First-place winners, from left, Edwardsville High School senior Maegann Martin, Cahokia High School sophomore Aliya Owens, Mascoutah High School freshman Avery Buggs, and Althoff Catholic High School sophomore Briana Lang stand with Professor Tom Bilyeu.
They took an interest in success and discovered a path to a bright future in business.
Twenty-seven local high school students learned the best ways to plan and run their own businesses at the annual 2013 Allsup High School Entrepreneur Academy held recently at Southwestern Illinois College.
The week of activities and lectures was hosted by SWIC and funded by Allsup Inc. of Belleville. SWIC professors and local business professionals shared their advice with the teenagers.
Edwardsville High School senior Maegann Martin was one of those students.
"I think Mr. Bilyeu was an amazing teacher and he did a great job keeping everybody intrigued," she said, referring to Associate Professor of Business Management Tom Bilyeu, who led the Academy. "I think it is an amazing opportunity for young kids to learn about entrepreneurship."
Allsup Inc. founder Jim Allsup spoke at the opening session for the students and the closing event - a business plan competition.
Althoff Catholic High School sophomore Briana Lang was also enthusiastic about the event. She said she would be able to put her newfound knowledge to good use.
"I was happy about it," she said. "I am proud I am overcoming my fear of public speaking," she said. "It was very inspirational. I like Mr. Allsup a lot."
Students attended learning sessions on developing business plans and also joined together in groups to invent a product and then pitch the idea to a three-judge panel. They also took a bus tour of the area where Allsup grew up and concluded with a visit to the Allsup Headquarters.
One of the judges, Devon Moody, who runs YouthinBiz of East St. Louis, said she was impressed with the skills the students shared that day. Her non-profit helps young people discover careers in entrepreneurship.
"It takes a lot, especially for a teenager, to create a plan for a business," she said. "[The students] were also creative and I learned from them and how they think."
SWIC Business Division Dean Janet Fontenot said she was proud the college could help the students gain some insight into their futures.
"We're proud to have hosted this program," said Fontenot. "Hopefully we have made a big difference in the lives of these young people."
For information about Allsup Academy or Business Division programs, call SWIC toll free at 866-942-SWIC (7942), ext. 5313.