Welcome to the Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute Application Homepage!

The 20234plication will not open until January 1, 2024. It will close on March 31, 2024.

ELI will be held at The Center for Rural Development in Somerset, KY


What is ELI?

Do you want to own your own business someday?

Have you ever thought about “pitching” your own business product or idea to potential investors like they do on the popular ABC television show “Shark Tank?”

The Center for Rural Development’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute (ELI) brings high school students in Southern and Eastern Kentucky together to develop and strengthen their skills as future business leaders and entrepreneurs.

ELI, a one-week summer leadership program held on the grounds of The Center in Somerset, KY., provides hands-on learning and real-life experiences to give high school entrepreneurs the confidence they need to take the next step toward a possible future career in business.

During the week, students work as a team to come up with a business idea or product that they will “pitch” to a panel of potential investors for a chance to earn a college scholarship offer. The overall winning team of the Business Concept Challenge Competition will receive a college scholarship offer from Eastern Kentucky University.

If you are a current high school freshman, sophomore or junior and live in The Center’s 45-county primary service area in Southern and Eastern Kentucky, apply for the 2024 session of ELI. Don’t delay! Apply on or before March 31, 2024.

ELI is presented by The Center in partnership with Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation.


To be eligible to apply, the student must:

  • Be a current high school freshman, sophomore or junior in high school
  • Live in a county located within the 45-county service area of The Center for Rural Development. The forty-five county service area consists of the following Kentucky counties: Adair, Bath, Bell, Boyd, Breathitt, Carter, Casey, Clay, Clinton, Cumberland, Elliott, Estill, Floyd, Garrard, Green, Harlan, Jackson, Jessamine, Johnson, Knott, Knox, Laurel, Lawrence, Lee, Leslie, Letcher, Lincoln, Magoffin, Martin, McCreary, Menifee, Metcalfe, Monroe, Morgan, Owsley, Perry, Pike, Pulaski, Rockcastle, Rowan, Russell, Taylor, Wayne, Whitley and Wolfe.
  • Have a demonstrated interest in business, leadership and entrepreneurship.
  • Have a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0 (on a 4 point scale).


Selection Process

A total of 25 students from The Center’s 45-county service area will be selected for the program in 2022. A selection committee consisting of staff from The Center for Rural Development will be established. In order to ensure fairness, applications will be blinded and applicant names removed prior to distributing copies to the selection committee. The committee will review and score all of the applications according to the criteria and point values established for each section.

 The top 25 applicants with the highest score will be selected to attend the program. All applicants remaining after the first 25 selections will be considered as alternates and will be ranked from the highest to lowest score. If a selected student is unable to attend the program, alternates will be contacted in order of their rank until the open spot is filled. For this reason, all applicants are encouraged to keep the program dates and the possibility of selection in mind as they make their plans for the summer.


2024 ELI Application – Opens January 1, 2024

The 2024 Application will be accessed solely through this website through several online forms, which are listed below. Application instructions will be included on each page at the links below.

For the 2024 ELI Application, you will have to provide a Contact Information Form, Extracurriculars Form, Community Service Form, and Documents Form (Essay, 1 Letter of Recommendation, Transcript). Read the information carefully, you will need before filling out each form. The forms cannot be saved and have to be filled out all at once.  Once you are done with all four of the forms,  you will fill out an Application Completion Form to indicate that you are done with your application.