The group is planning a dinner to honor 40 professionals under 40.
YOUNGSTOWN -- With an eye toward the future, a group of young professionals believes that it will be a driving force as the next generation of leaders in the Mahoning Valley.
Established in July 2003, the Mahoning Valley Professional 20/30 Club is a nonprofit organization that links "young professional men and women who are seeking to enhance their careers through social, charitable and educational activities."
A former staffer at Cohen & amp; Co. Certified Public Accountants, Mike Latessa, was one of the founding members of the organization along with fellow 1997 Cardinal Mooney High School graduates Joe Gregory and Joe Cerni.
Latessa, who serves as president of the group, said the idea to start a 20/30 group here came from his counterparts at Cohen & amp; Co.'s Akron office. He said, "We didn't want to reinvent the wheel, so we just took what worked for the group there and adjusted it to work for us."
Combating 'brain drain'
The Mahoning Valley is now among several other cities around the country that have active 20/30 clubs or young leadership organizations including Akron, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, New Orleans and Milwaukee.
Latessa emphasized that the members believe the organization can make a significant impact in the Mahoning Valley.
"We want to be a force in attracting and keeping our young talent in the community. We want to eliminate the 'brain drain;' we want to change the notion that there are no young people here or that they've all decided to leave," he said.
Meeting new people
Julie Scarsella, 30, who is the group's charitable director and a member of the board of directors, noted that the MVP 20/30 club has been a positive vehicle for networking.
"It's nice to have an outlet to meet new people in other fields and have a chance to network with them," she stressed.
"I think we try to promote things in the area that are progressive, and we stand for all that is progressive," noted board member Scott Schulick, a 33-year-old investment broker for Butler Wick & amp; Co. Inc. He added that the group's members are working toward a new vision of what can be accomplished here.
Latessa explains that the MVP 20/30 club, with more than 100 members, is active on a variety of levels. Mixers are held on the third Thursday of each month at different locations in the area to create an effective environment for networking and meeting other young professionals.
In addition, each month they hold what they call an "Art Mob," visiting a different artistic venue to become familiar with the assets of the valley. Also, members golf every week at the Mill Creek Park Golf Course.
Fulfilling a mission
Latessa, who recently announced his candidacy for representative from the 60th district, said other important components of the club's mission center on education and charitable projects.
One such project that will move the club's goals forward is the plan to hold an annual "40 under 40 Awards" dinner to recognize young professionals in the Mahoning Valley who have already advanced in their careers and have made significant contributions through their volunteer efforts. Organizers explain that 40 individuals will be honored on November 17, and from that number, five outstanding nominees will receive special recognition and awards as the "MVP's 40 under 40."
Meanwhile, all proceeds from the event will benefit the new Young Philanthropist Fund that the club has established through the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley. Grants will then be given to nonprofit organizations through the fund in consultation with the Community Foundation. Latessa said this will cultivate the importance of philanthropy and giving to the next generation.
As a cutting edge organization, the MVP 20/30 Club will hold its "40 under 40 Awards" dinner at the new Convocation Center, now about 80 percent completed.
Scarsella, who most recently served as program director of Youth Leadership Mahoning Valley, said that the committee was eager to be among the first to use the facility and support a new downtown business.
Schulick, one of the youngest individuals to be named as a Youngstown State University trustee and chair of the awards committee dinner, boasted that it will not be what most people are accustomed to at such functions.
"It's not going to be a traditional chicken dinner. It's going to be interactive, with lights and video, multi-media," he promised.
Nominations for the award will be accepted until Monday, and those interested in becoming a member of the MVP 20/30 Club are invited to visit its Web site at www.mvp2030club.org.