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CEO class shines at annual chamber dinner

DEER VALLEY – The Sauk Valley Chamber of Commerce showed off one of the community's business gems Thursday – the Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities class.

The innovative CEO class from the Whiteside Area Career Center took its hands-on experience in a new direction, planning and providing entertainment for the chamber's annual dinner and meeting at Deer Valley Country Club.

The class, taught by Le Hartman, has 21 students this year, and serves as a model for others looking to start the program.

The students came up with the "Country Hoedown" theme and partnered with the chamber to plan just about every aspect of the event. They even performed, starting with country line dancing to "Boot Scootin' Boogie", and a comical hillbilly version of the entrepreneurial TV show, "Shark Tank." Attendees, dressed in flannel shirts and jeans, were served dessert to the tables in a satchel.

"One of the biggest lessons we learn in CEO class is to take risks, and everything about this event is unusual," said Michael Willard, the student project manager.

Maura Harrison, a Newman High School junior, said this is one of three major events the class will host. A dodgeball tournament and masquerade ball are also slated. She said the events planning has been a great networking exercise.

"We started planning right after Christmas, and we've done everything from put up the decorations to centerpieces, fliers, entertainment, and food planning," Harrison said.

She said the career center's building trades class made the outhouse for the event.

"The entire class has been a great experience," Harrison said.

The CEO class received a $1,000 check from the chamber for its party planning efforts.

"We figured instead of investing in speakers or entertainment, we'd have the class do the event and give the money to the kids instead," outgoing Chamber President Jerry Binder said.

Binder passed the gavel to his successor, Brian Hawkins, and introduced new chamber board members Jon Mandrell from Sauk Valley Community College and Claudia Sauer from CGH Medical Center.

Hawkins is vice president at Hawkins-Cassens and has served on the chamber's executive committee.

And the awards go to ...

Two awards were presented to chamber members Thursday.

John Gvozdjak, president and chief operating officer of Frantz Manufacturing, received the Chamber Champion Award. Gvozdjak was honored for his work with the career center, and the key role he played in establishing and nurturing the CEO program. He is also active in Rotary, United Way, and teaching youth about manufacturing.

Gvozdjak lauded the resilience of the business community after taking some serious economic hits.

"This community went through a lot in the last decade, and a lesser community wouldn't have bounced back this fast," Gvozdjak said.

Gvozdjak said the smaller platforms stepped up and filled the gaps created by the loss of large ones.

"No matter what size you are, you can do something good with your platform and advance the Sauk Valley region," he said.

Gvozdjak cited one of his favorite quotes – "The best way to predict the future is to create it" by Peter Drucker.

"I think we're creating it with things like the CEO class," Gvozdjak said. "We're getting young people engaged, and hopefully they'll go to college and come back to contribute here."

Nicole Bollman introduced Sherry DeWalt of CGH, the winner of the Lavonne Colloton Ambassador of the Year award.

Bollman said DeWalt was always present at meetings and events, stepped in whenever she was needed, and displayed a high degree of professionalism in her advocacy of the chamber.


Addyson Bales, Bronson Mintum, Bryana Johnson, Clara Thorpe, Dontae Johnson, Hannah Atherton, Jackson Bauer, Jamyson Trancoso, Jazzarae McGlown, Kaitlin Brown, Kevin Sigel, Kyle Sigel, Mason Myers, Maura Harrison, Michael Willard, Nicole Arduini, Nolan Moeller, Payton Harris, Primitivo Cosileon, Samuel McCullough, and Sterling Thornton.


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