creativity, culture, community
Atlanta, GA — “This year’s Young Gamechangers program is focused on Dublin and Laurens County,” states Howard Franklin, Executive Director of GeorgiaForward. “35 Young Gamechangers have spent the last six months exploring ideas and solutions to help this community thrive in the 21st century. We are excited about their vision and level of engagement, and we hope that Dublin will find value in, and implement, some of their proposals. We feel the Young Gamechangers will move the conversation forward on how this community can be a model in Georgia and the nation. The public is invited to join us as the Young Gamechangers present their ideas at a special event at historic Theatre Dublin in Dublin, Georgia from 2-4 pm on Friday, June 20.”
The Young Gamechangers spent two working weekends in Dublin. They met with key stakeholders, learned about the history of the area, explored neighborhoods, and visited a variety of businesses and organizations. They were divided into three groups to delve deeper and come up with fresh ideas, initiatives and solutions to these three questions:
Dublin’s business and community leaders are eagerly awaiting the presentations on June 20. Among those expected to attend are: Dublin Mayor Phil Best; Dublin City Manager George Roussell; Jeff Davis, President of Alterra Networks and Young Gamechangers alumni; and Joshua Kight, Executive Director of the Dublin Downtown Development Authority.
The Young Gamechangers are made up of young professionals between the ages of 20 and 40 who work in diverse sectors including business, law, non-profit, arts and culture, education, finance, politics, tourism, marketing, urban and economic development. Here are some comments from Young Gamechangers about the Dublin/Laurens County project.
Ingrid M. Varn is Executive Director of the Vidalia Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. She earned two degrees from the University of South Carolina, a bachelor’s degree in International Studies and a master’s degree in Public Administration. Ingrid worked in legal marketing and owned a shipping store in Vidalia before starting her career in tourism in 2010. She plays an active role on the Vidalia Onion Festival Committee as the Marketing and Advertising Chair.
“Our group is looking at Gateways into Dublin,” says Varn. “We really want to help them create a consistent look and a brand that stands out. Interestingly, we looked at Orlando, Florida as a model. When you approach that city, you know exactly where you are.”
“This group of Young Gamechangers is a broad cross section of personalities and professional expertise,” adds Varn. “They are smart and engaged, and they have a sense of ownership about this project.”
Christopher J. Cooper is an accomplished author, coach, trainer and speaker. He was the youngest Senior Manager ever with a major Fortune 100 Company to start three businesses, a two-time Who’s Who in Black Atlanta, and was featured on the UNCF Empower ME Tour. Chris was featured in the AT&T 28 Days Movers & Shakers Campaign and was selected as one of 31 individuals to become a Tony Robbins Elite Results Coach. Chris has worked and consulted for over 55 Fortune 500 Companies saving them millions of dollars, and has transferred that success to his own business and life coaching practice.
“We studied the international appeal of Dublin and looked at education as a catalyst for international expansion.” states Chris Cooper. “The area needs to think internationally to attract internationally. We were excited to learn that there is a new International Baccalaureate program at Dublin High School. This program will help prepare students to go to Ivy League schools. Not only is that good news for area residents, but we think if they promote this, along with a few of our other educationally-focused ideas, to international companies, it will be a big plus in getting them interested in locating to the area.”
Atlanta native Trayce Striggles currently serves as the Associate Director of Nonprofit Development for the Chick-fil-A Foundation. In her role she evaluates applications, provides recommendations, and monitors funded program progress. Before coming to Chick-fil-A, Striggles worked for Clayton County Public Schools System as a history instructor at the secondary level. She is a graduate of Spelman College and has a Master’s of Science in Public Policy Planning from the Andrew Young School of Public Policy at Georgia State University. She was chosen one of the “Top 25 Women of Atlanta” by Steed Media Group.
“In looking at ways to attract traffic to downtown Dublin my group is working on a special slogan,” teases Striggles. “Without giving too much away let’s just say that sometimes the road less traveled is the most exiting one to take.”
“I hope that our proposals will help Dublin continue to thrive,” continues Striggles. “We are offering new ideas, but we are also reaffirming a couple of ideas that they have considered but didn’t know how to get started. Recommendations on implementation are what we can add.”
Sarah Roche was born and raised in middle Georgia. She studied linguistics at the University of Georgia and graduated magna cum laude in 2006. In 2007, Sarah earned her master’s degree from Harvard University in Mind, Brain and Education. She has held a variety of positions in the non-profit and education sectors including three years managing after-school programs in the DC public school system. Sarah and her husband Will returned to Macon in 2010. She is currently working for a local Promise Neighborhood initiative, a collective impact strategy focused on improving the educational and developmental outcomes of children and youth in distressed communities.
“In studying how to create an appealing gateway into Dublin our group considered it from three points of view,” explains Sarah Roche. “We viewed it from vehicle traffic; as pedestrians and bike riders; and with new technologies in mind, from the perspective of virtual traffic. We got into some fascinating discussions and I think we have devised some great actionable steps.”
“What surprised me about Dublin is how ready their leadership is to make big things happen there,” says Roche.
Austin Dickson is the executive director of Literacy Action, the oldest, largest, and leading adult basic education nonprofit in the Southeast. There he oversees management, fundraising, and advocacy efforts for the 45-year old organization. Previously, he worked as the Director of Philanthropy for Action Ministries, a statewide homeless services and basic needs organization. He has also worked for The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta on regional and environmental initiatives. A Texas native and TCU graduate, Austin earned master’s degrees in religion from The University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and Emory University, and in public policy from Georgia Tech.
“We had discussions around workforce alliances and strategies,” says Dickson of the work being done by his group. “We considered the situation in terms attraction and retention, and then we went further to explore the idea of developing the potential workforce that is there in Laurens County. I brought grassroots, poverty fighting skills to the table and we had some vigorous debates because of our different business backgrounds and experiences.”
“Dublin/Laurens County is open to new ideas,” adds Dickson. “The top people in management and the administration have gotten involved and made it clear that they want our help. I’d love to see one or two of our ideas incorporated into the community’s strategic plan and to see them get a big win.”
Sponsors for this year’s Young Gamechangers program includethe Georgia Municipal Association, the City of Dublin, Laurens County Board of Commissioners, Dublin Downtown Development Authority, Dublin-Laurens Tourism Council, Dublin-Laurens County Chamber of Commerce, Dublin-Laurens County Development Authority and Alterra Networks.
GeorgiaForward is an independent, non-partisan organization working to improve the state of Georgia by engaging business, political, academic and civil leaders to collaboratively shape a statewide policy agenda. For more information about the Young Gamechangers program, visit their web site: http://georgiaforward.org/young-gamechangers.
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