Blake Wood
Publish Date

Innovate Springfield, the University of Illinois Springfield’s downtown business incubator, is partnering with the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition (ISTC) to create a professional mentorship matching program for high school students in the Sangamon CEO program. The students will be paired with innovative leaders to work on student-driven business startup ideas.

“We hope that these meaningful mentorship experiences will be utilized as our students progress in their academic and professional careers,” said Ben Hage, director of Innovate Springfield. “Our students represent the next generation of innovators, and we are excited to bring this opportunity to the classroom.”

ISTC is a STEM-education-focused non-profit that uses its online Mentor Matching Engine (MME) platform to connect students, teachers and mentors virtually. MME prioritizes student safety by completing background checks on all mentors and having all correspondence between students and their mentors under the guidance and supervision of teachers.

Once on the platform, students will choose the topic that aligns with the industry they are interested in. Students will then be partnered with mentors who have expertise in that area to work with weekly.

“These mentors are from companies and universities around the world and will be a valuable asset in providing resources, feedback and modeling professional communication,” Hage said.

At the end of their project, students will present their work at the Sangamon CEO tradeshow and annual CEOs vs. Sharks event. In addition, this year, one group will have the opportunity to show off their incredible work at the statewide Student Showcase in Chicago.

In September, the Sangamon CEO program became part of Innovate Springfield as part of an agreement with the Illinois State Board of Education’s Regional Office of Career and Technical Education (ROCTE) and iVenturED Inc., the Illinois nonprofit representing the local community interest and support for the program.

Started in 2012, Sangamon CEO is an accredited high school and college dual credit program teaching entrepreneurship and leadership to high school seniors in Sangamon County. More than 300 students have graduated from the program, leading to more than 200 student-led businesses.

About Innovate Springfield

Innovate Springfield, located at 15 S. Old State Capitol Plaza, is the University of Illinois Springfield’s business incubator. It aims to accelerate the growth of startups and established businesses, provide a collaborative workspace and foster a vibrant entrepreneurial community. Innovate Springfield currently supports 80 member companies that have added more than 280 jobs to the local economy.