Stephanie Veit is immediate past president of Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana.
In July, I concluded my role as president with an organization called Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana. I know what you are thinking: It's a tongue twister. The name has been around for 12 years now, and I don't predict it changing anytime soon. Everything this organization stands for is complicated; nothing about it is simple. The name fits.
Many people have asked me: What does YLNI do? Most people think it is a social club that holds monthly networking events. There is so much more to it.
Since I am not a Fort Wayne native, I decided to become engaged in my new community when I moved here 15 years ago.
Fast forward to today; it was a life-changing decision!
I had not heard much about YLNI prior to my arrival, but this group does so much for our community.
As an all-volunteer organization, YLNI has a 16-member board of directors and a network of more than 2,500 individuals.
These people volunteer hundreds of hours of their time and talents – not to be recognized but to help our community be better tomorrow than it is today.
Although YLNI does a myriad of things really well, it doesn't share its story very well. That's likely because promoting its accomplishments the last 12 years has not been a top priority.
Many business leaders, community leaders and residents do not know the breadth and depth of YLNI. This organization has some of the most passionate people I have ever met. I challenge anyone to find an organization that hosts a four-month Leadership Institute program, a weekly Farmers Market, a Summer Concert Series, a biannual My City Summit, a Candidate Boot Camp class, a Meet the Candidates Night, a voter brochure to inform area voters and monthly Hot Spots. These are just some of the programs and events that people see from the outside.
What most people do not realize is that YLNI also advocates for things people in Fort Wayne are passionate about. YLNI has supported and advocated for big projects such as Parkview Field, right to work, riverfront development, the Regional Cities Initiative, The Landing and, most recently, the local income tax increase for the betterment of our sidewalks, alleys and riverfront.
YLNI has also advocated for Let's Give Allen County Day and the Fort Wayne Community Schools' 2016 referendum to improve its schools, as well as speaking out against the state's RFRA law.
I recently sat through a YLNI strategic planning session.
The session was focused on things such as a more engaged and attached young demographic, a more inclusive population, helping our community be recognized as a destination, and training young leaders to be more influential and prepared to lead. These are all big things to strive toward!
Reflection is not something I have been good at in the past. My world, like everybody else's, is filled with many jobs. I am a full-time mom, full-time employee and full-time volunteer. But now, as I think back over a two-year presidency and five-year board term, I can't help but be extremely thankful for YLNI. I will be forever grateful for making some of the strongest relationships I have in my life.
So to YLNI, thank you. Thank you for helping me gain lifelong friends. Thank you for being a voice for the young professionals in our region.
Thank you for tireless hours spent volunteering and putting on events for our future leaders. Thank you for helping to improve the quality of life in this region.
Because of YLNI, we played a large role in making this city different than it was 15 years ago. We added to the momentum in Fort Wayne. We set the vision for the next generation of leaders in Fort Wayne.
If you still do not know what YLNI is, call me, email me or ask around. It might be the best decision you have ever made.
YLNI helped make Fort Wayne my new hometown, and it just might help you, too.