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How Engage! Cleveland is using mentorship to attract young professionals to live and work in Cleveland

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Posted at 7:48 AM, Jun 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-10 07:48:37-04

CLEVELAND — A local organization is helping attract, retain and engage young professionals in Cleveland by helping them grow professionally and personally through a mentorship program that's in its second year.

News 5 anchor Danita Harris asked Engage! Cleveland what has been the challenge with Cleveland retaining young talent.

"So I would say historically Cleveland has some of these monikers you know, being the mistake on the lake and maybe not the best place to live, and it's overcoming those things from the past and realizing it's an entire different Cleveland now..,” said Ashley Basile Oeken, president of Engage! Cleveland.

Engage Cleveland works with employers on being more innovative to attract young professionals and host over 30 events all across the Cleveland area. Their latest initiative is targeted specifically at women.

"We thought now more than ever young women need to hear from more experienced women. We're facing difficulties in the workplace, people have never experienced in our lifetime. And so we're able to take all of this knowledge we learned and create the Women's Mentorship program."

The program is 6 months long and consists of one mentor matched with a small group of mentees.

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Mentee program of Engage! Cleveland

A total of 28 mentees and nine mentors have been selected for the second cohort of the women’s mentorship program.

The following 9 female leaders have been selected for the second cohort of mentors:
● Josephine Chan, Administrative Director, UH Seidman Cancer Center
● Lisa Gavales, Corporate Board Director,, Bluestem, Forever21, Gold Standard Baking
● Julie Johnson, CEO, Hunger Network
● Sharon Sobol Jordan, President, Unify Labs
● Christine Kohls, Principal, Raising Results LLC
● Claire Miller, President/Executive Coach, C Scott Miller & Associates
● Christine Rich, Marketing Director, The Sherwin-Williams Company
● Dalithia Smith, SVP, Chief Human Resources Officer, Oatey Co.
● Tracy Vajskop, Associate Principal/ Senior Interior Designer, Bialosky Cleveland

Phyllis Harris, executive director of the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland, is a mentor and says it boosted her morale.

"This opportunity allowed me to be a leader, to be a leader more broadly, to connect to these young women keeping me sharp, I’m telling you. And they are very different, and hold me accountable, and gave some purpose during that time," Phyllis said.

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Phyllis Harris, executive director of LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland.

She added, “there's so many really smart OG's here in this town, especially Cleveland who get to make all the decisions, they have all the power, they have all the influence."

Support was a key reason why Laura Mottor joined the program.

“So what I've learned about myself is how much I need to work on asking for help and how much it's okay to ask for help,” Mottor said.

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Laura Mottor, a mentee of the mentorship program.

“It’s been really exciting to learn more about how to ask for help with seeming like you’re desperate for it. It’s just a community of support. "I know that myself and a lot of the other participants have expressed that we have struggled to connect with a mentor who we felt like was really going to be there for us and be able to give the advice that we so desperately ask for at times,” Mottor said.

And when it comes to selling Cleveland as a great place to live and work, Mottor is sold.

"I can't stress enough how much personality this city has. I've never lived anywhere that felt so welcoming and so like home. "I never want to leave. I love it here!."

Click here to learn more information on Engage! Cleveland.

This story is part of A Better Land, an ongoing series that investigates Northeast Ohio's deep-seated systemic problems. Additionally, it puts a spotlight on the community heroes fighting for positive change in Cleveland and throughout the region. If you have an idea for A Better Land story, tell us here.