“The Emerge Gala is a signature event and it has been a bedrock to community building specifically for the Young Professionals and introducing them to the greater community,” says LaKendra Adesuyi, an Urban League of Greater Madison Young Professional and a member of the Emerge Gala Planning Committee. “It’s a great vehicle for recognizing the people in this community who are doing amazing things. I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to showcase talent that may not ordinarily get that same sort of recognition through other avenues.”

The Urban League of Greater Madison Young Professionals (ULGMYP) upcoming Third Annual Emerge Gala is a fun-filled night that honors outstanding work being done in the Madison community. For the third year, it continues in its tradition of bringing outstanding young professional leaders together for an evening to celebrate their many contributions to our community while raising funds for deserving local charities.

LaKendra Adesuyi
LaKendra Adesuyi

“While we’re there to celebrate the accomplishments of all these great awardees, it’s also an event for networking. So we are going to focus significantly on the pre- and post-award portions of our night,” says Nia Trammell, board chair of the Urban League of Greater Madison Board of Directors. “Afterwards, we do plan on dancing, so bring your dancing shoes. We do want people to be aware that it is much more than an awards ceremony. It’s truly a community celebration.”

The event will take place April 30 at the Concourse Hotel in downtown Madison. Madison365 recently sat down with the planning committee for the event.

“When the Emerge Gala was created, it was with the hope of energizing young professionals in the community to become passionate about the different causes that they support and to raise money for them,” Trammell says.

The initial Emerge Gala raised money for the Urban League while last year they added Big Brothers Big Sisters as the charity of choice. This year, they are raising money for the Urban League and the DOIT Information Technology Academy (ITA). Through ITA, high school students attend a two-week summer technology training camp held at UW-Madison. Students who successfully complete the camp are officially inducted into the four-year program and participate in technology training, pre-college seminars, and community-building activities.

“I’m really proud of the work that we are doing. We’re poised this year to hit the 50,000 mark in terms of what we’ve raised for the charities we’ve worked for these three years,” Trammell says. “We have young professionals that are so passionate about supporting the Urban League and other organizations with similar missions … that’s really refreshing. And it’s very rewarding for me to say that we’ve raised that much money.”

“We’re all volunteers,” adds Corinda Rainey-Moore, president of the Urban League of Greater Madison Young Professionals. “None of us are getting paid, but we’re all committed to the work that we need to see happen and that we know needs to get done. We’re basically here because we want to make our community better for everyone.

“For me, the Emerge Gala is about recognizing the talents and the skills that young professionals bring in the area and raising awareness about who these individuals are and what they contribute to our community,” she adds. “We’re doing that in a way that is very collaborative and very diverse in terms of both the individuals that we bring to the table and the people that we recognize at the event with awards.”

The Urban League Young Professionals team
The Urban League Young Professionals team

Renae Sigall, who is receiving the Spirit Award this year, got her introduction to ULGMYP at the first annual Emerge Gala. “They say that 20 percent of the people do 80 percent of the work in the community and it was easy for me to connect with these individuals,” she says. “I saw people getting recognized at that first event and I said to myself, ‘I want to be a part of this organization!’ Clearly, they’ve been doing great things.”

The Madison chapter of Young Professionals was founded in 2011 to support the National Urban League and Greater Madison Urban League movement. Through volunteerism, philanthropy, and membership development, ULGMYP looks to engage young professionals in the Madison community who are self-driven, action-oriented leaders and professionals in the community. The Emerge Gala brings together many different professional organizations together for the first time in a collaborative process.

“This is really a unifying event that brings people together and really sets an example throughout the city of Madison to say this is how we can all come together to work together and to celebrate and to do something that has a great mission and purpose,” says Ariana Mankerian, strategic development consultant for the Emerge Gala.
A highlight of the Emerge Gala will be the Emerging Leader Awards that are presented to young professionals who exemplify the qualities and characteristics of an exceptional leader in the Madison community. One of those awards will go to Shobhan Thakkar, of HealthX Ventures, a digital health care-focused seed fund that aims to help make health care safer, more affordable and provide better results. Derek Johnson, the director of Freshman Admissions at Edgewood College, will also receive that award at the Gala.

The Emerge Gala will also present Trailblazer Awards to Sandy Morales, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Megan Watt, who owns Dream Catalyst Labs. The Trailblazer Awards are presented to young professionals who are growing and excelling in their respective fields and who have shown leadership within their company and industry.

There will also be two awardees for the Impact Awards, which are presented to community leaders who have established a record of consistent outreach to young professionals in the Greater Madison area and who have invested time in the professional growth and development of young professionals. The recipients of the 2016 Impact Awards will be Dawn Crim, assistant dean at UW-Madison, and Dr. Nestor Rodriquez, emergency room physician with Southern Wisconsin Emergency Associates. Scott Haumersen, a partner with Wegner CPAs, will be honored with the Inspiration Award related to his community activities that further the Urban League mission.
“With the Urban League’s mission of creating a Madison that is one of the best places to live, work, and thrive, if people are being nominated, the companies are also spotlighted and the caliber of people that are working at those organizations,” Sigall says. “So, it really draws attention of future employees to those companies.”

The event is presented by Quarles & Brady LLP, a full-service law firm with more than 475 attorneys offering an array of legal services to corporate and individual clients that range from small entrepreneurial businesses to Fortune 100 companies, with practice focuses in health care and life sciences, business law, data privacy and security, and complex litigation.

“Quarles & Brady’s level of support and commitment to the Gala goes well beyond just providing financial support,” Trammell says. “They are a true community partner to the Urban League and to the Emerge Gala. Having a partner like that who truly believes in what we do as young people makes it all worth it.”

Trammell said that beyond the networking and the recognition of the event, the Emerge Gala also builds future leaders. “The young professionals who are involved in the planning of the Gala, many of them walk away with a significant skill set that they’ve never had before, so it helps in terms of building community leaders,” she says. “We hope and envision to keep creating opportunities like that for other young professionals as we move forward.”

“This is my third Gala and I feel like it was a great opportunity to learn about how do we go about raising funds for something that is not part of our everyday work,” Sigall adds. “It’s a great opportunity to learn how it works. How do we do this whole event planning? How do we leverage relationships and make the necessary connections? These are great skill sets that we are developing if we don’t have them already and really sharpening them for those that do have them. Planning this Emerge Gala has been a great opportunity for growth, learning and development.”

Sponsorships are still available for the event along with ad space for the booklet. ULGMYP are expecting about 200 people for the event that will be a night full of networking, great food, music, dancing and awards.

“The Emerge Gala will be just a great place to learn more about our organization. It’s a great showcase of everything we stand for and it exemplifies exactly what we try to represent and what we try to uphold and live by all the time,” Adesuyi says. “It’s also a chance just to meet some great folks and to develop and leverage some great relationships. There’s a lot of great people that will be at this event. It’s a fun time, too!”