Austin Brooks updates the Centralia Chamber of Commerce members on the CEO program coming to Marion County high schools in the fall of 2020.
The person overseeing the CEO program for the Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship told the Centralia Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon on Wednesday the start up of the program is on track to start in the fall of 2020.
Austin Brooks says selecting the 20 students to be part of the first year of the program will begin in the coming school year.
“They are past the letter of intent stage which is meaning all schools are on board now. I’m really impressed with how the schools have come together. There are actually 6 high schools involved in the program, basically the schools in Marion County. They are at a place where they are starting a fundraising push. The dollars that will be raised for the local operating budget the money will stay local but they will need 35 investors. I know there are quite a few people that have stepped up but the local board is still looking for quite a few investors to participate.”
Centralia, Salem, South Central, Odin, Sandoval, and Patoka High Schools have all signed on to participate. Brooks says a facilitator will be hired to run the program.
“They are going to kind of be a community organizer. They are going to organize the business visits, the guest speakers, the mentors so many of the aspects happening this school year. They will also be a back of classroom teacher rather than front of classroom so they can get out of the way and let kids learn but keep structure in place while students work on their business plans throughout this year-long program.”
Brooks says all the instruction will take place in businesses within the community.
The Executive Director of the Salem Chamber of Commerce Tabitha Meador has been named the board chairman.
“We have 8 board members encompassing business people, educators, and then myself with the Chamber of Commerce we also have some bankers that are helping to facilitate the investment portion of it as well. We have a good mix from Salem, Centralia, and the outlying areas as well.”
The rest of the board includes Wes Monken with the Monken Automotive Group, Salem High Principal John Boles, Centralia High Superintendent Chuck Lane, Kaskaskia College Vice President of Student Services Susie Batchelor, Birgit Volk with People’s State Bank, Bo Baer of People’s National Bank, Patoka High School Guidance Counseling Christine Meng, and Tom Macz of the Macz Funeral Homes.
Lane says he sees a number of advantages for students.
“We always talk about getting out kids ready for college and career, and what a better way to do that then with something like this. They can have the opportunity to experience different types of businesses and be around business leaders and get to know them and see how they operate. I think one of the best things is we are partnering with all the other high schools so any young person we can get to stay in our area that would form their own business or work for one here is a win for all of us.”
Brooks says one change they have seen with students completing the program is the big increase in those wanting to stay in their home town. He feels that is the result of the networking and the investment in time given to them by business leaders. Brooks feels the CEO program is a great economic development tool. While less than a quarter of the students graduating from the program plan to operate their own business, the rest are trained to be the best potential employees for existing businesses.