Twenty-two high school students will build their business and entrepreneurial skills at the 2016 Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute (ELI) at The Center

The Center for Rural Development has selected 22 high school students from Southern and Eastern Kentucky to build their business and entrepreneurial skills at the 2016 Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute (ELI).

ELI, a week-long summer leadership program, gives the region’s next generation of business and entrepreneurial leaders an in-depth look at what it takes to start and successfully operate their own business venture. Students work in teams to craft a business concept and pitch that idea to a panel of potential investors for a chance to receive a college scholarship offer.

Members of the winning team in the Business Concept Challenge competition, held on the final day of the program, earn a $3,500 college scholarship offer from Eastern Kentucky University.

“ELI provides young aspiring student entrepreneurs with the skills they need to become successful business owners and entrepreneurs in Southern and Eastern Kentucky,” said Delaney Stephens, youth programs coordinator and community liaison for The Center. “During the program, students will form a business concept and write a business plan, as well as develop a prototype of their concept.”

Members of the 2016 ELI program and their respective counties are:

  • McKenna Moore: Bath County
  • Grace Sink and John Sizemore: Clay County
  • Carly Upchurch: Clinton County
  • Bailey Willis: Cumberland County
  • Emily Greene and Rinda Oliver: Elliott County
  • Chelsey Caldwell: Harlan County
  • Dalton Green: Hart County
  • Sydney McWhorter, Abigail McCowan, and Jaimie Tomaw: Laurel County
  • Hannah Carroll: Lawrence County
  • Aaron “AJ” Warner: Lee County
  • Tevin Leigh: Lincoln County
  • Autumn Keeton and Maxwell “Max” Elam: Morgan County
  • Jayden Wesley: Pike County
  • Wesley Mills: Rockcastle County
  • Grayson Blankenship: Russell County
  • Colton Morrow: Wayne County
  • Anna Grace Zehr: Whitley County


The ELI program will be held on the campus of The Center in Somerset during the week of June 13-17. The program is provided tuition-free and open to high school freshmen, sophomores, and juniors within The Center’s 45 county primary service area.

The program is presented by The Center in partnership with the Kentucky Innovation Network in Richmond and the Community & Leadership Development Department at the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment. The curriculum is based on the E-Discovery Program developed by UK’s Community & Leadership Development Department. More information about the E-Discovery Program can be found at