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Entrepreneurial program coming for Decatur area students

Twenty students in Morgan County will start a business as part of classwork next school year.

A group of business owners and educators in the county have formed an organization that will make an entrepreneurship program available to the students from six high schools.

The program — called Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities or CEO — will select students from Decatur, Austin, Priceville, West Morgan, Falkville and Decatur Heritage Christian Academy through a blind application process and teach them how to start a business together.

“It isn’t theoretical. The kids actually have to start a business,” said Ellen Didier, who owns Red Sage Communications and is chairman of the CEO board.

The business must be profitable, she said.

The Midland Institute in Illinois started the program a decade ago and University of Alabama Huntsville dean of business Jason Greene pitched the idea to Morgan County business and school leaders more than a year ago.

He said he learned about the program and its benefits while working at Southern Illinois University.

“What impressed me most about the program is how focused it is on engaging students with the community,” Greene said.

Didier said Decatur will be the first community in Alabama to give students the opportunity to be part of the CEO program, which will be an elective class and require them to meet 90 minutes per day.

“This is a great opportunity for students to learn the skills they will need to compete in the business world,” said Shelton Cobb, who is career and technical education supervisor for Decatur City Schools. “An opportunity like this has not been offered in any other place I have worked.”

He said what’s unique about the program is students get to interact with business owners who are making business decisions daily.

“We’re very fortunate to have business owners who are willing to work with students,” Cobb said.

Didier said Morgan County’s program — which is slated to start in the fall of 2019 — is a footprint of the Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship.

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