It’s 2020, we live in a high-tech world, and students today have opportunities to learn and grow that many never would have dreamed of even a generation ago.

Take for example a Virtual Enterprise business class at Crestwood High School. The class is composed of 14 students, has one teacher, and their classroom space is nothing elaborate.

But, given the power of technology, they operate a virtual business online and work and communicate with other virtual classrooms around the U.S. and world. On Friday, the students and teacher learned they have been selected for a unique opportunity with an all-expenses-paid trip this spring to New York City to show off their work.

Their business name is Royal Renaissance: Castle Commodities – a take on the school’s mascot name, “Knights” – and “student executives” and their teacher discussed the business, life skills learned and how they feel about earning the surprise trip to the Big Apple in April.

The class’ virtual products include wristbands, earbuds, headphones, custom-made shirts and more. The students this year have even expanded to real-world sales of those physical products to classmates and others associated with the high school.

The student executives are divided into business departments, including human resources, marketing and finance. Daily business decisions include branding, website development, establishing an organizational chart and employee hierarchy, meeting payroll, making purchases and creating promotions via social media channels, the students said.

According to Linda Avery, who has taught the course for 10 years now at Crestwood, Virtual Enterprise is about gaining authentic business experiences and is as close to real life as it gets.

When students enter the class, it’s not books and teacher-guided lessons, she said.

“They actually come in and operate the business,” Avery said. “That is how the curriculum is set up.”

“Situation days,” she said, include pulling a situation out of a basket, and students must either pay a bill or money comes to them.

“So, the personal finance portion is in there,” Avery said. “Because they have to make purchases. They all had to find an apartment and pay their rent. We had some go to another firm and buy some pets. But, the main part of it is that they should be able to communicate with other classrooms filled with young people who are running their businesses, as well.”

The elective course is part of Crestwood’s Career and Technology Education (CATE) program, she said.

For their efforts and entering into a national contest earlier this year for schools with similar demographic profiles, the class is one of four nationally to win a free trip to participate in the Youth Business Summit in New York City in April.

The summit is the nation’s largest exhibition of student-run, simulated businesses, drawing thousands of competitors from around the world, according to Virtual Enterprises International, the nonprofit behind the coursework. About 24 schools applied for the trip, according to a Virtual Enterprises official.

HSBC Bank USA sponsors the spring summit, and the HSBC Opportunity Fund will be paying for the class trip.

Sophomore Niyla Cooper is Royal Renaissance’s chief of information and aspires to run her own business one day, she said. Cooper said the best part of Virtual Enterprise is getting the business experience and the fact that her classmates all work together as a team.

Senior Shaleria Bradley is the firm’s chief executive officer and eventually wants to become a physical therapist and have her own business, she said.

The 17-year-old is in Central Carolina Technical College’s Early College Program, where she is taking college freshman core courses. Bradley only takes elective courses now at the high school.

She said she thinks Virtual Enterprise will improve her resume and said it has “challenged” her personally to be a leader.

“I am not the type of person who likes to stand in the spotlight a lot,” Bradley said, “so this class puts me on the spot to challenge myself and challenge others to make decisions. I have also learned how to be more organized and how to prioritize.”