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VE Victory!

WINTON – Shrills of sheer excitement and mouths agape with unexpected surprise were the norm here last week. It’s not every day that you win an all-expenses paid trip to New York City.

But that was indeed the case for the Virtual Enterprises (VE) class at CS Brown STEM High School. Those five students along with their instructor, Daphne Lee, were made aware of that trip during a Feb. 1 presentation at the school. The group was aware they had qualified for the VE Youth Business Summit, which includes several competitions, that is scheduled for April in the Big Apple. What they didn’t know, at least until last week, was that HSBC Bank, a multinational financial firm based in England, was so impressed by this “little school” from rural northeastern North Carolina that they decided to cover all expenses for the April trip.

VE is a class where the students create a simulated business online and operate it throughout the school year by buying and selling products and services to other simulated businesses across the country and around the world. The class also gives the students an opportunity to test drive a career since each student is assigned a corporate role – CEO, CFO, Sales Manager, IT, HR Director, and Marketing Director – who are responsible for the duties behind that title throughout the year.

The students at C.S. Brown STEM created a clothing store and ticket subscription service named Millennium. Here is a link to their company’s website: https://millenniumnc2.wixsite.com/millennium. Please keep in mind that this is a simulated business.

“You guys here at CS Brown STEM are my smallest school, but yet this group came to Raleigh last month and took fourth place (at a state competition),” stated North Carolina VE Director Mark Jones, a VE instructor in Granville County, who was in Winton on Feb. 1 to make the surprise announcement.

“But that’s not why I’m actually here. Ya’ll remember talking about the fundraising ideas you had to help offset the cost of your trip to New York in April? Don’t worry about it. Your transportation, your hotel rooms – for students and chaperones on Sunday through Thursday, breakfast every day at the hotel, lunch on most days, and a free booth at the international event is paid for by HSBC Bank,” Jones continued, his voice drowned out by loud screams of delight from the CS Brown STEM students and staff gathered in the lunchroom.

Jones said the total cost of the trip is roughly $6,000. That doesn’t include the $800 for the booth at the event.

“These types of international events are designed to change lives in the world of business, but as you can see they’re not cheap,” he stressed. “This will prove as an amazing event for this school. You guys have already proven yourself at the state event in January. You came to Raleigh and you rocked it. You did fantastic. I was happier for ya’ll than I was for my own students.”

CS Brown STEM Principal Bobbie Jones was thrilled to learn of the news.

“This is what education is all about; exposing our children to everything that they need in order to be successful in life. This is an amazing accomplishment for our VE program. I’m very proud of all of you and your instructor, Ms. Lee,” he remarked.

“I thank God for the opportunity to serve these students as their teacher,” Lee noted. “It’s challenging to compete at a very high level like we see and only have five students when most all other programs have 10 or more, often times 20 or more. But my group tackled that challenge and succeeded.

“I know I pushed them hard at times, but that hard work and determination paid off with this paid trip to New York. We promise to go there and represent this school and this county to the highest standard,” Lee continued.

Hertford County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. William T. Wright said this announcement represents the benefits of hard work.

“We are very proud of this group of five students, their teacher, and this entire school,” Dr. Wright remarked. “These students have set the bar very high for next year’s class.”

“I’m so proud of you all; you may be a small class but the money we spend on this type of business education is well worth every dime,” stressed Katrina Futrell who serves Hertford County Public Schools as its Career Technical Education Director.

The 2018-19 VE class at CS Brown STEM includes Torryan Lassiter, who serves as CEO; Trenton Simmons, CFO; Keyshawn Lassiter, IT Manager; Cameron Lassiter, Human Resource Manager; and Brianna Howard, Sales and Marketing Manager. All are seniors.

Lee, in a later interview, said the VE program at CS Brown STEM is in its third year, but the first as far as having the required business class/business plan element that helps lead it to competitive events.

“Our goal is to teach the students how entrepreneurship works in the real world and how to develop a business plan and operate a business,” she said. “They brainstormed several items and then selected two – clothing and ticket sales – as the concept of their virtual business.”

Keyshawn Lassiter, she said, developed the website, which is very easy to navigate and is user friendly.

“What I really enjoy the most about this VE program is tracking how my students start and then how they reach the finish line. I love watching their ideas develop, and since this is a year-long class, I get the opportunity to watch them grow and develop,” Lee concluded.

The only program of its kind in the United States, VE is being implemented in 430 schools serving 15,000 students a year including middle school (11-13 year old) and high school (16-18 year old) students. Fifty percent of all VE schools are identified as economically disadvantaged.

Since its inception in 1996, VE has served over 140,000 students in the U.S.

Last year’s VE Youth Business Summit and competition attracted over 5,000 students from across the United States and several foreign countries.

For more information about the Virtual Enterprises program visit https://veinternational.org/.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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