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Real-world student program shaping up

Preparation continues for the southwest Minnesota Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities (CEO) program 2018-19 school year.

“We’ve hired our facilitator,” said Kevin Paulsen, Southwest Minnesota CEO program board member and Pipestone business participant. “I think he’s going to do a great job. He seems very energetic and he’s already started.”

The facilitator, or teacher of the class, will be Cody Henrichs, who graduated from Luverne High School in 2001.

After moving away from Minnesota for a time, he returned in 2014 and currently lives in Luverne with his wife Nicole and their three children Alexis, Elijah and Noel.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to continue working with students in new and interesting ways, and I can’t wait to get the ball moving on this innovative advancement in education,” Henrichs said.

Henrichs is currently introducing himself to the principals and counselors of the participating schools. In January he will start appearing before students at all of the schools and introducing the program.

The CEO program is an entrepreneur class that gives juniors and seniors in high school access to real world, real life opportunities and experiences through area businesses. While enrolled in the program, students visit businesses, create a class project and are mentored by area business leaders. By the end of the program, each student must create a business of their own.

The program, offered by Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship, has 22 spots. Students will come from Luverne, Pipestone, Edgerton Public, Edgerton Southwest Christian, Adrian, Ellsworth and Hills Beaver Creek school districts.

The board went through training from Midland Institute prior to hiring Henrichs. The training taught the board what to expect administratively, tips on hiring a facilitator and how to handle board responsibilities.

“It was well worth it,” Paulsen said. “The trainers were both former facilitators who had first-hand knowledge. They had great success stories to share and lessons they learned. After hearing about their experiences, I am even more excited and energized for this.”

The program currently has 35 businesses throughout the seven participating communities that have signed up to be supporters. The businesses that are supporters will help fund the class by pledging $1,000 per year for three years. The CEO board has a goal of 40 to 50 supporters, according to Paulsen. Six of those businesses are in Pipestone.
Paulsen said he sees the program as a way for local businesses to invest in the community and in the youth of the community, while also having the opportunity to expose their business to students in seven area communities.
There are 39 businesses and/or individuals who have indicated interest in serving as a mentor. There will be one mentor for each of the 22 students in the class.

“We feel pretty confident we’ll get the right match for kids,” Paulsen said.

Paulsen hopes the program will keep students in the Pipestone area after they graduate or potentially bring them back to the area later in life.

“I think by getting involved in something like this and seeing the myriad of opportunities of businesses in this region they might stumble across something that’s really going to flip the switch for them,” he said. “If not they’re still going to learn a lot about business.”

For those interested in learning more about the program, contact Kevin Paulsen at First Bank & Trust or Joe Douty at Wilson Manufacturing.

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