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CEO helps students learn about charisma

Growing up in families where their fathers, grandfathers and uncles were entrepreneurs, Midland Institute CEO alumni Cole Klauss, Jadon Miese and Joshua Pate were excited when they became seniors in high school with the option to learn about entrepreneurship from local business owners and leaders.

“CEO has turned out to be so much more than I expected,” Miese said. “I thought it would just be a class. I’ve taken business marketing classes and business classes before, but CEO turned out to be a life changing experience where it doesn’t feel like a classroom, but it’s the best job you could ever imagine.”

“I think we’re more prepared for life than other students in high school are,” Pate said. “I now know what to do with my money; I know how to dress well; I know how to act in business situations. Ninety-five percent of students coming out of high school don’t have those soft skills that CEO students have. They really can’t be taught or standardized in a normal classroom. That’s part of the magic of CEO.”

The Midland Institute partners with 37 different CEO programs, and next year the program will expand to 45 programs in four different states.

CEO, which began in Effingham, IL eight years ago, is catching growth-oriented communities with the vision of preparing high school students with entrepreneurial opportunities so that they may one day return to their hometown and provide opportunities for others.

Students spend ten months in the CEO program, visiting 50 to 70 businesses in their own community, networking with business professionals and starting two businesses, both a class business and their own personal business.

Klaus, who started KNK Properties, LLC., credits the skills he learned through CEO with helping to grow his company. Things such as walking up to a business partner, shaking their hand, and starting small talk with them have proven to make a big difference.

“I could do it; I was just uncomfortable,” he said. “Now I just walk up to anyone I want and start a conversation with them.”

Pate and Meise experienced the same type of connection through using the same skill set. The friends frequented a local coffee shop as high school students just to talk to business owners.

“It seems normal to us, but in retrospect it’s not normal to have a teenager just coming out of high school who is able to sit down with prominent business owners and have a great conversation like friends almost,” Pate said.

“When an adult walks into the same room a group of teenagers are in, there is an abrasiveness between them because of the age difference. So a huge part was learning about that how the adult is nervous and the kids are nervous. There’s this tension in the room, that it’s there and I’m not the only one feeling it, makes it easier to reach out to adults.”

Klaus felt the conversations about charisma helped him during his time in CEO.

“Charisma is that person who interacts with everyone in the room,” he said. “No one’s flocking to you, but you are flocking to every other person to talk. You’re going to treat everyone on an equal plane. That’s what charisma is: less about you and more about caring for others.”

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