Emerging Leaders Member Spotlight: Jim Peterson

Jim Peterson has never been a stranger to community service. He spent most of his youth volunteering with school clubs, and in college he spent much of his free time serving causes especially close to him. “Giving back is so important to my overall happiness,” Jim said.


His love for travelling has also influenced Jim’s perspective on philanthropy and the need for effective human services around the world. He was particularly moved by an experience abroad while volunteering with Entrepreneurs Without Borders. “Traveling to so many countries and meeting people from all different backgrounds, it pulled me out of my bubble. That cultural exchange forced me to think about the bigger picture.”


But, after moving to Indianapolis and taking on a new role within Eli Lilly and Company, like many young professionals, Jim could feel himself focusing more on his career path and letting some of his community involvement fall to the wayside. “My job was so important to me and took a lot of my attention, but I began to feel like there was a gap – something was missing,” Jim remembered. “After a conversation with my wife, Melissa, I realized I needed to get re-involved.” Knowing United Way and Lilly have a great partnership already, he decided to learn more.


He saw how United Way truly aimed to help an individual or family overcome the barriers keeping them from self-sufficiency at any stage in life. But mostly, he appreciated United Way’s commitment to improving the quality of education – a cause that hit close to home. “Growing up outside of Chicago, I saw the disadvantage first-hand. The career services in my school were awful; only about 32% of my peers had a post-high school plan. If it weren’t for my family having college degrees and guiding me, who knows where I would be right now,” Jim said. “That’s just unfair. Everybody should have the opportunity to develop the skills they need to reach their potential, regardless of where or whom they came from.”


His passion for education is also what initially drew him to Emerging Leaders, whose signature cause is high-quality education for all. “Knowing I could make a difference in a cause I really care about, and gain professional development and networking opportunities with like-minded, career-oriented people, well, it just made it a no-brainer for me,” Jim said.


As Jim continues to become even better established in both his career and personal life, he has stuck to one philosophy above all else: Surround yourself with good people who support you and your goals. Being part of Emerging Leaders has seamlessly fit into that mantra. “Meeting people from so many different industries has helped me be more innovative in my own career,” Jim said. “And, only a 3-year resident of the Indianapolis area, it’s helped me not just get to know his community, but truly feel like an important part of it.”


“What I love most about giving back is that everybody has something to contribute, and it doesn’t necessarily have to look the same for everybody,” Jim said. “It’s our responsibility to make our community better. Giving what you can monetarily, spending time volunteering or making your voice heard on causes you care about – it all matters.”


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