A high school program in Illinois is teaching students about the business world.
Forty-nine students from 14 participating high schools with the Sangamon CEO program get hands-on experience about how to plan, start, finance and run a successful company. Students who complete the program earn high school credits and six credits at Lincoln Land Community College.
“I guess what drew me to the program is that it’s very different from regular school,” said Jacob Beaird, a senior at Springfield High School. “It’s a lot of hands on, a lot of self-driven. Today we were just starting to talk about our own personal businesses that we were going to start. We have ‘Shark Tank’ in April and sell our products at a trade show in May. So, that’s not something you do every day in math class.”
Business owners, educators and other community leaders teach kids in class. The class focuses on getting each student to develop a viable business idea and work on an entrepreneurial class project. Some of the projects have gone on to Innovate Springfield, a business-incubator program that gives start-up companies support.
The program aims to help students develop real-world skills and to encourage them to stay local.
“That economy is changed forever,” said Rich Johnson, executive director of the Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities partnership between local businesses and Sangamon County school districts. “We’re now in a job-creation economy. It’s a reality we’re facing with the technical and entrepreneurial skills. We get it. ‘I’m young. I want to be in St. Louis, I want to be in Chicago. I want to travel.’ We want them to think ‘I can start a business here, I can live here.’”