That’s a wrap: the first annual Young Professionals Week in West Virginia is in the books! Our amazing Generation Chapters hosted 21 events in 7 days across the state ranging from social gatherings to adventurous outings to meaningful conversations about the issues that matter among young professionals in West Virginia.
This week’s range of events show us what West Virginia’s young professionals see as their community’s greatest assets as well as the kinds of events we want to see more of around the state. To me, YP Week highlights what’s great about being young in West Virginia while also showing the direction that we should be moving toward to make our communities even greater places for the next generation to live and work. Here are some of my takeaways:
1. Being young in West Virginia means you can meet up with a group of friends in an art gallery on a Monday night and learn about personal finance over local brews. We want to live and work in places where we can keep learning, where we feel like we can keep growing in our careers and leadership roles. We know we don’t have everything figured out yet, but we want to live in places that are willing to help us get there. At Generation Upshur’s Budgets and Brews event I looked around to see the group of us eagerly taking notes on every tip on credit, savings, and life insurance we could get. I was not alone in furiously taking notes as the ever-amazing Jessica Vincent dropped some serious knowledge. I left feeling both empowered and excited about personal finance—yes, excited. At Generation Harrison’s Leadership Conference I heard great speakers on effective communication, building relationships, and took part in table sessions on some of West Virginia’s toughest challenges. Professional development is definitely a buzzword but the real value is in how it shows a community’s investment in supporting emerging leaders.
2. Being young in West Virginia means you can have breakfast with your Mayor and City Council members. We want to live and work in places where we have a seat at the table, where we know our ideas are valued and our voices are heard. At Generation Randolph’s City Council Meet and Greet, young Randolph Countians led a meaningful discussion with their local decision makers on their ideas and vision for Elkins. They left with project ideas, partnership opportunities, and a request from the Mayor to get together more often to stay in touch on Generation Randolph’s ideas and plans.
3. Being young in West Virginia means you can have an idea for your community and bring it to fruition. We want to live in places where change feels not only possible but welcomed, where new ideas are met with excitement. Walking into Generation Putnam’s opening of Area34, Putnam’s new coworking space, I was reminded that West Virginia is that kind of place. Generation Putnam decided that a coworking space was exactly what they wanted to see in their community and worked with the Putnam County Chamber to envision the space, design floor plans, develop partnerships, and then most importantly, make it all happen.
4. Being young in West Virginia means you can easily fit outdoor adventure and physical activity into each day. We want to live in places that are healthy and active. We want to live in places where we can access the outdoors to explore and relax. This is clear this week with a quarter of YP Week events including some element of physical activity promoting healthy lifestyles and building on the amazing assets our state’s outdoors offer. There were two group hikes hosted by Generation MOV and Generation Greenbrier Valley, “Rise and Grind” workout classes before work with Generation Randolph, and sunrise and sunset yoga classes hosted on lakeside piers and in vineyards by Generation MOV and Generation NRG. Within minutes of our downtowns, we can get to a vineyard, a lake, a hiking trail—that’s amazing.
5. Being young in West Virginia means you can not only access amazing arts and culture events but also know the artists that make your community vibrant and thriving. We want to live in places that have flourishing arts and culture scenes not only because it makes life more beautiful and fun but because the arts help us bring new groups of people together. In West Virginia, our arts and culture help create the strong sense of place that gives this state a permanent place in our hearts. Over the course of YP Week, our Chapters held 5 events highlighting the importance of the arts in their communities. Generation Charleston’s Arts and Crafts event highlighted the work of young artists during ArtWalk, Generation MOV got a group together to see the Actor’s Guild’s performance of The Mouse Trap, Generation Charleston highlighted the use of healing art in CAMCs Cancer Center, Generation NRG had a paint night fundraiser for flood relief in Rainelle, and Generation Upshur met up to enjoy the renowned annual Helvetia Community Fair. It’s clear that the arts are an important way for us to translate our experiences and connect with our communities across generations.
6. Being young in West Virginia means you can get connected with like-minded peers quickly. We want to live in places where we have people we can go to events with, have meaningful conversations with, work on projects with. We want to live in places where we know other young people, it’s pretty simple. Our Chapters know how critical that social connection is to retention, it’s not just for fun. Generation Huntington hosted a Business After Hours with the Huntington Chamber, Generation MOV had a Happy Hour, Generation Randolph had a Generation Celebration all showing the importance of simple opportunities for young people to connect with each other.
So, thank you. Thank you to the ever-amazing young volunteers who give of their valuable time year-round to lead Generation Charleston, Generation Greenbrier Valley, Generation Harrison, Generation Huntington, Generation MOV, Generation NRG, Generation Putnam, Generation Randolph, and Generation Upshur. You each make your communities better places to live and work. Thank you for showing us what young West Virginians are capable of when given the opportunity to step up and lead. I’m so glad we could celebrate you this week!
Thank to you to our local host organizations who provide support for our Generation Chapters: the Charleston Area Alliance, the Greenbrier Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Harrison County Chamber of Commerce, the Parkersburg Area Community Foundation, the New River Gorge Region Economic Development Authority, the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, and the Randolph County Chamber of Commerce. You empower our young leaders to have vision for what their communities could be and make it possible for them to turn their ideas into reality.
Thank you to the community partners that supported these great events and our local Chapters in their work this week: Daniel Vineyards, Sam’s Club, Elkins City Council members, Elkins Anytime Fitness, Vintage Restaurant and Wine Bar, AES, Real Estate Central, CAMC, Waste Management, Dominion, Highland Clarksburg Hospital, Bridgeport Conference Center, Cape Federal Credit Union, Terry Waxman, Arnett Carbis Toothman, The Lost Huntington Escape Room, United Bank, Bowles Rice, Actors Guild of Parkersburg, Downtown PKB, Inc., and Artistry on Main. We so appreciate you believing in the important work of Generation Chapters around the state!
And thank you to Generation West Virginia’s board who is made up of young leaders across the state who make this event and everything else that Generation West Virginia does possible.
We can’t wait for YP Week 2017!