Looking to add real-world program management experience to his résumé, accelerated MBA student Dylan Lonteen found an opportunity through the IGNITE program that piqued his interest.
“I had started out looking for part-time jobs on Indeed and found a position with the DeKalb County Community Gardens. It turned out that they didn’t have a need for that position, but they told me they were partnered with IGNITE. I was very interested in that, and after I interviewed, we got the ball rolling,” Lonteen said.
IGNITE is an internship program at the NIU College of Business that allows students to work paid internships with local businesses and nonprofit organizations. The student works for their organization, and the college subsidizes the student’s wages.
After a successful interview process, Lonteen joined DeKalb County Community Gardens (DCCG) as a program analyst and took charge of the GrowMobile project. GrowMobile is a joint initiative by DCCG, NIUVolunteer Action Center, the DeKalb County Health Department, the DeKalb County Community Action Office, and Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Health and Wellness. GrowMobile is a mobile food pantry that delivers freshly grown produce to DeKalb County areas afflicted by food insecurity. Lonteen’s primary responsibility is overseeing the development of the program and drafting operating procedures to ensure its efficiency.
“When I started in this position, I was able to attend a couple of the GrowMobile’s distribution events. I took notes and benefited from some hands-on experience running those events. Then, I came back to our office and started writing up a step-by-step plan for others to follow to run that distribution,” Lonteen said. “I work collaboratively with the GrowMobile program director. Together, we set up that plan so that if someone fills in for her, they can do so without any prior knowledge.”
Lonteen, who played shortstop for NIU baseball, noted that the internship served as his first entry into the workforce.
“As a college athlete, I hadn’t really had an opportunity to work before now. My mom worked with nonprofits, and I grew up around them. That made the position with the Community Gardens really enticing for me. Plus, the position provides a firsthand look at things you don’t usually learn in a classroom, like company culture and how to communicate on the ground, in the moment. Everyone here has been great,” he added.
“From an organization’s perspective, a big part of being involved with IGNITE is the ability to have an intern for a year-long engagement. What’s very enticing for us is being able to work with graduate students like Dylan,” said Associate Director Jackie DiNatale. “Dylan’s impact has been great. He has been very open and flexible. Before he came here, we didn’t have many procedures put together for these programs. I had an idea, a framework for what we wanted. Dylan listened, gave us some great feedback and we worked together to put some solid operating procedures in place.”
Lonteen is currently in the process of shortly his work on the GrowMobile procedures and will begin work at DCCG’s Walnut Grove Vocational Farm where he will create similar operating plans for the farm’s program offerings.
“In my IGNITE internship, I’ve met a lot of new people and I’ve had a lot of hands-on experience,” Lonteen said. “I didn’t realize at first just how many volunteers DCCG gets. I hadn’t experienced a food distribution event before. When I’d go to distribution events, we often had 25 to 30 volunteers here to help. We also had cars lined up, full of people who needed our help. It was truly eye-opening for me to see just how much of an impact DCCG has on the local community. All I could think about was how incredible it was.”