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Berkeley students discover world of business

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Left to right: Tyrese Coakley, Lauren Genevieve, Yasser Baia and Tyler Trott from the Virtual Enterprises International programme (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Sierra Correia

Bermuda’s Virtual Enterprises International programme has been taking Berkeley Institute students out of the classroom and into the world of business.

And their efforts have led to scholarships overseas worth thousands of dollars.

The Association of Bermuda International Companies, which introduced the initiative locally, has congratulated the students on their success and completion of the programme, which offered pupils “hands on” learning opportunity that helped them better understand how to run a business by creating their own virtual product to sell to other school classes in North America.

From there, they discovered the highs and lows of the business world, sometimes making mistakes but enjoying the success that came their way.

“The programme allows students to have such a wonderful real-world experience”, said Dawn Nichols Marshall, Berkeley’s business studies teacher.

“It creates motivation and satisfied employees and helps develop work and life skills to equip students for university and future employment.”

For their virtual product, the students chose to promote “the Bermuda experience” through their travel firm, Vacations in Paradise Enterprises, which would bring “worldwide customers to paradise through a unique experience that combines culture, comfort, and adventure”.

The entire VEI class came together to form the company, with positions such as CEO and CAO being selected through a traditional interview process. Students had to provide their own resume and cover letter, explained 17-year-old Lauren Genevieve, CEO of Vacations in Paradise.

Having only read about the position in textbooks, she soon learnt that there was “so much more to it”. There were a lot of responsibilities, and, in this way, it prepared her for a work environment and increased her understanding of the business world.

Lauren, who chose to participate in the course due to her interest in business, hopes to use her experiences to make a positive impact on the performing arts industry in Bermuda, saying: “VEI will help me with this.”

The VEI company competed in the International Trade Show at Youth Business Summit in New York, which gave them the opportunity to interact with potential clients and make connections with other businesses.

Its CAO, 16-year-old Yasser Baia, said that they “met lots of friends and formed long-lasting business connections”.

The trip also allowed them to take a tour at Long Island University, which is affiliated with the VEI programme, and presented them with $2,500 scholarships for their involvement.

In addition, five students applied to the school and were accepted, while three students were awarded for their high grade point averages and are set to receive an added $10,000 academic merit scholarship.

“They will receive all amounts for each year of study,” stated a ABIC’s press release.

Yasser, who is considering attending LIU and is interested in pursuing corporate litigation, initially joined the programme due a similar love of business. However, as an entrepreneur he believed that VEI would not just open doors to help him and further his education, but present him with future job opportunities.

To those who are considering joining this programme, he said: “Go for it. It’s an experience you’ll never regret. The skills that you learn in this programme are incomparable and it would be a shame to pass up the opportunity.”

Lauren added: “Do it, even if you’re not sure.”

VEI serves 12,000 students across the US who have been connected to over 7,500 student-run companies across 40 countries. Phyllis Curtis-Tweed, principal of the Berkeley Institute, said that the Virtual Enterprises International programme is “the wave of the future” that “seeks to eliminate the learning curve that new graduates often experience in the workplace”.

ABIC chairman Patrick Tannock added: “Thanks to Mark Smith of Bacardi for introducing VEI to Bermuda. Thanks also to those employees of ABIC companies, namely FIL, KPMG, Bacardi and XL Catlin, who supported the students throughout the inaugural programme. We look forward to the 2017-18 school year when CedarBridge Academy will join Berkeley as a participant in VEI.”

Left to right: Yasser Baia, Lauren Genevieve, Tyler Trott and Tyrese Coakley (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Yasser Baia
Tyrese Coakley, pictured at the Youth Business Summit held at Pier 92 in New York on April 4, in Virtual Enterprises International's Global Business Challenge (Photograph from JeffreyHolmes.com)