Several area high school students are benefiting from a new program that was instituted this school year.
Beth Lane, teacher and Program director for Creating Entrepreneur Opportunities, is excited about the progress of the CEO Program and what it means for the students.
"The program teaches the students major career skills," Lane said. "the students assume a lot of adult responsibility in CEO."
In the program students receive two high school credits, as well as dual credit hours with Southeastern Illinois College, but this is a local investor supported class, not supported in any way with state or federal educational programs.
Their class, a combined 9 students from each school in Saline County, meets 7:30 to 9:00 a.m. in a variety of businesses throughout the county, right now they are meeting in the Legence Bank Corporate office building.
Each student had to register by filling out a 5 page application and provide 3 references as well as go through a interview process before being chosen for the program.
Lane says that they don't go by Grade Point Averages, instead the program looks for maturity level, attendance, and a desire to succeed.
Both Lane and one of the program participants, Courtney Keasler, attended the Harrisburg School district board meeting Wednesday night to update board members on the program.
"I just want to thank you (school board) for the opportunity to be a part of this program," Keasler said. "If someone would have told me I would have a business started by March I would have told you that you were crazy, but now I'm planning and initiating the process, guided by Beth."
Each of the students starts out writing their first business plan to raise the money to purchase their lanyards and name badges for the program. They approach different sponsors with the small business plan to secure the funding needed.
Their second business plan is a group project where each of the students work on a different section of one business plan.
They held a themed event to raise money for the next phase of the program. They organized a Reindeer Run Fashion show, which raised $3200 in start up money so the students could get their new businesses off the ground.
The program originated in Effingham and has now spread to much of Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri with plans to be in Florida and Oklahoma very soon.
Executive director, Craig Lindvah, originated the program under the parent group Midland Institute of Entrepreneurship hoping to inspire the next generation of Entrepreneurs.
The Saline County students are planning and putting together their first trade show that will be hosted on Apr. 26 at the Bonnan Business Center in Harrisburg.
Each of the 9 students will be putting their businesses up for display and will be selling their merchandise.
Of the students there are e-commerce sites, a non-profit organization, inventors, service businesses and retail merchandisers.
Each of the students has a mentor that they have chosen to help them with tips and tricks of the trade and encourage them to succeed.
On Mar. 17 the students will be hosting bank leaders to propose their business plan to secure funding for marketing, product, materials, and business tools.
"Many of the students are planning on continuing on with their business as extra income," Lane said. "To go out and create your own business, either short term or longterm, is a great knowledge to have."