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Approaching a conversation

Many young students struggle with the gumption to approach or talk to others without being nervous.

But time and time again, students who have gone through a year of the Midland Institute CEO program find that their shyness has melted away to the point where they are comfortable approaching and talking to anyone-even local business leaders.

This is the case for Olivia Hickey, a Crawford County CEO alumni who just graduated from Robinson High School. Hickey, a self-proclaimed shy girl, saw how her peers changed after a year of CEO, and decided she could benefit from the program as a senior during the 2016-2017 school year.

Under the direction of Facilitator John Ireland, Hickey, alongside her classmates were given opportunities to network with local business leaders in Crawford County as they sold product at the beginning of the school year and held a dinner toward the middle of the school year to raise funds for the business each student is required to start.

Each student is also assigned to a local mentor who helps the student troubleshoot business problems while sharing advice they’ve learned over the years. Hickey said her mentor, the owner of a local hair salon, really helped shaped her confidence over the year.

Shortly after meeting Hickey, the mentor asked her to work the front desk of the hair salon, answering calls, greeting guests and scheduling appointments so that Hickey could get used to talking and helping unfamiliar people.

Hickey’s parents, Troy and Lisa, said they saw their daughter blossom into an adult during her senior year.

“She’ll make phone calls herself whereas before she wouldn’t,” Lisa said. “She’s come a long way as far as talking to people and doing things that need to be done on her own.”

Part of doing things on her own included coming up with a business idea and seeing it through until the product was established and could be sold. Hickey said she enjoys decorating, so she helped a decorator plan the aesthetics of the dinner the Crawford County CEO program hosted. Hickey then turned that passion into a business when she began “Pallet Re"Wined" Crafts.”

Hickey decided to sell pallet furniture and decorations because the products were widely shared among Pinterest users. Hickey said she found designs on Pinterest, contracted out her dad to cut and build the pallets and then she took the time to paint or decorate the pallets as needed.

“I think the good thing was, it’s a father-daughter, mother-daughter relationship, but the class is a business and you all have to work together; there’s kind of an equal partnership in that,” Troy said. “There were times when she still wanted to be the child instead of stepping up and saying this is my business, this is what I want to do. We kind of fought through that and it got better.”

Troy, who is also the principal at Robinson High School and the principal advisor on the Crawford County CEO board, said he has seen the CEO program help students in the three years the program has been in Crawford County.

“It’s given them an opportunity to take a class that helps students get on their own a little bit more,” he said. “She’s come out of her shell and there’s been some others that have certainly gained a lot of self confidence. It’s certainly been a big boost for them both personally and professionally.”

Troy also said the CEO program is gaining popularity in Crawford County. Whereas in years past, they had just enough applicants to field a class, the 2016-2017 school year will be the first time they had to screen applicants and choose students to make up the class.

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