Floral Park, Elmont teach business skills through Virtual Enterprises course

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Floral Park High School business teacher Nasira Rafiq, left, discussed her school's Virtual Enterprise class alongside, from left, alumni Robail Nasir and Jose Barcia and current student Shelby Suarez. (Photo by Amelia Camurati)

A pilot program at two Sewanhaka Central High School District schools is in its second year and is already proving its worth, officials said at Tuesday’s board of education meeting.

Floral Park High School alumnus Jose Barcia took the school’s Virtual Enterprises course last year and worked in the information technology department for the class’s business, KicksUp, a subscription-based service that coordinates outfits from the shoes up.

While the services aren’t real, the class gives students, who are known as employees, the chance to build a business from the ground up.

“The class really helped me grow a lot as a person,” Barcia said. “At the beginning of the year, I fooled around but by the end, I was a completely different person.”

The pilot program is running at Floral Park and Elmont high schools, and Floral Park teacher Nasira Rafiq said the year-long course gives students leadership, collaboration, professionalism and technology skills.

The simulated business course was founded 22 years ago and has been running on Long Island since Sanford H. Calhoun High School in Merrick implemented the program. The course revolves around a website that gives students an idea of benchmarks to achieve while pushing them to expand beyond the guidelines with their own ideas.

Rafiq said 65 Long Island schools now offer Virtual Enterprises courses.

Rafiq said the students apply for different positions in the company at the start of the school year after submitting résumés and cover letters. This year, local business owners helped interview the students, giving them a taste of a real interview.

Floral Park’s course is divided into departments, including marketing, management, human resources and accounting, and the classroom is split to simulate a real office.

Robail Nasir served as CEO of the company last year and is now a Queens College student and works part-time at T-Mobile. During the meeting, Nasir said the course taught him the importance of networking, and he has joined multiple clubs in college to connect.

“That’s the main word that goes around every club and classroom,” Nasir said.

Barcia said he has worked at Modell’s Sporting Goods for the past four months and has since led his store in sales all four months. In his second month, Barcia said he recorded 62 sales while carting a tablet around while the second-highest earner recorded 15.

During the course, students attend trade shows with other Virtual Enterprises companies both nationally and internationally, and it culminates with the Youth Business Summit in New York City.

Last year, Barcia was given the same task, and he said it made him engage with people and develop communication skills to make sales.

The company is given $20,000 in virtual cash and each employee is set up with a virtual bank account. The company’s account is used to pay for business expenses such as equipment and pay roll, and the goal is to offset those costs with virtual sales.

“They learn to collaborate with one another,” Rafiq said. “What you see throughout the year, they might have started with one concept and the build this clear brand identity. The puzzle pieces all come together.”

Floral Park student Shelby Suarez is enrolled in the course and works in the human resources department. Suarez said her few months have helped her with software like Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel as well as the separation between personal relationships and business relationships.

“So far I’m loving the experience,” Suarez said. “I wasn’t expecting all the hard work and seriousness, but I’m enjoying it.”

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