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CEO Students Plan Class Business

Fifteen enterprising high school students. Five aspiring country music stars. One special fundraiser.

Students in the inaugural Montgomery County CEO (Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities) program are making plans for their class business project, a concert featuring Brushville on Saturday, Feb. 27, at Hillsboro High School.

"Part of the program is a class business project where each student can earn seed money for his or her own personal business," said Hillsboro High School senior Lucaas Secrist. "Part of the proceeds also go back into the program to help fund it in the future."

Hailing from Normal, Brushville members include Brett Gillan on lead vocals, Kirk Ellis on lead guitar and fiddle, Dustin Reynolds on rhythm guitar, Marc Broomby on bass and Darin Holthaus on percussion. Their self-titled debut album was released in June 2014 to rave reviews and they have shared the stage with many of today's hottest country acts, including Lady Antebellum.

"We started throwing around a lot of ideas for our class business," said Nokomis High School senior JoAnna Marley. "From lawn mower jousting to hiring a comedian, we had lots of ideas."

Marley said she found a post about Brushville online, and contacted them about an appearance.

"We felt like the country music genre is a really good fit for this area," Marley said.

Tickets for the concert are $20 for floor admission, which is primarily standing, and $10 for bleacher seats. The capacity for the concert is 2,300, and the CEO students are hoping for 1,500 to 1,600 in attendance. Doors open at 6 p.m., and the concert begins at 7:15 p.m.

Admission tickets will be sold at the door, and are also available from all CEO students, including Secrist, Marley, Kacie Cachera, Abby Meyer, Karmyn Cox, Autumn Boliard, Abbi Ruppert, Hannah Dudek, J.T. Dirigo, Kylie Carlyle, Lucas Brookshire, Dominic Ruppert and Steven Weller. They are also for sale online through the Montgomery County CEO Facebook page.

Just in its first year, the CEO program is targeted at high school seniors from Montgomery County interested in learning more about local business and entrepreneurship.

In addition to the class business project, each student will also start his or her own business by the end of the school year.

Many students are already laying the groundwork for their own businesses. Secrist will be starting Nana's Warm and Cozies, which is a heating pad business, and Marley is working on a graphic design business to design logos, business cards. Fellow student Dominic Ruppert, a senior at Nokomis High School is starting Cattle Satellite Herd, which is a cattle breeding business.

"This class is a totally different setting from anything we are used to," Ruppert said. "It's set up for big discussions of real world matters. It gives you something to grab on and think about."

Marley said one of her favorite parts of the class is meeting students from other schools and also local businessmen and women from throughout the county.

The class meets Monday through Friday before high school starts at 7:50 a.m. with facilitator Dr. Ryan Follis. For more information, visit their website at

Source: The Journal News 
By Mary (Galer) Herschelman

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