Countless recent college graduates have set their hearts on Capitol Hill, Wall Street or Silicon Valley careers. They assume that steps to make a positive difference in the world or correct our nation’s economic troubles only can be taken from these vantage points.
I used to be of the same mindset.
But then I wondered why, when politics start on a local level, economies start on a local level and education starts on a local level, is it necessary to travel far away from home to make important changes?
For this reason, as a recent graduate of the University of Illinois, I sought a different approach. By reaching out to the Chamber of Commerce in my hometown, I found an organization of importance to local businesses and local government.
The city of Wheaton boasts a thriving small business atmosphere. All you need to do is stroll the streets of downtown Wheaton to see for yourself. Professional offices, stores, companies, restaurants and service industries all are working together to create a peaceful, successful environment.
The Wheaton Chamber has taken a pivotal role in forming this community. From large-scale events, such as the Taste of Wheaton, to smaller gatherings that foster networking, the Wheaton Chamber invites prosperity. By establishing multiple committees to serve the needs of different factions of our city, it’s got people talking. The Stuff-A-Truck fundraiser worked to aid those less fortunate in our neighborhood.
This direct community involvement exemplifies the reason I support local businesses, industries and public service. I think sometimes we, especially my generation, focus too much on the national picture or the prestige associated with careers in large urban locations and forget the intricate mechanisms in our hometowns that make the machine function.
Thus far in my internship, I have seen firsthand what makes an economy run. I’ve gained experience in networking, event planning, small business practices, social media and a myriad of other valuable skills.
I did not need to go to Washington, D.C., or New York City to do so.
I urge young professionals and graduates to recognize the opportunities in their own towns. Do not be afraid to call a company or visit the office personally and explain how your skills can assist. I cannot predict what my future holds, but I know I’ve started off on the right foot. I now understand that in order to have success and prosperity on a larger scale, it is imperative to start with one’s own community.
It takes a village, doesn’t it?
Alexandra Gecas is an intern with the Wheaton Chamber of Commerce