Southold, Mattituck students hone business skills in virtual course

At just 17 years old, Michael Christman is the chief executive officer of Advanced Performance Athletics.

In a company that sells computerized soccer balls and basketballs, as well as training clothing, all of the employees and administrators are near Mr. Christman’s age. In fact, they’re his peers at Southold High School, where they are all enrolled in a virtual enterprise course.

Since the company is run solely by seniors at the high school, it doesn’t sell a tangible product to the public, but rather to students in other virtual enterprise classes across the country. This is done through their online website and when the 19-person company attends trade shows, where they network and close deals with potential clients. Their next one is coming up in April.

“It’s amazing,” said Southold high school principal William Galati. “Each [student] brings something unique to the table that really supports them in their educational endeavors. It inspires them, too. It gives them a direction as to career college readiness and what to look forward to in college.”

This is the second year the high school has offered the class. Last year only nine students were enrolled. The only other district to offer the class on the North Fork is Mattituck, which is in its third year.

Similarly, the 22 juniors and seniors in LuAnne Nappe’s class at Mattituck have their own company, Body Kinetics, which sells fitness equipment that harnesses kinetic energy used to charge electronic devices, such as iPads and cellphones.

Each student is assigned a position at the company in one of the following division: sales, marketing, technology, administration, human resources and accounting/finance.

Tasks include completing payroll, sales plans and audit reports. They’ve also branded the company — making business cards and a company logo — designing a blog and a catalog of products. They even have bills to pay, such as rent, insurance and advertising costs.

“They learn such life skills I know they will take with them when they leave [high school] and even after college, too,” Ms. Nappe said. “It’s real life, that’s what I like about it.”

In order to keep up with demand and complete their job tasks, Advanced Performance Athletics has its own email and phone, located in teacher Kathy Williams’ classroom. Students in other programs can place orders or reach out with business inquiries at any time.

Continuing with the business theme, students at both Mattituck and Southold have to fill out an application packet and then perform a subsequent interview with the school’s principal, and sometimes other teachers as well, before they’re accepted into the class.

“It definitely prepares us for jobs beyond college,” said Southold senior Matt Cardi. “It’s a hands-on feeling. A lot of us have jobs, like we work in restaurants or what have you, but we don’t get that office feel or a deadline to get a business plan done.”

In addition to their classwork, students can enter numerous competitions throughout the year, including giving elevator pitches, and having their branding, employee manual, newsletters and annual reports judged.

Mattituck students received third place for best catalog and second place for best employee manual at the Long Island Business Plan/Trade Show competition. They were also rewarded an honorable mention for their branding and employee manual and placed in the top 10 percent for their elevator pitch at the national competition, Ms. Nappe said.

The Southold class placed first in its room at a competition at Farmingdale earlier this year, but just missed placing in the top 10 overall teams, Ms. Williams said.

“It helps not necessarily focusing on business, it helps with life in general,” Southold student Kyle Skrezec said of the class and subsequent competitions. “It helps with our social skills and confidence and character traits like that.”

Photo caption: Southold senior Sean Okula checks out the Advanced Performance Athletics website for his Virtual Enterprise class. (Credit: Nicole Smith)

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