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CEO program linking businesses and students gaining support

Steamboat Springs — An innovative program that would connect the local business community to high school students is several steps closer to becoming a reality.

The Steamboat Springs School Board Monday offered its unanimous support for the Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities — or CEO — program, which could kick off during the 2016-17 school year.

The program was created by the Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship in Illinois and involves business investors who finance the class, which would be facilitated through an instructor at Steamboat Springs High School.

Students, usually seniors, meet daily at one of many local businesses for the class. The students learn valuable communication and entrepreneurial skills from dozens of guest speakers and class visitors while working on their own business plans.

“This is probably the ultimate definition of a community partnership,” said Marty Lamansky, district director of teaching and learning. “We’re very excited about the possibility of the CEO program."

Lamansky said the CEO class would be a form of non-traditional teaching that could be used as a capstone project for seniors. The class would be beneficial to college-bound students, as well as non-college-bound students who might excel as entrepreneurs.

Midland Institute CEO Craig Lindvahl, who is also a member of the Illinois State Board of Education, attended Monday’s board meeting along with a graduate of an Illinois CEO class and a handful of other local class supporters.

“We were so impressed when we met with Kevin (Taulman) and Marty that this school is open to innovation; you’re looking for innovation, and that is refreshing,” Lindvahl said.

Lindvahl said the class is a way to spur students to take responsibility and ownership over what they’re learning, while also benefitting the local business community.

“This is a way to really tap into the adults you have in the community that know about life and success and their professions,” Lindvahl said.

Steamboat business owner Ed MacArthur also attended Monday’s meeting and said he’d received commitments totaling $30,000 or more from local business leaders hoping the program will move forward.

“It’s been an overwhelming response,” said MacArthur, owner of Native Excavating. “We’re really excited about this opportunity.”

The program would be open to students across Routt County using a blind application process, and Lamansky said the district was exploring opportunities to offer the class for college credit using a concurrent enrollment agreement with Colorado Mountain College.

Superintendent Brad Meeks said high school curriculum is determined months in advance, so while the district was working quickly to explore the feasibility of the CEO program, the timeline for implementation at the high school was still undecided.

"We think it can work, but we want to make sure we do all our homework," Meeks said.

Written By: Teresa Ristow

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