Chamber event brings young professionals together

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ROME — “A great way to make connections” and “learning how to grow as a community” — those were some comments from young business representatives from the area who attended the inaugural Rome Young Professionals group meeting Thursday at Crust Kitchen & Bar on Hangar Road.

RYP strives to be a dynamic group of young professionals who work together to build strong professional relationships, learn from their peers and colleagues, and give back to and get involved in the Rome community. Conversations buzzed among the attendees Thursday as business representatives introduced who they were, what they represent and made connections.

“The expectation was to come here and get into the community — explore the opportunities out there and connect with local companies and organizations,” said Jaime Evanoff, client adviser with M.A. Polce Consulting, 401 Phoenix Drive.

RYP hopes to serve as a catalyst for connecting, developing, and empowering young professionals through:

Connecting: Provide a space for young professionals to connect with each other while supporting local businesses;

Developing: RYP will host a series of professional development programs, where young professionals can continue to learn and grow;

Giving back: RYP will host a series of community engagement opportunities so that as a group, they can be part of volunteering to help the community where they work and live.

Andrew Cotronea, CSTEP grant coordinator at SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Marcy, said he attended the inaugural event to connect with professionals and companies that can provide future opportunities for students. The Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) is a program funded by the State Education Department to increase the number of students from under-represented groups who are pursuing professional licensure and careers in law, mathematics, science, technology and health-related fields.

“As a CSTEP grant coordinator, I came here to make connections with and get to know the ‘bread and butter’ of the community, and get some inspiration as to what opportunities may be available for our students,” Cotronea said. “That way, we’re not only creating opportunities that can help lift our students to success that would help uplift the economy, but in turn, it helps the community grow as a whole. There’s great value in making connections.”

Rome Rotary President Steve Mercurio happened to be at Crust and said he was impressed to see young professionals making connections so that they can work to make the community a better place. He said it’s not only important to support the success of young people in order to encourage them to come and stay in Rome, but it’s equally important to connect different generations so that they work together.

“It’s nice that the people here have a place where they can talk about things of mutual interest,” he said. “You always want young people to come to work and live in the community, but we need that bridge between the older generations” in order to share ideas.

Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo said the creation of the RYP group was a “great idea,” and what young people are thinking about their community is always of interest.

“We’re building a community for the next generation, so any networking our young professionals can do, is great,” Izzo said.

Crust Owner Christopher Destito, a “young professional” himself, said he was pleased with the turnout for the meeting, held in conjunction with the Rome Area Chamber of Commerce.

“This is a bigger crowd than I expected,” the host said. “It’s a good mix of people, from all different kinds of businesses, and it’s nice to see these connections happening.”

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