The Young Professional Movement is moving rapidly through our country and is exploding in our state. More than 450 organizations are thriving in all 50 states and the number of groups in Kansas is a dozen and growing as this is written. Let's face it, the young professionals in every community are the future leaders there, and there's never been a better time to encourage and energize them.

So, who's a young professional? It's any young person, perhaps loosely defined as ages 21 to 40-ish, who is interested in making their community a better place for young people to live, work and play. They're energized and ready to make the commitment to being the next leaders of their business, their school, their church, their organization and their community. They are representatives of every "profession," from business owners to bankers, moms to teachers, and everything in between.

On Thursday, April 15, all young people in the state of Kansas are invited to Hutchinson for the first Kansas Young Professionals Summit. All are welcome, regardless of whether or not they are involved in an organized Young Professionals group. Hosted by Young Professionals of Reno County, the summit is an opportunity for young Kansans to celebrate the diversity of their individual communities and work together to build a strong generation of people prepared to handle Kansas's challenges. Those attending the conference will have the opportunity to grow personally and professionally, network with other young professionals and discover ways to get involved in their communities.

The summit will feature a luncheon address by Gov. Mark Parkinson (luncheon-only tickets are available for the general public). Breakout sessions will be offered on a variety of topics, a few of which are: developing and sustaining a Young Professionals organization, civic engagement, financial planning, community development, volunteerism, social media, running for office and starting a small business. We can guarantee it won't just be the "same old conference."

If you are a young person and are a professional at something (remember, anything counts as a profession!), consider spending the day in Hutchinson. You can read more about the speakers that are confirmed, see the agenda and register at www.ypkansas.com. Join the Kansas YP Summit on Facebook and Twitter and stay up-to-date on all the plans.

If you don't think you meet the criteria of a young professional, perhaps you know one or two, or you are an employer of young people in your community. Take the time to pass this information on, encourage them to attend and make sure you tell them it's OK to spend a day with their peers. Believe it or not, some won't ask for an educational day away from work, because they don't know how to make this request.

Kansas communities and employers should be ecstatic and relieved there are so many young people who are ready to step up and share their opinions to ensure their community's success. Take this as an opportunity to fuel the fire of the young professional movement in our great state. See you in Hutchinson.

MANDY SWISHER,

Hutchinson

Swisher is the chairwoman of the Young Professionals of Reno County.