Golin's intern challenge: Alligators, the Amish, and altruism

Akinbola Richardson will take on unique experiences, face his fears, and immerse himself in a new culture as part of Golin's new internship program.

Alligators and the Amish await Howard University senior Akinbola Richardson.
Alligators and the Amish await Howard University senior Akinbola Richardson.

NEW YORK: Akinbola Richardson, the winner of Golin’s internship contest, will wrestle an alligator, live with the Amish, and build houses for the homeless – all in the name of communications.

Nearly 300 students competed in the inaugural Golin Unternship program, which the agency launched to allow one college graduate the opportunity to gain new and creative perspectives from experiencing unlikely situations.

Richardson, a senior at Howard University, will begin his self-chosen adventures in June. At the end of August, he will take on a full-time associate creative position in a North American Golin office of his choosing.

"The Dallas office created [the unternship]," said Golin CEO Fred Cook. "It was loosely based on my book, Improvise: Unconventional Career Advice from an Unlikely CEO, and the idea that we wanted to help provide life experiences to people interested in coming to work for us."

Richardson decided to stay with the Amish for a week in Ohio, milking cows and living without electricity. He said he’s excited because the experience will "expand my mind into avenues I didn’t even know existed."

He will then wrestle an alligator, and he hopes to also go skydiving, bull-riding, and skiing on a volcano.

For part of the program, Richardson will go to New Orleans to help build houses for the homeless.

He will document his experiences along the way with videos, photos, and other content.

Richardson chose his upcoming adventures because he wanted to go through unique experiences, enter a new culture, and face his fears, he said.

"Those three things not only help you become a better person, they also help you become more confident and see the world in a hugely different and grander way," he explained.

Golin narrowed the hundreds of unternship applicants down to 30, then six, and then three finalists, who came to Chicago to meet with senior executives and go through a final surprise test. Cook said the three finalists received $40 and were instructed to spend the next two hours in the city having "unlikely experiences." Upon their return to the office, they had 30 minutes to prepare a presentation.

During his two hours out in Chicago, Richardson helped a 32-year-old homeless man panhandle for money and visited the spot under the freeway where he lives. On his way back to Golin’s office, he convinced a taxi driver to let him drive the cab down Michigan Avenue.

 "[Richardson] is incredibly courageous and passionate about life," said Cook. "He’s quite an amazing person."

In the future, Cook said he plans to expand the program to other parts of the world.

Richardson said he believes the unternship is an amazing opportunity to see the world differently, and so far, he’s learned "to always be confident in your awesomeness."

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