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Hancock County Students Get Business Crash Course

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The one year program begins this fall

Some high school students in Hancock County will spend next school year learning how to start and run a business. About 20 juniors and seniors have been accepted into the first class of the CEO program.

Hancock County Economic Development Corporation Director Dustin Berg said the students will start their weekdays at 7:30 a.m. by touring local businesses and meeting with entrepreneurs in the fields of e-commerce, technology, health care, banking, agriculture, and retail.  

“They never meet in a classroom. They meet in the businesses whether it’s a boardroom at the bank or a conference room at another business,” Berg said. “We want to get these students very familiar with what goes on inside these buildings that they drive by every day.”

The students will then head to school around 9:00 a.m. and spend the rest of the day in class.

“The idea that there are two tracks, either find a job out of high school or find some sort of education out of high school that will help you find a job. We don’t teach kids that they can make their own way as often as perhaps we should," said Berg.

It’s a year-long program. During the fall semester the class will work together to create a business. Berg said some groups at other schools have operated a trade show or 5K race.

“The money made there will serve as seed money for the next semester when the students actually break up and start working on their own business, making their own business plans,” Berg said.

Berg said the goal of the program is help students realize there is opportunity in Hancock County and that running their own business is in the realm of possibility.

“Having students that want to start their business or want to come back here after getting an education and be successful. Yeah that’s our main goal.”

The Hancock County Economic Development Corporation paid $20,000 to bring in the CEO program offered through Midland Institute out of Effingham.

Fundraising efforts are currently underway for the instructor’s salary and to cover incidentals such as business clothes or gas money for students. The group is looking to raise around $30,000 total.

Christine Murphy has been hired to teach the program. She previously worked for the Carthage YMCA and has experience as a substitute teacher and athletics coach.           

Murphy will attend a special training program for facilitators through Midland Institute in June.

Students in the program are also eligible to earn 6 hours of college credits that is equivalent to a non-transferable certification in entrepreneurship at Carl Sandburg College.

Emily Boyer is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.