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Imagine being a CEO of a major business firm that interacts with other companies around the world while you’re still in high school. For the teenage members of Virtual Enterprises International in Clarence, Kenmore, Buffalo and Pittsford, that imagination is a reality.

Virtual Enterprises International, also called VE, is a global business simulation that gives students the opportunity to participate in a competitive market. Students get the chance to experience the working world by creating a fake company and learning to use skills such as communication, finance and technology.

“It is the only program that truly replicates every aspect of running a business and participating in a global market,” Kathy Gielow, the northwest regional director of Virtual Enterprises for New York, said. “It is critically important for students to get experience in the business world because business is evolving at a rapid pace.”

Running businesses is hard work, even when it’s not a real corporation. Students still have to design a product, create a logo, work on the economic aspects of their company and sell their products.

In September 2012, Clarence High School students founded DevTech, which resells Apple products. Though the company already has been established, current students continue to change and add to the design of the company.

“We just added a philanthropic side to it this year,” DevTech CEO and Clarence senior Shelby Cornell said. “Each student brought in a business idea and we voted on which one we would go with for the year.”

Students also are given leadership roles.

Sophie Wiener, a senior at Pittsford-Sutherland High School near Rochester, is the chief marketing officer and event marketing manager for College Town Xperience South. This virtual company sells college apparel and goods that bear the schools’ sports team logos.

Her duties offer her an opportunity to manage a group of people in a work setting and effectively market the business. By being part of this program, Sophie said she has been learning things that will help her in her future study of business.

“I have learned about accounting, marketing, human resources and leadership,” she said. “I strongly believe that this class could benefit any student that wants to enhance their leadership skills.”

She isn’t the only student who feels this way.

Caitlin Leong, a junior at Mount St. Mary Academy, is the CEO of her school’s virtual business called EnviroScentals. This company focuses on selling products with scents designed to make the consumer be in a better mood and feel more motivated.

“I think students may benefit from this program because it focuses on so many skills needed to be successful in a future career,” she said. “Public speaking and working on group projects are skills needed to succeed and I believe this program does an excellent job of giving students a chance to practice and develop these skills.”

There are many opportunities for these skills to be put to use, including an international trade fair in New York City where VE groups meet and attempt to sell their products to other companies. There also is a presentation where students discuss the details of their company before a panel of judges.

Besides the traveling opportunities and the working-world interactions that are part of this program, there is also a deeper, educational benefit.

“Data shows that kids attending schools where they can be involved in VE see more value in their other courses as well,” Gielow said, “which increases grades, develops more of a sense of responsibility, and sets better goals for college and their futures.”

Schools can get involved in the program by contacting Gielow at 574-0293 or kgielow@veinternational.org or by visiting www.veinternational.org.

Amelia Gilmer is a senior at Mount St. Mary Academy.