Community Spotlight: Richland County CEO

Community Spotlight: Richland County CEO

Here at AM Transport, we are proud sponsors of the Richland County CEO Program. CEO stands for Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities, and is a year-long course for high school juniors and seniors. Funded by local business partners, the CEO program visits local businesses, hosts guest speakers, provides a local business mentor, and helps students start their own businesses. Now in its 6th year in Richland County, the program has worked with nearly 60 high school students offering them an outstanding education in entrepreneurship. 

So what is entrepreneurship education? 

According to the Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship, CEO education provides students with a variety of entrepreneurial opportunities including starting and operating their own businesses while teaching critical business concepts including “the 21st century skills of problem-solving, teamwork, self-motivation, responsibility, higher-order thinking, communication, and inquiry.” Hands-on business experience and partnership with local business leaders is at the heart of this experience-based program.

The year-long CEO class meets 90 minutes a day, five days a week. The curriculum provides students with two credit hours towards graduation.

The CEO Program in Richland County

In Richland County, the CEO Program is facilitated by Sheri Gray who teaches English at Richland County High school. In the CEO class, the facilitator “challenges individual students and manages change in the classroom” but that classroom is always changing as the class meets in local businesses and different venues throughout the year.

Here at AM Transport, we not only sponsor this innovative education program for high school students, but our team members are individually involved as mentors in the program offering their expertise to the budding entrepreneurs. We’ve also been lucky to offer several internships to CEO students we’ve gotten to know. Being part of this program has been a great experience for our company and our team.

CEO through the eyes of a student.

My niece Chloe McKinney is a CEO student this year. A high school senior, Chloe is an excellent student with a bubbly and outgoing personality, and she is having a great time participating in the CEO program. To give readers a fuller picture of the program, I asked Chloe a few questions about her experience so far.

What attracted you to the CEO Program?

I was interested in starting my own business and seeing what the businesses in Olney do. I didn’t know everything the program offers, but I’d heard great things and wanted to try it out for myself.

How rigorous was the application process?

I had to answer personal questions, discuss my goals, and express why I wanted to be in the CEO program. I also had to obtain references in order to explain why I would be a fit for the program.

What’s an average day like in CEO?

The days vary; some we spend discussing business endeavors with our peers. Other days, we tour local businesses or listen to guest speakers. Whatever we’re doing, we are learning life skills and how to be business professionals.

What’s an average week like in CEO?

Mondays are office days where we take our Board/Investors/Mentor challenge to learn about the people who make our program possible while showing our appreciation to these people. We also spend time reading a chapter from The Things You Wish You Knew Yesterday by Craig Lindvahl, founder of CEO. This book teaches life lessons and we discuss it as a group.

Tuesday-Thursday our schedule fluctuates, but we have at least one business tour a week where we learn about that local business and the people who run the business. Some days we spend as office days to work on our business endeavors and others are spent listening to guest speakers. We also spend time with the mentors we were paired with at the beginning of the year. Every day is busy and meaningful, and we record it all in our weekly journals.

How much time does CEO take after school?

CEO doesn’t have the same type of “homework” as other classes. We always have things to do regarding whatever business endeavor the class is working on. From what I’ve experienced so far, most of the work outside of school is emailing and getting in contact with people for the businesses our class creates, but I also spend hours working on my individual business. Because we submit our journals, they also take up some time. It’s a very time-consuming program, and to do well, you must make time to get your assignments done and to go beyond that by working ahead.

What do you like most about the CEO program?

I like learning real life skills I can use in the future. I like seeing the progress I am making personally and also to see how much my peers have grown. I also like how fun it is to be with the group and I love the bond we have. It’s nice to be in a class where we can all be leaders and accomplish big things together.

Are there any differences between the first and second semester?

The first semester starts a micro business. What the business is depends on the group, but the facilitator makes suggestions. The class business is then led fully by the class. In the second semester, everyone starts their individual businesses. Both semesters teach valuable lessons: the first semester teaches us how to work with others, and the second semester allows students to use the things they’ve learned to work independently.

How do you like the mentoring process?

I love having a mentor! It is great to have someone to confide in about what is going on in the class and what I’ve learned. I like talking to someone who gives me expertise on business matters, and it’s nice to have a one-on-one connection that helps me grow.

Is there anything you’re looking forward to moving forward in the class?

I’m looking forward to our class event which should be announced in the near future! I look forward to seeing everyone in the community come out to support us and have a great time together. I also look forward to starting my own businesses and growing together with my peers.

Why we like the CEO Program here at AM Transport!

Several of our team members have been mentors to CEO students over the years. Colby Shawver has been a mentor for many years. He believes the program offers many benefits to both the students and the mentors. “Students have the ability to see what it is like to be an entrepreneur without the risk,” Colby said. “They learn so many life skills while going through the program. Marketing, budgeting, and teamwork to name a few.”

When I talked to Colby about the CEO program, he had just had lunch with his student. He explained that he enjoys listening to the kids’ ideas for their event and likes to share what he’s learned working at AM Transport and running the Possum Patch. “I feel like I can offer a lot of insight on what it takes to operate a successful family-themed business,” he said. “CEO is a fantastic program, and I wish they had it when I was in high school.”