Economic growth, nurturing business leaders are the goals of the dual-credit CEO program now

MACOMB (WGEM) – This academic year is the fourth class to pass the McDonough County CEO Program, but also the first to qualify for dual credit through Western Illinois University.

CEO is a program that allows a selected number of high school and senior students to meet for 90 minutes each day, 5 days a week. Class host Alison Jefferson said students had the opportunity to meet local business owners while also gaining the hands-on experience needed to build a startup.

Jefferson also said that students who attend CEO events are more likely to give their skills back to the community.

“It makes them appreciate what we have in the community even more,” Jefferson said. “We found that if students did leave for a while to go to school, or if they wanted to stay here and start a business at some point in the future, they were more likely to say they would come home.”

Since the 2019-2020 class arrived in McDonough County, 46 students have completed the program. There are currently 16 students in the class this academic year.

Macomb junior Ivy Chapla says the skills she learns at CEO are unmatched in a regular classroom.

“Leadership, learning how to communicate and speak up, and getting out of your comfort zone are the three core elements we learn in this class,” Chappa said. “I feel like we kind of touch it in the classroom, but you don’t get hands-on experience here.”

Chapla, who is heavily involved in FFA, said extracurricular activities provided leadership training, but lacked the business aspect. That’s where what she calls the CEO’s plan comes into play.

“I think [FFA] It’s about leadership, but not its business area, so I’d like to get that kind of experience here [CEO] It will help me in the long run,” Chappa said.

For Macomb junior Tyler Shannon, he described the CEO class as an opportunity to move away from the standard classroom.

“It’s a great place to learn without going to school,” Shannon said. “We try not to think of it as a class, but more like a team.”

Now that the program is listed as a dual-credit program, it could motivate more students to enter the program, Shannon said.

The dual credit option enables students to earn three credits from WIU in addition to the original two credits the CEO program offers high schools.

Craig Conrad, dean of the School of Business and Technology, said the program gave students an early advantage even before they entered college classes.

“We’ve learned a lot about the program and the benefits it offers students,” Conrad said. “We think WIU’s dual credit program is a great way for students to take their first steps toward a college education.”

While Craig said the McDonough County CEO is the only district program for which WIU offers dual credit, he said an active effort is being made to provide the same credit to other district CEO programs.

“We’ve communicated with several counties and expanded their programs,” Conrad added.

Other regional counties with CEO programs include Schuyler and Brown counties, which combine their students into Brown Schuyler CEOs.

The first Brown Schuyler CEO course was held in the 2020-2021 school year.

The CEO is managed through the Midland School of Entrepreneurship, covering 288 schools across the country.

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