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Autumn Bryant, Kauffman Scholars alumna, speaks at Rethink Ed.

Creating a community in which young professionals of color want to live

Kauffman Scholars Inc. and the Hispanic Development Fund recognize the need to develop an honest, open, and supportive conversation that will best prepare Kansas City and young professionals of color for success.

In 2042, the United States will be majority-minority, meaning that there will be more American citizens representing non-European heritages in our history. The demographics of our incredible, diverse country will continue to shift. Yet, these shifts represent a country rich in culture but not always acceptance.

Talent defines the success of a city or community. Cities that can attract educated, talented people see significant economic prosperity, attract large employers and incubate successful entrepreneurship. The shifting demographics make it an imperative that ethnic and racial minorities find community, opportunity, and success in growing cities, sharing their talent and consumer power.

Diversity drain is brain drain

KSI and the Hispanic Development Fund are not waiting for an exodus of professionals but instead creating the space for young professionals to build and lead the Kansas City they wish to call home.

Earlier this year, Kansas City became aware of a fact that maybe wasn’t a surprise to its non-white residents.

In 2015, the city gained 3,000 more people with bachelor’s degrees than the city lost. That shifted dramatically in 2016 when 4,000 more people with bachelor’s degrees moved out of Kansas City than moved in. As the city attempts to diagnose this sudden shift, a recent Quality of Life survey, commissioned by the Kauffman Foundation in partnership with the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), may hold a clue. The yet-unreleased 2018 survey found that 41 percent of African Americans and 35 percent of non-white residents see themselves as leaving the city within five years – in stark contrast to the 17 percent of white residents.

The sentiment from minorities wanting to leave the city was captured in a piece in The Kansas City Star that explored the question, “Is KC social scene for whites only?” The piece and this issue goes much further than simply not having a place to socialize. It exposes a lack of community space to be your authentic self as a welcomed and valued part of the community. If this contributes to black and brown professionals leaving the city, what is the possibility to continue to gain educated talent? It is a question that has been articulated in many companies’ priority list as a diversity and inclusion initiative.

Creating space for conversation and community

Kauffman Scholars Inc. (KSI), an organization led and staffed primarily by professionals of color, has decided to take a different approach. Through its unique scholarship and coaching model, KSI anticipates the graduation of more than 800 college students in 2023, all entering into their young careers. The majority of these students are first-generation graduates and represent a truly diverse ethnic and racial makeup. As KSI prepares for these professionals of color to enter into the workplace, many planning to come back or stay in the Kansas City region, it recognizes the need to develop an honest, open, and supportive conversation that will best prepare Kansas City and the Scholars for success.

In partnership with the Hispanic Development Fund, KSI has launched Young Professionals of Color, a series of talks, network opportunities, and diversity-centered resources to support the developing multicultural professional. KSI and the Hispanic Development Fund are not waiting for an exodus of professionals but instead creating the space for young professionals to build and lead the Kansas City they wish to call home.

Autumn Bryant, a Kauffman Scholars alumna and 2017 graduate of University of Missouri – Kansas City, touched on this topic during a presentation at Rethink Ed: “Something I started to identify was the disparity in cultural backgrounds in my environment,” said Bryant, of her experience as a young professional in Kansas City. “Usually for me, my color is not a barrier, because I feel if I’m in room, I’m supposed to be there … but when you spend day in and day out with a team, in an environment and in a culture, some things can start to weigh on you.

“It opened my eyes to the fact that they [co-workers] know very little about me and I know very little about them,” she said.

The first talk, “Authentic Self in the Workplace,” from 5:30 to 7 p.m. May 17, will elevate four professionals of color – Laura Alvarez, marketing program manager at H&R Block; Nicole Jacobs Silvey, associate director external relations at the University of Missouri – Kansas City; Edgar J. Palacios, acting director at Blue Hills Community Services; and Murray Woodard, program officer in Education at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation – to lead discussion and take questions on this often hidden conversation.

This event is sold out, but add your name to the waiting list and stay connected to KSI on LinkedIn for upcoming YPOC-KC events. If you are not in Kansas City, join the conversation in the comments below – share your experiences and let us know what is working in your community.

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