Meet Pittsburgh's 40 Under 40 Honorees for 2017
We present this year's class of 40 people under the age of 40 who are making Pittsburgh a better place.
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Jessica Strong (37)
Co-Founder and CEO, Flexable Founder, Whetstone Workgroup
After Jessica Strong had her second child, she quit her full-time job so she could work as a freelance grant writer. She figured it would be easier to work from home while watching her kids. Wrong. “It was bananas,” she says. Strong, who earned a Master of Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University, found herself working until midnight or working with clients from unusual places — in one case, she was writing emails from the zoo. Strong knew other freelancers, many of them moms who had the same issues. Two years ago, she started Whetstone Workgroup, which merges a co-working space with drop-in daycare. A year later, she teamed up with Priya Amin Strong for another take on childcare. They co-founded Flexable, which provides on-site childcare services for events, trainings, conferences, weddings and workplaces. The software they have in development also will help parents find available childcare. The two were the only all-women team selected to receive an Alpha Lab grant in 2016. “I hope to expand to doctor’s offices. How do you take a 3-year-old to an OB-GYN appointment?” she says.
John C. Mackie (39)
First Vice President, Hefren-Tillotson, Inc.
About seven years ago, John C. Mackie and his wife, Shana, decided they wanted to host an annual party. They tossed around holidays — Labor Day? Halloween? But with three young kids, they worried about committing to the same date every year. Then they had an idea: “Is there a way we can meld this with something that’s meaningful for us?” So they decided to plan, fund and host an annual “Party With a Purpose” and ask their guests to support a designated charity. At their most recent party in February, they raised more than $25,000 for the Coach Dave Gray Scholarship Fund, which is administered through the Pittsburgh Foundation. There are no tickets involved, and it’s not a gala. They don’t care if it’s a $5 donation or a $1,000 donation. “Whatever you want to do, we just ask that you support it in some way,” he says.
Medina Jackson (39)
Director of Engagement, The P.R.I.D.E. Program
The P.R.I.D.E. Program — Positive Racial Identity Development in Early Education — falls under the University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Child Development, where Medina Jackson works to get parents and educators the resources they need to ensure children ages 3 to 8, particularly African-Americans, understand and embrace their ethnicity, race and heritage. She says it’s important for parents, caregivers and teachers to understand what a positive racial identity is and how it can be beneficial for all children, particularly children of color. In addition to providing resources to parents and teachers, the program holds popup arts festivals that showcase Africana arts so attendees can learn more about positive racial identity and a speaker series that draws local and national figures to talk about race. “We need a pride pipeline from the cradle to college,” she says.
Jason Jones (35)
Community Development Relationship Manager and District Manager, Woodforest National Bank
Jason Jones never thought he would grow up to be banker. As a teenager, he had plans to pursue a teaching career, but when it came to numbers, he was ambivalent at best. As the community development relationship manager at Woodforest National Bank, the 35-year-old is a banker whose teaching makes a real-world impact in underserved communities. Working in low- to moderate-income communities, Jones teaches financial literacy and entrepreneurial skills to high school students and adults. Jones, who earned a master’s degree in leadership at Mountain State University, supports nonprofit organizations that make deep impacts in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods in a five-state area. In financial wellness classes, he teaches high school students and adults how to balance a checkbook, create budgets and manage debt. Jones helped to develop a Business Leadership Academy that teaches entrepreneurs the fundamental skills they need to succeed, such as raising capital, team-building and the rules of profit and loss. The graduates pitch their ideas to funders, à la “Shark Tank.” “If you don’t know the rules, you can’t win the game,” he says.