Living in the Indianapolis area my whole life, I always assumed I knew all there was to know about Indy. I’ve attended a cramped concert at Old National Centre, eaten countless meals on Mass Ave, and tailgated up and down Georgia Street before a Colts game. And by definition, this city is nowhere near the biggest in the world… I thought I had seen all there was. Certainly, 21 years was sufficient to explore it.
Although I’ve grown up here, I’ve also lived in my fair share of other cities. I interned for NBC Sports in Chicago and The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon in New York City. This summer, I was supposed to spend July and August interning for the Tokyo Summer 2020 Olympic Games! When the world decided to change its course, I wasn’t really sure how to feel about spending the next couple months in Indianapolis—again. Thankfully, Indyfluence changed my attitude completely.
I’ve been fortunate to experience Indyfluence from a unique vantage point. While I have participated in all of the programming as an intern, I’ve also been able to work behind the scenes. As an intern at INNOVATIVE, one of the programming partners for Indyfluence, I’ve witnessed every facet of this program come to life. I’ve met (through a screen) and worked with other programming partners and corporate sponsors. I aided in content creation, which was a great opportunity for me to research and learn more about Indianapolis. And to compensate for in-person interaction, social media became a much bigger part of the program. If you’ve looked at our social channels, you’ve seen a lot of carousels, graphics, and blog posts about Indy’s latest and greatest.
In the process of helping to create some of these social media posts, I was able to explore all of the amazing places and people that make this city. I compiled research on everything from the Best Places to Get a Drink to the Top 10 Live Music Venues to the Best Brunch Spots in the city. I’ve discovered new restaurants, bars, museums, and general Indianapolis history. (Did you know sliced bread was invented here?) Growing up somewhere, it’s easy to think you know all there is to know about the place. But through simple Google searches, I realized there was a whole world of young adult attractions that I had never even heard of before. Who knew there was a whole world of live music experiences beyond sweaty summer concerts on the lawn at Ruoff Center? I found so many places I can’t wait to check out post-COVID.
Some other daily content we shared for all the interns were the live 5@5 interviews and our interactive Slack channels. The live 5@5 interviews happened on Instagram Live every day with various young leaders in the Indianapolis area. I got to conduct a decent amount of these interviews, which was a great way to get to know some of the young leaders in this city. I spoke to CEOs, marketing executives, artists… You name it—Indy has it. Most notably, after every single interview I conducted, the person always graciously followed up with me and offered to talk with me further if I ever had any questions about their career. This is a perfect example of the power of the Indy network and how willing people are to help out. I had always heard about this, but experiencing it firsthand I realized just how true it really was. These were established Indianapolis leaders who knew barely anything about me, but they were all still willing to offer up their time and talent to help me out.
The Slack channel—a business messaging platform—was another way to interact and network with the interns and young Indy leaders. It was almost like a mini-directory of some of the coolest young professionals in the area. I found it most beneficial to reach out to people whose interests aligned with mine and talk to them directly. Through this channel, I was able to meet new people and even reconnect with people I had lost touch with. I learned about new jobs, internships, and career paths that interested me. There is such great value in having an easily accessible network, especially one like the #Indyfluence network!
I’ve also, of course, led Julia Joins In, where I’ve participated in various Indy activities and reported back to you. These experiences were all ones that I likely would have passed on if it weren’t for this series. With the current state of our world, it’s easy to assume nothing exciting is going on in our communities and resort to spending all our free time lounging in our rooms until Netflix has the audacity to ask, “Are you still watching?” But here in Indianapolis, organizations are coming together to curate content and virtual programming for our community.
My most recent Julia Joins In was Camp IndyHub, a whole MONTH of virtual experiences. IndyHub’s motto is “people make the city” and, wow, did I learn this through their programming. Some of Indianapolis’ most notable young leaders came together to create one-of-a-kind experiences. I learned cocktail and dinner recipes from some of the top chefs and mixologists in the Indy area for completely free. I listened to fireside chats and local musicians’ performances from the comfort of my own home. So many members of the community came together to create an entire program to explore the best parts about our city.
I’m not going to get completely in-depth regarding every installment of Julia Joins In (I’ll leave you to peruse all my previous posts), but I can say that overall, I learned SO much about my community simply by putting myself out there. Instead of holing up in my house, I went outside and discovered some new parks minutes away from my backyard. Instead of passively celebrating Pride month, I registered and celebrated virtual IndyPride live with an incredible community. All of these things have always existed, but I just now discovered that they do. Indianapolis is filled with such amazing people and organizations, and I’m very grateful I was able to experience as much as I could and share my experiences with all of you.
Now, I can’t end this post without mentioning all the actual Indyfluence programming I was able to join in on from an intern perspective. This consisted of the Welcome Event, Lead Indy, Roche’s Ally4All, Lilly’s Make it Safe to Thrive, and soon, the final Give Back Event that we are all gearing up for.
In the Welcome Event, I tuned in with hundreds of fellow interns to hear from some of the biggest names from Indianapolis, like Tamika Catchings and James Hinchcliffe. They shared their favorite parts about the city and why they chose to make it their home. From Tamika’s small business owner success story (after already being an Olympic gold medalist and Hall of Famer) to Yecenia Tostado’s role as Executive Director for nonprofit Project Azul, so many of the Welcome Event panelists made it clear how Indianapolis made it easy for them to thrive. The event was peppered with videos of our city, messages from the mayor, and an interactive chat room Q&A. The whole production was an exciting way to kick off the program, especially for people who aren’t familiar with Indianapolis and needed an introduction.
The next event, Lead Indy, was similarly structured but divided into three panels: nonprofit, civic, and corporate sectors. All of the panelists were leaders in the Indianapolis area, and each panel was moderated by Adrianne Slash, a community leader with extensive experience in all things Indy. My biggest takeaway was how much all of the panelists emphasized that Indy is a place where you can get a seat at the table no matter how young you are. All of these speakers got their start at a young age and were able to play important roles in the communities they serve from the start of their careers. This is one of the things that clearly makes Indy unique, especially compared to other cities where it can take decades to rise in the ranks. Check out the full recap blog post of Lead Indy here.
Two of the events were hosted by some of Indyfluence’s corporate sponsors: Ally4All by Roche and Make it Safe to Thrive by Eli Lilly. These virtual events were incredibly important additions to the program that everyone was able to take some value away from. Ally4All was an interactive webinar where interns and Roche reps took turns sharing insights, leading conversations, and educating one another in scenario-based training. Make It Safe to Thrive was a presentation on the necessity of psychological safety in the workplace. Especially during these times, there are many things we tend to forget about our mental states, and this training served as a reminder to be more aware. Indianapolis strives towards a culture that celebrates diversity and openly welcomes these conversations. Young adults like us need to talk about issues surrounding diversity and inclusion and engage with our community in these discussions. As the rising leaders of this community, our participation is crucial. It was powerful to see the interns coming together with the company leaders to dedicate time towards talking about these issues.
The mission of Indyfluence is to MEET INDY, LEARN FROM INDY, and GIVE BACK TO INDY. We met Indy through the Welcome Event and social media posts. We learned from Indy through every panelist, 5@5 interview, and educational event. Now, in just a couple hours, we will all come together one last time to donate $10,000 to a nonprofit organization of our choice. Give Back to Indy feels like the perfect capstone event for Indyfluence. Through this program, I’ve learned what I love about this community, which makes me even more excited to be able to give back to it and make a lasting change. And best of all, we were given the agency to decide who will receive that money—another way that Indianapolis continues to empower its young professionals. Philanthropy is in Indianapolis’ DNA, and an Indyfluence program would not be complete without it.
I find it ironic that the one summer I couldn’t leave my home was the summer I discovered the most about my hometown. I was exposed to so many hidden gems in the city, introduced to so many leaders, and educated about so many different topics. I hope that all of the Indyfluence interns were able to have the same experience as me, whether they were born here or live halfway across the world. Indyfluence is truly a program like no other in a place like no other!
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