UWMC's Emerging Leaders Society (ELS)

Here in Monterey County we know that access to Affordable Housing, Quality Childcare and Financial Stability is too often out of reach for our neighbors. United Way Monterey County is dedicated to addressing these gaps with a number of initiatives, the newest of which is the Emerging Leaders Society (ELS). 
Emerging Leaders is focused specifically on addressing the challenges faced by student parents at CSU Monterey Bay, Monterey Peninsula College and Hartnell College.  Together, the three institutions enroll approximately 21,470 students.  According to a 2014  study from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 26% of all students are parents simultaneously trying to raise their children and pursue higher education. If the national average holds true for Monterey County, approximately 5,582 or nearly a quarter of our local student population is raising children. 
For these individuals the pursuit of education is the pursuit of future financial stability, but while they are in school they face the same challenges as other parents our community – obtaining Affordable, Quality Housing and Child Care.  
To help keep these student parents in school and financially stable, the Emerging Leaders Society is spearheading initiatives and services to support their drive to complete their education. 
Following is an interview with Tre Watkins, Community Engagement Manager, who was instrumental in the creation of the Emerging Leaders Society and worked closely with the ELS leadership to develop their program and its initiatives.  
Amber: What exactly is the Emerging Leaders Society (ELS)? 
Tre: Emerging Leaders Society is a dynamic group of young professionals who give, advocate and volunteer to make a big and lasting change in our community. 
Amber: ELS is an initiative of United Way – why do you think it’s important for the organization to engage young professionals?  
Tre: Young professionals are the current and future leaders of our community and they bring a fresh perspective to solving complex issues. Additionally, with initiatives like workplace giving, it’s relatively easy for non-profits to engage this particular group of people with an opportunity to promote their lifelong engagement in philanthropy.  
Amber: How is ELS different from simply getting involved with a workplace campaign?
Tre: Workplace campaigns are phenomenal systems for professionals of all ages to get involved with philanthropy. What sets ELS apart is the opportunity for young professionals who are civically minded to connect to the important issues that are in our community in a hands on fashion. 
United Way Monterey County has done extensive work in identifying key areas of need; ELS draws on this expertise to craft important and meaningful initiatives to give, advocate and volunteer right here in Monterey County. Members grow their leadership abilities, participate in short and long term volunteer activities, network with like-minded individuals and develop their professional skills as they learn about event planning, program coordination and volunteer engagement among other skills. 
Amber: Can you tell me more about how ELS members plan to have a long term impact with their volunteer activities? 
Tre: Throughout the year ELS hosts a wide variety of events that are all motivated by a single goal: to support local student parents in achieving their educational goals. We know that education is important and has definite positive impacts on future financial and economic stability for families, and we want to help make sure these student parents can attain success. 
Right now, Emerging Leaders are working with local leaders in higher education to better understand the issues that impact student parents. We are learning about the resources that are currently available to assist student parents and we are identifying gaps that could possibly be filled with support from ELS initiatives. 
Amber: That sounds promising! What kinds of activities are available for ELS members, and how might they support student parents? 
Tre: Some of the ELS events and activities offer benefits specifically to members, for example our upcoming ‘Lunch with a Leader’ event will be an opportunity for ELS members to meet a local professional and learn from them. Other events, like the ‘Raise the Bar’ we hosted on Oct. 25, are networking events where a portion of proceeds that our members make go towards funding ELS’ initiatives. Finally, there are a number of hands on volunteer events throughout the course of the year where ELS members can serve their community. 
Amber: How does ELS differ from other networks of young professionals?
Tre: This whole effort has been volunteer led which means that the individuals who are spearheading the drive to create the Emerging Leaders Society, to plan programs and recruit new members are all dedicating their time, energy and talents to being involved and making a difference in Monterey County because they believe in the power of philanthropy and they are committed to this community. 
For more information about the Emerging Leaders Society please see their webpage