New class is serious business at Crystal Lake South

Crystal Lake South High School senior Phil Magnelli hopes to be the chief financial officer of UnderWrapz within a week.

It could seem like a large responsibility for a high school senior to handle, but at least the commute will be manageable. His “office” is in Jim Krol’s second-period classroom.

Magnelli and 26 of his classmates will operate a Virtual Enterprises International firm this school year by taking roles including executive officers, accountants, marketers, human resource positions and many more as they try to sell their product in a simulated marketplace with more than 5,000 other classroom “firms” across the globe.

While the products and money are fake, the lessons and skills needed are as real as what the students will find in the real business world.

It is why Magnelli has cut no corners – wearing a suit and tie to school each day – as he prepares to interview in front of a panel of local business owners, accountants and sales managers next week.

“I really am hoping to be chief financial officer or head the accounting department,” Magnelli said. “It really feels more like a business than a class.”

Krol, who teaches the class, saw how serious and professional students became running the simulated business last year when the program first started at Crystal Lake South. The group of 15 students started UnderWrapz, a company that produces custom vinyl wraps for phones, laptops, tablets, vehicles and other products.

By the end of the year, the class had logos, banners, business cards, a website and even pens with the company’s name on them. Krol was happy to see his students had become as professional as the students he met at St. Charles when he first toured and observed a VEI classroom.

“I was greeted by the CEO of this firm and had to ask myself, ‘Is this kid 17?’” Krol said. “He looked, walked and talked like a business professional. That is what is so great and important about this program. The kids see the real-world relevance and it is something they embrace.”

Students have to develop business plans, implement marketing strategies, maintain 401(k) plans, pay taxes, file purchase orders, produce break-even analysis reports and complete hundreds of other tasks. They also receive salaries based on their position and can use that virtual money to buy items from other VEI firms.

Traditional quarter testing and final exams also are part of the course, and students in each department must give a presentation to the class explaining in-depth what their job entails.

“This is a great way to see what else is out there,” Krol said. “A lot of students are interested in business, but they don’t know all the different careers they could pursue.”

The highlight of the program, Krol said, is the regional trade show that takes place in Tennessee where VEI classes from throughout the Midwest set up booths and pitch products to other firms.

A competition is held in a variety of categories, from best business card to best business plan.

As the VEI program continues to grow, Krol said he hopes there will be enough “firms” in Illinois for the state to have its own trade show. Crystal Lake Central and Cary-Grove both have two firms, and Prairie Ridge is expected to have one next year, Krol said.

He also said more Illinois districts join the program each year. The increasing interest is no surprise to senior Elisha Blalark, who joined Krol’s class this year after hearing about the experience from friends.

“I knew a few of the kids who did it last year, and they all said it was a lot of fun,” Blalark said. “I would like to have my own business one day, and I thought this would be a great way to learn.”

On the Web

An example from last year’s class who took part in Virtual Enterprises International at Crystal Lake South can be seen at

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