Natalie Roper
A future for young professionals in West Virginia

Natalie Roper
Natalie Roper
Generation WV Executive Director

February 7, 2007

"Statistics show that three out of four WVU college graduates leave our state within five years of graduation." Natalie Roper was speaking to Putnam Rotarians during their luncheon meeting today.

"About 44 people leave our West Virginia every day," she said.

"That threatens our tax base. It threatens our community leadership. And it threatens our ability to attract businesses who need employees to be able to locate here.

"That's why we do what we do," she said, "and make West Virginia 'cool' along the way."

With a Master's degree in public policy from the University of Virginia, Natalie Roper is Executive Director of Generation West Virginia. And while Roper may not be native to the soil, she may rank among the many genuine lovers of "Home Sweet West Virginia."

David Gilpin (AKA Dave Allen) paraphrased a popular song in her introduction: "I may not be from West Virginia," he said, "but I got here as fast as I could."

Natalie Roper through Gen WV is promoting life in the Mountain State for rising young professionals."Not only do we want young people to become engaged," she said, "we want to introduce them to peers. People want to live in places where they feel connected, where they are a part of the future of their community, where they can grow professionally."

Generation WV last year sponsored over 25 events to promote the advantages and opportunities that West Virginia has to offer.

The UpThink program is an email series "designed by young people for young people around topics that matter to us.

"There’s great power in knowing you’re not alone," says Roper. "UpThink will serve as a uniting force, a conversation starter, a support network, and a virtual classroom."

Kickstart is a Generation series of interactive sessions and workshops "to keep you moving up and up as a leader."

"We want to be a voice for young people at the state capitol." Roper added. "We make sure that legislators are aware of the factors that we consider every time we're deciding whether to stay in West Virginia or feel that we're being pulled elsewhere.

And Leadership West Virginia, which began in 1991 under the umbrella of the state Chamber of Commerce, sponsors a series of two-day seminars each year which are available to members of Gen WV. Each of the eight seminars takes place in a different part of the state. The program seeks to enhance leadership skills and examine problems facing the state.

Alford / Roper / Tarbett Pictured with Natalie Roper (center) are Rotarian Ashley Alford (left) and Megan Tarbett. Alford is past-chair of Gen WV and Tarbett is chair-elect of the state organization.

"And what about jobs? Young people can't stay in a place without a job," Roper said.

"Just last week, we created Impact West Virginia fellowships which will create seven jobs this year all across the state.

The Herald-Dispatch reported sponsorship for the first round of Impact fellowships by EntreEd, MESH Design and Development in Charleston, Core 10, Downstream Strategies in Morgantown, WesBanco in Wheeling and Vaught in Beckley.

Fellows will work four days a week for their sponsoring company, and one day for a local nonprofit to encourage comittment to their community.

Applications are now being accepted for the first set of Impact jobs to begin next September.

"Within five years, we hope to be up to 35 job positions for young people annually," Roper said.

Generation West Virginia has grown to twelve local chapters across the state, and Generation Putnam includes leaders for the state organization among its membership. The local group affiliated in 2009 with Gen WV.

Rotarian Ashley Alford was state chair last year, and Megan Tarbett, Putnam's Director of Libraries, is state chair-elect for the coming year.

Generation West Virginia
may be contacted at ""
or by phone at (804) 201-5529

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