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  • By: Ariana Lily Nikmanesh

Overlooking Opportunity

If someone had told me a year ago that I would be traveling across the nation to places like Washington D.C., San Francisco, and New York to collaborate with executives from top organizations and serve as a voice for the millennial generation – I wouldn’t have believed them. The idea of visiting the White House, meeting with Google, and working with other established corporations was a far fetched dream rather than a reality. Through the National Millennial Community, a community of innovative thinkers who desire to change the conversation about our generation, my dream has become a reality. The community has allowed students from overlooked universities to become recognized for their passion and ability rather than where they come from. It has allowed us to become visible voices throughout the nation.

The National Millennial Community, founded by IW Group Connectivity Chairman Bill Imada, allows millennials nationwide to come together to combat stereotypes about the millennial generation as well as to help companies improve their marketing tactics towards millennial consumers. When Mr. Imada decided to create the community, he envisioned innovative, driven, millennial thinkers that were not necessarily from the most recognizable colleges across the nation, collaborating with these top companies to represent the diverse perspectives of America. Mr. Imada himself came from Eastern Oregon, an area where individuals were often overlooked regardless of their talent or drive. Due to this, Mr. Imada decided that creating a community of millennial thinkers was important, but the community had to consist of students from universities that were often overlooked by employers, for they were missing a talented pool of dedicated students across America who were ready to change the world.

As a student who attends one of these universities, I am now able to connect with executives and exchange ideas regardless of where I come from. On the community’s last trip to San Francisco, I had the privilege of meeting with The Bernard Osher Foundation. The Bernard Osher Foundation has various programs that financially assist students with their collegiate careers. One of the programs, the Osher Integrative Medicine Program, donates towards integrative medicine programs to universities including Harvard and Vanderbilt. When I asked why the organization would invest solely in these institutions, the answer was they were comfortable investments because the universities were so nationally recognized. We then reflected on the idea that if other institutions which weren’t as widely known were overlooked, how many talented, ambitious individuals worth investing in were overlooked as well? Students from universities such as mine, the University of Colorado Denver, not only have the grit to get things done, but represent the diverse reality of the American population today. Dismissing these types of universities meant dismissing capable students and diverse perspectives in which could help better foundations like the Bernard Osher Foundation. Through this conversation, we were able to create a continuous dialogue regarding the idea that talent can be found anywhere, regardless of the university an individual attends.

I often reflect on how blessed I am to be in a position in which I am able to voice these issues to executive leaders. I understand that the opportunity I hold is not one most individuals experience within their collegiate career, or perhaps, within their lifetime. It is because of this fact that I desire to resiliently fight for the recognition of individuals who are often overlooked. If individuals were seen for who they truly are rather than where they come from, a more diverse, innovative working world would be created. I am now more motivated than ever to help place the spotlight on these individuals, for they are the roots that I believe will one day shape our world. They are part of the make-up that makes America real.

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