Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Topeka Intercity Visit Brings Back Ideas ; Tulsa, Okla., Noted for Groups Engaging Young People and Surrounding Areas

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Topeka Intercity Visit Brings Back Ideas ; Tulsa, Okla., Noted for Groups Engaging Young People and Surrounding Areas

Article excerpt

A more vibrant Topeka would engage a wider swath of the community, including young people, racial minorities and people from the surrounding rural areas, some community leaders said Tuesday.

A wrap-up session Tuesday morning at Bartlett & West discussed ideas from the intercity visit to Tulsa, Okla., in September. About 70 business and civic leaders visited. Most of the people attending the wrap-up session had gone on the trip.

Brent Boles, who works for Schendel Pest Control and organized the trip, said highlights included touring Guthrie Green, a public gathering place popular with food trucks in Tulsa; the Brady Arts District, which he said is similar to NOTO; a minor league baseball stadium; a model of a planned riverfront public space called The Gathering Place; an indoor stadium used for concerts; and a makerspace.

The three most significant things in Tulsa the people who attended the trip cited in a follow-up survey were the way it engages young people through a young professionals organization called TYPros; One Voice, a group of public officials and other groups that develops a legislative agenda to push on behalf of the Tulsa area; and its downtown redevelopment efforts, Boles said.

- TYPros is the largest young professional organization in the country, Boles said, and it works in the community on issues ranging from voter registration to drawing attention to underdeveloped areas of the Tulsa area. One of its more unusual events involved setting up a Trader Joe's pop-up store to start a discussion about how Tulsa's liquor laws discouraged businesses like Trader Joe's from setting up a permanent location, he said.

Jennifer Owen, who manages the Fast Forward program for young professionals in Topeka, said another interesting idea TYPros had is an "internship" program that pairs a young person with the board of a community organization. After spending a year learning how the board works, the young person can decide whether to join as a full member, she said.

"It's a way to get a young voice on boards that usually didn't have anyone under 40," she said.

The people at the wrap-up session suggested ways to engage more young people include finding private funding for Fast Forward so they don't have to pay dues; putting more emphasis on mentorship; and forming subgroups so young people can focus on an area of interest, like the arts or volunteering. …

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