Sangamon CEO and shark tank

Sangamon CEO is a class of about 30 high school seniors from high schools in Sangamon County.

Every school day, instead of going to 0 and 1st hour, students attend CEO, which is held at different businesses in Sangamon County every morning. There, they learn hands on entrepreneurship and professnalism skills from guest speakers and learn from their instructors, Rich Johnson and Nabih Elhajj.

Nine Springfield High seniors, Lizzi Ayorinde, Joseph Abe-Bell,  Julia Gorden, Maki Hill, Daniel Olsen, Jimmy Riemer, Ben Turner, Abby Tellez and Evan Weller are participating in the program this school year. 

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For many SHS students, CEO isn’t just a class; it’s life changing experience.

“It’s about changing, not necessarily others’ lives, but definately your life, and learning how you feel about business and what you can do,” senior Ben Turner said.”It doesn’t necessarily have to be a business. You can just see a problem and go and fix it.”

The idea for Turner’s business, Patient Tops, came to him while his dad spent 5 months in the hospital for cancer treatments.

“My father was diagnosed with cancer in 2011. He hated wearing the hospital gowns all the time, it kind of made him feel like a test subject. You lose touch with the outside world really. So, to give him his sense of individuality back, my family and I created shirts with velcro on them so it can be taken off easily like a hospital gown.”

In addition to Patient Tops, other businesses created by or in groups with SHS students include the following:, a monthly snack box subscription filled with local products, Recover X, a sports recovery pod, Tomatoes and Blankets, an all in one website for donations, Mission Couture, clothing brand with touches of other cultures which donates proceeds to specific causes and Ability Marketplace, an online marketplace to help disabled people find jobs.

This Saturday, CEO students will be presenting their businesses at the Shark Tank, or CEO vs. Sharks event.

The setup is a lot like the TV show Shark Tank, where business owners present the “sharks”, (the investors), with their product. 

In the show, business owners compete for money from each individual shark. In the CEO vs. Sharks event, however, the sharks are a panel of judges who decide the winner of the competition.

The semi-finals were held over the past week, and those businesses who won will present and compete to win Shark Tank. Those businesses which did not make it past the semi-finals still compete, however their presentations will be shorter and they are not competing for anything.


The 2016-2017 class of Sangamon CEO. Seniors come from all over Sangamon County to participate in the CEO program.

The funds from ticket sales go towards CEO projects and will help students to kickstart their businesses.

Attending Shark Tank also gives students and other attendees a look into what CEO is all about. It also gives current juniors some insight into the program they could potentially become a part of next year.

“[For juniors considering CEO] I really recommend at least looking into it. It really can change your life and gives you a lot of opportunities and open doors,” Turner said.

Shark Tank will be at the Memorial Center for Learning and Innovation from 4 to 8 on Saturday, Dec. 10. Tickets are available here. Tickets are $30 for students and $50 for adults.

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