A Portland-based leadership group is starting a program to encourage young professionals to get involved in their communities.

The Institute of Civic Leadership’s Young Emerging Leaders Pilot Program will begin in September to prepare people in their 20s and 30s to serve on nonprofit organizations’ boards. The hope is that community involvement will root them in the Portland area and combat the “brain drain” that happens when young professionals seek opportunities outside the state.

Many young adults are very active in their college communities but are unsure how to take that into the broader community and the work world, said Samantha DePoy-Warren, a spokeswoman for the Institute for Civic Leadership.

A study in 2008 by the Washington, D.C.-based Urban Institute showed that, nationwide, only about 6 percent of nonprofit board members were younger than 35.

DePoy-Warren said the Portland area is ripe with energized young people who want to participate. “They don’t want to just put stamps on mailings and make phone calls, they want to get involved in a greater way,” she said.

Laura LeBrun, marketing and communications manager for PROPEL, the arm of the Portland Regional Chamber for young professionals, agrees.

“I hear a lot of, ‘How can I get involved more?’” LeBrun said of her roughly 450 members. “It’s great to set a path for these people to get involved in their community.”

From Sept. 10 through mid-December, the participants will go through leadership training, mostly on nights and weekends, as well as instruction on the operation of nonprofits.

They will be paired with mentors and matched with nonprofits that fit their interests and skills. They will then be expected to serve six months to three years with an organization.

The program will shine a light on what is largely an untapped human resource, said John Shoos, senior vice president of community impact for the United Way of Greater Portland.

Shoos said the program will give nonprofits a better understanding of young people, and a fresh perspective.

Participants will pay $250 for the program, which includes an overnight retreat to Cow Island. The full cost of attendance has been offset by sponsors, including $10,000 from Norton Insurance and Financial.

Friday was the deadline to apply for the program, which began taking applications late last month.

Twenty-five applicants will be selected, out of about 60 applications expected this year.

In Grand Rapids, Mich., a similar program has been “immensely successful,” said Kevin Stotts, vice president of community programs for the Center for Community Leadership.

Two of the graduates are now running against each other in a congressional race.


Staff Writer Stephanie Hardiman can be contacted at 791-6301 or at: [email protected]