Area schools to launch CEO program for juniors and seniors
Real-world approach to business education for high school students in Wadena, Staples-Motley and Pillager
A creative educational program is bringing business and community leaders together to deliver entrepreneurship education to area high school juniors and seniors.
The Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities (CEO) program is a partnership between education and the business community. Furthermore, the program prepares students to become entrepreneurs and ultimately, contribute to local economic development and sustainable communities.
Craig Lindvahl, executive director of the Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship, who founded the program in Effingham, Ill., in 2005, visited the communities of Pillager, Staples and Wadena on Thursday, Jan. 30 to introduce the program to business leaders and schools.
About 20-plus business and community leaders gathered at Wadena’s Pizza Ranch on Thursday over lunch to listen to Lindvahl’s pitch on starting a CEO program.
“When you engage your business community, encouraging them to share their expertise with your next generation of business owners, connecting them with young people who want to know what you as business people know incredible things happen,” Lindvahl told the group.
“You’ll create a community that will make your students want to come back and start businesses, work, and raise families,” said Lindvahl, a retired teacher, who also works as a filmmaker and musician, in addition to his work with the CEO program.
While the CEO program is unique, Lindvahl said, it does require a commitment from businesses. A business is asked to contribute $1,000 a year, with a three-year commitment. The program is entirely funded by businesses – there is no cost to the school districts.
In addition to the contribution, businesses will need to give of their time and energy to demonstrate to students how they run their businesses. But in the long run, it’s an investment that may be worth the money to sustain rural communities like Pillager, Staples, Motley and Wadena.
According to Staples-Motley School District Superintendent Mark Schmitz, the three school districts would collaborate in this program, which would be called the “Central CEO Program.”
“[Pillager/Staples-Motley/Wadena-Deer Creek schools] would be one of three pilot programs in Minnesota to start a CEO program this fall. The other school districts are Battle Lake and Willmar,” Schmitz said.
Lindvahl brought along one of his students from the CEO program, Alexis Teichmiller, who talked about her experiences in the program.
“This program allowed someone like me, young and impressionable, to connect with businesses,” said Teichmiller. “What you learn in the class doesn’t mean you have to start a business. It’s about life skills.”
The CEO program selects juniors and seniors through a rigorous application process. The class will be limited to approximately 20 to 22 students from Pillager, Staples-Motley and Wadena-Deer Creek and having a not-so-high GPA, doesn’t mean you’re not a candidate either, said Lindvahl.
“To succeed in this class, you must have a good work ethic and be trustworthy. That’s it,” Lindvahl told the 150 sophomores and juniors at Wadena-Deer Creek High School.
Lindvahl told the students the class would meet at an early hour, between 7 and 7:30 a.m. for 90 minutes each day. Students would have to find their own transportation to the class, which doesn’t take place in a school; rather, the class utilizes area businesses as classrooms.
Each year, the class will host 50 to 60 guest speakers. There’s an opportunity for students to have mentors from the business community as well. Part of the student’s homework will be to write a business plan. Toward the end of the school year, a trade show will be held to showcase student businesses.
After Lindvahl’s presentation to students Thursday, WDC Principal Tyler Church said the response from students interested in applying for the class was tremendous.
“We have quite a few students who expressed interest in the CEO program, which is fantastic. This is one way of preparing our kids to be responsible, enterprising individuals who may become business leaders right here in Wadena,” Church said.
The CEO program is projected to start the fall of 2014. To learn more about the program, go to www.midlandinstitute.com.