AUBURN | Members of the monthly Wednesday Morning Roundtable discussion group heard this month from a local organization that supports area young professionals.
IGNITE CNY: Cayuga County Young Professionals, which was formed in 2004, is dedicated to providing volunteer, networking and social events for young professionals who live and work in the region. Retention of young professionals in the area is also a goal, said presenters Hilary Ford, Jessica Cosentino and Jennie Huling, the group's 2013 chair. The trio provided a look at IGNITE's history and future plans Wednesday at the Theater Mack.
Although IGNITE is housed by the Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce, its members were insistent that the group is governed by young professionals and not controlled by the interests of the chamber or of any other organization.
"We are our own independent organization," Ford said.
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IGNITE initially stood for invest, grow, network, inspire, teach and empower, Ford said. The organization's early goals were fundraising and volunteering, but recently, the group's focus has shifted to helping young professionals in Cayuga County get connected with volunteering, networking and social opportunities.
"We are physically ... helping young professionals make their mark on this community," Ford said.
Although people of any age can join the group for $25 per year, members of the steering committee must be 40 years old or younger, Cosentino said.
The presenters said the group wants to stick closely to its mission of being governed by young professionals, and wants to empower and inspire them to take an active role in the community.
"Just because you're in your 20s or 30s, it doesn't mean you can't make change," Huling said.
IGNITE has successfully applied for state grants for some of its events, including IGNITE the Winter, which aims to get residents outside for a winter celebration, and IGNITE the Vote, which tries to get young professionals out voting and asking questions of candidates.
After the presentation, roundtable guests had the chance to ask questions of the presenters.
"Is it working?" asked Kathleen Connelly, a residential architect. "Are young people staying here?"
"We've tripled our membership," Ford answered. "We have quantifiable evidence that it's working."
Huling said membership dues are up, which is another sign that young people are here in Cayuga County and joining the group.
After the meeting, Lisa Marsh Ryerson, president of Wells College, said she wants to take action to partner with IGNITE.
"I found Jennie, Jessica and Hilary's presentation professional, passionate and inspiring," she said.
Marsh Ryerson said she was left with the impression that the group's goal is "improving the quality of life for all of us in Cayuga County."
"The leadership of IGNITE can inspire (college) students to be involved. That message of involvement resonates with the mission of Wells."
Staff writer Kelly Voll can be reached at 282-2239 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at CitizenVoll.