ARTICLE BY THE VIRGINIAN PILOT, Nate Delesline III
Building a more connected region through professional and personal relationships, along with enhanced transportation and technology links, are some of the first initiatives to emerge from the Young Leaders Roundtable.
Representatives from 18 Southside and Peninsula organizations attended the recently formed group’s inaugural meeting Sept. 21. The organizations embrace and advance issues that are important to millennials. In addition to business, those issues include culture and the arts, the environment and social justice.
“I think the the biggest impression that I was left with was just the amount of the things that were going on that I was kind of unaware of,” Jemal Harris said after inaugural meeting. He is director of economic advancement for the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.
Although the Young Leaders Roundtable may look and feel somewhat like a meta organization, “what’s unique about the roundtable is that’s it’s really intended to be a regional collaborative,” said Claire Winiarek, one of the group’s founders. “So we’re not going to take on the individual values or missions of any one of our participant organizations but really come together to elevate and amplify millennial voices and millennial interests and to participate in regional collaboration.”
Organizations in attendance at the Sept. 21 inaugural meeting at Virginia Beach Town Center included the Beach Ambassadors, CBDX, Creative Union, Downtown100, Jaycees-Peninsula, tHRive and the Young Adult Division of the Tidewater Jewish Federation.
Joash Schulman, a Virginia Beach-based lawyer, led the roundtable’s formation. He said all of the groups are converging around the common goal of embracing “young people as an asset to the region.”
Schulman said one of the key messages he wants to convey is “we’re not competing with one another at an organizational level, just like we shouldn’t be competing against one another as localities. Sure, each locality is going to have their individual interest in mind and the citizens that they serve, but we shouldn’t be competing against one another to the other’s detriment. We should be finding ways to work together.”
“We can’t be behind or in front of every issue,” Schulman said. “We have to be deliberate and thoughtful about the best way to cooperate and be engaged, and if that means some of our constituents acting together or the group as a whole finding ways to communicate that message of inclusivity and connectivity, then we’ll do that.”
Harris echoed that sentiment, saying laying a solid, long-term foundation that will sustain the new group and its mission is the present focus.
“We’ve really been focusing on building it right and not necessarily building it quick,” Harris said. “We don’t want to pander and just kind of wade in the water, but we want to take the time to do it right, so it’s not an organizational blip.”
“My personal interest,” said Winiarek, who is involved with Global Shapers Norfolk and is senior director of public policy with Magellan Health, “is to keep the dialogue going in a very positive and collaborative way. I think if we do that consistently, that’s going to be the biggest achievement of this group. There’s just nothing like this in the region right now.”
Learn more about the Young Leaders Roundtable by contacting Schulman at firstname.lastname@example.org.