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New high school CEO program begins Tuesday

Steamboat Springs — As most children in the Steamboat Springs School District head for their classrooms on the first day of school Tuesday, one group of students will pilot a new course meeting outside a traditional classroom.

The Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities — or CEO — program’s 15 students will meet from 7:30 to 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Steamboat Christian Center to kick off the program’s inaugural class.

Students — mostly seniors from Steamboat — will spend the year meeting at local business and hearing from business leaders and other speakers as they work to create their own business plans.

The class is funded through donations and pledges from local businesses and aims to encourage high school students to consider entrepreneurial opportunities within their own hometowns, rather than moving away to find career success.

“I envision the community of Steamboat really getting behind this,” said Craig Conrad, a motivational speaker and retired teacher from Craig who was selected by the CEO Advisory Board to facilitate the class for the 2016-17 school year.

The CEO Program was started by the Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship in Effingham, Illinois, in 2008, and as of this fall, it has expanded to 40 communities in four states. Karen Wolters, a part-time Steamboat Springs resident who serves as the Midland Institute's board chair, introduced the program to business leaders and school officials in Steamboat last fall.

“The ultimate goal of this class is to give kids a mindset that one day, after high school or college, they will return to their hometowns to start a business," Conrad said.

Conrad will begin Tuesday’s class with a portion of his motivational teaching program, “The Unstoppable You,” which he regularly presents to students, teachers, parents and business leaders across the country.

The first class is open to the community, in addition to the 15 high school students who have signed up for the course.

“Hopefully, they will all walk out of there inspired,” Conrad said.

Later in the week, students will have a class at the Old Town Hot Springs to work on team building, a class with Steamboat Flyfisher owner and former Olympian Johnny Spillane and a session with leaders from the Midland Institute and members of the CEO Advisory Board.

Advisory Board Chair Ed MacArthur said a successful fundraising campaign has generated nearly $200,000, almost enough to run the class for the first three years.

MacArthur, owner of Native Excavating, said he was inspired to get involved in the CEO Program after students from the original Illinois CEO Program visited Steamboat last year.

“These were 17- and 18-year-olds that could talk to adults and convey their points,” MacArthur said. “Meeting the students was an eye-opening experience.”

Resource: Steamboat Pilot & Today
By:Teresa Ristow

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