50 Young Gamechangers from Georgia to Start New Project in Augusta

Monday, July 25th, 2016

From Athens to Savannah and from Atlanta to Macon, this summer the fourth class of GeorgiaForward’s Young Gamechangers will head to Augusta to tackle their latest project. 50 of the state’s emerging young leaders will spend several days touring the area, gathering historical data, and meeting with community leaders and stakeholders. Over the next five months these Young Gamechangers will work on big ideas and innovative solutions for some of the area’s most persistent challenges. They’ll re-envision Augusta as a vibrant, thriving, world-class city, and provide in-depth recommendations on how to get there. 
The opening session of the project will kick off on Thursday, August 11 at 10 am at the Paul S. Simon Discovery Theater at One Seventh Street, Augusta, GA 30901. Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis, Former Mayor Deke Copenhaver, Community Foundation President Shell Knox Berry, Mayor Davis' Chief of Staff Lynthia Owens, and Convention & Visitors Bureau President Barry White are scheduled to attend. Media are welcome from 9:45 am to 10:30 am before the group heads out for a tour of the city.
“The Young Gamechangers program brings together the state’s brightest young professionals from the ages of 24 to 40 to work in communities around Georgia to make our state stronger,” states Kris Vaughn, Executive Director of GeorgiaForward.  “One of the unique aspects of the program is the diversity of the participants. They work across a wide variety of businesses and industries including finance, non-profit, education, health, law, government, food, education and economic development. We’ve found the more diverse the group, the richer the ideas.” 
Here’s an introduction to some members of the 2016 fall class of Young Gamechangers: 
Walt Farrell is senior project manager with Georgia Power. He’s responsible for facilitating the location, expansion or start-up of businesses wishing to invest in Georgia. He assists companies in identifying potential sites, provides market evaluation, construction information, engineering assistance, and serves as a liaison between businesses and governmental agencies in the site selection process. Farrell is a member of the Georgia Economic Developers Association, NAIOP Commercial Real Estate Development Association, and a graduate of the 2015 Leadership Georgia class. He lives in Atlanta, GA. 
“Because I travel a lot with my job, I think I will bring a broader perspective to the table,” says Farrell. “I look forward to working with a team of young professionals to complete a tangible, meaningful project which addresses the needs of the Augusta community and helps it prosper.” 
Betsy McGriff is an Archway Professional in Cairo, GA.  McGriff works with community partners, state agencies, and UGA graduate students and faculty to develop stronger communities with a solid vision for their future.  Archway is a program of the University of Georgia.  Before joining UGA, she worked with Georgia Power's Key Accounts Division, helping some of Georgia's largest industries manage their utility costs and growth challenges. McGriff lives in Tifton, GA. 

“From my experience with Archway, I’ve learned you need community buy-in to be successful,” explains McGriff. “We’ll have to take the time to really listen to the issues before we can engage and inspire this community to make a commitment to any plans we propose.” 

“As Young Gamechangers not only can we and learn about, and work on, challenges affecting Augusta, but it’s a great opportunity to bring fresh ideas back to our own communities,” adds McGriff. 
Raised in Augusta, GA Ian Bridgeforth’s interest in civic engagement was sparked at Georgia College & State University during an internship with his congressman. After graduating with a degree in Mass Communication, he worked with local and national nonprofits in New York City. In 2014, Bridgeforth founded his own nonprofit, Georgia Shift, a non-partisan organization dedicated to giving young people a seat at the table of democracy. A 2015 alumnus of the New Leaders Council (Augusta Chapter), he is in the 2016 GALEO Institute of Leadership class and currently pursuing his M.A. in Design Management from the Savannah College of Art & Design.
“I’m very excited that this project is happening in Augusta,” states Bridgeforth. “I want to invest in a community that has invested in me.” 

“I love that the Young Gamechangers program is very solutions-based,” he continues. “The program can provide blueprints for change. But if you want change to happen, you have to put in the work.  Because I live here, I look forward to working with the blueprints we create and helping make them a reality.” 

Stacey Chavis is the Public Policy, Research and Analysis Consultant with the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta where she assists the Foundation in pursuing a robust public policy role to enhance support for the local non-profit sector and the Foundation’s philanthropic mission. Previously she served as Southern Regional Director for the White House Project, Deputy Finance Director for the Democratic Party of Georgia, and Finance Director for US Representative Hank Johnson. Chavis received a B.A. in Psychology with a Political Science minor from Oglethorpe University. She lives in Brookhaven, GA.
“I look forward to using my extensive background in policy and advocacy on this project,” says Chavis. “I want to see how Augusta’s city and county government works together, so I understand how things get done. Then I want to learn about their specific issues and dig in to discover opportunities for growth.”

Matt Heller is a Senior Financial Planner at Day & Ennis. He was born and raised in Conyers, GA. He moved to Macon 10 years ago to manage The Medical Center of Central Georgia’s retirement plan, then joined Day & Ennis three years ago. Heller received his MBA at Georgia Southern University and completed the Financial Planner Program at The University of Georgia. He has been a Certified Financial Planner since 2012.  He’s a 2014 graduate of Leadership Macon and a member of the Macon Estate Planning Council. He married a Maconite, the former Jennifer Stone, and they have a two-year-old son.
“I really love collaborating with people,” states Heller. “Any time you pool intellectual capital and apply it to one project, that’s exciting.” 

“Active citizenship is the most important thing in order to have a healthy society,” he continues. “I was drawn to the Young Gamechangers because it’s an action-based program. We need to think about Georgia as a connected and interdependent whole, and get input and engagement from people all around the state in order to flourish.”

Sponsors for the 2016 Fall Young Gamechangers program include: The Commerce Club Foundation, Central Atlanta Progress, Atlanta Downtown Improvement District, Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau, City of Augusta, Augusta Metro Chamber, Augusta University, Community Foundation for the Central Savannah River Area, Copenhaver Consulting, Braye Boardman, Beth & Barry Storey, Holiday Inn Express, Fat Man's Café, Metro Market, MealViewer, Georgia EMC and GeorgiaTrend Magazine.