The inaugural year of the Top City Interns program officially kicks off at 5:30 p.m. today at the Topeka Zoo. In all, 173 interns who working for the summer at 24 different Topeka area companies, will gather to learn more about Topeka and get a behind-the-scenes tour of the zoo from director Brendan Wiley.

The interns represent 47 different universities and are coming to Topeka from 23 states and six different countries. They will leave the event with information on Topeka’s quality of life, events, restaurants and more, combined with welcome bag items from sponsor companies.

The Top City Interns initiative was announced March 29.  The program was created with the purpose of providing interns for local Topeka and Shawnee County businesses with a positive internship experience while investing in their future as professionals. The goal of the project is to impart a lasting, positive impression of Topeka and Shawnee County in the hope of retaining these young professionals in the community.

“The Top City Internship network represents a change in how several leading companies in Topeka engage our community. For the first time, these organizations are collaborating to celebrate the quality of life, and the breadth of opportunities, that exist for young professionals in the city,” said Robert Ross, Forge Leadership Team member and Allocation Manager with Payless Shoes, who co-chaired the Top City Interns planning committee.  “[Forge’s] goal is to recruit and retain young talent in Shawnee County. The Top City Interns program will contribute to this by providing Topeka employers a competitive advantage as they recruit. We will give their interns – potential full-time employees -- the opportunity to participate in exciting events, receive direct exposure to some of the country’s leading CEOs and provide a platform to create lifelong friendships forged in our community.”

Several programs, including lunch ‘n learn opportunities with executives and social events, have been organized by a committee with representation from several participating companies and Forge, Topeka’s young professionals’ organization.

Among those events is a concert in Downtown Topeka, which will be free and open to the public, planned for 6-10 p.m. Friday, June 30, between 8th and 9th on Jackson Street.  The Top City Interns Concert will feature 3 bands, from Topeka, Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

Gabriel O’Shea, executive director of Forge, said: “This is a great opportunity for Topeka. I am excited to share Topeka with these interns. This group of new talent represents the driving innovation and creativity that moves an economy, as well as a community, forward.”

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Forge, Topeka’s young professionals’ organization, is focused on attracting and retaining young people to Topeka and Shawnee County, Kansas.