In 2004, a group of emerging young leaders met at a restaurant to discuss how they, as a group, could make an impact in northeast Indiana in an effort to attract new talent to the area as well as retain talent already here. Officially established in 2005, Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana is in its 13th year of working to attract, develop, and retain emerging leaders through community, professional, and social engagement. We’ve grown, we’ve expanded, and our presence and voice can be felt throughout Fort Wayne. If there’s one thing I regret about my personal involvement with YLNI, it’s that I didn’t join sooner and take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to our members.
There are many reasons to become a paid member of YLNI, but the most important is that your dollars – only $45 annually – support our organization’s programming. Consider it an investment into your own community. To support this, here are thirteen reasons – one for each year we’ve been making an impact in northeast Indiana – why you should join YLNI.
- Your membership fee is an investment in emerging young leaders throughout northeast Indiana. The annual membership fee helps YLNI make all of the programs I’ve mentioned a possibility, most of them at no cost or low cost to attendees. We wouldn’t exist without a solid, strong member base. I am grateful to be part of this group of nearly 300 paid members, with new people joining regularly, and so many community leaders supporting and cheering our efforts every day.
- The High School Leadership Institute is offered at no cost to participating students, thanks in part to our membership fees. In June 2018, 19 high school students from throughout Allen County completed the inaugural program. They learned a lot from local leaders, but YLNI leadership learned a lot from them, too. Imagine if this program had existed when you were entering your junior or senior year of high school, and you could have participated for the low cost of just showing up because young leaders in your community saw value in developing your age group.
- Your voice will matter in local advocacy for community initiatives, as we survey our member base for their opinions on issues that matter to young leaders in northeast Indiana. Through the efforts of our Community Engagement and Advocacy committee, collectively, YLNI has made statements and taken positions on several local initiatives. These include but are not limited to the development of Parkview Field, Fort Wayne Riverfront development, the development of Electric Works, the redevelopment of The Landing, and Right-to-Work efforts.
- You’re supporting the YLNI Farmers Market, a summer weekend destination for thousands of residents and visitors to Fort Wayne that was established in 2005. Happening on Barr Street between Wayne and Berry Streets at the historic Barr Street plaza located behind The History Center, the market is available to vendors for a very low rental fee. Local human resources professionals and C-suite level executives have told YLNI leadership that the market is one of the things they always mention when recruiting new employees. It attracts talent, which is our objective in all our efforts.
- Local music thrives as a result of your investment at the Living Fort Wayne Concert Series. The free concert series just completed its fifth year. The events put local musicians in the spotlight while music goers enjoy dinner available from local food trucks and drinks from a local bar, all happening at Headwaters Park. It’s the perfect summer celebration using one of our city’s great parks, giving local musicians a chance to build their fan base through performance, and giving local chefs the opportunity to share their food with the masses. You’re missing out if you haven’t attended a Living Fort Wayne concert, which is partially supported through membership fees.
- You're supporting leadership development in emerging young leaders through Leadership Institute, which has an alumni network of over 400. This is one of YLNI’s most successful programs. The 2019 class will be the 14th group to go through the course, which has grown and evolved since 2006. Aimed to develop the leadership skills of participants, the Leadership Institute can easily be credited as the program that brought me closer to YLNI. If you’re looking for a way to expand your network and develop your professional skills, consider applying for this program, held annually from January through April.
- You’re part of a network behind the Fort Wayne Commitment and Inclusivity Pledge. The Pledge has been signed by over 50 local businesses, and members of Fort Wayne’s City Council. Business leaders continue to sign the pledge, which was initiated in early 2017. YLNI believes in the pledge and the businesses represented on it who promise to “promote a working environment that is welcoming and conducive to the success of all.” By joining, you are part of a network promoting inclusivity in northeast Indiana.
- You’ll have the opportunity to make an actual difference in your city by joining one of the committees working to create unique opportunities in Fort Wayne. You get back as much as you put in. I joined YLNI in 2014 and my involvement has only grown since. Some join to network. Others join to build their leadership skills. Whatever your reason, we have a place for you to make a difference!
- Membership fees allow for low-cost opportunities to meet with, talk to, and get to know local leaders who will help you grow as a leader, and who regularly collaborate with YLNI to move the needle on necessary community initiatives. Want to spend your summer lunch hours getting to personally know a local leader? Apply for the Power Lunch Series. Interested in learning how the owners of local businesses became successful? Hear their story straight from them, and get the chance to ask them questions at View from the Top. The leaders in our community want to hear from our demographic! These are unique opportunities to building relationships with some of them.
- Monthly Hot Spots allow members and non-members to network and learn about our programs, as well as get to know each other professionally and personally. Taking place on the third Thursday of each month, Hot Spots happen at different locations to give us a view inside different restaurants around town. Come have a drink with us after work, learn about our programs from those already involved, and make a few new friends.
- Speaking of friends, that’s one of the best reasons to join YLNI. Friends. You’ll find some awesome people involved with YLNI. I’ve developed lasting relationships with so many people as a result of my involvement!
- Members are invited to cool community events, like the NYE Bash that we’re partnering with Don Hall’s to host on New Year’s Eve! If your friends are struggling to make solid plans for one of the biggest party nights of the year, YLNI has got you covered! This is only one of many community partnerships we’re involved with. We depend on the community to fully support us since we’re 100% volunteer based. We give back to them as often as we’re able to do so.
- Our members have the opportunity to write about things they’re passionate about in our community through the Living Fort Wayne blog. Writers highlight events, places to explore, and more in the blog. Learn more about where to hang out and what’s happening around town, and better yet, write about what you think is blog-worthy by volunteering with Living Fort Wayne.
If you’re interested in any of these things, please reach out to me! I am happy to connect you with any of our committees, give you general information about our organization, or join you at your first Hot Spot. If you’ve thought about joining but haven’t yet… what are you waiting for?
Kourtney Teegardin, VP of Membership