Lunch was provided for those in attendance by the
Lincoln Community High School's Culinary Arts Program, one of the
newer programs in the Lincolnland Technical Education Center (LTEC).
The business professional program would be titled Land of Lincoln
CEO, or LLCEO for short, would also be offered to multiple area high
schools through the LTEC. The LLCEO program began in Effingham six
years ago under the Midland Institute and currently has operations
in Illinois, Indiana and Minnesota.
Doolin said he has been working with LCHS superintendent Robert
Bagby and Andi Hake of the Chamber of Commerce, who is also on the
LCHS board of education, in order to bring this program to the area.
“The program was developed about six years ago by a group in
Effingham. They had all of these students in their community that
leave and don’t come back,” said Doolin. He said that several
businesses in Effingham decided to find a way to encourage more of
the students to return to their hometown and encourage the potential
entrepreneurs among them.
As an example, Doolin said that at the beginning of a given year,
three students said they could see themselves returning home after
school to run a business. After going through the program, there
were twenty-one students that said they could see themselves
returning to their community.
“The significance of that (young people feeling like they can return
home and be successful), against people thinking they have to go to
the big city; that they have to sacrifice quality of life in a small
town in order to do what they want to do - that’s pretty
significant. And they continue to get consistent results,” said
Doolin also said that the program seems like a natural fit for
smaller communities, rather than larger urban areas.
Doolin said one of the investors, a man named Jack Schultz, who has
written books on small town businesses, came to Lincoln in 2003 to
speak on the program, which was in development at that time. Schultz
stayed in touch with Doolin since then.
“We’ve done site visits to the class, and we’ve talked to other
communities who have the program, and it’s been a breath of fresh
air to see what we’ve seen,” said Doolin.
“One thing that has been stated about the 'Millennial Generation' is
that they don’t really know how to interact with business people
because they’ve never had the opportunity. The flipside of that is
that business people don’t necessarily know how to interact with
millennials,” said Doolin. “The program addresses a lot of that
Doolin said that while the program is targeted at high school
students, it will not exclusively be a high school led program.
Doolin said the program would be a collaborative effort between the
high schools involved and the business community. Businesses would
invest and pay for the program. “It’s sponsored in the private
sector, and it meets at those businesses, not at the school,” said
Doolin also said that students have to apply to this program, with a
likely maximum of fifteen students in the first year, although
classes of twenty-five are typical in other areas that have the
program available. Students will also be applying from multiple high
schools in the county, not just from LCHS. So far, six schools have
shown interest in the program.
“Sangamon County just graduated their first class in May, and one of
the most difficult things for them was to turn students away,” said
Doolin said that each class will set up a business model that they
work on as a group. In addition, each student becomes responsible
for creating their own business; not as a simulation, but an actual
running operation that they are in charge of. Doolin said that some
of these businesses are still in operation from previous classes in
Effingham. Part of creating these businesses involves creating two
to three business plans and selling their ideas to actual investors.
Doolin pointed to an example of a college student that Bagby had
spoken to in Effingham. The student had recently hired people to run
her business for her while she was in classes.
[to top of second column]
“When we sat in on some of these classes [in March], the
first thing we noticed was that these did not look like high
school seniors,” said Doolin. “They did not sound like high
school seniors; they did not act like high school seniors. They
acted like they were college graduates.”
“Listening to them talk to each other about their businesses -
it was astounding. It was exciting,” said Doolin.
“I had to remind myself that these were students,” said Andi
Hake, who was present at the informational meeting.
Doolin said that the business community can be available not
only as potential investors, but they can provide a place for
these students to visit as part of the learning process.
In addition, the program calls on guest speakers from multiple
businesses to speak to the students.
“Each student is also matched with a mentor,” said Doolin. The
mentors would be available outside of class hours to help
students with business plans and preparation for starting the
Finally, at the end of the school year, the students take part
in a trade show, in which they can showcase their businesses and
people can hear their sales pitches and buy merchandise.
The Midland Institute would provide all of the material and
equipment necessary for the program to run. They would also be
in charge of hiring staff for the program in the form of a
teacher. Doolin said the teacher would function more as a
facilitator, in the sense that they would not be lecturing the
class in the typical high school fashion. Hake equated the class
format to on-the-job training rather than a typical classroom.
The staff would be chosen from a group of local members of the
business community, all of whom must be qualified to teach
business operations. The LLCEO Board would fund the salary of
the instructor. Doolin said they are hoping to have a board
structure in place within the next thirty days or so.
Doolin said investors looking to help the program would need to
provide $1,000 every year for three years. One-time tax
deductible donations will also be accepted, and higher amounts
can be donated as well. Altogether, there is an initial start-up
fee of $20,000. So far, Doolin said they are still around $6,000
short of that startup price.
“I’ve had investors say they can’t make a financial
contribution, but they will host a class or a site visit. That’s
great - we need everybody. Money is one part, but we need
involvement from everyone in the community,” said Doolin.
Several local businesses have already made such a commitment to
Doolin said that out of all of the classes held as part of this
program, none of the programs have folded, and only one student
has ever had to be removed.
Doolin said the first class in our area is set to begin in the
fall of 2015. The program still needs to find a teacher, and a
list of names is being gathered for the position. Fund raising
is still ongoing as well.
“We may do more meetings like this to keep everyone up to date.
Spread the word, tell anyone you know who may be interested,”
said Doolin. Doolin said that anyone interested can check the
Chamber of Commerce website for donation and investment forms,
and can go to CEOnext.org for more information.
[By DEREK HURLEY]
Past related articles
Chamber breakfast addresses keys to big success in small towns
Lincolnland Technical Education Center's Building Trades home in...