Thousands of young people mingled on a Tuesday night at the upper deck of Progressive Field to watch the Cleveland Guardians take on the Kansas City Royals. They ate hot dogs, drank booze, and scored free t-shirts under the hot June sun.  

They weren’t strictly there to watch the Guardians get the 8-5 win, though. It was part of a sales pitch that some leaders say is critical to the city’s future. Attendees even received an enthusiastic video message from Mayor Justin Bibb in their email inboxes the following morning. 

That was all part of the second annual “Summer in the Land,” a networking event aimed at showing off the city and connecting young people spending the summer interning in the region. Greater Cleveland Partnership – the region’s biggest business group – organized the event. 

More than 1,780 interns from nearly 215 colleges – including Harvard and Penn State –  registered. They’re spending their summers at a variety of local employers, such as Sherwin-Williams, J.M. Smucker and Lincoln Electric. 

It’s not a “feel good” event. There’s a strategy. Cleveland – and its economy – needs more workers, especially ones who’ve completed some type of higher education. The city does well at getting people to stay. It’s attracting new residents that’s more challenging.

Plus, Cleveland didn’t appear on a recent list of the cities where college graduates are applying for entry-level jobs. 

But young people both here and nationwide have to weigh job prospects against – or along with – locations when it comes to deciding where they’ll move after graduation. Those choices can have reverbating impacts on local economies. 

Read on to hear from several young people on what matters most to them. 

Delaney Thompson, 20, attends Syracuse University, interning at Karamu House

Credit: Amy Morona / Signal Cleveland

Delaney Thompson hadn’t heard much about Cleveland before she got here this summer. But what she had heard wouldn’t likely make a marketing or recruiting brochure. 

She knew about the old “Mistake on the Lake” moniker, she said, plus the woes of the city’s sports teams. 

The musical theater major came for an internship at Karamu House. She’s thought about heading to New York City or Los Angeles after graduation, but no matter where she ends up, there’s one thing that she said will be the deciding factor.

“An area that values young Black artists and what they have to contribute to theater, the industry, and the world, period,” she said.

Jamie Goldfarb, 20, attends Case Western Reserve University, interning at Key Bank 

Jamie Goldfarb, right, poses with friend Jaina Rajan Credit: Amy Morona / Signal Cleveland

Jamie Goldfarb likes being in a city. It’s a big change from the rural area where she grew up in New Jersey. 

“Coming to college here in Cleveland was nice because you could just access so many different things,” she said. “It was easier to get to places, and there was always something going on.” 

That convenience is important to her. She gives places with walkability initiatives a green flag. She finds Cleveland’s pretty walkable, though there’s room for improvement in all cities. 

Still, she’s not sure if she’ll want to stay for long after graduation. 

“I don’t want to be in one city my whole life, and this was the first city I lived in,” she said. 

Dhruv Seth, 18, attends Johns Hopkins University, interning at Case Western Reserve University

Dhruv Seth, left, poses with friend Kai Zheng Credit: Amy Morona / Signal Cleveland

College graduation is still a few years away for Dhruv Seth, but he’s pretty much set for his next chapter. It’s Boston or bust for the biomedical engineering major. 

The Beachwood native said he wants to eventually end up in a big city – plus, of course, there’s a job to consider, too.

“I want to go into biotech, and Cleveland is not a great spot for that,” he said. 

Ethan Waring 19, attends Mississippi State University, and Ryan Hammerscmidt, 21, attends Ohio State University, both interning at Swagelok

Ethan Waring, left, and Ryan Hammerscmidt Credit: Amy Morona / Signal Cleveland

Ethan Waring is from Westlake and attends Mississippi State University. He’s not sure where he’ll go after graduation, but Northeast Ohio is in the running. Returning this summer is making him approach the region with fresh eyes. 

“Growing up here, there’s a bunch of things that I just didn’t really notice,” he said. 

He attended the event with his coworker Ryan Hammerscmhidt. Weighing location versus a job is a tough choice for him, he said. If he doesn’t like what he’s doing in his post-grad life, he said, “it doesn’t matter where I live.”

Most of his life’s been spent in Avon. His family’s there. 

“I don’t know anyone personally that has moved to Cleveland that is not already from Cleveland,” he said.

Higher education reporter for Signal Cleveland in partnership with Open Campus.