YMCA Intern Challenge contestants learn from a former successful participant

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Nearly a dozen competitors try to prove they have what it takes for the YMCA’s Intern Challenge.

The YMCA of Rock River Valley kicked off its annual Intern Challenge last week.

The internship challenge is in week two. This year’s contestants not only get to learn from a local business owner but a former participant as well.

“I remember when Mike Brown used to be the CEO and he was like Anthony you’re fired,” Anthony Valiulis, owner of Da Vinci Industries and challenge contestant.”

Local graduates are going head to head to compete for a $1,500 scholarship and a job.

Back in 2015, Anthony Valiulis sat in these same seats as a YMCA Intern Challenge contestant.

While Anthony didn’t win it all, the experience is what helped him start his own company.

“Really after the Intern Challenge, what it had to offer and how I wanted to benefit and make it a better place to live for everyone,” Valiulis said.

Valiulis created the Acutrack, an innovative retail display hook system. It’s designed to help store employees cycle product by doing it automatically. When the customer comes and takes the product, the rest of the hooks shift forward. This also acts as an anti-theft device because if somebody wants to come and steal all the products at once, they can’t because it locks.

Valiulis is now considered an inspiration to the contestants taking the challenge now.

“I feel like there is that connection there like he was in my shoes one day, so I could be in his shoes one day,” said Valeria Lira, Intern Challenge contestant. “I could be just like him.”

“He’s a great example of how learning something early and then applying it later can really pay off in the long run career-wise,” said Michelle Gorham, Chief Advancement Officer of the YMCA.

Valiulis is sponsoring this year’s challenge and for him, it’s more about giving back and saying thanks for the opportunities he received.

“I really want to teach the interns what I had the opportunity to learn that Rockford really does have a lot to value and that you can be a successful business owner there and be a successful part of the community and this really taught me that and I want to teach those interns that,” Valiulis said.

The Intern Challenge runs through the beginning of August. It’s open to high school and college students.

For more information on how to get involved, you can go to the YMCA’s Intern Challenge website.

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