Woodford students get real-life business experience

The Woodford CEO business class . An upcoming fundraiser for the program will be a chili supper at the Barn III in Goodfield on Tuesday Dec. 8 from 5 to 7 p.m. (Photo courtesy of Rich Wherley)

The Woodford County CEO business class is a co-op between Roanoke-Benson, Eureka, and.

El Paso-Gridley high schools.

CEO stands for Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities. This program began in 2019 in Effingham when band teacher Craig Lindvahl noticed the opportunity for students to gain insight from real business owners and hands-on tours right within the community.

It takes place outside of school and is fully funded by local investors. The class takes many business tours and meets a variety of guest speakers from the local area who are business owners.

Furthermore, the CEO class has to plan what is called a class business. This involves writing a business plan, electing an executive team, presenting their plan to the local CEO board for approval, then carrying out the event in the hopes of turning a profit.

The money earned from this event will be invested in our students and their individual businesses that they will create in the spring semester.

When businesses support the program you are not only supporting every student involved, but also the growth of the community.

Toby Plattner, was a student in the 2019-20 class, who owns and operates TJ Pies. This is a

company he started as a CEO student last year. He was quoted as saying: “You meet the who,

the who tells you the what about business.”

The CEO facilitator is Rich Wherley, who said his goal “is to introduce students to the

opportunities in Woodford County and beyond which will hopefully lead them back to their

communities to start their own businesses.”

COVID-19 restrictions have not hampered the learning environment in an impactful way. According to Wherley, “We have been able to meet all year even though at times we’ve had students join us online for our tours and classroom presentations. We would like to thank all three school districts for allowing us to continue to meet in person this school year.”

This year’s CEO of the class business is Levi Steffen, a junior from Eureka High School. “It’s a whole different way of thinking, you don’t get graded on worksheets or homework. You get out what you put in-and that’s a valuable mentality to have,” Levi said.

Asked how this experience changed him, he said, “Being CEO of the class business has forced me to get  out of my comfort zone by interacting with all different kinds of people.”

Natalie Hodel, our CEO class business secretary from Roanoke-Benson, said, “I am very

passionate about the Woodford County CEO class because it has taught me more than I’d ever

have learned while sitting in a classroom. Through this course, I have learned how to better

communicate and work with people, quick-thinking and problem solving, life lessons related to

and unrelated to the business world, and so much more! The speakers have endless knowledge

to share with us and I walk away from every class period feeling rejuvenated and inspired.”

An upcoming fundraiser for the program will be a chili supper at the Barn III in Goodfield on Tuesday Dec. 8 from 5 to 7 p.m.