YPN members committed to growing South Bend

At the core of any place are relationships. It is the people who collaborate, create and take risks that shape the soul of a city.
Engagement creates movement and in South Bend a tremendous source of energy beats with a group called the Young Professionals Network.
“YPN is a group of young professionals who are and will be the next leaders of the city of South Bend,” regular attendee Coy Brown explains. “We need people to be the next wave, to inspire those around them and help bring people together and support the richness of the community.”
Initiated by the South Bend Regional Chamber in 2005, the Young Professionals Network is comprised of a chamber liaison and a volunteer advisory board. YPN seeks to develop, connect and empower individuals ages 21 to 39 from the South Bend area through regular events, many of which can be attended by simply showing up and buying lunch.
“We truly aim to develop, connect and empower all young professionals,” says Briana Stiner, South Bend Regional Chamber Manager of Programming and Communications and YPN liaison. “We give them tools to develop into the professional they aim to be, connect them to other professionals and empower them to do more than they thought they could.”
Opportunities are a natural byproduct of participating with YPN, Coy says.
“It’s significant because you have like-minded individuals who are coming together, not just for networking events, but who want to create a culture of friendship, effectiveness and progression.”
YPN’s current chair, Erin Bonin, originally from Wisconsin, says when she got involved with the group a few years after she moved to the area, it was small, but already offering great ways to learn about the area, things to do and ways to meet other young people.
“The rest is history!” Erin says. “My favorite thing to do now as a more veteran participant is to talk to people at events that are new transplants to the area. I love to be able to share what I’ve learned and help them connect with resources that are of interest to them.”
Erin voiced a lot of excitement for the YP Summit — the first event of its kind — that is expecting to draw around 300 young professionals from across the region. The Oct. 9 event will be a half-day conference featuring two keynote presentations by Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw and associate head coach Niele Ivey and breakout sessions and a networking reception to follow.
“It really is the biggest thing we’ve ever done,” she says. “We’ve had a tremendous response from regional chambers of commerce and other YP groups throughout northern Indiana and southwest Michigan,” Erin says.
YPN events in the past have drawn anywhere between 30 and 150 professionals. About 1,700 people are receiving communications from the group.
Amanda Gadacz joined the group nearly 11 years ago because a friend of hers was involved and they needed help planning events. She says the non-membership style is a really attractive feature.
“You don’t have to have a specific job title, pay membership fees and you aren’t forced to attend,” she says. “You literally get out of it what you put in. … Some of my deepest relationships have derived from YPN.”
Amanda says people from all over the country have made friendships and been exposed to unique opportunities, including jobs, and that there truly is value for all involved.
“There is something in it for everyone,” she says. “I think often people put too much emphasis on the ‘professional’ part and assume that means it is not for them. If you work in manufacturing, education, lawn care, medical, etc., you are a professional of some sort and I can guarantee you would get something out of becoming a part of our group.”

Photos by Emily Sobecki