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Riverbend CEO Readies for New Class this Fall

ALTON — Marquette Catholic High School’s Katie Sabolo has lifted youth to new heights through the RiverBend CEO program while reaching new heights of her own.

Sabolo, of Wood River, is a business instructor at Marquette Catholic High School. She began leading the youth program, RiverBend CEO, with support from the RiverBend Growth Association, an investor in the program.

As facilitator of the RiverBend CEO program, Sabolo won the RBGA’s Chairman’s Award earlier this year, honoring her work with youth organizations. The program is modeled on one begun by Effingham-based Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship. It was introduced locally in 2015, with Sabolo leading it since its inception.

To date, the program has graduated 52 students from the Alton, Marquette and East Alton-Wood River. This year the program is adding students from Civic Memorial High School, in Bethalto. This fall, RiverBend CEO has 18 senior class students enrolled.

“In a normal year, the students tour 40 local businesses, hear from 40 guest speakers, plan an all-class business together, and then launch their own individual business in the spring,” Sabolo said. “We might have to make some edits with COVID, but that is the plan for this year.”


Students start a business together in the first semester of the academic year to raise funds for their own startup in the second semester, when each student launches their own business.

Students meet for course work at different host businesses, with this fall’s sites yet to be determined. Students must submit a written request for admission and letters of recommendation; they also must complete an entrepreneurial profile.


The program is designed to teach leadership, creativity and encouragement while preparing students to become responsible, enterprising individuals who contribute to economic development and sustainable communities. Students receive college credit for their work; program funding comes from business partners, the Alton Community Foundation and student projects.

A key part of the program’s success is rooted in a facilitator who challenges each individual student and manages constant change in the classroom, according to the program’s website,,

“The CEO program is much more than a textbook course,” Sabolo said. “Rather, students are immersed in real-life learning experiences with the opportunity to take risks, manage the results and learn from the outcomes.”

Each student in the program becomes an entrepreneur with a product or service to market at the annual Riverbend CEO Trade Show. In 2019, RiverBend CEO students created a Riverbend-Opoly game featuring area businesses.

“Once we had the properties on the board sold, we placed the order and purchased 500 games,” Sabolo said. “Selling these games will help us raise funds for second semester, as well as give local businesses an easy way to advertise.

“The kids sold most of the boards, but we do still have some left,” she said. “We sold the property spots on the board quickly. Lots of local businesses were eager to help our young entrepreneurs.”

The games are available for $30 at the RBGA office, 6722 Godfrey Road, Godfrey. For more details, email

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