Oklahoma Christian University students can join alumni and professional members of the community by becoming an Edmond Young Professional (EYP) member or by participating in the EYP mentor program. The group consists of 21-40 years old or anyone “young at heart,” according to the EYP website.
Oklahoma Christian alumnus Sammy Flores currently serves as chairman of the Steering Committee—soon to be called the Advisory Committee—for EYP and as the funeral director at Crawford Family Funeral Services. At Oklahoma Christian, Flores played soccer and studied biology. After two years, he transferred to the University of Central Oklahoma where he studied funeral services.
“[EYP] was established to help us, the young professionals, start a relationship, network and build relationships for future business opportunities of hiring people or knowing some people,” Flores said. “It’s an opportunity to meet with people your age because we are all kind of in the same field. We are working really hard trying to get where we want to be. Building these relationships really helps, especially in the long-run.”
The Director of Communications and Marketing for the Edmond Chamber of Commerce, Brittany Willison, coordinates the Edmond Young Professionals program. Willison said the number of professional mentees applying has decreased in the last few years because many EYP members are between the ages of 25 and 40, so they have already had mentors and are in their careers.
“They didn’t really find a need for a mentor,” Willison said. “So, we thought it was time to return the favor. Why can’t we be mentors? We are closer to these [students] in age. We remember what it’s like to try to get into the workforce, so this is us trying to give back.”
EYP has been around for 11 years, and this is the first year EYP is extending mentorship to college juniors and seniors, according to Willison. When she was a student, Willison said she had no idea what a Chamber of Commerce was, nor did she have an interest in joining one. Now, Willison is passionate about the Chamber because of the resources and opportunities it provides to everyone.
“Getting involved in something like [EYP] opens a lot of doors,” Willison said. “We’ve seen people excel in their jobs [and] there have been marriages because people met each other here. Networking can be awkward but as a student, if you learn that early, it’s going to take you a long way. [EYP] is a way to get you started. If anything, this is a great thing to put on your resume—that you were trying to better yourself as a junior in college. I hope that more students will get involved.”
Flores and Willison are both signed up to be mentors this year and also participated in the program as mentees. Flores said he originally did not want a mentor as he was afraid he would not find someone in his industry as a mentor.
“I did my mentorship with an individual in a different industry, but we built a really good relationship, a friendship, and it has kind of evolved from there,” Flores said. “I saw the importance of having a mentor and having someone a little older and wiser that has kind of been through the ropes. [The mentor program] is one of the greatest things I feel that EYP offers. At first, I was hesitant, but I absolutely love it now.”
Matt Boydstun graduated from Oklahoma Christian in 2004 and was involved in the music department as a student. Now, Boydstun is the managing funeral director at Baggerley Funeral Home and Memorial Park Funeral Home and Cemetery. He also serves with Flores on the Steering Committee for EYP.
“It’s just really fun,” Boydstun said. “It’s a nice social group. The lunches are informal. Sometimes we play volleyball. There’s a lot of just fun activities as well as being educational. [There are] some volunteer opportunities as well.”
Students 21 years and older can join EYP for $10 per year, according to the EYP website. Flores said this fee covers the cost of event tickets and other things the group does in the community.
“Ten dollars a year [is] the best and the cheapest investment you could make in your career going forward,” Boydstun said. “It’s a really easy way to meet people, to build that network [and] to take advantage of some really cool educational opportunities like the Leadership Lattes, which happen on [the Oklahoma Christian] campus. You are going to get a lot of unique opportunities that you’re not going to find anywhere else. I wish I had been a part of it when I was in college.”
EYP functions under the Edmond Chamber of Commerce and offers a variety of events to its members, including networking events, luncheons, community service opportunities and more, according to Willison.
“Monthly, [EYP} has Lunch Bunch, which is where we just get together and have lunch,” Willison said. “Bi-monthly, we do Leadership Lattes where we bring in a CEO, a President [or] an elected official to share advice, give us some stories and things to avoid and we are able to ask questions. We do this at the Brew. Twice a year, we do educational luncheons. We also do networking events just for fun—a corn-hole tournament, volleyball [and] we volunteer with Miracle League [and] the Edmond Arts Festival.”
Willison, Flores and Boydstun agree EYP and the mentor program provide value and opportunities to its members. The mentor program is open to all junior and senior college students regardless of age or membership status with EYP or the Edmond Chamber of Commerce.
“Even if they’re not EYP members, at least try the mentor program,” Flores said. “A lot of people may be on the fence about it. My recommendation: I was there once, just take the leap. The mentor program is one of the great benefits that we offer. If you like it, join the EYP program.”