AYP recognizes exceptional young professionals

The Chamber’s Aiken Young Professionals (AYP) recognized two of their peers at the group’s 10-year anniversary dinner and year-end gala December 1. Recognized were Derek Herron, AYP’s Most Valuable Young Professional and Jonathan Larry, Aiken’s Rising Star.

The AYP MVP award recognizes an individual for his or her involvement in the community and in AYP, striving to make AYP’s year successful. To celebrate AYP’s 10th anniversary year, Herron created a new signature event for not only AYP but the community as well. Food truck and music festival Trucks N’ Tunes, which premiered in October, was Herron’s creation, from putting together an executive team to plan, raise money, and coordinate logistics.

  1. David Jameson, President/CEO of the Aiken Chamber of Commerce, spoke to Herron’s commitment and loyalty to AYP.

“Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in left,” said Jameson. “I know many folks who shy away from responsibility and never want to lead, and then I know that group of people who step up, volunteer and get the job done, and that is just what Derek has done.”

Larry won this year’s Aiken’s Rising Star Award. The Rising Star individual is recognized for overall character, leadership, and excellence in his or her chosen field, as well as for overall accomplishment in relationship building, professional development, philanthropic activity and contribution to the community.

“The real story is that Jonathan is ‘paying it forward’ as he strives to help others the way he was assisted while he worked as an intern for the Economic Development Partnership,” said Jameson.

Larry is the founder of Upliff, an internet company and social media platform whose mission is to cause change in the world by uncovering the good that life brings while disrupting the negative view of life people have come to accept.

He recently presented Upliff at 1 Million Cups Startup weekend in Columbia and was just awarded a $1000 prize at the North Augusta IdeaFame Pitch Competition as the Crowd Favorite winner. Larry was awarded Successteam’s Leader of the New Generation Award, October 2017.

Larry is a member of many organizations and serves in leadership roles for TEDxAugusta, Aiken Downtown Development Association, Leadership Aiken County and SDI—a leadership mentoring program with emphasis on entrepreneurship.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that this young professional is a rising star,” Jameson said.

The 10-year Anniversary dinner welcome and yearly overview was given by 2017 AYP Chair Elizabeth Cahill.

Aiken Chamber President/CEO J. David Jameson was the keynote speaker and covered the origin of the Aiken Young Professionals group created by the Aiken Chamber in 2007.

Aiken had successfully marketed the area as a haven for retired persons, but young people, particularly those with professional/management career aspirations, were not arriving in sufficient numbers to provide for the long-term viability of an age-diverse community. At the Chamber Board’s 2006 annual retreat, a strategic goal became focusing on the early career professional demographic.

A task force led by then USCA Chancellor Dr. Thomas L. Hallman was asked to define the issues and trends associated with the populations of recent college graduates and young professionals who elect to work and/or reside in the Greater Aiken Area. This working group explored the relative position of this community in comparison to others of like size, developed a conversation with members of the target group to better understand the issues, and proposed to the Chamber Board programs, activities, policies and/or strategies that would enhance Aiken as an attractive community for this group in the years to come.

One recommendation from the task force became the origin of the Aiken Young Professionals organization. Aiken Young Professional’s mission is to provide a group for young, career-minded individuals between the ages of 22 and 39 to meet and develop, both socially and professionally.

Josh Stewart, who served two terms as AYP Chair, spoke to the group as well. He discussed the early years of AYP and how the organization helped prepare him to become active in his community. Stewart will become the Chair of the Aiken Chamber Board of Directors in 2018.

For more information on AYP or to learn how to join the group, contact the Aiken Chamber of Commerce at 803.641.1111.


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