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40 Under 40: 2016

Meet our 2016 class of 40 Pittsburghers Under 40 who are changing our region – and the world – for the better.



(page 8 of 11)


 

Elena LaQuatra   [24]
Digital Media Reporter, WTAE; Miss PA USA, Miss Universe Organization


It’s a new world of journalism out there, and Elena LaQuatra is confronting it with an effervescence that all but jumps out of the computer screen.

She’s a model — Miss Pennsylvania USA in fact  — and she doubles as a digital media creator-reporter for WTAE-TV’s online lifestyle and entertainment channel.

What makes this accomplishment remarkable is that she lost her hearing at age 4 due to bacterial meningitis. She spent four years learning how to speak and how to listen with the use of a cochlear implant.

“It was a ‘hiccup’ in my life,” she says. “But I genuinely believe I’m a much stronger, better, more empathetic and compassionate person because of it.”

Part of that compassion is demonstrated in her charity work, starting with DePaul School for Hearing and Speech in Shadyside, where she regained both the gifts of speech and listening.  

You’d be interested to know ... I don’t have a Pittsburghese accent, but I just love when people do. I love everything about this city.
 

Ryan Scott   [32]
Director of Education Initiatives, Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh


Ryan Scott is the Director of Education Initiatives at the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh and co-director of the Black Male and Female Leadership Development Institute.

The latter is a program of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh and Robert Morris University.

He’s working to encourage youth academically and socially. He also has served with Amachi Pittsburgh, working with children and families confronting the difficulty of having a parent incarcerated.

His appointment as a delegate from 2012-15 to the annual One Young World Summit has taken him to Johannesburg, Dublin and Bangkok to research global change.

His community work includes being active with Word and Worship Church in North Braddock and serving as a lead mentor at Pittsburgh Obama 6-12 in East Liberty.

You’d be surprised to know ... that my celebrity cousin is Pharrell Williams.
 

Emiola J. Oriola   [27]
Associate Director, Investing Now Program, University Of Pittsburgh


How’s this for a greeting: “I secretly carry a cannon in my throat.”

Emiola Oriola describes himself as a “traveling poet and spoken word artist” — and that’s not even what got him on this list.

Oriola, called “Jay” by his friends, is associate director of the Investing Now Program at Pitt. At age 27, that should suffice. But there’s more.

After graduating from Pitt with a Bachelor’s of Science in psychology, he became a leader of the Urban League of Pittsburgh’s Black Male Leadership Program Institute. His work involved mentoring high school students.

Since 2014 he has been working with Investing Now, where he functions as an advisor for high school student scholars. And, about that cannon. It’s fairly high-caliber stuff. He’s a seven-time Spoken Word Champion for the City of Pittsburgh.  

If I had a second chance ... I would learn more languages in my youth. I’ve come to realize how true this Nelson Mandela quote is, “If you speak to a man in a language he understands, it goes to his head. If you speak to a man in his language, it goes to his heart.”
 

Amanda J. Laichak   [38]
Director of Education, Junior Achievement of Western PA; Part-time Ph.D. student, University of Pittsburgh


Amanda Laichak grew up in near-poverty in Johnstown.

She lives in awe of her mother, who raised her and Amanda’s severely handicapped sister, constantly encouraging Amanda to get ahead in life.

Laichak attended college and graduate school while taking on the task of helping to resettle refugees in the Pittsburgh area. Working with Catholic Charities of Pittsburgh, she helped refugee youth to find career opportunities in their new country.

Later, she accepted a board post at another refugee-assistance agency, Children of Shangri-Lost.

In her latest job, she works for Junior Achievement of Western Pennsylvania, again promoting initiatives for children. She expects to complete her Ph.D. in social and comparative analysis in education by 2019.

Over the course of her work and studies she’s travelled to 25 countries as she focuses on the importance of building a bridge between the Pittsburgh community and its newest citizens.  

My favorite Pittsburgh thing is ... Take a group of friends and an empty stomach on the second Friday of every month to eat a big, homemade Hungarian meal (and sometimes hear the owner sing in Hungarian and dance) at Jozsa’s Corner in Hazelwood.
 

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