By Te-Erika Patterson
It was a crisp, clear night in Miami’s Design District as more than 70 young professionals and guests gathered during the interactive networking event, “Life: The Game.”
The event, presented by the Metro-Miami Action Plan Trust and Miami-Dade College (North Campus) at the Art Fusion Gallery on Nov. 30, offered various simulated “life stations.” Experts in health and fitness, wine, food and travel, business etiquette and social graces moderated the simulations.
The event was sponsored by the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce, created specifically for the members of the Young Professionals Network (YPN).
The chamber organized the YPN in October to attract, retain and empower the young, black professional community of South Florida.The group allows members access to established business professionals and a wealth of personal growth opportunities.
The organization targets young professionals between the ages of 25 and 40, and has attracted more than 50 new members since its inception.The group holds monthly meetings and caters to young black professionals from all career fields and at all levels. Membership dues are $100 annually and are re-invested into the plethora of activities hosted by the YPN.
Pembroke Pines resident Nerissa Street was introduced to the YPN after meeting chamber President Bill Diggs. He invited her to participate in a focus group that assessed the needs and concerns of the disconnected young, black professional community of South Florida.
The 33-year-old CEO of The Artist Initiative, an organization created to assist artists and entrepreneurs to gain financial stability, was eager to become a part of the YPN.
“After meeting everyone during the focus group, I realized that this was an organization that had progressive, upwardly mobile young professionals who were joining together to improve who they were,” Street said. “Honestly,” Street continued. “I need this group of upwardly mobile professionals because I need a place to serve. This is a group where I feel that I can make an impact, develop myself, and help others.”
During the Nov. 30 event, the Street’s “Culture Creates Commerce” lecture challenged participants to recognize the power of art and culture in business.
It was the perfect complement to other notable presentations by Harriet Cole, the creative director of Ebony magazine, as well as fitness experts Tanya and Kwaku James, who operate a personal coaching and fitness business in Miami Shores.“Life: The Game” was the fourth quarterly installment of the YPN’s Business Empowerment Networking Series. It was an example of the YPN’s effort to strengthen its membership and move forward with a goal of attracting the nation’s finest young, black professionals to South Florida.
Cedric McMinn, 29, a government relations specialist with the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff in Miami said, “I feel like YPN has changed my outlook on South Florida. It feels great to be a part of an organization that suits my personal and professional needs. YPN provides wonderful opportunities for young, black professionals like myself to strive even harder for success. As a member of YPN, I feel I am a part of the positive change that is going to occur in South Florida.”
For 28-year-old Marsha Griffiths, a Commercial Broker with Terranova, a commercial real estate advisory firm, the YPN was a much-needed boost for her connection to other professionals in South Florida.
“I have had the pleasure of meeting young professionals like myself including people who are natives of Miami as well as alumni of my alma mater, the University of Florida,” Griffith said. “During the first YPN meeting when we unveiled the issue of Success South Florida magazine featuring Mr. Diggs and other YPN members, there were numerous individuals in attendance at this event from so many professional backgrounds. I never thought these people existed in South Florida. I was in awe.”
As young professionals in the South Florida community are being connected and nurtured through this organization, many people are saluting Diggs for the implementation of his vision.
“I think Bill Diggs is the ‘Moses’ of YPN,” Griffiths said with a smile. “Long after Mr. Diggs is gone, his legacy will continue on as the founder of a movement that has fostered the growth of young, black professionals in South Florida. I look forward to the day that our city rivals the black, educated, professional population in cities like Atlanta, Chicago, and Washington, DC.”