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Photo by Theo Tate
Six Mile Regional Library District deputy director Juliette Douglas talks to a person at the second annual Granite City CEO Best of Granite City expo on Jan. 19 at St. Gregory’s Armenian Community Center.
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Photo by Theo Tate
Granite City High senior Rashaun Hall gives out a raffle ticket.
GRANITE CITY — A year ago, Adam Saltsgaver had reason to be excited.
The Granite City High graduate was named to the board of directors of GCHS’s new Creative Entrepreneurial Opportunities program, which prepares seniors to be responsible individuals in the business world.
“It’s probably the most rewarding thing I’ve done in my career from the aspect of giving back to the community and just being in my hometown and being a part of something like that is really cool,” said Saltsgaver, who is the vice chairman. “This is a program unlike any other program that has ever been done at the high school. I think it’s really teaching these kids about real life and real life experiences. I think it’s going to pay dividends for them later in life.”
Saltsgaver also works as a commercial banking officer at the Bank of Edwardsville. He started working there after graduating with a bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in 2009.
“It’s been a great opportunity,” said Saltsgaver, who earned a master’s degree from SIUE in 2013. “It’s a great bank to work for.”
The Bank of Edwardsville was among numerous businesses that attended the second annual Granite City CEO Best of Granite City expo at the St. Gregory’s Armenian Community Center on Jan. 19.
GCHS senior Clayton Jakul, one of the 12 members on the CEO program, said he was pleased with the turnout despite the snowy conditions. Snow started to fall about two hours before the event began.
“I’m extremely ecstatic with the way the event has turned out, especially with the weather,” Jakul said. “The weather did play an effect with how things might turn out, but I’m astounded with the way the turnout was and how everyone’s having a great time.”
Jakul, Gregory Nienhaus, Rashaun Hall, Kelsey Clark, Jacob Shemwell, Phebe Bolt, Th’Adrian Hanna, Alexis Reese, Cyle Pyles, Chelsea Gould, Lucas Batson and Jared Wylde make up the Granite City CEO program. Karen Greenwald, a business teacher at GCHS, is the program’s facilitator.
On Jan. 18, the students spent most of the day decorating for the event.
“The kids did a marvelous job,” said Dale Hamil, who is also a member of the Granite City CEO board of directors. “There’s a lot of work behind the scenes that you really don’t see. But obviously, the turnout is great. People are having a great time. There’s a lot of networking going on. I would say mission accomplished on the students’ part.”
The Six Mile Regional Library District, the Granite City Park District, Shipley Chiropractic and Illinois Electric Works were among the other businesses at the Best of Granite City, which lasted two hours.
The CEO class began planning the event in October.
“It was definitely a long road,” Bolt said. “We made a lot of phone calls and used up a lot of gas to get this event going. We were going to all of these business and restaurants trying to convince them to participate in our event.”
In the Granite City CEO program, 12 students — all seniors — meet off campus every day either on a business visit or a host business to learn about succeeding in the business world. The program is hosted by local businesses throughout the year and is funded by business investors.
During the year, the students decide, organize and plan a group business/event. They also host a trade show to showcase their business. The trade show is scheduled for April 27.
“I love it,” Bolt said. “For the most part, it’s kind of what I expected. I knew this class wasn’t going to be an easy class. I knew there were going to be a lot of ups and downs because I’m working with a lot of types of personalities. It’s a really good learning lesson. It’s really good with learning with different people.”
Saltsgaver graduated from GCHS in 2005. He played basketball for nine years, including four with the GCHS boys’ basketball team.
Now, he’s part of a board of directors that also includes chairman Marc Voegele, secretary Tom Schooley and treasurer Jeff Smith.
“The CEO program is here to stay and we’re working to grow it every year and try to better it,” Saltsgaver said. “When you look at this year compared to last year, I think it’s an example of we’re going to keep working hard to give the kids the best opportunity we can.”
Saltsgaver said he was happy the Best of Granite City event returned for another year. A year ago, it was held at the Granite City Township Hall.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for the kids to show what the program is doing for them and teach them about running businesses and the entrepreneurial nature of the program,” Saltsgaver said. “It’s really nice to see it all come together to see the kids’ hard work come through, especially seeing the community coming out and supporting them. I think that means the world to them.”