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Lauren O'Sullivan

"NexGenFriends" is the perfect name to describe the group! When tossing around possible names at an outreach meeting, 'NexGenFriends' just popped into my head! We were discussing the motivations of any individual, regardless of age, to volunteer at the Kennedy Center. Everyone agreed that a love of the arts, and a belief that giving back as a volunteer feeds the soul, was a commonality among all Friends, and that passing the love for the arts and volunteering to the next generation is an important part of our motivation as well. No matter what age, all Friends are united in our dedication to serving the Kennedy Center and the community at large."

  • "The Kennedy Center offers me a home away from home with an extended family of volunteers who love sharing their passion for the arts. And speaking as a NexGenFriend, I feel that young professionals will find a fantastic opportunity to make new connections, get involved with a great organization, and open the arts to the next generation."

    Ryan Gallagher, NexGenFriends Founding Member and Sunday Morning Tour Guide

  • "Whereas most children dream of one day performing on the stage of the Opera House, I had always dreamed of one day showing those people where the Opera House was located. Being a NexGenFriend gives one the opportunity to volunteer alongside people of all ages and nationalities who have amazing stories to tell about everything that happens behind the scenes."

    Shannon O'Sullivan, NexGenFriends Founding Member

About NexGenFriends

NexGenFriends are individuals 35 and under who volunteer at the Kennedy Center, either on a weekly basis or as members of the Festival/Event volunteer program. They actively support the NexGenFriends mission of advocating volunteer support in the arts and promoting Kennedy Center performances. NexGenFriends take pride in volunteering alongside individuals from all age groups — one of the defining traits that makes being part of this group such a rewarding experience.

Learn more about what NexGenFriends do

  • NexGenFriends work on creating opportunities to promote the Friends program by targeting the Millennial and Gen X audiences, with the dual goals of increasing Friends membership from these demographics and encouraging more Gen Xers and Millennials to visit the Kennedy Center.
  • NexGenFriends are dedicated to educating target audiences about the many services the Friends volunteers provide for the Kennedy Center.
  • NexGenFriends also participate in the Friends of the Kennedy Center Festival/Event programs.
  • NexGenFriends support the Kennedy Center's MyTix program, a special ticket program designed to make the arts more accessible to individuals age 18-30.

Why NexGenFriends?

The idea behind NexGenFriends came about at a Friends' Outreach Committee meeting in 2012. Committee members—volunteers ranging in age from late 20s to early 80s—all agreed that it was time to organize the under-35 Friends as a more visible and viable group within the larger volunteer corps. There was also ongoing discussion among committee members regarding an appropriate name for the group. As a result, everyone felt there should be a naming contest among the Friends age 35 and under as an important step in claiming ownership for the group. Outreach Committee member Lauren O'Sullivan won the contest. After that, coming up with the accompanying slogan was easy: "Friends 35 and under carrying the torch of volunteering forward." This of course is a reference to President Kennedy's inaugural address of January 20, 1961 in which he stated: "Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans."