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Student entrepreneur program could come to Steamboat Springs

— An Illinois-based nonprofit is hoping to bring an innovative high school entrepreneurship program to Steamboat Springs in the coming year or two.

Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship Executive Director Craig Lindvahl visited Steamboat last week to meet with local business people and school officials and to speak at the Steamboat Institute’s Freedom Conference. Both events drummed up interest in the Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities — or CEO — program.

“I want to see this class here in Steamboat,” said Karen Wolters, a part-time Steamboat resident and board chair for the Midland Institute.



Wolters said she watched the growing program flourish in Effingham, Illinois, where it originated, and hopes she can help bring it to Steamboat as early as next fall.

The program reaches high school students through a one-year class taught by local business owners and one accredited teacher. The course is funded through business investors and the class always takes place at a business, never in a classroom.

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Students learn life skills in addition to developing group and then individual business plans.

Wolters said students in Effingham, a community of 12,000, would often leave for college and then seek job opportunities outside the area. The CEO program teaches valuable skill sets while connecting students with mentors in the local business community, making them more likely to return later, Wolters said.

“We saw it as an economic development tool,” she said.

A meeting held last Thursday engaged some members of the business community and Steamboat Springs School District officials, and Wolters said there was strong interest in bringing the program to Routt County.

“I think it could be possible here in Steamboat to start it in the fall of 2016, if everyone works hard,” she said.

Native Excavating owner Ed MacArthur said he would likely be one of the program’s many business investors if it does come together in Steamboat.

“I’ve very interested, and I think what’s been developed in Illinois looks very interesting,” MacArthur said. “I think it’s something that’s definitely needed.”

MacArthur said the program might inspire future college students as well as presenting entrepreneurship as a possible career path for students not bound for college.

District Board of Education President Roger Good said that he could understand the benefits of bringing such a program to the community.

“It’s very early in the investigative, informative stages, but the program certainly seems to have had some great success in other parts of the country,” Good said.

An entrepreneur and business owner who previously worked for a Fortune 500 company, Good said the skills learned in the business world would be valuable for Steamboat students.

“It’s a valuable skill set for any and all of our kids to get,” Good said.

While there is support for the ideas behind the program, Good said it would take careful study and consideration to determine if the program worked well alongside the school district’s already strong curriculum.

“I certainly will be working to try to find a way to make it work,” Good said.

More information on the CEO program is available at http://www.midlandinstitute.com.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow


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