The idea is to bring the business management workplace into the classroom, and the classroom into the workplace. In the case of East Hampton High School, it is in the classroom of Catherine Tyrie, where a virtual enterprise is being created by three students, Aidan Forst, a junior, and Allen Gregg III and Avery Martinsen, both seniors.
Tyrie, assisted by Marilyn Marsilio and Barbara Butler, guide the three students as they create a virtual product, sold through their virtual company. The virtual sales are to other students around the world, who are using virtual currency. After making their virtual sales, Forst, Gregg, and Martinsen then have to go out and spend their virtual profit on virtual products made by other students.
The Virtual Enterprise International website describes the organization as “an educational nonprofit, transforming students into business professionals by bringing the workplace into the classroom. Since its inception in 1996, VEI has served over 140,000 students, including many from economically disadvantaged communities.”
Tyrie, who teaches business, is a strong believer in having students interact with different professionals and professions in real-world settings. She spoke recently about the VEI program. “They create a virtual business as part of the class. They have to create a website,” Tyrie said. “They have to compete with other students internationally throughout the year, and there is a big trade show every April. It is phenomenal.”
All this takes place during their ninth period class time. “They have a CEO of the business, a vice president of finance, a vice president of marketing,” said Tyrie. “Tomorrow, they will set up a trade show booth and sell to other students and teachers at Hofstra.”
What is the virtual product this year’s East Hampton High School VEI participants are marketing? “East Hampton Eco-Packs,” Tyrie said. “They are packages they created that are environmentally friendly. All of the packages have lollypops with seeds.” You don’t throw the stick out when you are finished with the lollypop. Instead, you stick the stick in the ground, planting for the future, she explained
The life lessons learned go beyond the standard business model. “They go on line once a week and buy the necessities to live, as if they have their own house or apartment. They have to purchase from other virtual companies,” said Tyrie.
“It is a great way for them to learn about starting a company, creating a business, national and international marketing. They go to trade shows,” Tyrie continued. “Our students won for best booth last year. It is a lot of work. The students put in a lot of time and they really enjoy it. I just advise them.”