THE BLOG
09/20/2013 02:24 pm ET Updated Nov 20, 2013

Millennials 'reGenerating' the Philly Region

As a young professional and newly minted Philadelphian it has come to my attention that I have taken on a great responsibility.

During the reGenerate Philly Summit, that was held September 6 - 8, the first thing I learned is that, as a Millennial, I will play a big part in regenerating the region's economy.

Now, this task assumes major delegation. I've scratched out a rough equation and have concluded two facts: I am a Millennial and I am an individual residing in Philadelphia (the fifth largest city in the country). So now the math: How do I change this city as a singular participant? My answer: I don't.

The second thing I learned at reGenerate Philly is how I got to that defeatist answer: "I don't," isn't a bad approach; it's actually pretty freeing.

The third thing I learned at reGenerate Philly -- and this is key -- is that as a Millennial, I am not alone, especially in Philadelphia.

I might not be doing much regenerating, but as a growing band of 20-somethings, we just might get something done.

The share of the population represented by individuals in Philadelphia, age 20 to 34, grew from 20 percent to 26 percent, according to the most recent Census estimates. This accounts for the entire city-wide population increase and more. These young adults are well-educated; among the 25- to 34-year-olds, 37.5 percent have Bachelor's degrees or higher, more than 10 percentage points higher than a decade ago -- The PEW Charitable Trusts, Philadelphia 2013. The State of the City).

For three days I engaged with individuals, like me, who want to change the face of their cities -- but who sometimes feel daunted by it. This place is our canvas and our ideas are dollops of paint that can maybe start a movement. As it goes with generations, Millennials, us, are now responsible for the future.

The future, though, is a whole other platform, so it should be our initiative to focus on the now. The changes we want to see should have started yesterday. But alas, at least we still have today to be each other's answers.

Over the weekend my brain was stuffed with brain food. In just a small amount of time I was opened up to a whole new way of thinking. That is: collaboration is key. It's more than OK to reach out and use the resources around you. Chances are, we'll accomplish more together. I want to make a difference and leave my mark, and to know that there are young professionals around the country that want the same things is humbling.

Here are two groups I was easily inspired by: Monkey and the Elephant and Philly Urban Creators. Both of these projects started with an idea and a mission. Today, those missions are moving forward and their ideas live in the minds of many.

To me, my job as a Millennial is to empower everybody that's either a little bit above or below my age. I feel like it's my job to lead this generation to our future. We can't wait right now. We can't wait forever. We have to act now while we have the chance and while we are still young. As we get older we are always going to wish we had that chance, so why not act now instead of later? -- Denzel Thompson, 19, Farm Manager of Philly Urban Creators.

Lastly, but certainly not least, I met Jeaninne Kayembe -- a Millennial that made my weekend come to a full circle. Kayembe, 23, is the co-founder of Philadelphia Urban Creators, a non-profit teaching sustainability and entrepreneurship to youth in North Central, Philadelphia. When she's not teaching or turning compost she's interning for Phillly's largest poetry collective, Spoken Soul 215. There she helps run the city's largest open mic, The Harvest. Kayembe has been performing and writing for almost 10 years and hopes to infuse artistic and sustainable practices into less fortunate communities all over the world.

Click here and here to listen to Kayembe's raw and honest spoken word captured during the reGenerate Philly Summit.

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reGenerate Philly Summit

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