NEWS BEAT: From Yuppie to YURP

Newsweek magazine declared 1984 “the Year of the Yuppie,” a then-new term for young urban professionals that carried pejorative connotations of selfishness and greed. In post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, however, a new term is gaining currency as quite a different way to look at young people on the way up in their careers: the Young Urban Rebuilding Professional, or YURP.

NEWS BEAT: From Yuppie to YURPYURPS working with students who are volunteering in the New Orleans recovery.

The term was coined by a new group of, well, young urban professionals who are rebuilding New Orleans after Katrina. Molly Reid, a 23-year-old journalist from Lafayette who moved to New Orleans right after the storm, says she and her friends noticed a groundswell of newcomers to the city who are motivated to be part of the rebuilding effort. While many long-time New Orleans area residents have not returned after the disaster and some have left in frustration with the pace of recovery progress and crime woes, she says others have been drawn to the city as a place where they can make a difference.

“People coming out of college these days, a lot of them don’t want to settle into a 9 to 5 job right away, they want to do something exciting, something that has a socially responsible side – at least for a while,” she says. “People see that they can do that in New Orleans.”

To help encourage this trend, Reid started a Web site along with Nathan Rothstein, a 23-year-old recruiter for the New Orleans College Prep Charter School who moved here from Massachusetts in 2006. The site is simultaneously a recruiting tool for people interested in moving here, a support system to help newcomers get settled and a way to build community among diverse people. There are job postings and volunteer opportunities, links to helpful information about the city and on-line profiles posted by those people who identify themselves as YURPs.

“If they have a degree in public health and want to move to New Orleans and know nothing else, we can help connect them with other people here in their field, people who can help them out,” says Reid.

Many people who move to New Orleans with an urge to help rebuild are bound to move away after a year or so, says Reid, but she thinks that’s fine too.

“If they’re here participating, even for a few months, that helps us and it will have an impact on them; it’s something they’ll always have in their lives,” she says. “And you know there are going to be plenty who will be hooked and never leave.”
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