Two of the 10 area high school students enrolled in a new personal and professional enrichment program explained the benefits of that program to the Vandalia Board of Education.
In doing so, Reyna Arenas and Blake Barth explained why the program is so beneficial to them and eight other high school seniors.
Those participating in the Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities program in addition to Arenas and Barth are fellow VCHS seniors Cori Hipsher, Dustin Lott, Sarah Craig, Clark Pearson, Blake Morrison and J’Amy Jackson; Macy Cripe of Brownstown High School; and Marlee Nolen of St. Elmo High School.
Debbie Hobbie, who retired as a Vandalia Junior High School teacher at the end of the last school year, is the facilitator for the local CEO program.
The local program is one of 51 CEO communities in five states, with the 10 local students being among the 700 high school students in the nation.
The CEO program is described as a “proven learning model that creates a world class learning environment for high school students through interactive, real-life learning in local businesses throughout the community.
“The end result is a group of out-of-the-box thinkers who have experienced first-hand the opportunities and outcomes in their communities, have cultivated skills that will allow them to contribute better to the work force and who are prepared to participate in the future local business growth.”
Students in the program meet from 7:15-9 a.m. each school day, with their sessions including visits to local businesses and local professionals serving as guest speakers.
After meeting at Holiday Inn Express during the first quarter, CEO students are now meeting at First Christian Church in Brownstown.
“It basically teaches things that aren’t normally taught in class,” Arenas told school board members.
“It teaches success and it teaches business and it teaches life,” she said.
Barth said, “One of the main things about CEO is that it transforms young students into young professional adults.
“We do this with learning real-life skills such as communication, public speaking, budgeting and marketing.
“And we also learn how to fail and bounce back from that,” Barth said.
Arenas told board members that the CEO students had just finished one of its micro-businesses. Through that, the students worked as a team to design badges and lanyards that they wear when out on team visits, also selling the advertising that is on those badges.
“We made a profit from those to start off our year, and the profit that we earned from this is going to go back into our class business that we are going to start sometime in January or February,” Arenas said.
“All of the money that we put into our businesses and all of the money that we get out of it is real and our money to keep,” she said.
In addition to team businesses, each of the students will start his or her own business, which they will showcase at a trade show at the end of this school year.
“Throughout the year,” Arenas said, “we have 50 or 60 businesses that we go to, and the owners talk a little bit about their backstory and what their business is about.
“We also invite 30-40 guest speakers to our location to talk to us and give us lessons, whether it be about business principles or life in general,” she said.
“Along the way,” Barth said, “we’re learning how to develop business plans and make financial proposals.”
Last week, the CEO students were paired with local business people who will serve as their mentors.
Arenas compared those process to speed-dating, explaining that after one-on-one meetings, each student picked his or her top three business people and each business person picked his top three students before final match-ups were made.
“I think we all believe that CEO is very important for our school district to have because it shows students that you don’t have to just stick to normal high school classes, and that you can go out and start your own businesses and be entrepreneurs,” Arenas said.
“It really helps to get a jump start on that.
“It teaches real-life lessons and a lot of stuff you don’t normally get to learn in class,” Arenas said.