By Katie Lannan
Upstairs at Hennessey’s on a Monday evening in late April, Lil' Jon was playing over the speakers, drinks were flowing and plates of cheese and crackers were passed around. A standard barroom scene, except for one detail: more than 100 under-30s mingled and made small talk, and many took the chance to casually chat with the Massachusetts attorney general.
“Martha Coakley’s in the room--how many times do you get to hang out with the attorney general?” asked Rachel O’h-Uiginn as she surveyed the crowd.
O’h-Uiginn is the co-director of the Boston chapter of New Leaders Council, a national organization seeking to foster tomorrow’s “political entrepreneurs” -- future elected officials and other civic-minded trendsetters. While cocktails with the AG might not be a twenty-something’s typical night out, NLC’s mission is to create a community of tomorrow’s leaders and give them the tools to succeed, like the connections formed at networking events.
“I think a lot of people can feel very lost after they graduate,” O’h-Uiginn said. “There’s that gap after college -- ‘I need friends, I want to stay interested in things I picked up in college, but I don’t have that outlet anymore.’
NLC Boston aims to provide that outlet, offering a five-month long entrepreneurship program that brings together a group of fellows one weekend each month for workshops and education sessions in areas including political management, new media, leadership and fundraising.
“We’re educating the next--or depending on how you look at it, the now -- generation of leaders,” said O’h-Uiginn. “It’s a great way for you to say, ‘I am a leader,’ rather than ‘I want to be a leader.’”
The selected NLC fellows go through a rigorous application process involving an exam, essay and interview. Interested fellowship candidates between the ages of 22 - 35 can begin applying in September of each year.
“We’re looking for people passionate about change, who are looking for that next step but don’t know how to get there,” said Robert Orthman, NLC Boston’s other co-director. “ They might say, ‘I’m 27 or 28 years old, and I’ve got a career and a graduate degree, but it’s not fulfilling to me. I want to do more.’”
Orthman said that NLC looks for young professionals with progressive interests, but that means a commitment to equality, rather than any particular political ideology.
To branch out beyond its institute, NLC Boston is looking to hold more open, community-wide events like the happy hour where Coakley spoke, potentially including lectures, public speaking workshops and group community service ventures.
“This is part of the swell of getting Millennials engaged,” O’h-Uiginn said. “We want to cultivate that sense of community and dedication to Boston.”
Photo above by Elvis Batiz. First Annual Recipient of the NLC Boston's Honorary Fellow Award: Dr. Tiffany Cooper Gueye, CEO, Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL) (left) and 2012 Boston Fellows Ashli Stempel (center) & Nasir Qadree (right)
About Katie -- Currently a Brookline resident and BU senior, I grew up in New Hampshire, meaning I get confused when charged sales tax and can discuss at length the differences between multiple varieties of apples. At any given moment, I likely have my iPhone in my hand and at least one newspaper in my purse. I'm a political junkie, as well as an iced coffee addict. My interests include journalism, canvas sneakers, and pretending I'm in Ireland.
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