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Community Leaders Assist in Shark Tank Project


A team from this year’s Chamber of Commerce Leadership Rockford graduating class has been working with the BAMIT (Business, Arts, Modern World Languages, and Information Technology) College and Career Readiness Council to support Academy efforts within the Rockford public high schools. One major effort consisted of a first-ever Shark Tank event in Mrs. Nicole Frazer’s Economic classes at Jefferson High School. Derek Erwin with Raymond James, Karl Arvidson with Thayer Lighting Inc., Tony Blaine with Field Fastener, Steve Franklin with Thermo Fisher Scientific, and Shane Siner with JPMorgan Chase Bank attended Mrs. Frazer’s Econ classes throughout the week of March 10th to provide students with industry expertise in developing their business proposals. As sole proprietors or in teams of partnerships, students were required to create a business proposal complete with market, industry, and competition analysis; financing; marketing, advertising, and product distribution; and operations.

The Leadership Rockford team engaged the community in recruiting industry experts to sit in as “sharks” acting as investors/venture capitalists to critique the students’ proposals in Mrs. Frazer’s Economic classes March 25th – March 27th. Sharks consisted of Sergeant First Class George Marshbanks with the US Army Recruiting Station in Rockford, Chris Budde with Thermo Fisher Scientific, Aaron Potter with Bergstrom Inc., Paul VonDriska with Bergstrom Inc., Sergio Ramos with UTC Aerospace Systems, Jessica Hayes with Manpower, Jacob Patterson with Thermo Fisher Scientific, Debbie Kimes with Rockford Local Development Corporation, and Bridget French with Alignment Rockford. The community “sharks” critiqued proposals from multicultural restaurants, to vocational schools for at-risk youth, to virtual reality accessories.

This project supports the RPS 205 College and Career Readiness initiative in integrating the business community to help prepare students for success after high school. Not only did this project provide the students with real-world business experience, but it also provided them with invaluable networking experience. One student excitedly expressed to me on the final day of the competition that one of the community “sharks” was so impressed with the student’s proposal, they wanted to arrange a meeting with other community leaders to discuss other opportunities within the business community for the student. The Leadership Rockford team hopes that their work will lay the foundation for future projects such as a school or district-wide Shark Tank Competition.

For more information on how to get involved in projects similar to the Shark Tank Competition, please contact Alignment Rockford’s Community Engagement Coordinator, Katy Haun, at (779) 774-4389 x 11 or at:

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