Archive for Wednesday, December 6, 2006

New organization targets county’s young professionals

December 6, 2006

Young Professionals of Leavenworth County has its share of younger members, but age doesn't matter when it comes to membership in the newly formed group.

Some members are older, including one man who is in his 70s.

But as Phil Parsons, one of the group's founders, pointed out, anyone can join and it's more important to be "young-minded."

The group was founded in June, when Parsons started working at MidAmerican Bank and Trust in Leavenworth. Parsons, who is 28, had discussions with bank colleague Aladdin Ashkar, who is 27. Ashkar told Parsons that it was thought Lawrence and Atchison had young professionals groups, but not Leavenworth County.

"Realistically there just isn't anything in Leavenworth County for that," Parsons said.

Ashkar envisioned a group of people aged 20 to 40 who could gather to network and become more educated by having speakers address the group.

The group had its first monthly meeting in September. Last month, the group had its largest crowd when nearly 50 people attended.

"We really expected it to be pretty successful, but not quite this soon," Ashkar said. "We found something that people were looking for in our community and so far it's been very, very, very good."

Membership is free and anyone is considered a member by attending a meeting.

For each month's meeting, a different business is considered the "sponsor" for that meeting, and if possible, another speaker gives and educational discussion. For instance, a Baker University representative from Baldwin spoke about a new program at the college. Sponsoring businesses provide appetizers for that month's event. During the meeting, a representative from that business speaks about the business. The sponsorship has been popular, as sponsors are lined up through 2008.

Parsons, who is an Omaha, Neb., native and an Oklahoma State University graduate, said meetings are informal. Last month, the group went bowling, while the December meeting was at High Noon Saloon in Leavenworth.

Ashkar already has designed a Young Professionals of Leavenworth County logo. And, the group's mission statement is this: "To provide a minimal-cost opportunity to network growth and educate young professionals in Leavenworth County."

According to Parsons, the group has grown simply by word of mouth. And with Ashkar, the two made a list of potential young professionals in the county of whom they were aware and informed them of the group through e-mails, which they continue to do.

Typically, the group meets at 5:30 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month. So far, the group has met at establishments in Leavenworth and Lansing, but hopes to have meetings in southern Leavenworth County, such as in Basehor and Tonganoxie. And, eventually, they would like to get Easton into the mix in northern Leavenworth County.

Ashkar, an Immaculata High School graduate who attended Kansas University and later graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, said he hopes the group will continue to grow.

"It's all about getting to know young people, network with others and hopefully one day get the baton passed from us in the Leavenworth County community to the next level," Ashkar said, referring to the next generation of young professionals in the area.

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