The Union County CEO program has begun its fifth year. Students who are participating in this year’s program are, in the first row, from left, Addison Osman, Julia Lasley, Laura Brown, Drake Roach, Reece Barrow, Jayclynn Presuitti and Laurel Lyerla. In the second row are Braden Benns, Sally Sims, Joe Brumleve, Noah McFarland, Alex Remsey and Michelle Wolford. Photo provided.

Union County CEO program begins fifth year

Work ethic, integrity, responsibility and character are among the desired student characteristics.

Members of the new Union County CEO class of 2020 and their parents recently met with program facilitator Kathy Bryan and some of the program’s board members at an orientation session hosted by Anna-Jonesboro National Bank.

The Union County CEO program is beginning its fifth year, along with 49 CEO communities across the Midwest. 

Each year, the number of applicants to the local program has grown.  

This year the application was in a digital format, which was easy for students and their references to use.  

Personal and school identification is redacted from the applications so that the committee has no way of knowing the applicant. 

Work ethic, integrity, responsibility and character are among the desired student characteristics.

This year’s class has 13 members and had some on a waiting list.  

The Union County CEO Board believes that the learning experience is more effective and personalized with a smaller group than a typical high school class.

 “CEO” stands for Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities. It is a year-long, 2 weighted credit, experiential learning-based course, provided by businesses, organizations, and individuals, that uses community relationships to provide an overview of business processes and life skills for junior and seniors in high school.  

The Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship is the organization that supports communities across the United States as they build and grow CEO programs.

Throughout the program year, students from all four Union County high schools will get up early to attend their CEO program at a local business before their school day starts.

Meeting daily from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and always in a business, students visit local businesses, learn from guest speakers, participate in operating a class business, write a business plan, and, from concept to reality, build their own functioning business. 

The business interactions they practice and see in action each day in CEO are similar to the things they will see in life after high school. 

Practicing these techniques builds important 21st century skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, communication, responsibility, and self-motivation.  

Union County CEO Board chair Casey Stout said: “We seek to prepare them with a strong network in their community, a wealth of business knowledge, and the skills necessary to better face the future while allowing them to participate in the experience we all wish we would have had.”

During the first eight days of school, the students met at the Davie School Inn for team building exercises, at Grassy Lake Hunting Club touring with Collin Cain, at the Union County Fair to hear about the fair as a “business” from Mike and Marilyn Meisenheimer, at Curt’s Classics with Curt Walker, a young entrepreneur, and have learned about some of the board expectations from Casey Stout.

More information can be found at and in frequent posts about speakers on their Facebook page.

The Gazette-Democrat

112 Lafayette St.
Anna, Illinois 62906
Office Number: (618) 833-2158

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