After more than a decade out of town, a Yankton native has returned to the city to help promote it in bigger and better ways.
Rajiv Somepalli took over as the communications coordinator for Yankton Area Progressive Growth (YAPG) nearly a month ago. He recently sat down with the Press & Dakotan to discuss his new role in making Yankton a better and more diverse place to live.
Where did you start out?
I grew up in Yankton. I graduated from high school in about 2004. I liked Yankton, but I kind of wanted to try something different and go to some new places. I went to college in St. Louis, Missouri, and after that, I stayed in St. Louis for about 10 years. I started off doing pre-medicine in college but decided I didn’t want to do that and then I ended up getting into marketing and advertising and went to business school at St. Louis University for that. I had a couple jobs there, then went to Florida for a couple years to learn a little more about advertising. I’ve been applying for jobs ever since.
What brought you back home to Yankton?
When I was applying for jobs, I didn’t really have a home base to do that. Just because I know people here — I have family and friends here and it’s a lower cost place to live — I figured it was better. Right before I came here, I was in New York for a couple of months doing an internship and that was super expensive, so I came back here. It’s a nice community, everyone’s really friendly, I’m familiar with it and it’s just a place I feel comfortable.
What are your duties with YAPG as communications coordinator?
I work for YAPG; also, Greater Yankton Living is part of that so I do that as well. A lot of my functions are social media — managing the website, maintaining the website, making promotional materials like fliers. That’s what I’ve done so far.
There’s also an organization called Connecting Cultures that I’ve been a part of, which is really nice. When I grew up here, I felt like the community wasn’t very diverse. But then, I would come back to visit off and on when I was in St. Louis during the holidays and what-not to visit the family and I slowly noticed more and more diversity. When I came back this time, I was just shocked to see how diverse it is with the different cultures. It’s nice to have this Connecting Cultures group because I think a lot of people in Yankton don’t realize how diverse (it is) and how many different cultures are in this community. It’s nice to put a spotlight on that.
What does Connecting Cultures Do?
We don’t have a specific focus now — it’s just basically trying to get people to be more accepting of other cultures, be aware of the different cultures, the languages and just to raise awareness of the different cultures in the Yankton community.
How do you feel about being able to bring your talents back to the Yankton community?
I just feel like the Yankton community has so much potential, and it’s always had a lot of potential. Just seeing the diversity of all the people moving here, it’s nice to know that people understand how nice of a community Yankton is. There’s just so much to offer recreationally. There’s a lot more jobs and industries than people might realize — I actually didn’t realize how much manufacturing we had until I started working here. It’s nice to be an ambassador for the place I grew up because, even though I did move from here after high school and I wanted to try something different, Yankton’s always been a big part of my life and has shaped the person I am today and some of my values. The people here are so kind and accepting. It’s just nice to be able to get back to Yankton and market the community for people who might not understand how amazing it is.
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