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Gala spotlights emerging difference-makers

    Winners humbled that they had been chosen and nominees honored to be considered for recognition they never would have sought gave testament last Saturday that Memphis is producing young, minority professionals making positive changes in the community.

    Over 100 Memphians adorned in their best evening attire gathered downtown at Bridges for the 3rd Annual Agents of Change Awards presented by the Memphis Urban League Young Professionals (MULYP).

    "As young professionals, we feel it is our duty to acknowledge those among us making a tremendous difference in this city," said Lori Spicer Robertson, president of MULYP.

    Headed into its 10th year, MULYP is a non-profit organization founded to support the goals of the Memphis Urban League and the National Urban League Young Professionals. Through various events such as General Body Meetings and YP Connect, MULYP engages young professionals (21 to 40) in the areas of financial literacy and empowerment, youth mentoring and development, civic engagement and advocacy, personal and professional development and health literacy and advocacy.

    Out of 48 nominees on Saturday night (Dec. 1), only 10 walked away with a title. Chosen by their peers, nomination forms called for individuals who offered "unique and innovative solutions to social problems, as well as those who shine in their respective professions." The award categories were: Agent of Change, MULYP Legends, MULYP Member of the Year, Innovator of the Year, Community/Civic Activist, Health Advocate of the Year, Arts Enthusiasts of the Year, Educator of the Year, Rising Star, and the Non-Profit/Faith-Based Organization of the Year.

    Initially shocked at the notion, Community/Civic Activist nominee Troy L. Wiggins, was truly honored to find out he had been nominated.

    "The nomination just kind of confirms that, 'yes, my work is meaningful, and I'm making a difference somewhere, and people are taking note of it,' which is amazing," said Wiggins, lead facilitator and volunteer program manager at Southwest Tennessee Community College, Knowledge Quest and WriteMemphis.

    Although Wendolyn Payne, HR generalist at Luxottica Optical Manufacturing won the category, the honor of being considered for an award was not lost on Wiggins.

    "It's always nice to be recognized for the work that you do, even if you don't actively seek out that recognition," said Wiggins.

    With a new year and an energetic group of incoming board members, the Memphis Urban League Young Professionals is poised to keep building on its momentum. A native of Atlanta, Chapter President-elect Cynthia Daniels joined the organization to network. Named the 2011 MULYP Member of the Year, Daniels is more than ready for her upcoming term.

    "The organization gave me the opportunity to work and interact with other professionals. Seeking the presidency was a way for me to ensure that others could experience the joy and fulfillment of being a member of MULYP," said Daniels.

    Daniels plans to focus on increasing awareness of the organization and its mission.

    "To best align the Memphis community for continued advancement, MULYP must bring the great ideas and fresh perspectives of the city's young and emerging leaders to the conversations that are shaping the future of this community," she said.

    (The current MULYP website,, is being revamped for 2013. Young professsionals interested in joining MULYP are encouraged to visit the chapter on Facebook at, or on Twitter, @MemphisULYP.)

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