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#Elevate Success at the EMERGE Summit

By Jesse Flores

“Be vulnerable,” advised Metro EDGE’s 2019 Young Professional of the Year, Verna Sulpizio Hull. As the Welcoming Speaker for the 2020 Metro EDGE EMERGE Summit, Hull offered a much needed reminder for me and other Summit attendees to remain open to new things. After all, it was clear to everyone that this year’s EMERGE Summit was different: the world was in the middle of a pandemic, and so Northern California’s largest conference for emerging leaders had to go virtual. Nevertheless, with this year’s theme as #Elevate, that did not stop the Sacramento Metro Chamber Foundation’s Metro EDGE from organizing an impactful 2020 event for young leaders throughout the Sacramento region.

On the morning of September 17th, four of my Valley Vision colleagues and I tuned in to the EMERGE Summit, exchanging remarks via our group chat and excited to interact with the event’s virtual format. The day’s speakers and breakout sessions were to be presented through an event and conference app, which immediately allowed us to engage with emerging professionals via virtual networking and the event’s main page. As described by Valley Vision Project Associate Houa Vang, “I was skeptical at first because this was my first time attending a virtual conference, but was taken aback on the superb coordination and transitions between speakers, music during breaks, and breakout sessions.” Project Manager Grace Kaufman further said, “The sessions were thoughtfully designed, the eclectic array of speakers were inspiring, and the mix of local music in between sessions kept me glued to my screen and engaged for the entirety of the conference.” 

One of those engaging speakers was Unseen Heroes’ Roshaun Davis, a brand development professional whose steps to building community helped me see the importance of nurturing in my work. Followed by keynote speaker and multimedia journalist Marianna Sousa, the event continued to bring attention to equity and social healing, which I couldn’t help but see as very fitting with recent events. “Restoration before reputation” stated Sousa, as she went on to explain the importance of self-care and addressing trauma as young professionals. The year 2020 had brought a global pandemic, social unrest towards racial injustice, and many other stressful events that I saw deserved a critical eye on how we took care of ourselves and our communities.  

Tashina Brito, Chair of this year’s EMERGE Summit.

As the day unfolded, engaging speakers were interwoven with insightful breakout sessions on topics such as data challenges with Pantelis Loupos and design thinking with Samantha Contreras. My third breakout session was on moving racial justice forward with Jackie Cole and others from Fresno State, SACOG, and California Coalition for Rural Housing. I was glad to see that EMERGE Summit addressed the issue of racial justice head on with a session such as this, while having speakers who were committed to the issue. Overall, EMERGE’s 2020 breakout sessions covered a wide range of interesting and relevant topics. “Regardless of where you were on your career path or the particular field you were interested in, there was a session for you.”

In closing, the EMERGE Summit left my Valley Vision colleagues and I motivated to continue our work throughout the region. Our motivation was captured well by Tucker Bryant’s inspiring spoken word at the end of the Summit, “Dear 2020.” “This isn’t a quarantine; this is a hibernation,” was a hopeful verse that stuck with me as my colleagues and I continued to navigate our roles as emerging professionals in a rapidly changing world. As described by Project Associate Isa Avanceña, “The spoken word at the end of the Summit expressed so eloquently the emotional toll that this pandemic has taken. More importantly, it highlighted the resilience that our communities are demonstrating as we weather the storm. It was the perfect “mic drop” ending to an already incredible day.”

My colleagues and I were very fortunate to have had this experience and would like to express our gratitude to the Metro Chamber and its event sponsors for organizing an impactful virtual conference as an epicenter for young professionals to exchange ideas, learn from each other’s experiences, and be inspired to shape the future.

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Jesse Flores is a Valley Vision Project Associate supporting the 21st Century Workforce and Clean Economy Impact areas.