Teachers at Valley Stream Memorial Junior High School plan to start offering a virtual enterprises course for seventh-graders next school year, and will expand the program to eighth-grade students in the following year.
“I’m really enthusiastic about this program,” Principal Brett Strauss said.
As part of the program, seventh-graders would use computer programs such as Microsoft Excel and graphic design programs to create their own businesses. The class culminates in a business pitch competition.
“They will become proficient in computer applications in context,” said Long Island Regional Director Ellen Palazzo.
In the summer after seventh grade, the students would be able take part in a business leadership camp, which could include visiting corporate offices and hearing from network and industry professionals. In eighth-grade, students could continue their involvement in the program by learning how to set up and manage companies that would compete with other student-run businesses in a virtual micro-economy.
“It’s really a very early jump-start for the business world,” Strauss said, adding that the program would give students more experience in business before they entered the Future Business Leaders of America club in high school.
He also said that as the program develops, he would look into offering more electives for students with a business interest, such as Spanish classes that focus on business terminology.
“What we’re looking to do is really create a business magnet program in the junior high school,” Strauss said.
Then, after the program is established at Memorial, the virtual enterprise program would continue for the students at Central High School, where they could compete against students from other Long Island high schools at a Virtual Enterprises Regional Conference and Exhibition.
The virtual enterprise program started at high schools about 25 years ago, when New York City Department of Education officials visited companies in Vienna, Austria. Those officials then decided to create a program based on the European tradition of apprenticeship, according to the Virtual Enterprise website.
The middle school program started in 2015, after the high school course gained in popularity. At the time, then-New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña told Virtual Enterprise Executive Director Iris Blanc that “this is wonderful, but unfortunately, we have students who don’t make it to ninth-grade,” Palazzo said.
That September, the Junior Ventures launched pilot programs at a few schools in New York City, Broward County, Fla. and Los Angeles, Calif. Now, the Virtual Enterprise program is being taught in 500 secondary and post-secondary schools nationwide and serves more than 12,000 students annually, according to the company’s website.
In Valley Stream, funding for the course was approved in the Central High School District’s 2018-19 $117.1 million budget. For more information about the course, visit https://veinternational.org/.