The Washington Times-Herald

August 31, 2013

CEO class looks to create business leaders

By Mike Grant
Times Herald

---- — While most high school students are just waking up and getting their bowl of cereal, one group is already in class and ready to learn.

The Creating Entrepreneurial Options or CEO class is hard at it an hour before the school bell rings and far away from the regular classroom. The CEO project is financed by area businesses and involves 13 students from all Daviess County schools.

The students get credit from their schools for participating in the program even though it is far from normal school fare.

“We’ve already visited five businesses and had three guest speakers this fall,” said instructor Bill Turner. “Instead of getting their information from a book it’s a lot more hands on.”

The CEO project leans heavily on the business community, both for financial support and involvement. “This is all funded by local businesses, and they open their doors to the kids and let them see what it is really like,” said CEO Board Chairman Marylin McCollough. “We also try to pair them with a mentor that they can work with through the time in class and even in the future.”

This is the first year for the project in Daviess County. Local leaders adapted it from one that began in Effingham, Ill., six years ago. “We met some of their students and we were very impressed,” said McCollough. “Some of them have even returned to their community and started their own businesses.”

This year the students will be working up business plans, later the entire class will try to put togher a project that will culminate in the spring with the creation of a booth for a trade show. “There is a lot of emphasis on teamwork and communication,” said Turner.

Anyone walking into the class can see that some of the lessons have already begun to take hold. Every student walks up, introduces themselves, and shakes hands. They ask questions and provide a very adult impression.

“This class helps just in my ability to talk with people,” said Jenny Killion, a student from Barr-Reave. “It has already provided us with confidence and helped build our contacts in the community.”

The students say the class is far from stuffy. “I didn’t think we’d be doing the fun things, the bonding exercises and the personality test,” said John Buchanan from Washington Catholic.

“It’s kind of like an adventure,especially when we have the business visits,” added WC student Rachel May. “We have been to businesses in the community that I didn’t even know about.”

The students all receive two credit hours from their high schools. Most are planning to go onto college. “It’s being able to take the math and science that we’ve already learned and beginning to apply it to the real world,” said Washington High School student Albert Carreon.

The CEO project is not merely a one way street. Organizers are already seeing positive impacts on the community.

“It opens the students for other options of study,” said Ron Arnold with the Daviess County Economic Development Corporation, “and by working with the kids it kind of energizes the businesses that are involved.”

“The community gets the satisfaction of helping these students,” said McCollough, “and it hopefully will help get some of these young professionals to return home someday and keep the community alive.”

Hopes that Washington High School student Tyeesha Jones summed up. “I signed up for this class because I thought it would be interesting,” said Jones. “I think it’s a good opportunity for later things. After all, there’s business everywhere.”