CEO Program to benefit area youth and communities

CEO Program to benefit area youth and communities

The Jacksonville Regional Economic Development Corporation (JREDC) is partnering with Illinois Rural Electric Cooperative to launch a new project designed to benefit high school-aged youth. The JREDC’s work “to retain, expand, create and recruit job opportunities for Morgan and Scott Counties” seamlessly pairs with the Cooperative’s goal to “improve the quality of life…through the promotion of community and economic development.” These similar interests have led them to establishing their latest team endeavor called “Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities,” or simply the “CEO” Program. The CEO Program will start in the fall of the 2014-2015 school year, accepting applications from interested students (mostly geared toward high school seniors) via their Winchester, Bluffs, or Jacksonville High School’s guidance counselors.  Presentations are currently being given in the schools about the program. As newly appointed Chairman of the JREDC, Mayor Andy Ezard conveys that the selected mix of kids will “learn life lessons” by way of the course and that students will use real, hands-on learning methods. The mission of the CEO Program is to enable “high school students in rural Illinois to become self-reliant, enterprising individuals.”

By means of connecting students with local business professionals (even sometimes using area businesses as classrooms), emphasizing 21st century learning skills, and guiding students with trained CEO instructors or mentors, these youth of the CEO Program will be more apt to return to their hometowns to settle and start their own businesses.  The hope is to foster an ongoing economic development in our communities. Bruce Giffin, General Manager of the Cooperative, explains that the course will “bring the business community in so that the kids know their businesses.” Collectively they do a business project, which is a real project with real money. “It is real effort,” adds Giffin. The students will also do individual projects, even presenting their own business plans to area bankers.

JREDC and the Cooperative are the Founding Sponsors for the start-up of the course with Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship. Initial Sponsors committed to the CEO course include the following:

Westermeyer Industries • Peak Insurance Agency • Scott County Economic Development          Corporation • Bruce and Kay Giffin • Jim Freeman • Bob & Linda Brown, Brown Farms • Bellatti,         Fay, Bellatti & Beard, LLP • Jacksonville Savings Bank • Premier Bank, Jacksonville •        Rammelkamp, Bradney, PC • Lashcon • Clearview Farms Partnership • Andy & Jenissa Ezard •  Prairie Power, Inc. • Benton & Associates, Inc. • Arends Awe • Chuck Frost • EnviroVac Waste                 Transportation, Sys Inc • Global Technical Systems, Inc. • Passavant Area Hospital • Farmers       State Bank & Trust Co. • First National Bank of Winchester • Bank of Bluffs • Scott County Farm       Bureau • Jacksonville Promise • CGB Naples •Lucy’s Place• Henry’s Service Center

If interested in investing in the CEO Program, please contact Mayor Andy Ezard at (217) 479-4610 or Bruce Giffin at (217) 742-3128. Sponsors are asked to donate a $1000 tax-deductible contribution yearly over a 3-year commitment. Sponsorship monies support the teacher’s salary and program expenses, such as classroom supplies, training, mentoring and other resources or materials.  More information can be found at and also on their Facebook page named Morgan-Scott CEO.


This latest joint effort by the Jacksonville Regional Economic Development Corporation and Illinois Rural Electric Cooperative is a program from which the youth of the area can benefit. Ultimately still, the CEO Program is a project that anticipates a positive and growing effect on our communities.  JREDC and the Cooperative are investing in the future, with expectations of later “Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities” in more surrounding counties and high schools.

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Kyla Hurt is a capable boondoggler trained in the arts; she’s also an accomplished event coordinator with experience from museum fundraising to art festivals. She enjoys puppies, sunshine, and good radishes – and wit. Wit is good, too.

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