By Katie Sobiech
This generation of young adults may be known for moving away from Akron in search of a brighter future, but many have yet to realize that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side! Torchbearers, a diverse group of emerging community leaders ages 25-39, proves this to be true.
For the past 10 years, Torchbearer’s has been digging into the richness and uniqueness of Akron that can’t be found anywhere else. From Akron’s heart for the charity and non-profit world, to its collaborations of people passionate about making a difference, to its art, history, and local gardening/farming movements that are sprouting up; all of these things make it a unique city, full of depth, unlike any other.
Those who haven’t realized this may just not have known where to look…
The Challenge for Twenty-Something’s
“There’s a new challenge of mid-to-late twenty-something’s. They have their network that they went to school with, or work with, but there’s this whole other community in town that they don’t know about. Unless you happen to sit next to them at a bar or concert or whatever, you’re not going to meet them,” Kyle Kutuchief , Director of Development at the Austen-Bio Innovation Institute, said.
“I got involved (in Torchbearers) to figure out what was going on in town and also to meet people outside of my current network. That proved to be the most valuable piece of being involved,” Kutuchief continued.
His friend, President of Torchbearers, and Private Wealth Manager with UBS Financial Services, Brian Pollak, agrees.
Before Torchbearers, he says “I didn’t see a reason to do much outside of my day job and hanging out with my buddies. That was just a few years ago. Now I’m incredibly engaged through the Torchbearers,” Pollak, who’s been with the Torchbearers since 07′, said.
“Once I got into it, it really became contagious and opened a lot of doors to get involved in the community,” he continued.
The Key to Connecting
As Torchbearer’s enters into their 10th year of existence, their experience has provided many lessons learned.
“We found the way you really get to develop a relationship and know people is not by trading business cards and answering ‘what’s your favorite color’ and that kind of stuff, but to actually go do something with those people. To go out and find a community service project, be in a workshop where you’re sitting next to community leaders and getting their views and hearing other people’s opinions,”Kutuchief said.
They also find it important to join efforts with others, versus trying to start up a bunch of new projects from scratch.
“What you’ll see in Akron if you visit some of the other young professional groups is we have a lot of cross pollination going on and it’s a really positive thing,”Kutuchief said.
“We’re sharing ideas and best practices and looking for opportunities to collaborate (and find) who’s doing great stuff and how can we help them. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time we want to do something in Akron. Torchbearers will help lead the way in a lot of key areas and bring some of the other groups in to help us, and vice versa, we support everybody else,”Kutuchief continued.
Creating Solutions to City Problems
Torchbearer’s is a hands-on learning experience that invites one to dive right in and start learning, getting involved and creating connections.
“It’s about getting people to be a part of the solution, not the problem. Torchbearer’s is a solution. We’re trying to solve problems in the community and during that we’re getting young people involved and passionate about their own development in Akron and these organizations. Awesome things come out of the other end of that process,” Pollak said.
Their mission statement focuses on community service and leadership development, and they tackle these issues through several committees, including, the Event, Communications, and Membership Committees.
What to Expect
“We want the upper echelon of people that are committed to their own development and to making Akron a better place,” Pollak said.
The best words to describe what to expect is an action-packed first year, with the goal being to get individuals a baseline set of skills and exposure to the community.
“The goal is to present a menu of opportunities. The connections aren’t the same year after year. Each year the organization visits new non-profits and brings in new community leaders,”Kutuchief said of their evolvement.
“You will have all of these new sorts of connections to get a different perspective on the city,”Kutuchief continued, “And in a year or two you can actually apply that stuff, or get involved in something that sparks your interest.”
If you are interested in getting involved, this is the time of year that they take in new applications. Their next recruitment event, which they do only once a year, is on May 24th. Prospective members can meet existing Torchbearers and learn more about what the organization is about and see if it’s something they might want to be a part of in 2013.
To find out more about this recruitment and the Torchbearers please visit http://www.torchbearersakron.com
Stay tuned for Part 2 next week which is about some of the great connections you can make through Torchbearers and their “Change Maker Initiative”!