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Sullivan County high schools looking more in-depth at adding CEO program for students

CEO, or Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities, is based on the successful program in Effingham, Illinois and Sullivan County high schools are looking into having the program starting in the fall of 2020.

The program was created roughly 10 years ago through Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship and has expanded to several states.

Monty Kirk, the principal at North Central High School, believes this can be a great program to help support and expand local students’ educations.

“We have a lot of students who walk our hallways every day, every year, that have a lot of things that they can offer and do and have these great ideas,” Kirk said. “A program like this, what I see is working with people in our community and finding resources for them to have and be able to do some of these ideas. I think we will be impressed by what comes out of them, not only at North Central but Sullivan and Dugger as well.”

Each branch is funded through investments from local businesses and the class is open to high school juniors and seniors. Students are selected through a blind application that does not include their names. The application is similar to applying for a job. The students selected will meet for 90 minutes each day and the class will provide two high school credits. The class can count for both high school and college credit depending on the teacher chosen for the class.

“I think it is really an opportunity for kids to be exposed to business leaders in our community that have a lot to offer, have a lot to teach these kids and they have a lot to learn from them,” Southwest School Corp. Superintendent Chris Stitzle said. “I think it can be a tremendous partnership for the community and the schools.”

The program utilizes area businesses as classrooms. The students will visit 30 to 50 area businesses each year and host 30 to 40 guest speakers as well. The program emphasizes 21st-century learning skills. In addition, the students are required to set up their businesses, creating business plans, establishing services or product and hosting a business expo to sell to community members. There will also be a mentor from the business community for each CEO student. At the end of the school year, the students will host an annual trade show to showcase their businesses.

“We have some very tech-savvy kids and we got some kids with some things and some ideas that I think once they get them out there and we have a way to actually see it come to reality we are going to be pretty impressed,” Kirk said. “Our goal is going to be to push those kids as far as we can and then hopefully we will find ways to keep them in Sullivan County so we can grow that community base we have now.”

Four counties in Indiana have participated in the program so far. They are Knox County, one year; Daviess County, six years; Howard County, seven years; and Jasper County, seven years.

SWSC visited with Knox County and Daviess County CEO classes.

“We were really impressed by the kids and what they told us about the program and how the program had developed and what it had done for them and their self-esteem,” Stitzle said.

Overall, the local school leaders believe this can be a beneficial program for county students. They now are looking to local businesses to gain funding for the CEO program to get started.

“I think we have a good cooperation between the three corporations and we can make this work and we are pretty excited about it,” Kirk said.

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