With 600 attendees and dozens of speakers with topics running the gamut from effectiveness in local philanthropy to transforming education in Liberia, yesterday’s second annual Millennial Summit in Wilmington brought together a diverse collection of motivated young people buzzing with energy and ideas.
Nearly doubling the attendance of last year’s inaugural event, Tuesday’s conference at the Chase Center on the Riverfront showcased more than 100 speakers with international, national, and local expertise eager to connect with the leaders of tomorrow. Breakout sessions and panel discussions covered topics including current trends in the nonprofit world, how science and technology are being harnessed by entrepreneurs, and how to work with the media.
Keynote speaker Katie Meyler, founder of More Than Me, spoke movingly about the dismal state of education in the African country of Liberia and the profound social effects investment there has made throughout the country. Only thirty-five percent of children in that poor country are enrolled in school. At the age of 32, Meyler was named one of Time Magazine’s “People of the Year” in 2014 for her work on the front lines of the Ebola outbreak.
Meyler shared the story of a chance encounter 10 years ago in Liberia that lead to her global initiative — meeting a young girl in the slums of Monrovia who was selling herself for clean drinking water. The girl also asked Meyler if she could help her go to school, which is not free in Liberia. “No girl should ever have to sell herself for basic needs when all she wants to do is go to school,” she said. Meyler opened the first all-girls tuition-free school in Liberia.
Like many speakers, Meyler urged attendees to consider issues they are passionate about and to think about ways they can get involved and have lasting impacts in their communities.
Former pro football player and special speaker Devon Still also clicked with Millenials. Still, who grew up in Wilmington (Howard High School of Technology), shared his personal journey from his 2012 draft into the NFL to the heart-wrenching news from doctors just two years later that his daughter had a rare form of pediatric cancer. He continues to fight the disease and inspire others to support research through a foundation he started — the Still Strong Foundation.
“We were really pleased with the line-up of speakers who covered several tracks this year,” said Millennial Summit planning committee member, Brittany Keller. “Each of the speakers offered up something personal and relevant to participants looking to grow professionally or take that next step in their careers.”
Elected leaders including Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall Long, Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester, State Treasurer Ken Simpler, and Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki all spoke at the event.
Purzycki said he is excited about the millennial generation and their ideas for the future. “Your generation – the millennials — has just eclipsed mine, the Boomers, as the largest generational cohort in history. What I have observed is that most of these generational changes are incremental – they’re kind of slow and imperceptible. You see that things change, but you can’t see them changing as they occur. I think with you guys, it’s going to be a tectonic change.”