BHS Team heading to National Virtual Business Competition

LR: Professor Robin Buckles, Alejandro Contreras, Daniela Lopez, Roxanna Canales, Abraham Padilla, Enrique Padilla and Principal Sandy Torres

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Congratulations to the students of Bloomington High School Virtual Enterprise, who will travel to New York in April to compete nationally for the first time.

Team BHS, Highrise Gardens, was one of six teams from across the state chosen to compete in the national business plan competition at the Virtual Enterprises International Youth Business Summit, which runs April 16-18 in New York City. The team will be among 220 teams from 150 schools representing 18 states and 10 countries.

This is the first time BHS has won at the state level and advanced to the national championships. Highrise Gardens also had the highest score in the state on the written portion of the contest – with 101 points out of 100.

Another BHS team – Novel Pursuit – made it to the top 16 teams in the state. A total of 42 competed.

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“I am extremely upset,” said teacher Robin Buckles. “I’m still in shock and proud… They’re exceptional.”

“I’m very excited for them,” Bloomington High School Principal Sandy Torres added. “To take a whole new idea and bring it to where it’s going in New York is an incredible accomplishment.”

The team members are still a little overwhelmed by their success.

“I still can’t believe we’ve come this far,” said team member Alejandro Contreras, a high school student from Bloomington.

In addition to Alejandro, the winning team includes Abraham Padilla, Enrique Moreno, Roxanna Canales and Daniela Lopez.

The virtual enterprise Highrise Gardens is centered on aeroponics – growing plants vertically without soil; an industry that students found beneficial in large cities. The idea would be for city dwellers to be able to grow their own healthy crops, even if they don’t have room for a traditional garden. Team members came up with the idea after seeing a video highlighting the need to find a way to bring crops and greenery into urban landscapes with little outdoor space.

The competition is fierce, Ms. Buckles noted. Most teams spend up to two years preparing. BHS worked on their project for four months. For all but one of the team members, it was their first time competing at the state level.

“It was new and scary,” Daniela said of her experience at the state pageant. “New York is going to be a bigger new experience. We can not wait to be there.

The Virtual Enterprise competition started at the grassroots level with students from our region competing last November in Redlands. Virtual business includes a variety of business-themed competition areas, such as marketing plans, elevator pitches, sales catalogs, and just about every facet of running a business. The business plan competition is one of the toughest because it’s essentially “a thesis,” Buckles noted.

Students must not only create a business that will fill a need, but they must also elect business leaders, establish a budget, project costs and revenues, develop a marketing plan, and have just about everything. a real society would have. …except virtually.

After coming up with the full plan, the members then had to “pitch” their idea to a panel of seven expert judges. The questions posed by the judges were quite difficult and the team members had to answer with precision and confidence. Some of the most difficult questions concerned finances.

“We weren’t seen as kids inventing something,” Enrique noted. “They saw us as a real business.”

To ensure they were prepared, each team member rehearsed each other’s parts, so they could support each other in the high-pressure presentation. The experience builds critical thinking, research and writing skills as well as “soft skills”, Alejandro added.

“We also had to report to the (judges),” he said.

Regardless of the result at the Nationals, Roxanna said the experience was one she will never forget.

“The whole experience really brought this team together,” she said. “It made us realize that we can do anything we set out to do.”

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