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More than 20 local businesses invest in teen skills program

Teen entrepreneurs will visit companies, devise business plans for credits

STERLING – The Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities program, which teaches entrepreneurial skills to teens, is coming to the Sauk Valley.

The class will be available to between 20 and 25 high school juniors and seniors at the Whiteside Area Career Center, which serves 18 area high schools in Whiteside, Lee, Ogle, Carroll and Bureau counties.

Students chosen to participate will spend a year visiting businesses and creating three business plans, for which they will get two high school credits. In the first year, they will tour about 20 businesses and learn about their operations. In later years, they will visit about 50 companies.

Of the six or seven communities vying to get the CEO program, the six-member board of Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship voted unanimously to bring it to the WACC in Sterling, and to Springfield, in fall 2013.

Craig Lindvahl is executive director of Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship, which is funded by Midland States Bank.

“There was a very good combination of educators, community and business leaders who were committed to it [in Sterling],” Lindvahl said. “There is a lot of energy there for what the program does for students and the community.”

The CEO board considered two factors when deciding where the classes will locate: how many investors are committed and whether the local schools agree to offer the class.

The Whiteside Area Career Center’s board voted in November to approve the program, and more than 20 Sterling-area businesses agreed to invest in the class, Lindvahl said.

“This is the right idea and the right place and it’s the right time, and I couldn’t be more excited for your whole area that this is coming,” Lindvahl said.

Some of the key people who have worked to bring the program to the Sterling area will go to Effingham Feb. 1 for a day and a half of training to get more insight into the structure of the CEO board and mechanics of the program, Lindvahl said.

Later in the spring, the class’s teacher and the chairman or co-chairman of the board will return to Effingham for training for the new teacher, who has yet to be chosen. The training is paid for by the Effingham-based Wolters Family Foundation.

Investors are asked to give $1,000 a year for 3 years, which will pay part of the teacher’s salary.

Springfield-based Broadband Illinois gave the institute a $50,000 grant to cover materials and training for both programs.

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