Each year, Juice and the Young Professionals Connection selects four winners from 12 finalists to receive Central Iowa Young Professional of the Year Awards to honor and celebrate their achievements in the community. The winners were announced Thursday at the Embassy Club in West Des Moines.
We spoke to the winners about their passion for central Iowa, important causes to them around the state, and how they would improve their community as young professionals.
Juice YP of the Year
This award recognizes a young professional who has made significant contributions for civic, charitable, entertainment or quality of life in central Iowa.
Winner: Jonathan Brendemuehl
Occupation: Des Moines Performing Arts, communications manager
Residence: Des Moines
If you could describe Des Moines in three words, what would they be? Generous, accessible and inclusive.
What is the most important cause to you, right now, in Des Moines (and why?) Advocating for our arts and culture. We are so lucky for a city our size to have such wonderful organizations that advance this cause. It really sets us apart from other markets similar to us.
What is the one thing Des Moines needs right now to move it up to the next level? Address transit and mobility throughout the metro. Whether that’s DART’s bus rapid transit, or the Partnership’s walkability studies...that’s something I think we can really take a step forward on and I hope we do in the future.
Meet Jonathan Brendemuehl, Juice YP of the Year finalist.
DSM Creative of the Year
This award goes to the person pushing creativity in their field, whether it be art, graphic design, music, food styling, interior design, architecture or another area of work or study. This person is using his or her creative ideas to spur changes within the workplace or immediate community and within the broader Des Moines region.
Winner: Emily Lang
Occupation: Des Moines Public Schools, teacher and urban arts coordinator; co-founder of RunDSM
Residence: Des Moines
What is the most “Des Moines” thing that has ever happened to you while living here? Standing in the pupusa line at the Farmer’s Market because I think everyone has probably stood in the pupusa line at the Farmer’s Market waiting for that delicious Saturday morning treat.
If you could describe Des Moines in three words, what would they be? Community, culture and canvas.
What is the most important cause to you, right now, in Des Moines (and why?) I wouldn’t really consider it a cause, more as a responsibility of ours, is to find ways to provide platforms for young people and the marginalized to have their stories and their voices heard ... not only validating their existence but giving them space to shape their narrative and share their truth.
Emily Lang, a finalist for the 2015 DSM Creative of the Year award, talks about the importance of giving the youth and marginalized communities opportunities to express themselves.
YPC Amy Jennings YP Impact Award
Given to a young professional who made a significant impact on the young professional environment in greater Des Moines. Like Amy Jennings, a past YPC president who led the organization through major growth, the recipient of the award should demonstrate a dedication to creating a vibrant community that attracts and retains YPs.
Winner: Brianne Fitzgerald
Occupation: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa, marketing communications director
What is the most “Des Moines” thing that has ever happened to you while living here? The ability to pick up the phone and call any CEO of a corporation or a non-profit and ask for a meeting and be able to get that meeting and spend time with them.
If you could describe Des Moines in three words, what would they be? Impression, community, metamorphosis.
What is the most important cause to you, right now, in Des Moines (and why?) Mentoring. I feel it’s really important that every person, big or small, has a person to really guide them in their life to truly help them reach their goals.
Meet Brianne Fitzgerald, a 2015 YPC Amy Jennings YP Impact award finalist, talking about the importance of mentoring.
YPC Ashley Okland YP Community Service Award
Given to a young professional who exemplifies the volunteerism and spirit of late YPC board member Ashley Okland in giving of his or her time, talents and other resources to community organizations.
Winner: Alex Duong
Occupation: Mediacom, Marketing Specialist
Residence: Des Moines
If you could describe Des Moines in three words, what would they be? Awesome, amazing and fun.
What is the most important cause to you, right now, in Des Moines (and why?) A lot of young professionals now don’t have the opportunity to find a mentor. My goal as a young professional who’s part of YPC board is to help future young professionals connect with current community leaders by having a lot of networking events.
What is the one thing Des Moines needs right now to move it up to the next level? Leaders. Because a lot of people have a lot of great ideas but they’re afraid to step out of their comfort zones...that’s why a lot of people hold back. If you have a goal you have to go after it and fight for it.
Meet Alex Duong, a 2015 Ashley Okland Community Service award finalist, as he talks about his love for Des Moines and the creative scene.