Niles Young Leaders making a difference

Published 9:15 am Thursday, February 11, 2016

One of the biggest adjustments I had to make when moving back to Niles was becoming acquainted with a place where I wasn’t completely surrounded by young people.

It was really strange to return to the place I grew up — where practically everyone I knew was around my age — and seem to know nobody other than parents and teachers. With the majority of my high school friends (including my identical twin) dispersed across the state and country, Niles seemed a little lonely.

Of course over time I made new friends (one of the biggest bonuses of being a journalist is it’s impossible to not meet people), but I certainly felt I was lacking a youthful network.

So I decided to kill two birds with one stone and join a group that not only helps me be more active in my community, but also work with more people closer to my age.

With just a few meetings under my belt, the Niles Young Leaders already feels like a perfect fit.

Every other Thursday, I get to spend an hour chatting about ways to grow commerce in the City of Four Flags with people who share the same vision for the city as I do. But the group’s mission surpasses economic growth.

These young professionals cover a wide range of professions. From a leader at the Niles District Library to a pastor at an innovative church, each of the dozen or so members are dedicated to taking advantage of their youthful energy to make an impact socially, engage with the community and give back to the city we all feel fortunate to work in.

I think my favorite part of this organization is that the members don’t view age as a hindrance, but an asset. The group recognizes that, despite having less experience, the fresh perspective and innovative tendencies our youthful members bring to the table are not only advantageous, but powerful.

I’ve been impressed with this relatively new group’s extensive community involvement and determination to draw others to join the mission. Whether you know it or not, you’ve probably seen the Niles Young Leaders at various Niles events: selling glow sticks at the fireworks, hosting the local Daddy-Daughter Dance, giving guidance to Niles New Tech students or, more recently at a First Friday Happy Hour networking event.

As this group continues to chase its mission, I encourage all of you — regardless of your age — to take advantage of the work we’re doing. Join us for Happy Hour the first Friday of month at the Brass Eye. Send us ideas of what we can do to help solve a problem or fill a need in Niles.

If you live in Dowagiac, I encourage you to take advantage of what the Grand Old City’s Young Professionals are doing as they focus on a similar mission.

These organizations fill a vital need in our communities and truly have the potential to make a huge difference. If you’d like to be part of that movement, or if you find yourself like I did two years ago struggling to find people my age, please let me know so I can tell you how to join us for a meeting or attend an event. We’d love to have you!


Ambrosia Neldon is the managing editor at Leader Publications. She can be reached by phone at (269) 687-7713, or by email at