Travis Escobar was tired of seeing young professionals leaving Rhode Island. In late 2014, he wrote an op-ed in The Providence Journal about what he refers to as the state’s “brain drain.”
Escobar mentioned he wanted to start an organization for local millennials in the op-ed, and left his email address. He wasn’t expecting much feedback, but he was inundated with responses. Millennial Rhode Island began in early 2015 to provide a network and community for young professionals in the state.
Millennial RI held its first meeting that year, too. The nonprofit organization has over 200 paying members today and serves as the voice for young professionals in Rhode Island.
The group focuses on issues such as student debt, job opportunities and the negative stigma against the millennial generation. Millennial RI also hosts fun events such as bottomless mimosa brunches and skating socials.
Christine DiBiase, a judicial law clerk in Providence, joined Millennial RI’s volunteer board as a director in 2016. DiBiase was drawn to the organization’s mission of encouraging millennials to live, work and grow in Rhode Island. DiBiase is originally from the Ocean State, but lived in Boston for several years while attending college and law school.
“I was looking at other cities like Denver and Austin, and I saw that if we can bring some of that energy and millennial vibe to Rhode Island, we would really be able to see the state grow,” DiBiase says.
The organization offers mentoring, networking, events and professional development. DiBiase says the group’s membership base has grown mostly through word of mouth since its start almost three years ago.
The organization’s signature event is #ChooseRI week, a celebration of events and programming geared to young professionals. This year’s #ChooseRI week took place in September and both DiBiase and Escobar say the events were successful with good turnout.
“What’s exciting to me is when people who moved to Rhode Island recently come to #ChooseRI,” DiBiase says. “A big issue for people who move here is meeting other people who are new to Rhode Island.”
Down the road, DiBiase and Escobar both hope to grow the organization’s membership base and influence in the state.
“Five years down the line, I would love to see the membership grow and we would love to be able to have more capacity with staff,” Escobar says. “We want to create more awareness and attention so we can impact policy.”