Blake Wood
Publish Date

The Sangamon CEO program is joining Innovate Springfield, the University of Illinois Springfield’s downtown business incubator, 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.

Innovate Springfield Director Ben Hage (also known as Nabih Elhajj), previously led Sangamon CEO for eight years before coming to UIS. The new agreement will allow him to continue to lead the program.

“For eight years I watched generations of students benefit from the program and go on to do amazing things,” Hage said. “This new agreement will bring new resources to the program and will give students access to a larger network of innovators and entrepreneurs. ROCTE is an excellent partner to have, they do a wonderful job working with the schools and recruiting students. I also want to extend my sincere gratitude to the Sangamon CEO business community who started this program and supported it financially, with speakers, mentors and host sites for 11 years. Their effort was enormous.”

Under the new agreement, ROCTE will cover a portion of the cost for each student enrolled in the program.

Currently, the Sangamon CEO class has two sessions (a morning class and an afternoon class) with 51 students enrolled from 10 area high schools. Next year’s applications are open to high school juniors starting in January.