VOICES: Help build the community you want, here

I serve as Senior Policy Aide to Dayton Mayor Jeffrey Mims, a role in which I am constantly interacting with residents, businesses, community organizations, advocacy groups and more. What I hear more than anything is “we have to invest in and retain young talent.” Without young talent, we cannot be prepared for the workforce and entrepreneurial demands of tomorrow, nor can we enrich the social and cultural fabric of our community.

As a young professional myself, I am often asked why I decided to stay in Dayton. My answer is simple: I believe in this community.

I was born and raised here. My parents met at the diner on the corner of St. Clair and E. Fourth. They worked blue collar jobs to take care of my older brothers and I, and successfully put the three of us through college. While attending the University of Dayton, I joined student organizations like Dayton Civic Scholars which provided regular opportunities to volunteer off-campus and engage with residents. What I found throughout those experiences was everyday people from all walks of life doing their part to better our community.

After graduating from the University of Dayton, many of my peers moved onto bigger, more dense cities. While I considered the possibilities, I couldn’t help but buy into the excitement and vision of those that decided to help build the community they wanted, right here. My belief in Dayton is a reflection of my belief in its people. Despite the challenges we face, I am consistently inspired by their resilience, creativity, collaborative spirit, and commitment to increasing equity within our community.

Growing the talent pool of young people in Dayton means asking young people what would keep them here, like we did during the Mayor’s inaugural youth summit in October of 2022. Their answers included things such as thriving neighborhoods, more creative outlets and providing more opportunities for young people to engage with the community. One particular student said “It’d be nice to know more about Dayton’s history and what city leaders are doing to fix things.”

Their voices have not gone unheard.

The City of Dayton is making significant investments to improve neighborhoods through the Dayton Recovery Plan: eliminating 1,100 blighted structures, reconstructing sidewalks and curbs, upgrading parks, planting tree-lawns and supporting neighborhood-based businesses. The Mayor’s office is also exploring opportunities to go beyond the annual youth summit and better connect young people to city hall and Dayton’s history.

Inspiring the next generation of talent to stay in Dayton can take many different forms. For instance, Learn to Earn Dayton is helping students assess career interest early and connecting them with job opportunities through youthworks. Additionally, Omega Community Development Corporation’s Hope Zone initiative will drive systemic change and help to alleviate poverty, which has proven to negatively affect child development. Growing Dayton’s talent pool has to involve connecting young people with local opportunities as well as removing the systemic barriers that prevent them from recognizing their own talents.

At its foundation, I think community means support, not just for one another, but support for a shared vision. Young professionals are in pursuit of a city that offers social and cultural fulfillment, upward career trajectory, modern infrastructure, affordability, and opportunities for innovation.

My message to my peers and the young people coming behind us is that we can help shape the future of our city. With our collective gifts, talents, and skills, we can contribute to the work of building the community we want to live in. If you are willing to stick around, you can indeed help shape the community you want to live in.

Darius Beckham is the Senior Policy Aide to Dayton Mayor Jeffrey Mims.

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