Modeled loosely after the hit TV show "The Apprentice," the YMCA Intern Challenge is entering its seventh year this summer. Over the course of the summer, 14-16 area youth are split in two teams and complete challenges each week to earn safety from elimination. "This program is a unique way to motivate, strengthen and uplift the youth of our area, while exposing them to different areas of the workforce in Rockford," says Brett Williams, director of development at the YMCA and staff advisor of the Intern Challenge.
One of the most exciting aspects of this competition is the involvement of the business community. Each week is sponsored by an area business, and the sponsoring business determines the business-related challenge presented to the teams. Team members must work together to complete the challenge, and then present to a panel from the sponsoring organization, representatives of which choose a winner and a loser. The losing team chooses team members to go to the board room, and the judges determine who is eliminated each week. For the third year, Rockford University is the presenting sponsor, and we're pleased to welcome Rockford Public Schools back as a sponsor as well.
"In addition to the real-life exposure to the business community, we aim to teach the participants the importance of communication, leadership and responsibility, while building their confidence in their abilities to have an impact on our community," Williams said.
"The Intern Challenge encourages young people and shows them the importance of staying in Rockford or returning after college to contribute to the community," said Andrea Bent, the 2018 third place finisher. Participants receive a community mentor for the duration of their time in the competition to help in their development and provide encouragement.
In addition to the valuable skills and personal connections gained through the Intern Challenge, the participants earn a modest stipend for each week they remain in the competition and receive a Y membership for the summer. At a finale event held at Rockford University, a first place winner is announced. That person receives a college scholarship and a paid internship at an organization of their choosing in the community. The contestants finishing in second and third place also receive a scholarship.
If you know a 16-24-year-old community member who might be interested in the Intern Challenge, contact Brett Williams, firstname.lastname@example.org. Students can also apply directly at www.ymcainternchallenge.com.
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