By Tadias staff
Published: Saturday, April 12th, 2014
New York (TADIAS) — The online magazine emPower has selected Young Ethiopian Professionals (YEP) as one of the “emPower Player 2014″ award winners and a nominee for this year’s “Leader of Good” prize. YEP, founded in 2010, is a growing networking group in the DC area that has built a platform for Ethiopian professionals in various sectors to meet and share resources among each other. In addition, the organization’s Co-Founder and Executive Vice-President, Shimelse Mekonnen, says that YEP also provides mentoring programs for college and high school students.
“[We are] a non-profit organization with volunteers, such as myself, who strive to build a community of diverse professionals,” Shimelse told Tadias. “We offer free tutoring, educational workshops and inspirational events to our members.” He added: “This award is a recognition of our volunteers’ hard work and provides us more energy to go forward.”
Since it was established nearly four years ago, YEP has hosted over 30 events highlighting inspirational speakers from the Ethiopian community including Physicist Solomon Bililign, a recipient of the 2011 U.S. Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering; Emmy Award-winning journalist Bofta Yimam; and the Executive Vice President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) Mimi Alemayehou.
“There is a famous African proverb that says, ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’” Shimelse said. “No one person can make it in life without the support and guidance of other people in their lives.” He shares that “Traditionally, support and guidance in the Ethiopian Diaspora come from an informal network of family and relatives. The fate of many people depends on the information they get from this informal network. However, figuring out how to navigate through a new country, new culture, new language and new system, can become very challenging as the traditional means of guidance and support are not enough.”
Shimelse points out that he and his friend, Mesfin Getaneh (the Co-founder and President of YEP), noticed such a gap in the Ethiopian community while participating in various member-based organizations pertaining to their careers. They were inspired by “the connections and opportunities created from these events and eagerly looking for a similar platform to meet and network with fellow Ethiopian professionals.” During the early stages of planning, they were joined by Lulit Ayne (Co-Founder & Vice President) whom Shimelse said brought “firsthand experience” in grassroots organizational development.
Today YEP, which enjoys a membership of over 600, continues to organize career fairs and other events designed to connect job seekers with working professionals in their field. Shimelse emphasizes that YEP’s goal is to “create opportunities for Ethiopian professionals to meet, network, and share resources among fellow professionals to succeed in their career and social endeavors by inviting successful mentors to speak about their experiences to our aspiring professionals, organizing workshops and panel discussions on various topics about professional development, and organizing learning excursions and field trips.”
Regarding the emPower magazine’s award nomination, Shimelse adds: “This recognition will also help us in our plans to expand to other cities where there’s a large concentration of Ethiopians such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Seattle, Boston, Philadelphia, Oakland and San Jose. The more members we have, the easier it will be to achieve our vision to create a network where connections are made, resources are exchanged, and skills are enhanced. We want to give young Ethiopian professionals all the tools and resources at our disposal to empower them to create the next Microsoft, Apple, or Google.”