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Cleveland Young Professional Senate takes seat at city’s decision-making table with plans to host joint caucus

By Stephanie Davis   |   Photo by McKinley Wiley

In such a significant year politically for our nation and community, especially as the Republican National Convention prepares to descend on Cleveland, the nonpartisan Cleveland Young Professional Senate (Cleveland YPS) is “all in” on the civic action.

Stressing its nonpartisan bent, the nonprofit organization is dedicated to involving young professionals (approximately ages 20 to 40) and their perspectives in civic decision-making that affects greater Cleveland.

“Cleveland has a large millennial population living, working, and playing in the city,” Emily Bacha, president of Cleveland YPS and director of communications and marketing at Western Reserve Land Conservancy, says. “When decisions are being made about the fabric of our city and the civic programs taking place, it is our goal at Cleveland YPS to ensure that young professionals are considered in the discussion.”

Those young professionals of Cleveland YPS come from all walks of professional life, representing the diversity of Cleveland as a whole, according to Bacha.

“Cleveland YPS truly is a diverse group of volunteer civic leaders. When I say it’s one of the most diverse groups I’ve ever worked with, I’m not kidding,” she added. “We represent practically every background, race, religion, and sexual orientation across the board, and it’s a fairly even split of male/female members.”

Its members hail from (or have “boomeranged back to”) Cleveland’s East Side, West Side, Downtown, and Northeast Ohio suburbs. They work in all sectors: nonprofit, for-profit, and government sectors; and represent Democrat, Republican, and Independent parties.

But the group is as much about its members’ backgrounds and what they bring to the table as it is about what the group offers its membership and to other young professionals locally. Big on this year’s agenda, according to Bacha, is news that Cleveland YPS will host its fourth Young Professional Civic Leadership and Empowerment Conference (YPCLE: The Millennial Caucus) at The City Club of Cleveland on May 14. It is free to attend. Special this year, Cleveland YPS is partnering with the Cleveland Foundation and The City Club to present the conference, which is part of the Greater Cleveland Caucus Series.

“This year’s Caucus differs from past events because we are focusing on the priority areas that took place at the Greater Cleveland Caucus Series event in March,” Bacha says, referencing the collaboration of Cleveland YPS, The City Club of Cleveland, Cleveland Foundation and a number of other organizations, who together are hosting a year-long event series to strengthen community interaction and relationships among Greater Cleveland residents. The Caucus Series event in March brought together more than 400 Greater Clevelanders, representing an estimated 70 nonprofit organizations. Attendees at that event teamed up to outline a blueprint of new community issues and priorities specific to the Cleveland region’s future.

The YPCLE Millennial Caucus welcomes all Cleveland civic leaders and young professionals to the forum to discuss various topics, including housing and neighborhoods, inclusion (population and demographics), and jobs and the economy. Ronn Richard, president and CEO of the Cleveland Foundation, will be joined by City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County leadership at the event. The event will include small-group discussions and networking opportunities for attendees.

“While the Caucus will help focus Cleveland YPS’ advocacy efforts, the hope is that this conference will provide useful information for The City Club and Cleveland Foundation and their future programming,” Bacha says. Both organizations are “graciously helping to fund” the conference. “Cleveland YPS put on this event four years ago with a very limited budget. But today our confidence has grown – with more people at the table, higher quality of speakers and programs, as well as notoriety. We are excited about engaging more young professionals in these important discussions,” she says.

Aside from the May 14 event, Cleveland YPS also hosts general meetings, which draw up to 40 members and take place from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Tucker Ellis LLP office. Upcoming meetings are May 2, May 16, and June 6.

Additionally, the nonprofit hosts the annual Red, White and You annual wine and beer tasting fundraiser. And, unique to 2016, with elections around the corner, Cleveland YPS is also gearing up for its Presidential Watch Party, slated for Sept. 26 (venue TBD).

“Currently, we are looking at large venues for this Presidential Watch Party, as we are expecting a crowd of more than 500, with opportunities for conversations to take place before the event. Our last watch party brought 350 young professionals out to watch it. And as an example of crowd engagement, when President Obama mentioned Cleveland Clinic during his talk in the last presidential election, the room erupted,” she says. These events generate much “excitement,” according to Bacha.

As for any involvement with the Republican National Convention, “Though Cleveland YPS will not be directly involved with the Republican National Convention, some of our members are volunteering as wayfinders, helping with direction,” she says.

She added that the group has witnessed a “growing interest in young people” being involved in and running for political office.

In sustaining its membership going forward, Bacha says Cleveland YPS relies heavily on “word-of-mouth” advertisement and its social media presence.

“We use Facebook and Twitter as a means to prompt discussion of issues that are positively and negatively impacting professionals. Topics generating discussion recently have ranged from new development or redevelopment in the city to student loan debt to saving for retirement,” she says. 

To register for YPCLE, visit 2016ypcle.eventbrite.com

For more information: clevelandyps.org

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