More than 300 millennials from Delaware participated in the inaugural Millennial Summit conference at the Chase Center in Wilmington Tuesday.
The leadership and professional development conference aimed to provide young professionals an opportunity to network and be inspired by experts across a variety of sectors who spoke about professional growth and community activism.
Speakers and organizers also discussed the importance of sparking innovation in the First State.
“We’re trying to say, ‘Look, Wilmington is great, Delaware is great, the greater Delaware valley is great, and there’s a lot of opportunity here, so you shouldn’t pine for New York or Philadelphia per se, because sometimes the best thing is right here in the state,’” said co-organizer Charlie Vincent, owner of consulting firm Innovincent LLC.
Vincent organized the conference, along with Robert Herrera, co-founder of business incubator The Mill, in an effort to help businesses overcome the challenge of recruiting and retaining talent.
The event featured 78 speakers—more than three quarters of which were millennials—who work in the areas of government, non-profit, business and the arts.
Attendants were able to participate in sessions related to leadership and professional development, non-profit community service and government service and advocacy.
“I’m hoping to learn what’s going on in terms of what the businesses and organizations in the area are doing to attract young people,” said attendant Bryn Beyer. “Personally, I’m just looking to make some networking connections or find out about opportunities I wouldn’t have known about otherwise.”
Keda Dorisca, who works for a non-profit, said she attended the event to learn more about how millennials can form partnerships to better serve the community.
She said she wants to spread the knowledge to others in Sussex County, where she lives, so southern Delaware can be a center for innovation.
“I can expose the kids I work with and the people I’m around to different initiatives and different causes and things they can get involved in and help the millennials in Sussex branch out also,” Dorsica said.
Gov. John Carney, D-Delaware, spoke about the state’s changing economy due to the exit of DuPont. He said in the future, Delaware’s economy will rely on startup and tech businesses.
“Delaware is changing from a state that’s dependent on large corporations to one that’s going to rely on startups and entrepreneurialism and innovation economy than any time in our history, and that’s why what you’re talking about today, in terms of the millennial generation and bringing that kind of talent to our state, is so, so critically important to our success,” Carney said.
Vlora Çitaku, ambassador from the Republic of Kosovo to the United States, gave a keynote address during the conference. At 37, she’s the youngest female ambassador in the world. A former refugee during the Kosovo War, Çitaku has been instrumental in the fight for Kosovo’s freedom and independence.
She said she wanted to inspire the attendants to look at the world from a different perspective other than what’s familiar.
“I think sometimes we’re so consumed with our own story we forget there is a bigger and brighter picture out there where we need to focus,” she said.
“Secondly, I think sometimes people take things for granted. I am a millennial also, but unlike millennials in America I was not given the choices, the options, and the opportunities my peers in the U.S. had. I would love to share with them my story, but to make them more aware of the blessings they have and the opportunities they have. And I would also like to inject more compassion, because that’s what we need, compassion is what is going to save the world, not technology, it’s compassion.”
Çitaku said while ambition is important, exuding other human qualities is more imperative.
“Education and school is important, but education and school is not everything. Honor and integrity is the most important component of one’s character,” she said. “So whatever they decide to do they should do it with honor, integrity and love.”
Twenty-six year old Sarah McBride, a respected LGBTQ rights activist and national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, spoke during one of the breakout sessions. McBride, who became the first openly transgender person to speak at a national party convention during the DNC last year, encouraged attendants to take make a difference in their communities.
“I’ve seen the power of young voices to make change, I’ve seen the power of young voices to speak from a place of history, and move hearts and minds in the process,” she said.
“Much of our progress on LGBTQ equality is because of millennials speaking out, talking to their parents, their grandparents, their neighbors and classmates. So, for me in my own work, millennials have been a key part of our progress, and I hope to share that insight and to make sure all of us, regardless of our age, that our voices are powerful and they can make change here in Delaware and across the country.”
McBride also offered some advice for young people looking to make an impact.
“The message I have for any millennial, particularly here in Delaware, is because of our small size, because of the way our politics works, one voice can have an outsized influence,” she said. “You’re never too young to get involved, you’re never too young to lead a movement here in the state, and one voice can make a huge difference, and if we can transform Delaware we can lay the foundation to change this nation.”