Community Spotlight: Val Laufenberg brings business to life for PA students

Partners Post, February 2016

Val Laufenberg, executive director of Americans for the Competitive Enterprise System (ACES)

When Val Laufenberg walks into a high school and asks students to describe what a business person does, she often gets a version of this: Somebody wearing a suit sits behind a desk and does … something.

Then, students take part in Pennsylvania Business Week, a project of the educational nonprofit that Laufenberg leads. Teams of students form and manage "companies" and, along the way, have to think through a litany of decisions that every business must make.

"I love what I do because it is so exciting to see the transformation of students from Monday to Friday," Laufenberg said. "It's just unbelievable."

"I don't have any children myself, but I like to say I have over 17,000 kids," she added.

As executive director of Americans for the Competitive Enterprise System (ACES), Laufenberg coordinates Pennsylvania Business Week, which has served as a model for similar programs in other states.

Laufenberg came to ACES nearly 30 years ago as an administrative assistant. The organization, launched in 1956, initially provided continuing economic education courses to Pennsylvania teachers.

Then, 18 years ago, the Manufacturer and Business Association (MBA) approached ACES about taking leadership of Pennsylvania Business Week, a fledgling in-school business education program the MBA had formed in 1999 with Ft. LeBoeuf High School. ACES' leaders jumped at the opportunity to reach students directly. The program has expanded since then to reach students in 18 Western Pennsylvania high schools.

Laufenberg has been executive director of ACES since 2005. With a degree in communications and a minor in business, Laufenberg said the position is a great fit for her.

Laufenberg said it is gratifying to hear students give the program very high marks. Some students who participated years earlier have since come back as volunteer business advisers.

Students blossom over one week, Laufenberg said, as they learn about future job opportunities in their community.

"Maybe they discover they like working with numbers, or they're creative in putting advertisements together," Laufenberg said. "Everyone has a talent that can be put to use as a career. I think that's the bottom line."

Partners for Public Education supports this program and offered this handout on the economic value of education spending.

Laufenberg said any Pennsylvania educator who is interested in learning more about Pennsylvania Business Week should contact ACES. Go to the ACES website to learn more.

 

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