Young professionals working to shape Tallahassee’s future | Opinion

From the Tallahassee Democrat

In the face of so much uncertainty, what kind of impact could be made by a group of young professionals in Tallahassee? This was the quintessential question members of Access Tallahassee asked during the pandemic and with optimism, we set out to emphatically answer the call.

Access Tallahassee is an affiliate program of the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce made up of young, and young at heart, professionals whose purpose is to connect with motivated young professionals in the community to grow personally and professionally.

Outside of networking events, the membership looked to engage the community in ways that would continue long after the pandemic subsides. With this passion, Access Tallahassee created several initiatives over the last year and a half. There was no task too big or too small that Access was unwilling to address, from downtown cleanup projects to constructing free libraries in neighborhoods across the community.

The Access to Reading initiative offers access to books across Tallahassee. Our first free library was installed this past July at the TallaVilla Apartment complex with others being installed in the Whispering Pines neighborhood, Nims Middle School and Ox Bottom Crest. We believe that one of the fundamental keys to achieving success in academics is the ability to read on grade level early on. Being able to offer equitable access to books across our community was the cornerstone of this initiative.

Within Access, we recognize that the decisions of the Tallahassee we will live in 10 and 20 years from today are being made now and there are many young professionals who are helping drive those decisions.

From this, we created the Future 5 Awards with the intent to support and recognize up-and-coming leaders in our community who are doing extraordinary things. This year, we had the privilege to honor Tonette Graham (Florida Association of Counties), Summer Griffith (Drip Drop Fitness), Devan Leavins (City of Tallahassee), Barby Moro (RedEye Coffee) and Luke Thompson (Ajax Building Company).

After a brief hiatus, we were excited to be able to bring back our Tally Job Hop this fall. This event was focused on the tech industry and gave current college students a nearly full-day visit to some of North Florida’s top tech businesses looking to recruit talent from local universities. Students interacted with company leadership and learned about the corporate culture, the types of projects they were working on and current job openings. Of the 16 students who participated in this event, four were hired within 60 days of the event.

Finally, Access will be launching its newest initiative in January. The Access Mentorship Program will connect young professionals with community leaders who have had a profound impact on Tallahassee both personally and professionally. Mentors and protégés will meet monthly over a six-month period discussing topics from professional development to how to utilize personal strengths to engage the community.

This is the first year the program will be offered, and we are excited to see the results of the partnerships created and to continue the program for many years to come.

This new generation of leaders is relentlessly positive – helping our community prosper through volunteerism, mentorship and job growth. I invite you to come join Access as we work towards driving economic prosperity and community prosperity forward, together.

Philip Browning is the District Sales Manager of North Florida Payroll Services and the 2021 Chair of Access Tallahassee.