When Annushka Chin Fong arrived in Columbus nearly seven years ago, she was fresh out of college and looking to launch her career. Having grown up in Trinidad and having spent her college days in Washington, D.C., though, she felt a little out of her element in south central Indiana.
The Cummins engineer, who works on delivering products to reduce exhaust emissions, struggled for the first few years with what to do with her time outside of work.
For Chin Fong, the answer became community involvement.
Her first efforts included volunteering at a local animal shelter, providing much-needed human interaction for animals in need. She also organized some hot meals through the the assistance agency, Love Chapel, benefiting people in need.
Those initial efforts opened her eyes to more opportunities around her, opening doors to make a world of difference in her new hometown.
“There’s so much you can do to shape the community by being involved,” the 30-year-old said.
For example: Chin Fong was one of the founding members of the Trinbago Association, which will be the host country for this year’s Ethnic Expo.
She’s in this year’s Leadership Bartholomew County class.
Her involvement has grown in the Columbus Area Multi-Ethnic Organization, now in line to become vice chairwoman in May.
She got involved five years ago with the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization and has developed a strong relationship with her “little sister,” seeing her enter middle school and building that bond into the girl’s high school years. “We enjoy hanging out, and it touches me the way our relationship has developed over time.”
Chin Fong’s work with teens is a connection she shares with Nathan Larrison, director of the Boys & Girls Club within the local Foundation for Youth program.
Larrison’s job connects him with local young people every day. But his mentorship with them extends into his personal time as well. He volunteers with the Council for Youth Development, an advocacy group that serves young people up to age 21.
The community initiative has been around for about seven years, but he’s leading a new component of the council called the Teen Consortium, working on behalf of 13- to 18-year-olds.
“It’s a collaboration of programming in Bartholomew County coming together for the cause of teens,” said Larrison, who is 30.
“The teens are underserved, and they’re commonly misunderstood and may be misrepresented by some of their peers,” Larrison said. “The need is for them to have support systems and outlets. Those (teen) years are discovering who you are. Without those other support systems and outlets, they become lost years.”
Larrison said there are a lot of community resources for young people in Columbus through age 8. As youths get older, however, their options become slimmer, he said.
“In teen years, it’s basically school or church. Not a lot more,” he said. “As a community, we owe it to them to make them a priority.”
With this age group, he also works with the Teen Council, which has a similar name but is part of Foundation for Youth, providing outreach for young people from seventh grade through high school.
Larrison and Chin Fong have yet another connection. Two years ago, they were recognized among Columbus’ top 20 emerging business and community leaders under the age of 40.
The recognition program is a partnership between The Republic and Columbus Young Professionals, which are seeking nominations for this year’s campaign.
It works like this.
Nominees for the award should have made a significant contribution through community involvement, professional accomplishments and demonstrated leadership ability.
Nominations should be a one-page description of why you think the nominee should be selected with a focus on career achievement to-date, commitment to excellence in career, leadership within company and/or industry, involvement in community activities and leadership in community organizations.
Nominees should be 39 years old or younger as of May 16, and must live or work in Bartholomew County.
Know someone like Chin Fong or Larrison who fits the above description?
Submit your nominations by 5 p.m. April 3 to The Republic, 333 Second St., or Columbus Young Professionals at the Chamber of Commerce, 500 Franklin St.
Nominations will also be accepted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
People submitting nominations on behalf of others should include contact information for the nominee as well as themselves.
A selection committee will consider all nominations and determine award recipients. Winners will receive their award at the May 16 CYP annual meeting.
“It was a great honor to be recognized by your peers,” Larrison said.
Chin Fong called it “a pretty humbling experience.”
I encourage you to nominate a worthy young professional that you know, providing a gesture of thanks to people who invest their time to make their community a better place. If you have questions, please reach out to Kristin Munn at CYP, 379-4457; or Kathy Burnett at The Republic, 379-5655.
Tom Jekel is editor of The Republic. His column appears each Sunday. You may reach him by phone at 379-5665 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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