The Young Professionals of Augusta was organized just three years ago, and has wasted no time in getting to work to benefit important projects and organizations. With 250 eager and innovative members the YPA is a communitarian enterprise that has a simple but important mission: to help our community thrive in the years ahead.
COMPOSED OF YOUNG people ages 21 to 40, the YPA has a motto: "Developing Tomorrow's Leaders Today." The three main pillars are networking, community outreach and professional development.
With so many among us guilty of looking backward and finding lots of areas to criticize, we all can be inspired by this future-oriented group of folks. Spending some time with these energetic young people can be a very uplifting experience.
The YPA has a professional meeting each month that includes a guest speaker. Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking to and with these enthusiastic young people. The topic of my talk was leadership. Here are my recommendations to them:
- Study leadership. I recommended that they attend the Blue Ridge Conference on Leadership, which is held each October at a beautiful setting in the mountains of North Carolina.
- Join a local civic club and get involved in some of the club's charitable activities. I could not resist the temptation to highlight the Kiwanis Club of Augusta and its fine meeting venue at the River Room at St. Paul's Episcopal Church.
- Build a brain trust of really smart, well-connected people.
- Support local nonprofits. Specifically, I suggested that they become members of the Augusta Museum of History, which is in special need of membership and support.
- Don't be a control freak. Learn how to trust people and to encourage creativity.
- Hire people who are smarter and more skilled than you are, and give them the power to make decisions.
In the recent past, the YPA has raised funds and worked hard for many worthy causes -- the Kroc Center; the Boys and Girls Club; the renovation of the house at 131 Eve St. that is now being used by the Salvation Army; the CSRA Humane Society; Safehomes; and pediatric cancer research.
AN EVENT THAT took place at Lake Olmstead Stadium last month was such a success it is very likely to become an annual event. The YPA challenged local dignitaries to a charity softball game. The field was very muddy as a result of heavy rain earlier in the day, so there was a great deal of slipping, sliding and falling down. But that only added to the fun.
Among the dignitaries were such luminaries as community advocate Helen Blocker-Adams, Augusta Commissioner Matt Aitken, Augusta Chronicle Editorial Page Editor Michael Ryan and Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver. At her first appearance at bat, Helen hit a sharp grounder. In her haste to reach first base, she slipped in the mud and fell on her face. When the crowd realized that she was not hurt, she received a big round of applause.
The proceeds for the evening were later presented to 8-year-old Brennan Simkins, who is recovering from a long and difficult bout with acute myeloid leukemia.
With its various committees, many of the YPA are serving in leadership roles. Those who have been especially active in various leadership positions within the YPA include Keith Hedgspeth, Lindsay Thetford, Russell Fernandes, Marc Wilson, Matthew Neet, Ashley Smith, Jay Weigle, Alex Shi, Katie Duncan, Jonathan English, Brooke Hixon and president Sean Frantom. Frantom is a whirling dervish of ideas and energy.
THE YPA IS LOOKING for more members. You may want to check out its website, www.ypaugusta.com.
If you get a chance to participate in any of the many projects of the Young Professionals of Augusta, I urge you to jump on the bandwagon, pull out your checkbooks and give the YPA your strong support.
(The writer serves as the president of the board of trustees of the Augusta Museum of History, and the secretary of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation. His e-mail address is email@example.com.)