Turning passion into action: Next Gen award winners honored at celebration

“Everybody’s put on earth to help people,” is a quote that reminds TyShaun Allen of his purpose.

Josh Carter and Adrian “Soca” Wibowo agree their profitable company wouldn’t be what it is today without the lessons learned along the way.

It’s the teachers who Shane Yates learned from in his own days in the classroom that inspired him to pursue a career in education.

At Foundation for Youth, Tim Green is the man behind the scenes who has increased teen involvement by more than 100 youth in just two years. He says, “You get out of it what you put into it.” That’s his mantra.

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Susan Villegas moved to Columbus just 15 months ago — her first-ever visit to the Midwest. She took a chance and found her place in the community she now calls home.

Nathan Red identified a need, and he took action. Believing that all people should be treated equally, Red created an organization that now serves hundreds of people across nine Indiana counties.

And even with all their differences, these seven young professionals from Bartholomew County have one thing in common: They turned their passions into action.

These individuals were each recognized for their contributions to the community Friday during the NextGen Awards sponsored by the Columbus Young Professionals and the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce. The event drew more than 200 people to The Commons to celebrate the young adults, all under 40 years old.

“At the chamber, we know that when businesses thrive, our community grows,” said Cindy Frey, chamber president. “We’re spotlighting some of our most talented young professionals who are making contributions that make Columbus a better place to work and live.”

In a community the size of Columbus, with about 47,000 residents, Frey said business, nonprofit and community leaders can easily recognize when young people are making a contributions, whether that means starting a new business, succeeding in their jobs or having a new idea.

“We can get them connected to resources and mentors and help them meet their goals,” Frey said. “When we do that, our young professionals are co-creating with us a city they want to live in.”

Discovering their niche

Giving runs in Allen’s blood. The Taylor Bros. system analyst can recall his grandmother telling him, “There’s always gotta be a job. Somebody always needs help.”

From that moment on, Allen started dedicating his time to the community, serving in various leadership capacities for the Columbus Area Multi-Ethnic Organization and sharing his knowledge with the African American Fund of Bartholomew County and the Columbus Enrichment Program as a technology consultant.

“That was always the mission she had; I just followed in my grandma’s footsteps,” Allen said upon receiving the Volunteer of the Year Award Friday. “If you can’t do nothing else but give time, then give it, if you have a little bit to give.”

Green said he had time to give, but he also had a passion for youth. A combination of the two are what earned him the Unsung Hero Award Friday.

As manager of teen programming at Foundation for Youth, Green dedicates his heart and soul to local teenagers. He created teen nights for teenagers to spend a few hours one Saturday a month with their peers in a safe environment. He hosts trips to the bowling alley, amusement parks and the movie theater. Most importantly, he lives to serve.

In high school, Green was a part of the Crothersville FFA chapter, whose motto is, “Learning to do. Doing to learn. Learning to live. Living to serve.”

“That last part has stuck with me my entire life — living to serve,” Green said. “If you do something to just get by, your rewards will show that. If you put your heart and soul into something, give 100%, the outcomes will reflect your efforts.”

Learning to achieve

The Columbus Young Professionals and Columbus Area Chamber honored Helix Biostructures founders Joshua Carter and Adrian “Soca” Wibowo with the Innovators of the Year Award.

The business partners met at Indiana University in Bloomington and worked together in Chicago at a drug discovery company. When the Chicago-based company closed its doors, customers were so impressed with Carter and Wibowo’s work that they were encouraged to start their own business.

Helix Biostructures uses X-ray crystallography, an intersection between biology and computer sciences, to deliver fast and efficient structural biology services to major pharmaceutical companies. Since establishing their business just two years ago, the young entrepreneurs have learned how to navigate business ownership, but Wibowo said there’s more to be learned.

“It’s been a learning process,” Wibowo said. “We’ve learned through the process of becoming employees to business owners, and as we came to this area, becoming involved with the chamber has been a good source of experience from other local entrepreneurs as well as a mentorship. Through that, it has been beneficial to see our growth.”

Helix Biostructures serves 25 industrial pharmaceutical companies ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, and revenues are expected to reach more than $1 million this year.

Inspired by a mentor

Shane Yates asked himself, “Why me?” when he learned he would be honored with the Educator of the Year Award.

“I think that I’m up here because I had many great teachers throughout my education career and (Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.) schools,” Yates said. “One particular teacher comes to mind, Dennis Lindsey.”

Sitting in a three-hour lecture in college, Yates remembers wishing his professor shared the same enthusiasm that Lindsey did.

“What (Lindsey) didn’t know was that one day he would inspire me to be an educator,” Yates said. “I began thinking, ‘Is that something I can do? Can I make a difference? Can I inspire kids?’”

Now, Yates manages the early childhood education programs as director of pre-kindergarten at BCSC.

A people-centered focus

Having always believed that all people should be treated equally, Red identified a need for a service that would allow disabled clients to live active and healthy lives in their homes and communities.

With the support of SCORE, which provides mentors who offer business insight to entrepreneurs, Red founded Assisted Independence after graduating from Indiana University in 2016. The business provides services to people of all ages who are living with disabilities.

Assisted Independence was named Business of the Year Friday.

“The truth is, this award is not mine,” Red said. “It is ours. It is a collective effort of people coming together to change a community.”

While the city of Columbus has reached astounding statistics on a global and national scale, Red said, the community continues to lack in support provided to people with developmental disabilities.

Red said he wants to continue to create sustainable solutions for local individuals with disabilities to thrive in Columbus.

Discovering her place

When Villegas moved to Columbus from California with her boyfriend who was hired for a position at Cummins Inc., she immediately wanted to find her place in a community known for its architectural and natural beauty. With her resume and art portfolio in hand, Villegas happened upon the Columbus Area Arts Council.

She was immediately hired to coordinate exhibitions with artists and designers, community events and organize hands-on activities.

Villegas said she has since discovered a job she loves and was introduced to a community where she felt like she belonged, Villegas said.

It was her drive to create a welcoming community that she wanted to live in that earned her the NextGen Community Contribution Award.

“Columbus is a beautiful city,” Villegas said. “It has beautiful architecture and landscape, but I believe the true beauty of this city comes from its people. There’s so much in common among us.”

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The Columbus Young Professionals and the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce recognize young professionals who have exhibited leadership, intelligence, exuberance and dedication to improving the community.

The NextGen Awards are an effort to raise the visibility of emerging talent and highlight individual achievement.

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Tyshaun Allen – Volunteer of the Year

Allen runs information technology systems at Taylor Brothers Construction Co. He has served on the Columbus Area Multi-Ethnic Association board of directors for five years and now serves as its president. He also served on the team that led the Welcoming Communities survey and serves as a technology consultant to the African American Fund of Bartholomew County and the Columbus Enrichment Program.

Josh Carter and Adrian “Soca” Wibowo – Innovators of the Year

Carter and Wibowo run Helix BioStructures, LLC, a research services company. They bring their talent for X-ray crystallography, an intersection between biology and computer sciences, to deliver fast and efficient structural biology services to major pharmaceutical companies.

Shane Yates – Educator of the Year

Yates serves as Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.’s pre-kindergarten director. He was instrumental in the implementation of On My Way Pre-K and Legado Pre-K, the Spanish language immersion program.

Tim Green – Unsung Hero

Green is an advocate for the city’s teen population, having re-energized teen programs at Foundation for Youth on a shoestring budget, developing programs and creating a more comfortable and private space for them within the facility.

Assisted Independence – NextGen Business of the Year

Nathan Red set out to start his own business to provide services to people of all ages who are living with disabilities. He created a business plan, with support from SCORE, and founded the company in 2016. Now he employs 50 people who serve clients in Indianapolis, Bloomington and Columbus.

Susana Villegas – Community Contribution Award

Villegas is the program coordinator for the Columbus Area Arts Council. This award recognizes someone who positively impacts the community. Villegas’ work is focused on coordinating exhibitions with artists and designers, community events and organizing hands-on art activities at 411 gallery.

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The Columbus Young Professionals and the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce welcomed Ellie Symes, CEO of The Bee Corp., as keynote speaker of the NextGen Awards Luncheon.

Symes founded the data analytics start-up in 2016 as a student at Indiana University. The Bee Corp. is aimed at combating bee hive loss with data analysis.

The chamber said Symes has grown the company from a winning idea in a business competition into a prominent start-up in the tech scene and a growing presence in the beekeeping industry.