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Mitchell becomes Interim Executive Director at Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship

It’s a match made in heaven.

And while Mahomet resident Cheryl Mitchell would give anything to change the circumstances under which she became Interim CEO of the Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship because it means her friend, Craig Lindvahl, has fallen ill, Mitchell believes her background in education and business will serve the program well.

“What I want to accomplish most in the next six months is to assure people that I am a safe person,” Mitchell said. “I am not here to replace Craig Lindvahl, who has touched so many people and is one special guy. I’m here to carry on what he is doing. I want to build trust and relationships, which are the key for this whole thing.”

Mitchell met Lindvahl and visited the CEO program over a year ago.

“Like every person who has the privilege of spending time with Craig, I too was forever changed after our first conversation; he got me, and I am incredibly privileged to get to be a part of this team,” Mitchell said.

With 20 years of classroom teaching experience, an administrative degree and years of recruiting college graduates for Northwestern Mutual, Lindvahl helped Mitchell realize that on some level she needs to be involved in education.

Mitchell believes, with diverse experiences in hand, she can continue to build the legacy of the CEO program across the United States, just as Lindvahl has done for the last five years. The CEO program is now in 28 communities and has served 704 students.

Mitchell believes the program, which focuses on teaching highly-qualified high school seniors to function in the business world through both team and individual business projects, should be available to all high school seniors throughout the country.

“It is the standard for entrepreneurship education in the nation,” Mitchell said. “Education is so upside down. We teach (students) in this box, and we forget to teach them to think or how to work on a team. Everyone is so isolated in their spot. You don’t need to be a holder of information; you need to have the skills that can work in a team.”

Mitchell fell in love with the CEO program as she watched students in the Effingham CEO class collaborate to host a conference last winter. The students booked the facility, found speakers, developed the schedule and were responsible for all the financial aspects of the project. While planning for the big event, students continued to run their individual businesses, which included selling homemade dog treats, illuminary lights for gravesites or pallet board art.

Using an off-site facility, students work hand-in-hand with their local business community as local investors and mentors help the students develop a business plan and troubleshoot. Students meet for an hour-and-a-half each morning, then go back to their school to continue their required studies. While the program is funded through private investors, students receive a 2-hour credit for their work.

As Interim Executive Director, Mitchell will take and establish the CEO model in other communities, while continuing to maintain the project in current communities.

“We’re expecting (students) to come out of high school and into college being very different from what we’ve trained them to do all these years,” Mitchell said “I’ve got to see a 360-degree view of what we do in education and what (students) need in the business world. Those two things are so incongruent right now. This is that bridge that helps. There’s this energy that’s been created with the sole purpose of impacting kids lives forever in a way they can’t get in a traditional classroom.”

Mitchell, who taught first grade at Sangamon Elementary for five years said she is sad to leave her students and co-workers.

“This is an incredibly special family here at Sangamon,” she said. “But I know that when God says it’s time and he orchestrates it all, I have to go. People have been amazingly excited for me in ways I never thought.”

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