The Northern Virginia Urban League Young Professionals Network (YPN) was founded in 1999 as a chapter of the National Urban League Young Professionals (NULYP). George Lambert, then President and CEO of the Northern Virginia Urban League (NOVAUL), approached several young professionals working for NOVAUL to establish a chapter in order to connect area young adults to the Urban League movement. Answering the call to leadership, Michael Diggins, Paula Fisher, Marvin Reese, Alicia Smith, Danyelle Taylor and Kevin Taylor came together as the founders of YPN and quickly set out to establish a vision for the organization.
“Our purpose and vision was to get more young professionals involved in the Urban League’s mission and service to the community as well as to be a connection point for their development and growth, ” said co-founder Alicia Smith.
That year, the founding YPN members worked to gain a solid understanding of the history of the Urban League movement, established an organizational structure with by-laws and consulted other successful Young Professionals chapters, including the Greater Washington, DC Urban League’s Thursday Network. In September 1999, over 60 people attended YPN’s first general body meeting, which focused on informing attendees about NOVAUL and the National Urban League.
Over time, YPN’s membership grew, and the organization began partnering with organizations like Carpenter’s Shelter, Habitat for Humanity and Alexandria Re-Build. In 2004, YPN started its first signature program, College Survival 101, a daylong college preparation program for high school juniors and seniors. During that time, NOVAUL board chair Kenneth Bynum saw the need to recognize the achievements of minority college-bound high school students.
After discussing the idea with then YPN president Danyelle Taylor, the idea grew into a program that would not only acknowledge college-bound students, but also prepare them for the academic, social and financial realities of college life. With the success of its first year, College Survival 101 continues to be one of YPN’s most successful signature programs today. In the 11 years since its founding, YPN has grown its membership and expanded its outreach to include over 100 members, countless volunteers and dozens of community partners to promote community empowerment, professional development and overall community building among Northern Virginia residents.