The Effingham County Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities, or CEO, program has found its way to the campus of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville thanks to a former program participant.

Madison Magee, 19, of Teutopolis, was enrolled in the CEO program while in high school. Through the program, Magee created the book "Handprints," featuring drawings and stories from clients at Community Support Systems in Teutopolis.

Last year as Magee began her freshman year at SIUE, she was approached by the Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship to help create a similar program at the college level. Unlike the high school program, Magee said the focus is shifted away from starting a business.

“Instead of catering it toward entrepreneurship, we cater it more toward how to get into a good career and advance yourself in that career. We thought that would be more of a priority for college students,” Magee said.

Magee said since the university program was founded in October 2018, the group has had 15 meetings, with Magee serving as the program’s facilitator. There are 20 active members consisting of freshmen, sophomores and some juniors.

The group meets every other Monday on the Edwardsville campus to hear a presentation on what Magee calls “business basics." Thus far, the group has listened to seminars on leadership, customer connections, marketing and finances.

Magee also has hosted workshops on résumé writing and creating LinkedIn online business profiles. She said one of the program’s main goals is to connect students with business leaders in the community.

Creating the program at SIUE was no small task, Magee said.

“Just to get it founded, I had to spend one day doing 10 hours of meetings,” Magee said. “I spend about an average of 20 hours a week working on it. I didn’t realize how involved the process was to get something started at a school, but my school was really helpful and I was lucky enough that our faculty adviser Todd Burrell...is a friend of the CEO community.”

Despite the hours Magee pours into CEOU, she finds it rewarding to see the students grow within the program and business sector. It is the same transformation her facilitators in the high school program referred to, bringing students up to the level of future business leaders in the community.

Magee said seeing that transformation take place is her favorite part of facilitating the collegiate program.

“My facilitators always talked about the transformation they saw in the students, and I couldn’t see it because I was the student,” Magee said. “Now that I’m the facilitator, I get to see my students experience that and get to work on their strengths and their weaknesses and use their abilities toward something that makes them feel good. It makes them feel like they accomplished something, and being able to see that is really rewarding.”

Magee also enjoys getting to know the students in the program. They come from all different backgrounds and majors — from biology to accounting and even art.

Magee said she is looking forward to a culminating event for the program coming up next month. On April 30 at the SIUE campus, the program will host a community connection night aimed at professional networking for the students and community.

Magee said the program can continue to grow with the support of the Edwardsville community and beyond. Magee is already looking at expanding the program to other colleges.

“We’ve seen a lot of support from professors, from school faculty who are willing to offer this to their students and from the Effingham CEO community. That’s what we need to keep this program going,” she said.

Kaitlin Cordes can be reached at kaitlin.cordes@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151 ext. 132.