A Reflection on the Past. A Move Toward the Future.

As we approach the halfway point of 2018, we’d like to take a moment to reflect on our first 10 years as an organization and lay the groundwork for the path that we’ll take for the next 10.

10 UpDayton Summits. Three election forums. More than 10 Longest Table meals. More volunteer hours than we can count and thousands of Daytonians engaged in civic and community building experiences. This is UpDayton and will continue to be from the midpoint of 2018 and beyond.

At the core of our organization is people. The people that have had a lasting impact on our organization and our city. This is something that we’re extremely proud of. We’re also excited about the people that we’ve yet to engage. We’re excited about the work they’ll do and the impact that they’ll leave on Dayton. This is our legacy now and will be our legacy in the future.

As we look towards the next 10 years, we look towards a transition for our organization. Our executive director, A.J. Ferguson, will be stepping aside from his duties and taking a role with the Downtown Dayton Partnership as the Economic Development Project Manager. This is an exceptional opportunity for A.J. to take the work he has done for UpDayton and apply it in a different way to help propel the city further. While our hearts may be heavy, we’re extremely excited for A.J. and this next step in his journey. The work that A.J. has done is a testament to his character and his love for Dayton. We wish him the best of luck and we look forward to watching all of his successes. While we could say many things about A.J. and his time at UpDayton, we thought it best to leave you with A.J. reflecting in his own words.


While transitions can be challenging, they are also filled with opportunities. A.J. walks away from UpDayton, leaving us in a strong position to redefine our future. We are taking this time to lay out the road map for the next executive director that will lead UpDayton to even greater achievement and impact. In the meantime, our board is stepping up to fill any of the gaps.  If you need anything in the interim, please email Team@UpDayton.org.  One of our board members will get back to you. Stay tuned for updates as we take these next steps towards our future, but know that UpDayton’s work keeps on. We have new projects kicking off this week. The YES Team has been launched. Our committees are working harder than ever and we are planning an incredible celebration for our 10th year. Thank you for your support as we work to take this next step forward.

UpDayton Projects of the Past - The Longest Table and Project Rebound

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Written by Project Lead Bryan Stewart

Three years ago, I took off from work an hour early and walked into a room full of strangers. I left with lifelong friends.

I’ll try to keep it brief but I can talk for days about the value of UpDayton and getting young people together in a space like the UpDayton Summit. I truly believe UpDayton is one of our community’s most potent ways of improving and strengthening Dayton.

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The Longest Table Dayton project was more than a pitch on a stage some spring night, it became a community movement led by Dayton’s young people. Each year we have built it better and more inclusive.

Last year, I had the privilege of pitching an initiative called Project Rebound. Nearly a year later, and we’ve connected with youth from all over the city. We’ve partnered with all sorts of organizations and we’re getting closer and closer to tricking out a basketball court in West Dayton.

I get it, connecting with others can be hard. It can be even more difficult when you’re tackling the early steps of your career or you’re new to a Midwest city. UpDayton, and more specifically, the UpDayton Summit, holds a special place in my heart and I encourage anyone who wants to be a part of something bigger than themselves to head over to the Dayton Art Institute on April 26th.

UpDayton Summit History 102

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2018 marks the tenth year of UpDayton’s Summit. For the past ten years, young professionals have been coming together at the Summit to share their needs and concerns for the region, and to pitch ideas for building a better Dayton - the city we call home. As we continue our walk down memory lane, we take a look back on the past 10 years of the Summit, and in this post we’ll be covering years 2013- 2017. Prepare yourselves for a lot of talent, innovation and Dayton enthusiasm!

For part one of UpDayton Summit history, check out our previous blog post!

Let’s take a look at 2013. As year five took flight, young professionals and college students came together to brainstorm creative solutions to local problems. A keynote speech was given by Braddock, Pennsylvania Mayor John Fetterman. After discussion and collaboration, UpDayton launched project action plans for the following topics: Livability, Campus and Entrepreneur. The projects formed from these project discussions worked towards accessibility of fresh and local produce, connecting students to the City of Dayton and connecting emerging businesses to resources. Something to highlight from the Campus project was the launch of the Campus Catalyst program, which consisted of five students from the University of Dayton to serve as ambassadors for UpDayton and get students involved in the city.

Now we move into 2014. The theme of this Summit was “Pitch, Vote, Ignite at the UpDayton Summit 2014.” Cynthia Bowen, director of planning and urban design for Indianapolis-based CHA Companies, gave the keynote speech this year, and two State Senators - Bill Beagle and Peggy Lehner - were in attendance at the Summit. However, here is something you may not know. Have you ever seen the Dayton Inspires photo op spots around town? Well, Dayton Inspires was a winning project of the 2014 UpDayton Summit! It started as an initiative focused on helping residents take pride in their city and has morphed into a social initiative working to better connect Dayton residents by removing social barriers. 2014 marked the last Summit Laura Estandia was director of UpDayton. Her contribution to UpDayton was invaluable and she continues to help Dayton and UpDayton through her work with Bike Miami Valley and the Link Dayton Bike Share.

At the 2015 Summit, professionals from all over Dayton brainstormed and discussed many project ideas. You may recognize one of the projects that emerged from this Summit. If you have ever seen or taken the Link Bikes for a ride downtown, then you are familiar with a 2015 project! UpDayton worked with Bike Miami Valley on the project “Bike Racks on Brown,” which expanded from Brown Street into the City of Dayton with a grant from Public Health Dayton and Montgomery County. This initiative helped make bike parking readily available and accessible to all living throughout the downtown area and contributed to the growth of bike culture in the area. 

The 2016 Summit, with the theme of “Dayton is changing for the better. Don’t just sit back and watch. Be part of it. #ideas2action,” was quite different from the previous Summits. In the early stages of planning for the 2016 Summit, new executive director AJ Ferguson broke UpDayton volunteers into groups, and asked for feedback and suggestions for changes to the current Summit process. This brainstorming session proved to be very helpful, as the Summit adopted a new way of operating! In addition to shifting the time of the event from the afternoon to an evening to allow more people to attend, motivated community leaders pitched their project elevator speeches to all who attended the Summit instead of groups formulating projects during the event itself. A project that came out of the 2016 Summit was The Longest Table. Leader Bryan Stewart not only successfully launched the first Longest Table event in October 2016, but with the support of dedicated volunteers, multiple Longest Table events at different venues have continued throughout the entire Dayton area. This project continues its success, and UpDayton could not be more proud!  

In 2017, the Summit continued with the same evening format, but took the project preparation to the next level. Project leaders with ideas came to many brainstorming sessions and worked with seasoned UpDayton volunteers and past project leaders to discuss details and fine-tune their project ideas. The projects were pitched to Summit participants, and votes decided the top three projects.  One 2017 project that continues to touch the lives of youth in Dayton is the Comfort Bags project, led by Devin Stinson. She used her personal story of growing up in foster homes, inspiring a collaboration with Agape for Youth to expand their Comfort Bags program. This project helps to ensure children going to new homes have something to call their own, and know they are not forgotten.

If you want to help write the next chapter of UpDayton history, buy your ticket today to join us on April 26th!