Young Gamechangers present Big Ideas to Monroe/Walton County on August 9

Topics include Youth Entrepreneurship Classes, Connecting Parks, and a Robust Workforce Pipeline!

Atlanta, GA — Since the beginning of the year 45 of Georgia’s brightest young professionals have been working on a project in Monroe/Walton County. They met with community leaders, toured businesses and schools, visited neighborhoods and parks, researched history, and re-imagined the area’s connectivity in their quest to come up with big ideas and innovative solutions to some of the area’s most persistent challenges. Their hard work will be revealed when they present their final recommendations to the community on Friday, August 9 from 2-4 pm at The Engine Room, 601 South Madison Avenue, Monroe, GA 30655. The event is free and the public and media are invited. If you plan to attend, please RSVP here:

“The business and political leadership in Monroe/Walton County have been extremely committed to this project and have given the Young Gamechangers a lot of insight and support,” states Kris Vaughn, Executive Director of GeorgiaForward. “Monroe is doing great work revitalizing their downtown and they are exploring new ways connect and rejuvenate other areas of Walton County. I look forward to hearing the Young Gamechangers recommendations, and I encourage area residents to join us to hear their ideas.”

The Young Gamechangers are made up of professionals from across the state between the ages of 24 and 40 who work in diverse sectors including business, non-profit, education, finance, media relations, real estate, technology, agriculture, healthcare, politics, marketing, economic and urban development.

Below are the four challenge questions that the Young Gamechangers have been working on:

  • In what ways can Monroe attract and retain the next generation of entrepreneurs who want to make it in Monroe?
  • How can the city of Monroe become a “lifetime community” that encompasses every generation and makes them want to call Monroe home?
  • How can Monroe and Walton County leverage existing assets and create new opportunities to strengthen its workforce pipeline?
  • With healthy living as a goal, how can Monroe utilize its natural resources, trail system and green space to connect all walks of life?

Here’s an introduction to some of the Young Gamechangers with a few sneak previews.

Jonathan Leon is a father, husband, and community advocate working to change laws and polices so every child has access to opportunity. He has a BA in Political Science, African American Studies and Religion, as well as a Master’s in Public Administration from Syracuse University. He received his Master’s in Teaching from Georgia State University. He was an elementary school teacher in Atlanta Public Schools before taking the position as Director of Regional Impact with Leadership for Educational Equity in Georgia. He is a 2018 New Leader’s Council Fellow and board member of Fain GOTEAM and Young Democrats of Atlanta. Leon and his family live in Atlanta, GA.

“Our group is working on the entrepreneur question,” states Leon. “We feel the issue starts with youth. One idea we’re suggesting is the creation of a high school course on how to become an entrepreneur, because these skills can be learned. The course can include Youth Shark Tanks encouraging students to bring their ventures to life. It’s also an opportunity for dual enrollment with area colleges and technical institutes. No matter what career path students choose, these skills can be of benefit to them.

“Many of our recommendations build on the great things already happening in this community that can be scaled up,” continues Leon. “I hope they will use some of our ideas as a road map going forward.”

Daphne Bond-Godfrey is a Director at ULI Atlanta, a district council of the Urban Land Institute, serving as staff director for three local product councils and ULI’s local Technical Assistance Program (TAPs) focused on advancing the responsible use of land and building sustainable, thriving communities. She’s also a project manager for HouseATL, a collaborative of public-private and philanthropic organizations building a housing affordability strategy for the City of Atlanta. She obtained a B.A. in International Affairs from Shorter College in Rome, GA and an M.A. in Government Affairs from Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC. She serves on the board of the Phoenix School, and resides in Decatur, GA with her husband and toddler.

“To tackle the lifetime community question, our team conducted stakeholder interviews with people of all ages including elementary and high school students,” explains Bond-Godfrey. “We asked what Monroe needs to make people want to live there and the answer we got the most resoundingly was that they want more downtown amenities, public spaces, and places to fellowship with friends. Our ideas really focus on community and creating that sense of authentic connectivity.

“Then we took a step back and thought in order create a lifetime community, it starts at home,” Bond-Godfrey continues. “A good home, connected to a good neighborhood, close to good schools and jobs gets to the heart of the issue Monroe is facing. We’ll present recommendations with that in mind.”

Patrice Broughton, a native of Monroe, Georgia, is working to better involve and inform the community as Walton County Government’s Public Information Officer.  Broughton is a graduate of the University of Georgia’s Journalism program, where she honed her skills for turning complex problems and ideas into stories seeking solutions.  She is the Vice Chair of the Board for Team Up Mentoring, serves on the Walton Youth Project Board, served on the GICH (Georgia Initiative for Community Housing) Team, and volunteers with other community organizations.  Patrice lives in Monroe, GA.

“Our group is working on ideas to strengthen the workforce pipeline,” states Broughton. “Not only have we discussed methods to attract and retain talent, we explored ways to help the area’s under-employed and unemployed gain access to jobs. We looked at barriers that employees face like transportation and childcare. We envision the area’s largest employers and the community working closely together.

I’ve enjoyed my experience in the Young Gamechangers and am in awe of the brilliance of the program,” adds Broughton. “It’s a very intense process and a lot of work. Not only do the participants learn a lot, the host community gains a comprehensive set of ideas and resources.”

Joel Burnsed is an Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent for the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service located in Walton County. Joel works with agricultural producers, local organizations, and homeowners to assist in troubleshooting issues involving agriculture and the environment. After spending five years in his current position, Joel has become familiar with issues that face his community. Joel has been published in scientific journals and has given presentations at national conferences on research that he has conducted with the University of Georgia. Joel holds a BS in Biological Sciences and a Master of Plant Pathology from the University of Georgia. Joel lives in Monroe, GA.

“Our team was tasked with coming up with ideas to connect the community through the area’s natural resources,” states Burnsed. “We spent a lot of time researching the current infrastucture and visiting area trails and parks. One of our ideas involves connecting downtown Monroe to surrounding parks. You’ll have to come to our presentation to hear how we suggest doing it.

I hope we get positive feedback from the community on our ideas,” adds Burnsed. “And I’m really hoping the City of Monroe, area companies and organizations, and interested individuals will get behind some of the recommendations and they will come to fruition.”

Sponsors for the 2019 Young Gamechangers program includeCity of Monroe, The Kendeda Fund, Central Atlanta Progress/Atlanta Downtown Improvement District, Walton County Development Authority, Georgia EMC, Georgia CEO, Georgia Trend, Leadership Institute at Columbus State University, MadLab Marketing, W&A Engineering, The Engine Room, Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia, Grace Monroe, George Walton Academy, Major Humphrey’s Brew Co., Silver Queen, Your Pie Monroe, and Wayfarer Music Hall.

GeorgiaForward is a non-profit, non-partisan organization working to improve the state of Georgia by serving as a catalyst to promote cross-sector, statewide conversations and partnerships by engaging young professionals, along with business, political, academic, and civic leaders. They strive to strengthen communities, unite our state, and create a talent pipeline within Georgia. For more information about the Young Gamechangers program and a complete list of the 2019 class, visit their web site:

MEDIA Contact: Karen Hatchett –