National Competition Highlights An Innovative Way To Teach Inner-City High Schoolers How To Launch Or Manage A Business

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Wall Street is coming to the classroom in a unique way. To help raise the next generation of CEOs and entrepreneurs, Hop Hop Mogul Russell Simmons, Merrill Lynch, and non-profit organizations Wise and Virtual Enterprises International are teaming up to educate students on the fundamentals of creating a business or running one. The fruits of their labor will be on display at both a National Business Plan Competition (March 28,29 in NYC), and a Global Business Challenge (March 29). The winners of the $25,000 cash prizes (3rd Annual U.S. Network of Virtual Enterprises & Merrill Lynch National Business Plan Competition and the Inaugural Merrill Lynch Global Business Challenge Produced By w!se) will be announced at the Virtual enterprises Internationla Trade Fair, held March 30 in NYC.

This Virtual Enterprise business plan competition helps to do just that by allowing our youth to develop a viable business opportunity, and imagine a better future for themselves.

High School Students to Compete in New York for $25,000 in Cash Prizes

Winners To Be Announced at 10th Annual Virtual Enterprises, International Trade Fair March 30; 2,500 Students To Join Attendees NYC Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, Def Jams Record Founder Russell Simmons, and 133 student-run "virtual enterprises."

High school students from 15 schools have been selected as national finalists in the 2007 Annual U.S. Network of Virtual Enterprises & Merrill Lynch National Business Plan Competition and Inaugural Merrill Lynch Global Business Challenge Produced By w!se. Students from across the country will travel to New York City on March 28th and 29th to present their business plans to a panel of judges representing major corporations, including many on the Fortune 50. The top three schools will win a combined $25,000 in cash. The winner of the US Business Plan Competition will be announced at the 10th Annual Virtual Enterprises, International Trade Fair on March 30th at the 69th Regiment Armory, where 133 student-run "virtual firms" will exhibit their talent before 2,500 students and attendees New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein and Def Jams Record Founder Russell Simmons.

2007 Annual U.S. Network of Virtual Enterprises & Merrill Lynch National Business Plan Competition and Inaugural Merrill Lynch Global Business Challenge Produced By w!se is one of the most prestigious and rigorous annual business plan competitions for public high school students.

Students from Bulgaria, Romania, Belgium, Finland, Italy, Sweden, and Austria will join the American students in the 2007 inaugural Merrill Lynch Global Business Challenge. 10 teams will participate, each consisting of five students; and each team will have students from multiple countries, to simulate how multi-national teams organize and collaborate to manage and run a successful global enterprise. This will take place on March 29th from 12:45 pm to 5:30 pm at Baruch College. The winners of the Challenge will be announced that evening.

California, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and New Jersey placed schools in the final 15 for the US competition. The semi-finals take place on March 28th and the final six will compete at Baruch College in the championship round on March 29th, from 9 am - 12 noon Est. The winners will be announced at the Trade Fair on March 30th.

Pioneered in New York City high schools, Virtual Enterprises, International is a program that provides a simulated business environment where students "trade" with their peers via e-commerce strategies through a worldwide network of over 4,000 virtual businesses in more than 30 countries. Through the program, students step into the shoes of business executives and entrepreneurs and take part in decision-making as a member of their company, identify their area of expertise, and work to meet business goals as a team. Students in the Virtual Enterprise program are developing skills in economics, business and finance to become successful entrepreneurs.

"Providing educational opportunities to young people of all backgrounds is our top philanthropic priority and in a radically globalizing economy, giving deserving students exposure to international experiences in increasingly important," says Merrill Lynch Chairman and CEO Stan O'Neal. "With peer competition as their driver, students are showcasing the teamwork, business acumen, presentation skills, financial aptitudes, and leadership qualities of today's top-performing professionals. These skills are crucial for their career growth - and for our economy."

New York City Site Of Competitions

"New York City is proud to host the next generation of business leaders and visionaries," said NYC Deputy Mayor for Education and Community Development Dennis Walcott. "I commend Virtual Enterprises, Merrill Lynch, and W!SE for their commitment to helping kids develop the skills necessary to succeed in their careers and their lives."

New York City is the appropriate venue for the competition, as the contest originated there. Merrill Lynch, the sole sponsor of the competition, is headquartered there as well. Further, New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein is a huge proponent of the program. Finally, New York City is recognized around the world as the global capital of the financial markets.

"For any high school student that envisions themselves working in banking, marketing or even retail, this is an invaluable experience," says Paul Presti, a teacher and VE coordinator at New Dorp High School, a NYC finalist this year.

The competitions are being held at Baruch College, which embodies the international nature of business today. Its students come from more than 90 different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, creating a rich academic and social environment that reflects the diversity of New York City and prepares them for the global marketplace. In fact, U.S. News & World Report has named Baruch the most ethnically diverse institution of higher education in the nation.

VE, International

"The National Business Plan Competition is an exciting, relevant, and rigorous learning experience that inspires innovative and critical thinking," says Virtual Enterprises, International Director Iris Blanc. "It provides an opportunity for students to develop communication and technology skills and connects them to the real world of business helping them to become financially literate, business-savvy and better informed about the very competitive global economy."

Some 400 Virtual Enterprise programs operate in 10 states; more than 9,000 students are participating this year. While no real goods are exchanged, financial transactions for virtual services take place through an online banking program using authentic checking and credit card operations. A VE program has all the financial responsibilities of a traditional American company which includes filing and paying corporate income taxes.

A sample of the high schools/firms competing include:

South Carolina's Greer HS launched The Switch, which is supplying the latest brand-name consumer electronics and accessories.

Universal Promotions, NYC, Edward R. Murrow High School, the NYC champion from Brooklyn, is an all-inclusive products and promotional consulting program.

Metaphor, Inc., Tennessee, Blackman High School, offers itself as a leader in the apparel industry, geared towards servicing adolescents and young adults.

Lickity Splits, N.J., Morris Knolls High School - an old-fashioned ice cream parlor with a modern spin, offering both a unique theme and innovative flavor.

The Sac-Shack of Virginia Beach sells furniture that is high-quality, durable, and innovative - but doesn't compromise the old-fashioned feel of home.

"This applied learning activity, offers participants the opportunity to actualize the world of work---applying communication, technology, and teamwork skills and economic and financial concepts as they present their business plans or address a global business challenge," says w!se President and Founder Phyllis Frankfort. "The competition showcases best practices, rewards excellence, and provides an opportunity for students to exhibit to educators and private sector executives the kind of sophisticated knowledge and skills that are often attributed to college students and business professionals."

In response to rising concerns that young people lack the skills and knowledge needed to compete and succeed in the global marketplace, Merrill Lynch is determined to support this level of innovative education. "The Merrill Lynch Foundation," says Eddy Bayardelle, Ph.D., President of the Merrill Lynch Foundation at the nation's largest brokerage firm, "focuses our support on programs that build a world of increased opportunity for under-served children and youth. With the business plan competition, we seek to promote exciting, new, long-term partnerships that will result in serving unmet needs."

"Every child, especially those in our city's underserved neighborhoods, deserves a shot at success," says Russell Simmons, Chairman of Rush Communications and founder of Def Jam Records. "This Virtual Enterprise business plan competition helps to do just that by allowing our youth to develop a viable business opportunity, and imagine a better future for themselves." The music mogul helped bring hip-hop culture to the American mainstream and says he likes the effort to bring Wall Street to all the people.

Both Bayardelle and Simmons will be honored at the trade fair, receiving a Crystal Leadership Award, in honor of their tireless efforts to serve the youth of the nation.

Competition Details

This competition for young people is the most rigorous of its kind for business and entrepreneurship. The business plans are evaluated on two levels; the written plan and the presentation of the plan. The written business plans will be evaluated by fifteen judges over two to three weeks in advance of the team presentations. Ratings are collected, documented and used as part of the total score, and to determine the competitive brackets for team presentations.

Teams must submit written business plans, present their plan and respond to questions from a panel of judges who select the winners. Two preliminary rounds determine the six finalist teams for the championship round. Over the course of several dozen glossy pages, filled with colorful charts and informative graphs, the business plans presented by high school students are fact-packed with market analysis, flow charts of management, projected cash flow, balance sheets, income statements, operating procedures, marketing strategies and plans, descriptions of products/services, pricing, and distribution details for the faux firms. They also include the company description, a mission statement, objective statement, statement of purpose, goals, personnel, a break-even analysis, and target market demographics, geographics, and psychographics. A SWOT shows the internal strengths and weaknesses as well as the external opportunities and threats.

Competitive teams give an 8-12 minute presentation of their firm's business plan to a panel of judges from business followed by 8 minutes of questions by the judges. Teams present at least twice in the Preliminary Rounds. The top six (6) teams advance to the Championship Round to present to a "blue ribbon panel" of judges. Once judges' scores are computed, they are audited by an accounting firm before it is officially announced.

The two-day competition is held at Baruch College, a senior college of the City University of New York. Past winners of the business plan competition included Centennial High School form Bakersfield ,CA in 2006 and Brooklyn, NY's Edward R. Murrow in 2005.

What Students Learn

2007 Annual U.S. Network of Virtual Enterprises & Merrill Lynch National Business Plan Competition and Inaugural Merrill Lynch Global Business Challenge Produced By Wise enables students to acquire valuable skills under the guidance of a teacher consultant over the course of a year. The teacher is equipped with the latest technology used in the real business world.

Students:

-Decide the nature of their business, its products and services, and its management and structure

-Engage in the daily operations of running a business

-Receive salaries with benefits and pay personal income taxes

-Trade with other virtual enterprises throughout the US and the world

-Exhibit virtual products and services with their local and global colleagues and peers at the Virtual Enterprises International Trade Fair

It offers students the opportunity to participate in an exciting learning experience that inspires innovative thinking and paves the way for the creation of new business ideas and solutions. Students become financially literate, business savvy and economically competitive as a result.

April is Financial Literacy for Youth Month, a national opportunity to draw attention to the need for young adults to obtain training in personal finance basics like money management, saving, investing, and use of credit. It's also a time to highlight successful programs such as the business competition in developing tomorrow's CEOs, leaders, and entrepreneurs.

National Business Plan Competition

Global Business Challenge

Baruch College (3/28, 3/29)

William and Anita Newman

Conference Center

151 E. 25th Street

Corner of Lexington Avenue

VE International Trade Fair

69th Regiment Armory (3/30)

68 Lexington Avenue

between 25-26th Streets

About Merrill Lynch's Philanthropy: Merrill Lynch was founded on the idea that the world is full of opportunity. Opening the door to that opportunity for underserved children and youth is the focus of the firm's global philanthropy. Merrill Lynch philanthropic programs prepare youngsters of all backgrounds for a future of financial independence, educational achievement and professional accomplishment. Merrill Lynch is dedicated to helping youth become financially literate, business savvy, and economically competitive. In 2006, Merrill Lynch giving totaled nearly $40 million, with education receiving nearly half of that support. Merrill Lynch is one of the world's leading financial management and advisory companies with 55,000 employees in offices in 37 countries, and with client assets totaling about $1.6 trillion.. For more information, please consult http://philanthropy.ml.com

About Virtual Enterprise International: Pioneered in New York City high schools, Virtual Enterprise International offers students the opportunity to experience a simulated business environment in all facets of working in a real corporation. Virtual Enterprises, International is a program initiative of the New York City Department of Education Office of Teaching and Learning/Career & Technical Education. For more information, consult http://www.veinternational.com

About W!se Working In Support of Education, an educational not-for-profit 501(c) 3 with a focus on building financial education and literacy, and fostering business and social entrepreneurship, serves as the U.S. Network of Virtual Enterprises National Activities Center. The United States Treasury Department recognized Wise in 2007 with the John Sherman Award. W!SE provides national educational support services to schools and organizations serving young people, in contributing to long-term, sustainable change in schools and communities, and in organizing events, and implementing competitions. For more information, please consult http://www.moneypower.org

Contact: Planned Television Arts

Sam Glazer 212-593-6403

Andrea Bonnici 212-715-1682

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