I work on YPWeek events because they helped build my connection to Wisconsin

By:  Laura Schulte, USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

In the meeting, I sat completely still, staring at the little, colorful pieces of paper that hung in lines on the wall of the YWCA Wausau building in downtown.

Each paper carried the name of a possible event and the name of a young professional who will be in charge of overseeing it, making sure it goes off without a hitch during YPWeek at the end of April. We have about 12 weeks to pull it off.

I couldn't help but be overwhelmed. I was part of the group that planned 16 events during the 2017 YPWeek in Wausau, and I thought that was a lot of work. There were a lot more than 16 little colored papers hanging on the wall now. But as I listened to the planners who came up with these events chatter behind me, that feeling was replaced with feelings of optimism, of pride in our community and excitement to start planning the best YPWeek Wausau has ever seen. 

I know there are others across the state that are currently doing the same thing. I have friends in Milwaukee planning events. There are people in Madison bringing together different groups of young professionals to make a cohesive movement. On the shores of Lake Superior, several city and county groups are preparing to join the movement for the first time this April. It's not just Wausau on this boat. 

YPWeek is a week of planning and programming for young professionals (hence the Y and P) that usually populates the final week of April. The movement was started in 2012 in Milwaukee by the company Newaukee, which aims to change the ways that people connect with each other and their city. It started spreading to other communities in 2015. The goal was to provide a "week-long series of events focused on discovery, adventure and meaningful conversations about the issues that matter to young professionals," according to a post from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, which helps to sponsor the week

I got involved with YPWeek last year. I helped to co-chair the week for Wausau, overseeing the planners and the events that they put together in our community. It required some long days, some missed sleep and the carrying of boxes of T-shirts up a lot of stairs. I think I slept for like a day and a half after it was over. 

Why would I want to put myself through that again? Because YPWeek is a big reason I'm still in Wisconsin. When I moved here nearly two years ago, I didn't know anyone and had almost no connection to Wausau other than my job. I spent the first months of my time here at home, watching Netflix and planning my move out of Wisconsin. But thankfully, a friend encouraged me to get involved with YPWeek, and more broadly with the community, and here I still am. 

So why put myself through this again? Not only was YPWeek fun, but I also made connections. I started to see the highlights of the community, and all the challenges to be conquered.

David Harris and Lucy-Ann Muabe socialize during the Young Professionals of Manitowoc County Sip, Sample and Socialize event at the Artist's Lofts Wednesday, Apr. 26, 2017, in Manitowoc. (Photo: Josh Clark/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)

And I'm still involved with YPWeek, and all the work it entails, because I truly believe that it's accomplishing something in Wisconsin. It's giving young professionals a sense of Wisconsin as a place, connecting them to their communities, to a larger statewide network and to friends, which, let's face it, are pretty important to being happy. 

Young people are the next generation of workers, taking leadership roles and making decisions. It's pretty cool to see an investment in those people, a chance to make their voices heard and their creativity seen. 

Those colorful pieces of paper hanging on the wall at the YWCA represent more than just events and the work to come. They represent someone's desire to make our community more welcoming, more fun and passionate. 

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