Yorktown High School sophomore Ana Gonzalez dreams of one day opening her own home accessories boutique in Ballston Common Shopping Mall. This week, Gonzalez and 29 other Arlington high school students are stepping out of the classroom and onto the selling floor in a management shadowing project designed to show students the ins and outs of running a business.

"I just thought that you go in and get a lease and then start selling," said Gonzalez. "A lot of people go into business and management and don't know what they have to do to run a business."

The week-long program enables the high schoolers to observe a store manager's and mall manager's duties on a daily basis.

"If you talk to someone who knows the business, you get more excited about it than just reading it in a book," said Gonzalez, who emigrated from El Salvador to Arlington 10 years ago with her family. She plans to go to Northern Virginia Community College to study marketing.

Students are required to keep a daily log and record answers to class questions, such as "How is inventory kept track of?" and "What kind of employee do you look for?" Oral reports will be presented to the rest of the class, detailing each student's experiences. Students are evaluated on their enthusiasm, desire to learn and punctuality.

"Some of the kids want to be managers, but most of them are not familiar with what a manager does on a daily basis," said Michelle Wolpe, the county's marketing education teacher coordinator. "We teach why it's important to have good work ethics and what they are."

Yorktown senior Willie Starks is spending a week learning from Le Chateau manager Tracey Hutchins the day-to-day management of a clothing store, from setting up employee schedules to writing weekly progress reports.

"We learn to conduct ourselves as young businesspeople," said Starks, who plans to become either a fashion consultant or a computer programmer. "If you have a little bit of an edge, that's what'll put you over the top."

Hutchins said she allowed Starks to follow her around because she thinks the program offers a great opportunity for young people to see the behind-the-scenes work involved in running a retail business.

"A lot of kids don't know what an eight-hour day is," said Hutchins. "They think working in a clothing store is all fun, but there's a lot of things that happen in a clothing store that you don't see when you're a customer."

Wayne Christmann, assistant center manager for operations, is showing Gonzalez and three other students how "the total atmosphere {of the mall} is being created." Little details such as keeping the floor clean and the temperature at a comfortable level are important to customer satisfaction, said Christmann, who oversees housekeeping, maintenance and security for the mall.

"The shopping public just knows {the mall} is a nice place to go," he said. "The ambiance created is never considered consciously."

The week-long program is part of the "Classroom on the Mall" course offered to Arlington County sophomores, juniors and seniors.

Students meet for two periods each day in a classroom in the mall. Classroom instruction includes advertising, customer service, merchandising, store operation, display and economics.

Starting Nov. 26, the high schoolers will wrap and divide merchandise donated by mall stores for two families in Arlington. The students will deliver the presents to the families on Christmas Eve. The students will also hold a children's holiday reading program in the mall.

As part of the course, the high schoolers can work for credit at the mall, after school or on weekends.

"Even if you're going to be a doctor or a lawyer, you'll need to market yourself, or run your own office," said Wolpe. "You need to know something about running your own business."