Last week I attended the final presentations and award ceremony for the 2012 Connect St Albans Dragons’ Apprentice Challenge.
This is a fund-raising project which brings together local charities and causes with local schools and local businesses in a win-win for everyone (even if everyone could’nt have prizes on the night).
Connect St Albans is a group that links the needs of local voluntary organisations with the skills and resources of local businesses. It is led by St Albans Centre for Voluntary Service (CVS) with the active involvement of the University of Hertfordshire (where the award ceremony took place), St Albans Council, St Albans Chamber of Commerce, St Albans Enterprise Agency (Stanta), St Albans Local Strategic Partnership and Oaklands College.
The project started three years ago with the participation of just one school, St Columba’s College. St Columba’s has now been joined by Beaumont, Loreto, Nicholas Breakspear, Sandringham, and STAGS from St Albans, as well as schools from Harpenden and Welwyn Hatfield. A parallel project is now underway in North Herts and other counties are studying the format – yet again St Albans leads and the country follows.
Each school team started with £100 and was given the challenge of raising at least a £1,000 for their chosen charity through events and sponsorship. Local businesses provided individual mentors to advise each team on marketing, promotion and managing their projects. I was pleased to bump into Gregory Moulton of LetMe Properties whose office is just up the road from LibDem HQ in St Albans. He had been advising one of the teams from Nicholas Breakspear. Other mentors came from local organisations as diverse as giant Premier Foods and presentation training company Archimedes Consulting.
This year the 25 schools taking part raised a magnficent £34,000 for local charities (from seed money of £2,500) – a massive achievement by any standards and hugely raising the local profile of their chosen charities in the process.
On the night, the teams had to make a final presentation on what they had achieved and learned (about planning, teamwork, delegation etc) before being grilled by dragons Laura Cronshaw from the CVS, Graham Lane from the Chamber of Commerce, and Julie Newlan from the University of Hertfordshire. My picture shows one of the St Albans Girls School (STAGS) teams up on stage – as a former governor, I have a soft spot for the school!
It’s just excellent to be witness to such enthusiasm from everyone involved and to see long-term community relationships being built to such good effect.
PS The winning team was one of the two entrants from Loreto College, the Athena team mentored by ReachOut Plus, for raising £3006 for St Albans City Youth Football Club. They got so involved in and passionate about City Youth that they have continued to fundraise outside the time limit of Dragons’ Apprentice. They’ve now raised more than £5,000 an counting. Hats off to all of them.