We’ll veer way off-topic today, but for a good cause.
Last year I had the privilege of being introduced to, and starting to work somewhat closely with, a terrific new venture in our area named St. Joe CEO. They are the local affiliate (in St. Joseph County, Indiana where our firm is located) of a growing national program whose web tagline says it all: “CEO is the standard for entrepreneurial education in the United States.”
Locally, this is the inaugural CEO class, consisting of 23 carefully selected seniors from every high school in our county. The goal is to prepare them not for just entrepreneurial opportunities, but in the larger sense, for managing their lives. Students become immersed in real life learning opportunities that include plant tours, guest speakers, relevant reading assignments and class projects.
Right now, CEO student teams from committees that include finance, sponsor solicitation and marketing, among others, are planning a huge fundraiser to be held on February 25th in a giant hangar at the South Bend airport. There, via attendance and auction – augmented by sponsor contributions (Platinum, Gold, Silver, and still available!) — the students plan to raise the funds that will help seed the creation of their own, real-life businesses. At the same time, they’ll be promoting a local organization called “Ignite Michiana” by presenting student sponsored “Ted”-style talks that promote the accomplishments of area youth, to an expected audience of over 700.
As a longtime business owner and entrepreneur, I’ve personally taken a fast and deep interest in their efforts, and volunteer three mornings a week to help work with and teach the class. The program director, Iris Hammel, is a hands-on, energetic leader who manages to pull all the pieces together in directing the efforts of the various student committees as they prepare for the big fund-raiser next month, and their subsequent real-life business start-ups.
But here’s the thing: In order to participate, besides the heavy work load, students must commit to attending a daily session that runs every morning before school from 7:30 to 9:00 AM… then, they head off to school. Yet, as more than one has noted, the program has changed their life. Most love the program so much – and the challenges it serves to them – that they wouldn’t think of missing a session.
Here’s the other thing: As an instructor/helper/mentor, it’s a terrifically engaging opportunity to give something back (to students yearning to learn to be business people and entrepreneurs), but also to get something in return – the satisfaction of the doing, and the learning, that comes of working with younger people. In all cases – and this is why I’m writing about it and recommending such a path to others – what you get back is more than equal to what you give.
And that is my New Year’s Wish for you dear readers! Learn more about St Joe CEO from a great recent article in The South Bend Tribune you should find here.