When Brennen Parker spearheaded the formation of The Innovative Leaders of Tomorrow in Montgomery County, the group's goal was to get young professionals involved for networking purposes.
However, in recent years, while that still remains one of the group's functions, T.I.L.T. also has taken a turn toward mentoring middle and high school students at the Greater Amsterdam School District. The group also has participated in the Amsterdam High School Career Day for the past several years.
"It's morphed there and we find a lot of value working with the future economic leaders of Montgomery County," said Parker, who works at Rose & Kiernan Insurance Agency in East Greenbush, but lives in Montgomery County.
T.I.L.T. member Jenny Galough, left, youth counselor at Workforce Solutions of Fulton, Montgomery and Schoharie Counties, talks with ninth-grade students at Amsterdam High School during a recent Career Day.
Sherry O’Brien of Vern’s Auto in Amsterdam shakes hands with Jeremy Silverman of Geo-Environmental Management Solutions, also in Amsterdam, as T.I.L.T. co-chairman Brennen Parker looks on during a networking event in 2008.
Members of the group, which Parker said numbers to between 40 and 60, have spent time with high school students in Amsterdam and found there was an impression among youths that there are no opportunities for good careers in Montgomery County.
"I was shocked," said Parker, who co-chairs T.I.L.T. with Andy Heck, general manager of Alpin Haus. "I thought it was more of an adult perception. Then, in turn, the adults were feeding that to the younger generation. The last couple of years, we've heard that in the high school."
Heck said during Career Day, high school students get to meet with young professionals who have made a career in Montgomery County as they try to shake the perception that there is little opportunity in the area.
"Young professionals have the ability to show students that you can be a successful professional and stay in this area," Sarah Power, a ninth-grade English teacher at Amsterdam High School, said in a news release from the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce. "Due to the fact that many of the professionals are very young and may have attended Amsterdam High School themselves, the students feel comfortable interacting with them and can relate to them on various levels. Oftentimes, students are unaware of the opportunities that exist in this community for young people."
For each career day, students have the opportunity to ask questions about how demanding their careers are, what kind of job training they go through and what the jobs require.
"It is important for [students] to hear from local professionals about what our community has to offer in terms of career opportunities," Power said in the release. "Oftentimes, they hear about careers that they were unfamiliar with which may lead to some future interest."
Parker said the group would eventually like to expand its presence and mentoring to the other school districts in Montgomery County, but it hasn't happened yet. The Amsterdam school district, however, approached T.I.L.T.
"We just haven't gotten westward yet," Parker said.
However, T.I.L.T.'s purpose doesn't stop at mentoring the area's future economic leaders. Parker said the group also has quarterly speakers, networking events and informal mixers.
"We try to have speakers that will help us be better professionals," Parker said.
The group, which is a committee of the Montgomery County chamber, doesn't have formal meetings because Parker is "cognizant" of everybody's time.
"A few people took the helm of planning the events and making sure that when we got together, it was useful time spent."
They're also trying to invigorate some youths into the group, which is meant for professionals 45 and younger.
Heck, 44, will soon be transitioning out of his co-chairmanship of the committee.
"Andy and I are an incredible team," Parker said. "We feed off each other. We're both personable and he has some great outside-the-box ideas. He's been a mentor to me with some of his leadership and personal styles. And he's helped me grow along the way."
Peter Rose of Lenz and Betz Funeral Home in Canajoharie, also a chamber board member, will be the new co-chairman.
"Pete's got a lot of energy," Heck said. "He's done a great job in his career and at a young age. He's very well respected in the area. He'll have a lot of connections with young professionals that he'll be able to get involved."
"We see Pete having the traits that we want T.I.L.T. to perpetuate," he said. "He'll need some help, but getting involved and getting the tutorship and mentorship from Andy, hopefully, he'll see the same value."
Chamber President Deborah Auspelmyer said the group plays a critical role for the chamber.
"Other organizations have reached out to T.I.L.T. to get involved," she said. "So they've really made a name for themselves."
Mike Zummo is the business editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.