Eight of the state's most promising aspiring business leaders from J.F. Webb High School of Health and Life Sciences and South Granville High School of Integrated Technology and Leadership (Granville County Schools) traveled to Raleigh on May 5 to present to the State Board of Education. This was not their first big business presentation, however. As professionals-in-training with the worldwide Virtual Enterprises International™ program, they create business plans, manage successful "virtual" companies and even have taken trips with some of their "coworkers" to trade fairs and national business competitions in New York City, Tennessee and South Carolina. And they have done it all before graduating from high school.

The program in Granville County, which is North Carolina's first Virtual Enterprises International™ charter, gives high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to pick up communication, networking, sales and other career skills as they create and manage a virtual company. Students work in different areas of the company, including administration, sales and purchasing, marketing, human resources and accounting and finance. They run their business with assistance from a teacher who serves as a business advisor. Each employee even has a "virtual" bank account in which their salaries are deposited and from which they pay taxes.

"Virtual Enterprises International™ has been the most influential, motivating, and successful course I have had the opportunity to participate in throughout my educational career," said Thomas Weeks, a senior at South Granville High School of Integrated Technology and Leadership in Creedmoor and the chief financial officer of the VEI business Get Lost, Inc. "VEI has allowed me to grasp and understand realistic approaches to not just a business world, but also any professional environment." The students in participating Granville County high schools earn two honors credits in a Career and Technical Education course for each year they work with the program. They meet many new people as the travel to competitions and trade fairs and "Skype" with students across the country and the world who also are running VEI businesses.

Even with all of this valuable work experience they are gaining on a daily basis, VEI students agree that the most valuable lessons of all are the ones they are learning about themselves. Many of the students say the VEI program has changed their plans for the future. Some now aspire to occupy a corner office as a CEO in a real company one day. Others have decided they want to teach business education.

"This class has had a positive impact on my life, my future decisions and my post-secondary plans," said Matthew Hicks, a senior at the J.F. Webb High School of Health and Life Sciences in Oxford and the chief executive officer of the VEI business Cyber Shock. "Before taking this class, I was set on majoring in agriculture, but VEI broadened my horizons and I am now thinking about majoring in business or banking. I changed my mind after networking with other real-world businesses, learning about other job options, and working in the VEI business."

Pioneered in New York City public schools, the Virtual Enterprises International™ program offers students an opportunity to experience, in a simulated business environment, all facets of being an employee in a firm. This unique program has drawn national attention as an applied learning instructional model for business, economics, finance and career education. The concept has grown in the United States to include programs in over 900 secondary and post-secondary schools. The Granville County Schools VEI program is affiliated with and mentored by the Tennessee Central Office of Virtual Enterprises International™ .