(Dec. 28, 2018) It appears the young people living in Worcester County are few and far between.
It begs the question, what keeps them around and what resources are at their disposal?
Ashley Rodriguez, 30, of Salisbury, is a director of sales and marketing at Courtyard by Marriott, and the 2018 chairperson of the Young Professionals of Ocean City, said she’s enjoyed the social aspect of the organization, and went onto say one of the friend’s she made will be in her upcoming wedding.
“It’s been really great,” Rodriguez said. “It’s harder to make friends as an adult.”
The group’s annual Christmas Spirit Shopping campaign is Rodriguez’s favorite. This year, she said 89 kids went on a $100 tax free shopping spree at the Berlin Walmart.
“[We’re] affecting their life in such a big way.”
That event is also what originally got incoming chairperson Danielle Bellante, 26, events coordinator at Oceans 13, involved with the Young Professionals back in 2016.
Bellante said an organization like the Young Professionals is “about bringing young people of the town together.”
The 65 active members are accomplish that task through networking opportunities, resume builders and speaking engagements from local businesses. Cate Nellans, 33, said members also give their time volunteering for other organizations like the Humane Society, ASPCA and March of Dimes walk.
For more information about upcoming meetings, visit the group’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ocmdyp/.
Nellans works as an insurance agent for NFP. She said she wanted to find a network here.
“I just wanted to get involved in something,” she said. “I wasn’t involved in any volunteer organizations at all and I ended up really liking the people in the group and made a lot of friends.”
But Bellante added it’s about laying the groundwork for the area’s young people.
“We’re the future of Ocean City,” Bellante said.
She went on to say anyone interested in joining doesn’t have to make every meeting, just showing “even an inkling of interest” is enough.
And for Nellans, as a mother of two kids, she loves the accessibility factor that the group offers to keep members informed on area happenings.
Bellante acknowledged a “generational gap” as more and more people choose this area for retirement.
District 38 Sen.-elect Mary Beth Carozza said she believes the increasing demographic could actually provide an employment opportunity for young workers.
“This is an exciting time for our young people to pursue health care related careers on the Shore,” Carozza said in a statement.
Nordstrom acknowledged the amount of retirees in the area as all the more reason to keep young people in Worcester County.
“We also need to keep younger people here because we want to maintain [a] steady workforce [and] tax base,” Nordstrom said.
Bellante, 26, now calls Ocean Pines home after moving from Annapolis. While it appears some young people leave the area for another part of the state or country to find economic prosperity, she’s heard different.
“I also hear a lot about the times they come back,” she said.
That’s also the case for Nellans, who’s from Berlin, and has lived there for most of her life. She moved to Brooklyn, New York, for a few years, but she said she couldn’t stay away.
But she said she remembers the area’s offseason being considered a wasteland with not many people around.
“Well it is hard, growing up here for a long time there was nothing the winter time it closed down there was nothing to do,” Nellans said.
However, Nellans said she’s starting to see a shift in the business community.
“Being in a business that offers growth potential is a huge thing, and I think a lot of the businesses are … cluing into that,” she said. “They need to change, they need to improve with the times … in order to keep the workforce interested and here.”
Worcester County Commissioner Joshua Nordstrom emphasized the need to advocate for educational incentives and vocational training. In order to give those incentives and funding to the people that really need it, Nordstrom said it’s going to require local and state assistance.
“Having the county and these state help out some of our young people who are bright and talented … get that education that they need,” he said.
Carozza said she’s also making this a priority for constituents across her district.
“As the Maryland General Assembly considers changes to our education funding formulas and policy reforms, our focus should be on career readiness, which could include college, apprenticeships, and other workforce training,” she said in a statement.
Nordstrom and Carozza agreed there are available positions in the nursing and skilled labor professions. Nordstrom said it’s about “incentivizing young people to go into these jobs that are right here on the Shore.”
Rodriguez said it’s crucial to have as many resources available as possible in order to improve the quality of life for the area’s young people who choose to stay.
“[It’s] important to me to stay on [the Shore], [and] having groups like this makes it more desirable,” Rodriguez said.
Bellante said it’s really about making her mark on Ocean City.
“In the last couple of years [I’ve] become a core part of the group … [it’s] something to be proud of,” Bellante said.