504ward is a nonprofit collaborative initiative with a mission to retain the influx of young talent in the New Orleans region. Focused on both new and native New Orleanians, 504ward connects the 21-to-35-year-old demographic to key events, people, organizations, and opportunities across the city and region.

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Category: Community Improvement
Parish: Orleans
Greater New Orleans' long-term economic competitiveness is fundamentally tied to the quality of our workforce. To succeed, employers need access to a deep, talented pool of highly skilled, highly educated workers. As the primary age range for hiring and a representation of the community's future economic capacity, the 21-to-35-year-old demographic remains one of the most critical talent groups.

A silver lining to the tragic events of 2005 was a reversal of the city's historic brain drain. New Orleans became the destination for socially conscious millennial college grads who wanted to be part of rebuilding efforts. Fellowships in fields from architecture to law, and programs like Teach For America, brought an influx of the nation's top young professional talent to New Orleans.

504ward was founded in 2008 as a nonprofit collaborative initiative with a mission to take advantage of this opportunity and retain the influx of young talent in the New Orleans region. Focused on both new and native New Orleanians, 504ward connects thousands of young professionals every year to opportunities for social engagement, leadership development, career advancement and community impact.

In addition to promoting opportunities across the city to get connected and involved through our ongoing communications, 504ward hosts its own signature programming. Recognizing that New Orleans is a relationship-driven community, "Connectors" (established business and civic leaders) are invited to 504ward events to ensure that we build strong cross-generational ties. These relationships benefit not only the young professionals, but also benefit the Connectors who get access to a new network of exciting young talent.

With the support of our partners and Connectors over the last decade, 504ward members have launched startup companies and nonprofit organizations and stepped into leadership roles across industries, fueling the economic and social prosperity of our city.

Continuing to invest in this key asset, our talented young people, is critical.
"I connected with 504ward through the dine around initiative in 2016 where I met Keith and Elizabeth Crawford, who welcomed us into their home. Since that time, we've stayed in touch; Keith actually became the first formal adviser for the nonprofit I founded, STEM Library Lab, and has since joined our board of directors, helping our organization to grow and thrive. STEM Library Lab provides a resource share facility for science equipment and planning resources for teachers to enable inquiry-based hands-on learning and improve STEM outcomes throughout New Orleans classrooms. With a small team of collaborators and some expert mentorship (from people like my dine around host, Keith), we are developing and iterating SLL with the intention to open doors at the start of the 2018 school year!" - Todd Wackerman, Director, STEM Library Lab

"I participated in the 2016 Dine Around at Norma Grace & Bob Sternhell's house. The dinner opened my eyes to what wonderful things my peers are doing in New Orleans. So many in my dinner group were outrageously successful and passionate in their respective fields. I loved hearing what brought them to New Orleans and what has kept and is keeping them here. I really believe we could have stayed there and talked as a group the entire night. I walked away from this experience as one of the best I have had in New Orleans (5 years and counting)." - Candance Weber, Special Events Coordinator, Children's Hospital

"Thank you so much for putting together the NOLA Bound webinar. I just sat down with my wife to view it and honestly it made me feel incredibly encouraged about our decisions to move to New Orleans. With all of the innovation coming in education and healthcare, I think we will make a great impact. Coming from Florida and not having any solid foundation in New Orleans is part of the excitement of making something new come to life." - November 2017 Webinar Participant