I can't believe it's a year already since HYPE was launched. I don't know if we'd say we are satisfied with our first year, but I consider us pleasantly surprised with the progress we have made.
I don't think HYPE was a crapshoot. The Hartford Alliance got behind it and said this is what we have to do. We didn't have any coherent young professionals groups in the city; the ones that existed were in little pockets around Hartford. The alliance is a great clearinghouse for commerce and things that need to be ironed out in city.
There are reasons for the things HYPE does. If you look at our organization, it's about building a young-professional movement in the city.
Our committees, with members who serve on a volunteer basis, are extraordinarily dedicated, effective and committed to projects. We have started social events, professional development events, business lunches, entrepreneurial events. What other young-professionals group in the city can get you to sit for an hour-and-half with one of the local CEOs and have lunch and get their perspective on leadership and development and how to run a company? HYPE has brought young professionals and business leaders together, showing philanthropic leaders that there is a dynamic group of young folks here, and showing young folks that there are people in leadership roles that want to take them under their wings.
From our point of view, we are not only giving young folks in Hartford a place to socialize; we are also putting 150 to 250 people in a new entrepreneur's restaurant. It's a level of exposure they can't buy.
The biggest surprise has been the way HYPE has grown from 450 to over 1,400 people. We are establishing a vibrant young-professional culture in the Hartford region.
I think the biggest fallacy about Hartford is that there is not a positive attitude about living in the city. This place has tremendous assets, and people need to sell it internally and externally.
We'll be having our first anniversary party on June 14. It is called Hyp(E)volution. TasJuaii [Moss] is up to her neck in it. We will be showing the evolution of the young professional from the 1940s to the present. There is a fashion show. Of course there will be music, and there is an open invitation to everyone to come. It will feature all we have accomplished in the first year.
If there is one disappointment in the first year, it would be the need to work on the better way to plug young professionals into working with nonprofit arts organizations and getting involved in tangible projects. We have done that with the Working Families Initiative, developing mentoring relationships that get young professionals involved and training them as budget coaches so they could work with families. We want to do more.
I think there are a number of corporations that are standing up now and saying, as the baby boomers who are ready to retire, that we need to have some kind of engaged, dynamic, educated, working talent pool. We have a lot of ideas. HYPE is not something I have to sell. People are excited about it.
As told to and edited by MaryEllen Fillo
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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