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Turning teens into CEOs?

Investors needed; informational luncheon Wednesday

Published: Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012 1:15 a.m. CDT

STERLING – The Sterling area is in the running for a Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities program, which teaches high school students how to start businesses.

The CEO board will decide by mid-December whether the program will come to the Sauk Valley in fall 2013, said Craig Lindvahl, executive director of Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship, which is funded by Midland States Bank.

Before the program can launch, though, 20 to 30 investors are needed. Three or four are considering investing so far, said Theresa Wittenauer, economic development coordinator with the Blackhawk Hills Resource Conservation and Development Council.

Investors are asked to give $1,000 a year for 3 years, which will cover the salary of the teacher for the 22 high school juniors and seniors chosen to participate. The students will spend a year visiting businesses and creating three business plans, for which they will get high school credit.

Classes are daily from 7:30 to 9 a.m. at various businesses. In the first year of the program, students tour about 20 businesses and learn about their operations.

In later years, students visit about 50 companies. There will be 20 to 30 guest speakers the first year; as the program matures locally, students hear from 50 to 75 speakers a year.

The institute received a $50,000 grant from Broadband Illinois that will cover materials and training for programs in two areas. The Sauk Valley might be one. If so, the class would be taught at the Whiteside Area Career Center.

“I would love to see that happen,” Lindvahl said. “Sterling is a great place. I can’t think of a better place to have it happen. You have such good people working on this.”

But the Sterling area has some competition: six or seven communities are preparing to have the class next fall, Lindvahl said.

The CEO board considers two factors when deciding where the classes will locate: how many investors are committed and whether the local schools are “on board,” Lindvahl said. The CEO board gauges the schools’ commitment to the program in a pretty simple way.

“If the schools offer the class, that means they’re on board,” he said.

To that end, the Whiteside Area Career Center board will vote Nov. 27 whether to approve the program. If it does, it also will vote on a recommendation for the teacher, said Kim Purvis, WACC director.

If the program comes to the area, students attending any of the 18 high schools in the career center’s consortium could participate, Purvis said.

Lindvahl will explain the program in greater detail at a luncheon Thursday at which he’ll also encourage people to invest in the class.

To attend

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