Mentors Lend Advice to YPAC Protégé Class of 2016-17

By Drake Farmer

At times, even the most ambitious and dedicated professionals need career guidance. Such advice provides learning experiences without repeating unnecessary steps; mentors help to keep rising young professionals from reinventing the wheel.

The Young Professional Association of Chattanooga (YPAC) recognizes the benefits of mentorship. Each year, YPAC organizes Protégé, a team-based mentoring program that fosters an environment in which young professionals engage with experienced local executives and professionals.

“Protégé is the opportunity for the young and ambitious in Chattanooga to grow,” says Tripp Sanford. Sanford is one of 16 members of Protégé’s 2016-17 class, which has grown from eight menteees in previous years.

Each month, Protégé mentees meet with one of the program’s mentors to discuss career advice, success and civic leadership, among other topics. The program accepts a handful of Chattanooga’s most promising and ambitious young professionals each year.

“I applied for Protégé because I wanted to learn from other young professionals and seasoned Chattanooga mentors [about] how to better myself professionally, now and in the future,” says Chelsea Sadler, another member of this year's class. 


2016-17 Protégé Class:

Joseph Cadle, Business Development Consultant, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development

Amy Donahue, Director of Marketing and Communications, River City Company

Maurice Fider, Communications Assistant, Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce

Chelsea Tackett Garcia, Manager, Henderson Hutcherson & McCullough

Kaitlyn Grosch, Coordinator, Process Manager, MediTract

Erin Harrell, Assistant Director, Project Inspire, Public Education Foundation

Katie Jackson, Operations and Programs Coordinator, Women’s Fund of Greater Chattanooga

Greta Jansen, HR Generalist, ATN Hoelzel LP

John Jolley, Staff Attorney, Legal Aid of East Tennessee

Andrew LaFevor, Teacher, 7th Grade Academy Team Leader, HCDE, Red Bank Middle School

Chelsea Sadler, Executive Assistant/Project Manager, City of Chattanooga, Mayor Berke’s Office

Chris Sislo, Wealth Manager, HHM Wealth Advisors

Kelly Spencer, Communications Coordinator, Pinnacle Financial Partners

George Stanford, Digital Marketing Specialist, Bellhops

Aggie Stephenson, Community Engagement Manager, Tennessee Aquarium

Allyson Witt, Chattanooga Car Share Manager, Green Commuter

Mentors for the 2016-17 program included:

Todd Womack, Chief of Staff, US Senator Bob Corker

Christie Sell Faires, Judge, Hamilton County General Sessions Court

Edna Varner, Teacher Residency Coach, Public Education Foundation

Tom Griscom, Partner, Q Strategies

Dana Vaughn, Assistant Chief, Chattanooga Police Department

Cameron Doody, Co-founder, Bellhops

Autumn Graves, Head of School, GPS

Larry Buie, Regional Director, Atlanta Gas Light & Chattanooga Gas Company


In May, the most recent Protégé class graduated from the nine-month mentorship program with new knowledge and advice from some of Chattanooga’s prominent professional figures.

Honesty and openness are paramount for the program, and this is reflected in the mentees. When members shared their thoughts about their Protégé experiences, a nearly unanimous response was that they learned to be calm and flexible in adverse and unpredictable situations:

“Everything in life is how you perceive it. What do you perceive as success and failure, and what can you learn from each?” – Kaitlyn Grosch

“Take every opportunity handed to you and run with it. It may end in disaster, but there are things to be learned from disasters and other opportunities to be created.” – Allyson Witt

 “Stop trying to map out your life. If you do good work and continue to learn - your life will map itself out in a way you could not even imagine.” – Maurice “Mo” Fider

In the end, the 2016-17 class walked away with a new practical knowledge to help them flourish in their respective fields. It’s always nice to know that you’re not alone in what you’re facing, and Protégé seeks – and succeeds – in communicating that message.

“Protégé is an awesome group of peers learning from our community's leaders, and each other,” says Aggie Stephenson.


To learn more about Protégé and YPAC, or to apply for next year’s class, visit YPAC's website or Facebook page.