CEO program pairs students with mentors

Pictured, Matt Heck, co-owner of Nutshellz, introduces himself to CEO students JD Steibel and Maya Speckhard. (submitted photo)
Pictured, Matt Heck, co-owner of Nutshellz, introduces himself to CEO students JD Steibel and Maya Speckhard. (submitted photo)

As soon as entrepreneur Matt Heck learned about Monroe County high school students joining the Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities program in the spring, he knew he wanted to get involved.

“I was really into the program when it first came out,” said Heck, who is also the pastor of LifeChurchX in Waterloo.

Then an opportunity came along to teach an individual CEO student entrepreneurial skills and impart his experience as a business owner. He didn’t hesitate.

At a speed dating event two weeks ago, students in the CEO program went around the room introducing themselves to businesspeople and volunteers, whom Jamie Matthews, Monroe County’s CEO facilitator, would pair with the students as mentors.

Heck became a mentor along with 18 other volunteers.

“I love the entrepreneurial part,” Heck said. “Being able to just encourage them in that and impart my experience.”

Heck co-owns the company Nutshellz, which provides athletic cups with a high level of groin protection using Kevlar material, carbon fiber and other durable materials. He and his business partner Jeremiah Raber received $100,000 from the investors on the “West Texas Investors Club” TV show in the summer.

According to Matthews, the mentorship initiative follows the CEO program’s required structure, which the Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship developed for students in the country to learn leadership and entrepreneurial skills. The program gives students high school course credit and receives 100 percent of funding from investors in the community.

When asked about the idea to provide the students with mentors, Matthews said the purpose is “to have that person within the business world that you can bounce ideas off of.”

She added that mentors carry knowledge and experience useful to the students and that the mentorships create opportunities to network.

“The students are encouraged to initiate contact with their mentors,” she explained. “It could be something like going out for a cup of coffee. It’s student-led, so it’s their responsibility.”

Regional Office of Education superintendent Kelton Davis said including mentors will strengthen the outreach of the program, as more community involvement leads to more people understanding and seeing what the program does for students.

“This is an amazing time for the program because the mentors are going to see these exceptional kids and what they’re doing,” he said. “The mentors are going to gain as much as the students do.”

“I am very excited and the students are too,” Matthews said. “That’s the best part is seeing their faces light up when they find out who their mentors are.”

Davis said the CEO program continues to make a lot of headway with the students in Monroe County. Recently, the entire CEO class came together to create a large business and pitched the idea to the county CEO board. Davis said that idea will come to life with revenue from a small business project they did earlier in the year.

Students also continue hearing from guest speakers, who so far have included local business owners George Obernagel, Savannah Day of Savannah’s Southern Charm, and many others.

The CEO students also recently gave a recruitment presentation to each high school in the county.

For questions or additional information in supporting Monroe County CEO, contact Kelton Davis at (618) 939-5650. Visit the county’s CEO Facebook page at

“Every bit of feedback that I’ve received has been positive,” Davis said.

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