5 years. Mr. Haaland’s engagement helped inspire Bearden’s VE company Vitality, Inc to become an insurance brokerage firm.

“Doug Haaland has been a great mentor by sharing his experience and knowledge of the healthcare industry. My students gain a more thorough understanding of the industry and they also are able to brainstorm ideas with his help and he continues to challenge them each year through interactive mentoring sessions.”

Kathy McCoy, VE Coordinator, Bearden High School, Knoxville, TN

Be like Doug and join the transformation

Naomi Hogarty

Producing quality commercials and quality students

Naomi Hogarty, Owner, 91 East Productions, has been a true inspiration for the VE students at Westhampton Beach High School for the past four years. Naomi’s long-term mentoring relationship with the VE technology departments has enabled students to produce professional quality commercials for their VE companies. Ms. Hogarty has brought students on tours of MTV, VH1 and ESPN studios in New York City. She is president of Westhampton Beach High School PTO, has served as a member of Westhampton Beach High School’s Business Advisory Board for over 10 years, and organizes the annual Earth Day event at Quogue Wildlife Refuge.

“What is most admirable about Naomi’s mentoring style, is her ability to challenge students to meet their own greatest potentials. Instead of giving them ideas and showing them video footage to use, Naomi instructs students to brainstorm ideas and find clips to present to her in the form of a storyboard for their commercials. Working collaboratively with the students through a series of after school meetings at her studio, Naomi offers guidance and advice to our aspiring producers, videographers, and graphic designers, aiding them in the production of professional quality videos.”

Amy Demchak, VE Coordinator, Westhampton Beach High School, Westhampton Beach, NY

Be like Naomi and join the transformation

Amy Owens

Keeping students up-to-date about HR

Amy Owens, VP of Human Resources, Twining, Inc., is responsible for her company’s organizational and employee development. She brings over fifteen years of experience to the table and her expertise includes business leadership, talent acquisition, employment practices, workforce planning, benefits & compensation, and employment relations. Over the past two years, Amy has spent many hours volunteering and working closely with VE students from all over Orange County, California. She has led HR Workshops for Student Leadership Training events, kept students up to date on current laws that affect business, reviewed and provided valuable feedback regarding Employee Manuals of several VE firms, and worked with small groups of students to personally train them on how to handle various HR scenarios that could arise within their firms.

“Amy is the perfect model of a successful industry professional partnership with VEI and we couldn’t be more appreciative of her kindness, generosity, and time.”

Carri Valdez, VE Coordinator, Millikan High School, Long Beach, CA

Be like Amy and join the transformation

Roosevelt High School VE Students

Saving the community during tax season

VE students themselves serve as volunteers by providing tax services every Saturday from February to April to low income, elderly, and disabled members of their community. These students train from November to January to become certified in the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. IRS employees train the students and help oversee the process during tax season. Students do intake, interviews, and help members of their community file income taxes electronically.


“The people of our neighborhood are very low income and so are my students; we have 100% free lunch program at our school. It is a way they can give back and learn a very valuable skill. I am so proud of all they do.”

Linda Jean Voth, VE coordinator, Business & Finance Academy, Roosevelt High School, Fresno, CA

Be like Roosevelt’s students and join the transformation

Dean Scheske

Proving how volunteers are incredible assets 

Dean Scheske from Interim Accounting Solutions has been volunteering to help VE firm Dexacorp from Lakeland High School to establish sound accounting practices for three years. Dean has also been an incredible asset to Mavco, Inc., the VE firm at Milford High School.

“Dean has helped the Accounting Department so much this year from helping us create a new and better general ledger to reviewing our financials and dedicating his time to answer questions over the phone or by email, and even by coming to our class. We really appreciate that he takes time out of his day for us.”

Brett Carne, Dexacorp’s VP of Accounting

Contributed by Wendy Schmitt, VE Michigan State Coordinator; Lakeland High School Coordinator

Be like Dean and join the transformation

Tom Smith

Leading a team of Deloitte volunteers to mentor VE students

Tom Smith, Director at Deloitte & Touche, leads a team of volunteers from Deloitte who mentor students from Imagination, Inc. at the HS of Arts, Imagination & Inquiry once a week on a number of aspects of their business. They have been integral in helping the entire company deeply understand aspects of their business model and have mentored them on their business plan presentation as well.

“Deloitte volunteers have been working with VE for nearly 20 years and also mentor students at Ft. Hamilton High School. Tom Smith is a great friend to VE and the students we serve. All of this great work could not have been possible without Joe Delaney, former Deloitte partner, who began the VE/Deloitte volunteer program and continues to work with the students to develop the skills they need to be successful in the next phase of their lives.”

Iris Blanc, Executive Director, VEI

Be like Tom and join the transformation

Mike Stepanovich

Energizing California students

Mike Stepanovich is Centennial High School’s VE business mentor. He has helped judge VE competitions for many years would and recently started helping The Pyramid by meeting with the team after school, providing feedback on their business plan presentation, and connecting the students to community members to help with fundraising for attending the 2017 National Business Plan Competition.

“Mike is overall just a positive support for our VE program. Thank you so much for all of your help Mike! We really appreciate you!”

Jaci Elliott, VE coordinator, Centennial High School, Bakersfield, CA

Be like Mike and join the transformation

Burt Wallerstein

Helping make winning business pitches

Burt Wallerstein, Business Model and Brand Developer, Fastrax Marketing; SCORE mentor, has been a member of the VE NYC Advisory Board and has served as a judge in local and national business plan competitions for many years. Mr. Wallerstein most recently served as a mentor for the VE Venture Challenge and helped guide VE student Liza Tarakanova to a win a $10,000 award and 1-year membership at WeWork Labs to help her launch TredBed, a business venture that will help revolutionize the medical industry.

“Burt was a huge help to me this year. I was first introduced to him when I made it to the third round of the VEI Venture Challenge. We had about six conference calls working to perfect my pitch and figure out exactly what my business was and where I was hoping for it to go in the future. His knowledge, expertise, and cold hard truth really does help him live up to his nickname of a ‘nicer Mr. Wonderful’. He was an amazing influence and a great adviser, and I am grateful that I got a chance to meet him!”

Liza Tarakanova, Parkway West High School, Ballwin, MO

Be like Burt and join the transformation

Douglas Weber

Dedicating years of service to students 

Douglas Weber, Senior Vice President, Group Manager of Comerica Bank interviews Roosevelt High School’s VE CEO candidates every year for the last 15 to 16 years. Doug has brought members of Comerica’s management team to help interview candidates for management-level positions. He has brought the Roosevelt High School management team to the Comerica Office to present their Business Plans and Comerica has generously donated finances to Roosevelt High School’s VE program over the years.

“I am so grateful for Doug Weber and my whole advisory team. We could not do this job without them.”

Linda Voth, Roosevelt High School, Fresno, CA

Be like Douglas and join the transformation