Welcome to the Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute Application Homepage!

The 2023 application will not open until January 1, 2023. It will close on March 31, 2023.

ELI will be July 24-28 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 2023 session of ELI. Don’t delay! Apply on or before March 31, 2023.

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.


2023 ELI Application – Opens January 1, 2023

The 2023 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 2023 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.

Click Here to download the Application Checklist

Step 1. Contact Information Form: 

For this form,  you will need your basic contact information, t-shirt size, a non-school related email address (gmail, yahoo, etc.), mailing address, student phone number, parent phone number, school counselor’s name, unweighted GPA (on a 4.0 scale), you can list up to two honors, AP, or advanced level courses, and indicate if you have participated in any of our other programs. Make sure to have all of this information before you fill out the form.

Step 2. Extracurriculars Form: – 30 Points 

For this form, you can list up to 30 different extracurricular activities, involvement in organizations, awards or honors you’ve received, etc. There are three different categories: Leadership, Entrepreneurship School Related, and Entrepreneurship Non-School Related. You can list up to 10 items in each category for a total of 30 Points. It is recommended that you type the list out first in a word document prior to filling out the form. This way, you can just copy and past the information into the form ahead of time.

Step 3. Community Service Form: – 20 Points 

For this form, you can list up to 20 items for community service. This can be anytime you’ve volunteered to do anything, helped someone out, or organized your own project. There are two different categories: School Related Activities and Non-School Related Activities. You can list up to 10 items in each category for a total of 20 Points.

Step 4. Documents Form: – 50 Points 

For this form, you will have to upload all of your documents, which includes an Essay (45 Points), Academic Transcript (5 Points), and 1 Letter of Recommendation. The letter is used as statements of character and are not worth any points. However, you will have 5 points deducted from your overall score for every letter you do not turn in. Click on the button below to learn more about how to prepare your documents.

  • ESSAY – 45 Points
  • TRANSCRIPT – 5 Points
    You need to ask your high school counselor for your academic transcript. It needs to include your unweighted GPA (on a 4.0 Scale) and any advanced level courses.
    You need one letter of recommendation. The letter writer cannot be related to you. If you do not submit a letter, you will have points deducted from your overall score.

Step 5. Application Completion Form: 

When you are done with the application, click on the link below to let us know that you have completed all 4 forms.

Deadline is March 31, 2023