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Shawano Area Young Professionals names its first-ever YP of the year

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February 24, 2023

NORTHEAST WISCONSIN – Starting a new job can be stressful for anyone.

However, young professionals just launching their careers often face a handful of unique challenges – inexperience and a lack of an established network, to name a few.

Area young professional organizations are working to make it easier, while simultaneously benefiting businesses and residents of their respective communities. 

Organizations like Coastal Connections in Sheboygan, Green Bay’s Current Young Professionals, Propel Oshkosh, Pulse Fox Cities and Wave Marinette Menominee are a few local groups that aim to make it easier for young workers to network and explore volunteer and social opportunities as they establish their careers.

The Shawano Area Young Professionals, or SaYPro, targets professionals ages 21-39 in Shawano County.

Jon Aumann – a financial advisor with Edward Jones Associates in Shawano and one of the founding members of SaYPro – said the group’s mission is to create relationships by connecting young professionals with each other while contributing to the community.

Aumann said the group was born from a class project for Leadership Shawano County, a cooperative effort of the Shawano County Chamber of Commerce and the UW-Extension of Shawano County.

“Community involvement is important for our local business community,” he said. “There are a number of valid efforts that one can join, but some of the more established groups have an experienced population, which can be intimidating, especially to someone who has limited experience with board meetings, budgets, rules of operation, etc.”

Aumann said SaYPro meetings created the opportunity to form an agenda, discuss budget items, plan events and many other things that provided experience and confidence for younger professionals.

Opportunities to get involved
Samantha Sperberg, 31, said she joined SaYPro in 2018 after attending a Lunch & Learn event. The customer service representative at Prey & Asenbrenner Insurance, Shawano, said she was looking for ways to feel more connected to her community, and the event satisfied her desire to meet people her age in the workforce.

Sperberg said she enjoyed the experience so much that she immediately joined the group’s steering committee and now chairs its efforts. 

“I take pride in our group, and I’m excited about where we’re going,” she said. 

Sperberg said SaYPro hosts several events year-round, many of which are open to the public.

She said with a lifetime membership – which is available with a fee – includes event updates, insight on volunteer opportunities, discounted rates to certain events and access to members-only events. 

“We host a lot of motivational events, educational speakers and social events,” she said. “We had a CPR course that went over well. We had an event called ‘Sharpen Your Self Brand’ where we did resume reviews and had a photographer do professional headshots.” 

Trivia nights, an adult prom and a Cosmic Bingo fundraiser are a few other events the group hosts for its members. 
Sperberg said SaYPro is also heavily involved in the community.

Each year, the group distributes 100 boxes to local businesses in the community for its annual Toys for Tots Drive.

Its annual food drive benefits WeeCare Food Packs of Shawano and Backpack Blessings of Bonduel – both programs that provide nutritional support to students most in need on the weekend when school breakfast and lunch programs are not available.

Olivia Schultz

Sperberg said each program currently serves more than 200 children every weekend.

Aumann and Sperberg said as members give back to the community, they are also building professional relationships with other members of the group and the community.

Bonduel-native Cathryn Griesbach said after graduating from St. Norbert College in De Pere in 2019, she too, was looking for ways to get more involved in the community.

“I had the feeling all my (extracurricular) involvement was at college, and I wanted to be involved in my community in some way,” she said. 

The 24-year-old said she and a friend did some research and found Current Young Professionals through the Greater Green Bay Chamber – which provides an opportunity for individuals to participate in professional development, social networking and community engagement opportunities within Greater Green Bay.

She said she joined its community partnerships committee, which she now chairs.

“Current is focused on nonprofits and giving back in that way,” she said, adding that is a passion of hers.

Griesbach said Current also focuses on helping members personally and professionally foster a deeper connection to the community.

Since joining Kerber Rose in Shawano as a human resource professional, Griesbach said she has also joined SaYPro and is on its steering committee as well.

She said being involved in the two organizations satisfies her interests in different ways.

Griesbach said she also appreciates Kerber Rose’s commitment to community involvement and its philosophy of giving back to the communities its employees live and work in by supporting, sponsoring and participating in numerous charitable events.  

“Kerber Rose has been so supportive,” she said. “With SaYPro, we’re able to be a bit more general in our focus. I can have a relationship with businesses in Shawano and there are so many fun events we get to do. With Current, I can be more focused on a passion of mine with nonprofits.”

First-ever award
In January, SaYPro attended the Annual Shawano County Chamber of Commerce banquet where it presented its first-ever Young Professional of the Year award – which was awarded to 24-year-old Olivia Schultz, a human resources generalist with Shawano Specialty Papers.

Schultz, a University of Minnesota-Duluth graduate, said she became aware of SaYPro through her sister and cousin – both of whom were involved and encouraged her to check it out.

While attending college, Schultz said she devoted more than 250 hours of volunteer time through her service sorority, which Sperberg said was one of the reasons she was nominated for the award. 

“Olivia joined SaYPro in the last year and has been to many of our events and volunteers her time to many other nonprofits,” Sperberg said. “She is a great representation of our mission.”

Schultz said she was touched that SaYPro saw her as the best candidate for its first-ever Young Professional of the Year award.

“SaYPro does a lot in the community, and I appreciate the opportunity and experience they give to other professionals to grow as a person and professionally, and to connect people in Shawano County,” she said.

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