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Wilson graduates from The Center for Rural Development’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute

McCreary Central High School student Erin Wilson learned what it takes to start and manage a successful business venture this summer at The Center for Rural Development’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute (ELI).

Wilson, a member of the ELI “Destination Somewhere” business team, developed a business plan for a tourism-related business to showcase the untapped beauty of Eastern Kentucky.

“Participating in ELI definitely was an eye-opening experience,” said Wilson, a junior at McCreary Central High School. “I learned so much about what it takes to be successful in the business world.”

Twenty high school students from 13 Southern and Eastern Kentucky counties worked in teams to create business concepts for a cell phone case with a high-tech cooling device, an online customizable clothing store, a tourism-related designation package, an afterschool child-care program, and a non-profit organization for small business owners and entrepreneurs.

“This year’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute was an exceptional testament to the talent of young people that reside in Southern and Eastern Kentucky,” said Laura Glover, Managing Director of Operations at The Center. “This region needs bold, innovative ideas and it was encouraging to see just that from these high school participants.”

Wilson is the daughter of Michael and Jennifer Wilson of Stearns.

ELI is presented by The Center for Rural Development in partnership with Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation, Eastern Kentucky University, University of the Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment (Community and Leadership Development Department), and the Kentucky Innovation Network.

Ann DeSpain and Melony Denham, co-developers and co-teachers of E-Discovery Challenges You! program, provided the curriculum for ELI students.

For more information on ELI and The Center’s youth leadership programs, contact youth programs coordinator Delaney Stephens at 606-677-6000, email, or visit

Established in 1996 through the vision of U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers, (KY-05), and other leaders, The Center for Rural Development is a nonprofit organization fueled by a mission to provide leadership that stimulates innovative and sustainable economic development solutions and a better way of life in Southern and Eastern Kentucky. In its 45-county primary service region, The Center provides innovative programs in leadership, public safety, technology, and arts and culture. The Center is committed to constantly expanding its capabilities in order to deliver a range of key services throughout Kentucky and the nation.

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