About five years ago, the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce launched its Chamber Rising Professionals program to foster the talents and harness the leadership of young professionals in Colorado Springs. It has become the hub of young professional activity and advancement in the Pikes Peak Region.

Sandy Wenger is event and program manager for the chamber. She is a founding member of the Rising Professionals group and now leads the organization.

What resources do the Chamber Rising Professionals offer young professionals? How often do they meet?

The Chamber Rising Professionals are a dynamic, fast-paced group that offers a unique opportunity for young, career-minded individuals to network, work with a mentor, hone their business talents, volunteer their time and skills and meet other professionals in the Colorado Springs community. The aim of the organization is to cultivate the next generation of leaders and maximize their involvement in our community.

The Rising Professionals has two events per month with topics covering professional development, civic engagement, networking and recreational activities. The group also offers a mentor program to our members where we match them with community leaders based on their current position, dream position, hobbies and interests.

What’s new with the Chamber Rising Professionals?

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Last year we started a College Fellowship Program where we adopt college seniors from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. The College Fellowship Program is designed to bring in applicants from UCCS and give qualifying students a chance to participate in the Chamber Rising Professionals events and engage students in a professional business world setting. Additionally, students are also encouraged to get involved in local government affairs. The students are given business and networking opportunities, and the tools to take advantage of these opportunities, through a medium outside of school.

We are also working on a Political Incubator to help young business professionals to get more involved in politics and public policy issues that affect our community. Through this initiative we are also working on getting young business professionals on boards throughout the Pikes Peak Region.

Through the great success that the Chamber Rising Professionals have had over the past five years, The Chamber of Commerce is dedicating a full time staff member to continue and build upon what the group has accomplished thus far. Through this full time staff member the Chamber Rising Professionals will be able to grow the group and have more impact within the community.

How many people are members of the Chamber Rising Professionals? Is membership increasing? Declining?

The Chamber Rising Professionals has more than 200 members with a goal for 300 members for 2011. Membership has been increasing over the past five years, our membership numbers are close to what they were at the end of 2010. We have corporate memberships where a company that has five or more employees that are interested in the Chamber Rising Professionals can join the group at a reduced cost. We currently have 12 corporate memberships which makes up almost half of our membership.

What, in your opinion, makes Colorado Springs a great place for young professionals?

I was born and raised in Colorado Springs. I tried to move away once but quickly came back and finished my degree at UCCS because I wanted to live in Colorado Springs and have my career here. I love Colorado Springs and feel that there is a lot here for young professionals to do and get involved in. There is something for everyone; hiking and biking to indoor rock climbing and a somewhat decent night life. Colorado Springs is also a great place to raise a family, I have many friends who are raising their families here and absolutely love it. Colorado Springs also has many ways to get involved in the community to help make a difference. There are numerous non-profits that are always looking for volunteers or board members. We have a newly elected City Council that wants to hear from their constituents and wants them to get involved.