Guest post by Mallory Kowal, Health Coordinator with TAVHealth at Mercy Accountable Care Organization in Des Moines
Last week, I experienced my first encounters of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network kind. My newfound interest in reading the Business Record is partly responsible for this exploration, as its recent issues feature several impressive individuals who identified as members of this group. But what really drew me in was the active engagement of the website and social media presence. Reviewing the many upcoming and past professional, social, and educational opportunities, I thought to myself, ‘Wow, they really get a lot done.’
I started my professional life in Des Moines in 2011 as an AmeriCorps VISTA for Central Iowa Shelter and Services. I could have significantly benefited from YNPN; the other VISTAs and I ran into a lot of dead ends and would have flourished with the support of other nonprofit community leaders. Though my current position is in healthcare and technology, I still strive to make those valuable nonprofit connections because I recognize that the more acquainted I am with the nonprofit world, the better I can assist patients who depend on their services.
It was a Monday and there was a new member social happening at Quinton’s about an hour after I get off work. Quinton’s is comfortable – bright and spacious enough where a newcomer wouldn’t feel like a focal point, Plus, they have a happy hour I can get with. So I brought my best “for-profit friend” and we moseyed on up to the small group that had gathered. The next hour passed in pleasant company where we shared laughs and experiences (professional and not), and I felt that I had met a distinctly refreshing genre of Des Moinesian.
Toeing the water had proven to be agreeable, so I decided to attend a discussion group a few days later on how to connect with colleges, led by Iowa Campus Compact and representatives of our local higher educational institutions – Drake, DMU, Simpson, Central, Iowa State, and the University of Iowa. Keeping with the “room-to-grow” feeling, this meeting was held at West End Salvage – an even brighter and more open space – and I was impressed to see three full tables of young people, even though it was 8 a.m. on a Thursday. I purchased a delicious café au lait and found a seat.
Throughout the discussion, I learned that many nonprofits had partnered with local colleges with strong results: Drake has a community initiative that drives students and faculty members to foster positive change within the surrounding neighborhoods, DMU students hosted a health fair for clients of the Easter Seals of Iowa, Central College used GIS mapping to aid DMARC in their aim to identify food islands and opportunities through outreach, and the University of Iowa is co-writing grants with the Iowa Cancer Consortium.
These successes in health, technology, and financial services assured me that although I am no longer a student, universities are both packed with incredible resource capacities and still very accessible. I was grateful to find that my peers had also retained an undying love for their alma mater, and channeled this devotion into game-changing accomplishments and reciprocal relationships.
In short, the morning was positively inspiring, and I walked away with some priceless new connections to other young professionals and my head buzzing with ideas. Thank you to YNPN for existing, and keep up the amazing work!