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Employers Must Play Key Role in Millennial Civic Engagement

Aug 25, 2014

Employers Must Play Key Role in Millennial Civic Engagement

By Julie Meehan, HYPE Executive Director, MetroHartford Alliance and Steven Zakrzewski, Associate, Gordon & Rees, HYPE Vice Chair of Civic Engagement

Millennials are the current and future leaders of our community. They contribute to our workforce, vibrant neighborhoods and economic development. This group is also passionate about the social issues that impact our community on a daily basis, like healthcare, education, the environment and the overall political climate. Millennials can be outspoken and influential, and it is vital that local organizations and employers foster and harness their energy and enthusiasm.

Julie Meehan, HYPE Executive Director,
MetroHartford Alliance
Steven Zakrzewski
Steven Zakrzewski, Associate, Gordon & Rees,
HYPE Vice Chair of Civic Engagement

We need to engage and develop these leaders to be more than productive employees – we need them to understand and address the issues that will determine the future the Greater Hartford Region. Some companies provide young professional groups in-house, while others encourage their workforce to participate through extra-curricular organizations and activities. Many of these companies recognize that when one of their younger employees serves on the board of a local nonprofit or planning committee, it is an investment in their future. We should all be of this mindset.

There are many options in this region for Millennials to get involved with social and civic issues, and it is important that they find the right organization with members who share their passion for improving our home. One such organization is Hartford Young Professionals & Entrepreneurs (HYPE), created in 2006 by the MetroHartford Alliance to help attract and retain young talent to the Greater Hartford Region. HYPE has blossomed into one of the largest initiatives of its kind in the nation, serving over 4,000 members and hosting more than sixty events annually, many of which are community-oriented. HYPE is working to help the region’s young professional workforce to develop strong ties to this community, and in turn decreasing the chances of them leaving the state.

The creation of HYPE’s Civic Engagement Committee, a group of volunteers that aims to distribute information about political and social issues affecting our younger workforce, is an example of young professionals who do not only care about having a career and making money, but also want to positively impact the community they share with co-workers, friends and family. While some issues can be divisive, they also create a healthy dialogue among some of the brightest minds in our community and help affect positive change. The committee has found a niche in connecting its members to important leaders and information in fun, non-traditional ways, including a well-attended event series called Keep Calm and Hartford On (KCHO) that focuses on issues such as housing, public safety and the economic impact of the XL Center renovations in a game show-type setting.

There’s a common belief that Millennials are not as engaged as prior generations, but this is far from the truth. The growth of organizations like HYPE is proof that young professionals are entrenched in this community for the long haul, and that their employers are supportive of their efforts. If we can continue on the path of developing tomorrow’s leaders both inside the workplace and out in the community, our the Greater Hartford Region is in good hands.

For more information on HYPE, please visit


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