Meet Pittsburgh's 40 Under 40 Honorees for 2018

For two decades, Pittsburgh Magazine and PUMP have presented the annual 40 Under 40 list. And every year, 40 people who have been alive for less than four decades are chosen because of their career accomplishments, dogged volunteer work and commitment to the Pittsburgh region. This year is no different. Read on to learn more about some of our very best neighbors.

Lisa M. Abel-Palmieri (39)
Head of School and Chief Learning Officer, Nazareth Prep

Lisa M. Abel-Palmieri had a few career pit stops before finding her passion project. Through jobs in education, public relations and even retail, teaching was always at the core of her work. After realizing she wanted to become a more formal educator — specifically, working to engage girls in computer science and STEM fields — she earned a Ph.D. in instructional management and leadership from Robert Morris University.

Now, she’s the head of Nazareth Prep, a nonprofit private school in Emsworth that subsidizes tuition and puts every student in an internship program, partnering with more than 100 organizations in the region to give students real-world experience. In its first graduating class this year, 100 percent of students received their diploma.

“I really like the idea of being the founding executive director at this school that is focused on bridging the education and skills gap in STEM careers,” Abel-Palmieri says.
 


Lena Andrews (39) 
Senior Development Officer, ACTION-Housing, Inc.

Point Breeze native Lena Andrews left her hometown for a few years during college, but returned to earn a master’s degree in public policy management from Carnegie Mellon University. “I went into this work to help make Pittsburgh the city that I want it to be — a place that has housing for everyone and that cares about its most vulnerable residents,” she says about her role as an affordable housing developer.

“We show that affordable housing can also be beautiful and sustainable.” Her commitment to beauty and sustainability doesn’t stop there: Andrews founded the East Liberty Trash Warriors, a group that cleans up litter, plants trees and throws an annual block party in her neighborhood. She also helped organize Pittsburgh’s first Garbage Olympics in 2017, in which five neighborhoods held competing trash clean-ups.

The 2018 event hit 20 neighborhoods, removing 640 bags of trash. “It can be easier to get involved on the local level, where you can see the tangible change that you’re making,” she says.
 


Liddy Barlow (38)
Executive Minister, Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania

In Liddy Barlow’s role as a minister, she combines many of the things she loves to do — “writing, asking big questions, striving to understand people, working to build a better world and planning programs and events.”

But it wasn’t merely a practical career choice. “Ministry also feels right in a larger sense; the Christian writer Frederick Buechner wrote that each person is called to serve in ‘the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet,’” Barlow says.

“For me, there’s no question but that that place is the church.” Barlow says her community involvement, including roles on boards and on Pittsburgh’s Commission on Human Relations, involves “many, many meetings,” and that she aims to “build connections between people and organizations that wouldn’t otherwise know about one another. … These connections help all the different sectors of the region work more powerfully together to serve people in need and build understanding, reconciliation and real friendship.”
 


Marita Bradley (32)
Chief of Staff, Office of Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess, Pitsburgh City Council

Residents of Pittsburgh City Council’s District 9 have Marita Bradley on their side as chief of staff. In her role with City Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess, Bradley coordinates economic development initiatives and writes and researches public policy to benefit residents of the district’s neighborhoods, including East Liberty, Homewood, Larimer, Friendship and Garfield.

“My belief that people are products of their communities has inspired me to advocate for better quality of life for low- and moderate-income people and communities,” she says. “That means bringing more affordable housing options and facilitating economic development projects that benefit and protect the residents within the community.”

Furthermore, Bradley serves as chair of the board of directors for the Urban Academy Charter School, a K-5 school in Larimer. “I believe that students should have access to quality education regardless of their income status,” Bradley says.
 

 

Nathaniel Broadus (32) 
Business Account Manager, The Center for Employment Opportunities; CEO, CBD Pittsburgh

Nathaniel Broadus spent four years traveling the world while serving in the Marines, seeing Oman, Djibouti, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Thailand and Dubai. “In all of my travels, I always wanted to come back home,” Broadus says.

“Pittsburgh was all I thought of — the people of this city had done so much for me, and I intended to return home and give it back.” When he came home in 2012, he launched a variety of projects: he wrote and published a comic book series, “The POLICE STATE Saga,” and recorded an audiobook/album called “The Last Gunfighter.”

In addition, he volunteers to benefit communities of color, including leading a hiking group called Blackpacking and mentoring young people through A Peace of Mind in Wilkinsburg and the Penn State CITY program. On top of all that, Broadus launched his own business, CBD Pittsburgh, which provides hemp CBD products, sold at Arts & Crafts Botanica and Occult Shop in Garfield.
 


Kristin Butterworth (37)
Executive Chef, Lautrec, Nemacolin Woodlands Resort

Kristin Butterworth describes her decision to become a chef as a “no-brainer.” “I had said that I wanted to be a chef from age 7 on and have had a passion for food and cooking my entire life,” she says.

While her day-to-day revolves around fine dining at an exclusive resort, her volunteer work gets back to basics, serving on the board of Small Town Hope, a nonprofit in her hometown of Northern Cambria, about an hour east of Pittsburgh.

There, she teaches kids about cooking and respecting food. “It … really opens the kids’ eyes to understanding the importance of healthy eating and nutrition,” Butterworth says. “More and more, it seems convenience foods … are the more likely choice for families and their kids. Being able to work with the kids and show them how cool cooking can be is really important as it’s not something a lot of kids get at home anymore.”
 


Brian Cook Sr. (38)
International multimedia journalist; Owner, Golden Sky Media Company; President, Pittsburgh Black Media Federation

I’ve always had a passion for telling stories,” says Brian Cook Sr. At age 10, he began watching Ed Bradley on “60 Minutes.”

He got his start in radio but now freelances as a multimedia journalist for television and radio outlets across the globe, including NBCNews.com, The New Pittsburgh Courier and 90.5 FM WESA.

At home, he’s teaching the next generation of journalists through the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation’s Frank Bolden Urban Multimedia Workshop. Cook, who has mentored high school students in the free program since 2002, teaches radio and photography courses and says the program gives students hands-on experience in everything from interviewing and writing to copy editing and public speaking. In addition, Cook calls himself a “proud member” of Alpha Phi Alpha, a service- and advocacy-focused African-American fraternity. 
 


Martell Covington (31)
Assistant Director of Youth & Family Services, Community Empowerment Association, Inc.

The Community Empowerment Association, which provides youth, workforce and family services in Pittsburgh’s east side as well as the McKeesport area, started 25 years ago in Martell Covington’s Homewood living room; Covington’s stepfather, T. Rashad Byrdsong, is the founder. “I was sort of born into this line of work,” Covington says.

“This is the family business. I grew up seeing the significance of community investment and activism.” After graduating from Central Catholic High School and Howard University, Covington came home to work at the association, coordinating multiple programs and serving as a mentor and coach. “Coaching both boys and girls has allowed me to reach and teach the often forgotten youth in this city. Coaching is the most impactful work that I currently do,” Covington says.

“Lessons learned through sports always correlate to life, and I take pride in not only being the messenger but a positive example. It’s imperative that our youth see someone who looks like them who went away to school, graduated, returned home and has invested himself in them and the community.”
 

 

Sloane Davidson (39)
Founder and CEO, Hello Neighbor

In 2016, Sloane Davidson’s family hosted a family of recently resettled Syrian refugees for Thanksgiving dinner. After she wrote about the experience in a Medium post, readers reached out to her to ask how they could help refugees in the same way. “It truly went viral,” Davidson says.

For sure, though, Davidson thought, there had to be an organization that aids refugees after the initial support they receive from resettlement agencies. Turns out, there wasn’t, so Davidson set out to meet as many refugee families as she could. In 2017, Hello Neighbor was born. In the short time since its founding, Hello Neighbor has matched 50 refugee families from seven countries with Pittsburgh mentors to share meals, check out museums, libraries, and playgrounds, and go to sporting events.

“I think that food, activities, arts, crafts, is a really great way to share an experience, even if you can’t share a language,” Davidson says. 
 


Tirzah DeCaria (35)
Director, Creative Citizen Studios; Realtor, ReMax Select Realty

Tirzah DeCaria splits her time working as a real estate agent and running Creative Citizen Studios, a nonprofit that supports artists with disabilities. While those may seem like two wildly different roles, DeCaria looks at them the same way. “In both … I approach my work with a human-focused outlook and seek to create an environment where everyone can achieve their goals.”

She started the studios in 2012 and says the artists “have an important perspective to share with the Pittsburgh arts community.” DeCaria says her sister, Olivia, who has Down syndrome, was “a big inspiration for my life and work.” “So often it’s easy to see people with disabilities as objects of pity or recipients of care, but when they are celebrated as artists with a unique voice, our perspective shifts to easily see more value in each person,” she says.

“Every exhibit we produce is an opportunity to share a unique creative perspective and challenge our audience to expand their diversity spectrum.”
 


James E. Doyle (32)
Executive Director, Higher Achievement Pittsburgh

James E. Doyle began his career in the Pittsburgh Public Schools, leading out-of-school-time programs and working to hire quality teachers and support staff. In his current role, he operates nonprofit after-school and summer programs for middle school students in the city’s Homewood, West End and Hill District neighborhoods.

“For almost my whole career, I have worked in support of improved educational outcomes for Pittsburgh-area students,” Doyle says. He is also furthering his own education: he expects to earn a Doctor of Education degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 2020. In addition, he serves on the Youth Outcomes Advisory Board for Big Brothers Big Sisters, as a member of the executive committee of Allegheny Partners for Out-of-School Time, and as a member of the Remake Learning Council. “My belief in civic engagement goes back to my childhood,” he says.

“I spent a number of years volunteering in and around Pittsburgh, and it just stuck as an adult.” 
 


Daren Ellerbee (36)
Director, University of Pittsburgh’s Community Engagement Center in Homewood

Daren Ellerbee is working to help revitalize Homewood, one family at a time. In her role with the Community Engagement Center, she works to ensure residents have more employment opportunities, workforce development access, free health and wellness programs, and educational support for students and providers.

As an Aliquippa native, Ellerbee recognizes the challenges of people living in poverty and says her “mission in life is to give a leg up to as many people as possible.” And she doesn’t stop when she’s off the clock — she also serves on the board of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation and as the president of Robert Morris University’s Black Alumni Council. “Representing my alma mater in the city that I was born in means a lot to me,” Ellerbee says.

“There are third-graders from Homewood who in 15 years could have a direct pipeline to Pitt or another college or university, and the thought of that makes me smile.”
 

 

Jennifer Elliott (35) 
Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice, Duquesne University

Jennifer Elliott grew up in a family of pharmacists and teachers, so when it came time to choose her career path, blending the two was obvious.

“Growing up, I saw the profound impact they had on so many lives, and I hoped to one day have the same opportunity,” she says. Outside of teaching, Elliott works to improve children’s health, developing free clinics that screen and provide care for children with undiagnosed and uncontrolled asthma.

She spent a decade working on initiatives to help underserved children with asthma — she notes asthma is the most common chronic disease among children, that it disproportionately affects low-income and African-American children, and that it is the most common illness-related reason that children miss school.
 


Amber M. Epps (39) 
Chief Operations Officer, Bloomfield-Garfield Corp.

In addition to her role at the Bloomfield-Garfield Corp., Amber M. Epps teaches college-level IT, business and communication courses, but she says she “entered that line of work by accident.”

After being laid off from her first job out of college, she stumbled into a position teaching at the Community College of Allegheny County. Then, after getting laid off by UPMC, she joined the Bloomfield-Garfield Corp. as night market manager. Several promotions and a restructuring later, she landed the COO position.

“I got interested in community development work after I saw how much change can be impacted by interacting and engaging with the community at the grass-roots level,” Epps says. Throughout those career changes, Epps continued her education — she’s earned a bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees and two doctoral degrees. Epps is also an artist — she’s often referred to as the “mom” of Pittsburgh hip-hop — and she serves on the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council’s Learning and Leadership Committee as well as the Pittsburgh Arts Research Committee.

“I work with organizations and individuals to make sure that artists have a place at the table and are also treated equitably,” she says.
 


Justin Forzano (33)
Founder and CEO, CameroonFDP; Director of Programs, Pittsburgh Soccer in the Community

After spending three summers in Cameroon working on water projects as an undergraduate, Justin Forzano says he felt like the African nation was a “second home.” “So many people made me feel so welcome in a place so foreign,” he says.

While watching the World Cup in 2010, he learned about the Sport for Good movement, which uses sports to address health and social issues. When he realized nothing like it existed in the “soccer-loving country,” he founded the Cameroon Football Development Program — aka CameroonFDP — which now employs 12 staff members in Cameroon, with support from a board of directors based largely in Pittsburgh.

Forzano spends a month or two in Cameroon every year, working to improve health, education and leadership skills of more than 500 youths through soccer. After his success overseas, Forzano brought his knowledge back home through Pittsburgh Soccer in the Community, a soccer-centric youth development program that allows college students and athletes to serve as mentors.
 


Keysha Gomez (36)
Co-Founder/Executive Director, H.O.P.E. for Tomorrow, Inc.

Keysha Gomez and her husband, John Paul Gomez, moved to Pittsburgh in 2010 because they were “looking for a more family-oriented environment” to raise their children. She found it in Pittsburgh’s West End but quickly realized the area was underserved.

The couple started informally mentoring neighborhood youths but formed Helping Ourselves Produce Excellence (H.O.P.E.) for Tomorrow after realizing “the youth and families were not only anticipating but now relying on our services.” Gomez says she’s been volunteering since she was a teenager, first through a youth group directed by her mother. Now, she has six children ranging in age from 1 to 16 but still makes time to volunteer.

“Everything I do is out of my faithfulness to Christ,” Gomez says. “I believe it was intended for me to move to Pittsburgh … with the purpose of serving the youth and families in my community.”
 


 

Hayley Haldeman (31)
Associate, Jones Day

Hayley Haldeman, a litigation attorney with Jones Day, uses her legal training in a variety of ways, including counseling nonprofit organizations on formation and governance issues, and an active pro bono practice representing women with claims for immigration relief. But she looks to childhood to inspire her other volunteer work, serving as a mentor to middle school girls and launching a program through the Allegheny County Library Association that makes donated American Girl dolls available for two-week loans through county libraries.

Haldeman says the dolls shaped her imagination and interest in history. “I was the nerd who was reading the books and wanted to be Felicity and went to Colonial Williamsburg because I read her books as a kid,” she says. And Haldeman’s mother, a landscape painter, influenced her support of the arts.

Haldeman serves on the board of the Mattress Factory, and she co-founded the Factory Fellows, a group of the museum’s millennial leaders.
 


Sarah E.W. Hansen (34)
Senior Research Associate, HPW Associates

Sarah E.W. Hansen came to Pittsburgh in 2009 for the reasons often cited in those “most livable city” listicles: affordability, career opportunities and proximity to her and her husband’s East Coast families. “Pittsburgh was the perfect answer,” she says.

Hansen quickly laid down roots in her new hometown, earning a Ph.D. in administrative and policy studies from the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Education, serving as treasurer of Pittsburgh’s first-ever gender equity commission, and performing as a choir member and drummer for the Renaissance City Choir, an LGBTQA+ choral group.

“Whether it is through programming, policy or art, I advocate for a more equitable and empathic society, one that celebrates differences and encourages people of all backgrounds to succeed,” Hansen says of her work on the commission, which aims to achieve economic, social and political equality for everyone in Pittsburgh, regardless of gender identity or expression.

“This work is important, because when more people are willing to engage those around them with curiosity and respect, we will move toward a healthier, more innovative and safer world for all.”
 


Jason E. Hazlewood (39)
Partner, Reed Smith LLP

After graduating from Washington & Jefferson College, Jason E. Hazlewood left the Pittsburgh region to attend law school at the University of Virginia, but quickly returned to his hometown, and he says he’s “not going anywhere.”

Hazlewood, who practices commercial and financial services litigation, says he decided to enter the legal field because his mother and aunt were secretaries at large law firms. At Reed Smith, he mentors young lawyers. “No one that has ever accomplished anything of significance has ever done so without help,” he says. “I have received much help to date and therefore owe much help in return.”

In addition, Hazlewood performs pro bono work in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, which works to free wrongfully convicted people, and he serves on the boards of Neighborhood Allies, the Pennsylvania Economy League of Greater Pittsburgh and The Design Center.
 


Blayre Holmes Davis (29)
Director of Partnerships & Program Development, Adagio Health

For Blayre Holmes Davis, fighting for women’s rights runs in the family. Her grandmother was an organizer for the Service Employees International Union, so “working to put women and underrepresented populations at the center of my work” was a natural fit.

At Adagio Health, Davis says she aims to fill gaps in communities. “My responsibility is thinking strategically with partners about how we offer reproductive healthcare services and meet our patients and community members where they are at,” Davis says, whether that’s opening medical offices in high-need areas or establishing pop-up clinics.

“It’s exciting to be able to work with organizations [that] are so committed to the work, especially when healthcare services, specifically for women, are threatened on a daily basis.”

Outside of work, she also looks for opportunities that “put women at the center,” serving on the boards of Dress For Success Pittsburgh, Emerge Pennsylvania and the YWCA Young Leaders.
 

 

Simon Huntley (35) 
CEO, Harvie

Simon Huntley grew up on a small farm about 70 miles south of Pittsburgh, so after earning a bachelor’s degree in information sciences and technology from Penn State, he sought to use his education to help farmers.

“How do I help farms succeed using my technology background? I saw that as my unique contribution, to be able to pull these things together,” Huntley says.

Twelve years ago, he created Small Farm Central, now called Harvie, a digital platform that connects farms in the U.S., Canada and Australia with consumers. Huntley has evolved Harvie into a CSA-like program that he describes as “Blue Apron meets local farms.”

Farmers have trouble attracting and maintaining memberships for farm shares, but Harvie aims to simplify things by including recipes based on the contents of the box and making it easy for consumers to swap out items and customize their box or put a hold on their membership if they go on vacation. 
 


Dan LaVallee (30)
Director of Government & Business Relations, Government Programs, UPMC Health Plan

Dan LaVallee says his life’s work is inspired by two people — his father, who “committed his life to serving children in need,” and Fred Rogers, a role model — and one loss, the death of his brother when LaVallee was 6.

“Losing my brother at an early age forced me to deal with adversity in life,” LaVallee says, adding that “having Fred as a role model helped to shape my desire to have a positive impact on society and always focus on how those in need are treated.”

In his role with UPMC, LaVallee helps underserved groups such as the Medicaid population, the LGBTQ community, the homeless and those with unstable housing or disabilities. He also led the recent merger of United Way of Butler County with the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania.

“This merger ensured a structure that will be responsive to the needs of seniors, children, families, those with disabilities, veterans and underserved communities for years to come — several of which are very personal to me,” he says.
 


Dr. Kirsten D. Lin (38)
Founder, Family Matters Direct Primary Care

After earning a medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Kirsten D. Lin looked at the state of family medicine in the city and decided to try something different.

“I believe that high-quality healthcare should be simple, affordable and easily accessible for everyone,” she says. So less than a year ago, she opened one of the region’s first direct primary care practices, “an up-and-coming model of healthcare that allows doctors to provide care directly to patients without the inflated expenses and red tape.”

This model allows Lin to spend 30 to 60 minutes with each patient; see homeless and uninsured patients; and communicate in “unconventional ways,” such as texting and home visits. 
 


Alyssa P. Lyon (28)
Manager of Membership Engagement and Community Outreach & AmeriCorps Supervisor, Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group

A native of the Bronx, Alyssa P. Lyon moved to Pittsburgh and immediately noticed something was amiss when she compared the lives of residents in her Greenfield neighborhood to those in Squirrel Hill and Hazelwood, a stone’s throw away but often worlds apart.

She describes the differences between the neighborhoods as “baffling.” With Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group, she works to ensure stakeholders — everyone from residents and community groups to banks and foundations — are engaged in government processes.

“The ability to bridge gaps between policy and pragmatic community concerns, and putting a voice to the policy — a voice that rightfully belongs to the people of Pittsburgh — is the most rewarding part of this work,” Lyon says.

In addition to her work with PCRG, Lyon works with the Hazelwood Initiative on its efforts to revitalize the long-vacant Gladstone Middle School into an asset for the community and serves as co-director of the Pittsburgh chapter of the New Leaders Council, which works to identify and train progressives to run for office, start businesses and serve as advocates. 
 


 

Amie Biswas Matson (34)
Director of Family and Youth Engagement, A+ Schools

Amie Biswas Matson has spent her career making sure others’ voices are heard. After moving to California for an AmeriCorps program and to attend college, Matson boomeranged back to her hometown and earned a master’s in social work from the University of Pittsburgh.

“My work has primarily focused on school readiness and school-aged activities and engagement for the entire family,” she says. Matson now oversees two programs at A+ Schools, the nonprofit community advocate for the Pittsburgh Public Schools, that help family members and teens with leadership development, advocacy skills and navigating the public education system. “I am passionate about making sure families and students [have a say] in decision- and policy-making that ultimately impacts their experience directly,” she says.

“This work is important because the educational experience of students can impact so many other aspects of our society, and we need to create change with the families who are a part of the system.”
 


Brianne Mitchell (37)
CEO, Della and Lila Book Series; Executive Business Consultant & Media Strategist

Sometimes, the motivation you need comes in unexpected (and small) packages. That was the case for Brianne Mitchell, who says she always identified as a writer — but not an author — and creative — but not an artist. But one night, her now-10-year-old daughter, Della, told her a story.

Mitchell grabbed her laptop and typed up what would become “Della and Lila Meet the Monongahela Mermaid,” and the Della and Lila Book Series was born. Now, Mitchell sees herself as both a writer and an artist. She writes books with Della and her younger daughter, Lila, 7, and donates the proceeds to a different nonprofit each quarter.

In addition to teaching children to be good citizens through community service and caring for themselves and others, “we want to inspire other children to be creative and let them know that their voices matter,” Mitchell says. “Children’s creative voices are so important.”
 


Kyshira S. Moffett (28)
Founder & Brand Strategist, The KSM Group; Founder, Life of a Bombshell Cosmetics

Helping other entrepreneurs refine their hustle is Kyshira S. Moffett’s hustle. “I help women entrepreneurs package their expertise, brand their brilliance and monetize their online presence,” she says.

In addition, Moffett serves on the local chapter of the National Black MBA Association, which provides career opportunities and professional development to local professionals of color, and hosts an annual event for women entrepreneurs called the Hustle Her Way Summit. In April 2017, she used her expertise to launch Life of a Bombshell Cosmetics, “a passion project [that] has grown to be so much more.”

Moffett says she “was inspired by my own love of makeup and my clients. I wanted to create products that inspired them daily as they were building their businesses.”
 


Jamie Erin Murphy (33)
Full-Time School Faculty & Teaching Artist, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre; Independent Dance Artist & Collaborator, Shana Simmons Dance

Jamie Erin Murphy always wanted dance to be a part of her life. “Performing and choreography have always been my passion, but my love for teaching was an unexpected surprise,” she says. Murphy teaches adaptive dance classes for children with sensory needs and classes for seniors with Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

“My drive to teach accessibility classes comes from watching my mom teach children with special needs … and thinking about how the arts can be healing and therapeutic,” she says, adding that her mission is to “make dance accessible for all bodies.” Murphy moved to Pittsburgh in 2003 to get a bachelor’s in dance from Point Park University and stayed because she loved the city — and dancing here.

“Through my work at PBT and as an artist, I am able to share my passion while educating others to find compassion and understanding to others’ lives,” she says. 
 

 

James Myers Jr. (39)
Director, Community & Business Development, Riverside Center for Innovation

Although he admits that his dream job would be to own the Pittsburgh Pirates, James Myers Jr. probably does more good for his hometown with the work he’s doing right now. Professionally, he handles business development, community engagement and working with corporate partners for the Riverside Center for Innovation, a nonprofit that helps individuals grow their businesses through networking events, office space and support programs.

“The work that we do at Riverside Center for Innovation is important because it builds a skill set behind the audacity of hope,” he says. Outside of work, Myers mentors youth, serves on several boards and works to improve the Hill District, the neighborhood where he grew up and still resides.

“I believe it makes a difference to be visible in your community and for people to see you in a positive light with ambition,” he says.
 


Dr. Matthew D. Neal (38)
Roberta G. Simmons Endowed Assistant Professor of Surgery, UPMC

Matthew D. Neal, who describes himself as a “surgeon-scientist with a passion for trauma surgery and the study of bleeding control,” believes everyone can save a life. In his clinical practice, he does just that as a trauma surgeon (in addition to performing emergency general surgery, elective complex general surgery and robotic hernia repair).

As a leader of the Western Pennsylvania Stop the Bleed initiative, an outreach program that teaches bleeding control to the public, he wants to ensure that “bleeding control techniques are as common as CPR.” Neal has amassed more than 240 volunteer hours teaching those techniques to police and school workers, among others.

The facts behind his motivation are grim: “This program arose out of the critical need to train everyone as a first responder during mass casualty or intentional mass injury events,” Neal says. “A person can die in as little as three minutes from major bleeding.”
 


Masahiro “Mas” Ogiso (37)
Vice President, Project Development with Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Americas, Inc.

Mas Ogiso is energetic — in his work, which focuses on developing utility-scale renewable energy, and in his personal life, which he packs full of business opportunities, volunteering and mentoring.

Ogiso, who moved to Pittsburgh from Japan when he was 5, is a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh and sits on the board of the Three Rivers Arts Festival in honor of his own positive childhood experiences. “I’ve always been involved in some level of mentoring since I started working because I am who I am today because of people who took the time to mentor me throughout my life, as a kid in school or as a young professional in the workplace,” he says, adding that he “loved attending” the arts festival as a child.

“I believe in the American dream, and this city is full of opportunities for someone to go out there and make a difference.”
 


Lindsay Powell (27)
Assistant Chief of Staff, Office of Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto

Lindsay Powell came to Pittsburgh to get a master’s in public policy from Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College and says she “fell in love with the city wholly and immediately.”

Passionate about politics and social justice, Powell didn’t settle down in Pittsburgh right away, though — she first completed a White House fellowship during the Obama administration and then worked on Capitol Hill. “I knew I wanted to go back to Pittsburgh at some point, and as the things shifted in Washington, D.C., and in the country, I knew that I wanted to go back to working in cities,” she says. Powell moved back to Pittsburgh without a job or an apartment, but found a home in the Peduto administration, where she works in racial, gender, development and housing equity, and also volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters.

“I feel like we have a unique opportunity to be stewards of change and progress at the city level,” she says.
 

 

Justin Romano (34)
Partner, Attisano & Romano

In both his personal and professional lives, Justin Romano is looking for ways to connect. As a litigation attorney, he gets to work directly with people and use his strength as a communicator. “My job is to help people navigate a complicated system they are often unfamiliar with,” he says. “It is humbling to be counted on to provide that type of assistance.”

Outside the courtroom, Romano says he trys to live up to Pittsburgh’s “‘we’re all in this together’ mentality,” serving as chair of the board of PULSE Pittsburgh and the Greater Pittsburgh Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Young Leadership Outreach Team, as well as representing Ward 8, District 1 as a member of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee.

“I fundamentally believe that we all have an obligation to serve our community,” he says. “Whether that’s running for office or carrying groceries, being invested in your neighbors changes your perception of the world around you.”
 


Lejla Sehic (36)
Director, Digital Lead, Treasury Services Digital Platform Office, Bank of New York Mellon

Lejla Sehic might be a Pittsburgh transplant, but she’s determined to have a positive effect on her adopted home. She arrived here as a refugee from Bosnia, and over two decades, she’s “seen Pittsburgh blossom and embrace the grit and grace that make it an amazing place to live.”

Her role at BNY Mellon allows her to use her passions for innovation, technology and people, and it also lets her help others. She serves as regional co-chair of BNY Mellon’s IMPACT business resource group, which aims to recruit, promote and retain multicultural employees. “As my career grew, so did my desire to raise others’ careers up along with me,” Sehic says. Furthermore, Sehic mentors middle school-age refugee girls from Nepal, Thailand and Africa through the South Hills Interfaith Movement.

“Every Wednesday, I go back to the exact same community where I lived as a refugee — a deliberate commitment that also serves as a humble reminder of how I started,” she says.
 


Tiffini Simoneaux (36) 
Early Childhood Manager, Office of Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto

Tiffini Simoneaux spent her career working with kids and families in roles ranging from nanny to child care center director, giving her perspective on how to remedy the myriad challenges facing early childhood education. “It was through my work as a child care center director that I began to understand how underfunded the child care and early learning system truly is,” she says.

“It’s no secret that high quality early childhood programming is incredibly expensive, and often these programs are located in more affluent neighborhoods. This often means that children who come from families who are economically disadvantaged miss out on the opportunity to get the social/emotional and developmental skills that are such a big part of quality programs.” Simoneaux knows that firsthand — she grew up in poverty, her mother was a single parent from the time she was 5, and her father had a substance abuse disorder.

She says she “jumped at the opportunity” to be an advocate in her position with the mayor’s office, which includes a plan for implementing universal pre-kindergarten throughout the City of Pittsburgh.
 


Michael F. Sriprasert [38]
Vice-President, Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

Michael F. Sriprasert grew up in Washington, D.C., and came to Pittsburgh in 2002 as a Coro fellow. Sriprasert says he long has had a keen interest in real estate and developed a deep affection for Downtown buildings while earning two master’s degrees from Carnegie Mellon University.

“One of the great things about old buildings is their versatility. Reusing them for modern purposes is a great way to maintain the fabric of a community but also for new people who want to see what was there,” he says. He joined Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation in 2006 and now wears a number of hats: Vice-President, Landmarks Financial Corp.; President, Landmarks Community Capital Corp.; and President, Landmarks Development Corp.

Sriprasert believes that maintaining access for low- and moderate-income families is an essential component for historic preservation and to that end has spearheaded projects in
Wilkinsburg with this focus in mind.

“Retaining people in the neighborhood is important when you’re restoring old buildings. We don’t want to displace people. And the restoration and maintenance has to be of the highest quality,” he says.
—HBK

 

Quincy Kofi Swatson (27)
Executive Director, The Door Campaign

After graduating from Pittsburgh Public Schools and studying the psychology of learning and teaching, as well as the psychological effects of generational poverty, Quincy Kofi Swatson recognized the need to open doors to better educational opportunities. To help prepare students for success in the 21st Century, Swatson in 2013 founded The Door Campaign, which uses project-based learning to give middle and high school students opportunities to innovate in STEM fields.

It operates in 31 classrooms in nine schools, using a hands-on curriculum that creates an aquaponic system — growing plants in a soil-less environment, using waste from fish to nourish the plants, which clean the water the fish live in.

“It’s not an issue unique to Pittsburgh Public Schools,” Swatson says of the deficits in American classrooms. “I think our education system is outdated, and it doesn’t do a good job of creating thinkers and doers and innovators.” 
 


Lee Ann Wainwright (32)
Policy, Government & Public Affairs, Chevron

Lee Ann Wainwright found her passion for public relations during a college internship, but it was the Marcellus Shale formation that brought her talents to Pittsburgh. She and her husband moved here from Charleston, W.Va., in 2010 for his job in the oil and gas industry, which led her to pursue opportunities in the same field. In her role with Chevron, she leads the company’s STEM Education and Workforce Development programs. She says the job allows her to focus on her love of education and gives her an opportunity to make change in the region.

“I think making sure the next-generation workforce has the needed skills to not only obtain the jobs of the future, but to also keep their talents local, is critical to the economic development of the city and the region,” she says.

Wainwright has also worked on numerous other STEM initiatives in the region, including the Science on the Road program, which brings Carnegie Science Center programs to local classrooms in lieu of field trips.
 


Ciera Young (26) 
Director of Equity & Inclusion, The Ellis School

I like to say I was divinely redirected,” Ciera Young says of her career path. She was originally interested in public affairs and electoral and community organizing, but when she found herself in education, she quickly recognized its value.

At The Ellis School, her role is wide-ranging, from ensuring students have a strong understanding of social responsibility to working to undo systemic racism in Pittsburgh. She says education is an excellent way to build power — she’s a first-generation college student, but after she graduated, her younger cousins started attending and graduating from college. “It’s a sustainable and fast form of power,” she says.

Young says she recognizes that she is where she is today because someone saw potential in her, and she wanted to “pay it forward” through her own work. “Education can really turn someone’s trajectory around, and it can turn a family’s trajectory around in one generation,” she says.
 


Alecia Dawn Young (33)
Owner, YOGAMOTIF

Art and wellness have been themes in Alecia Dawn Young’s life, but she says it was a “truly scenic route” to founding her business, YOGAMOTIF, an East Liberty studio that “combines art and yoga to facilitate healing.” She studied sculpture and education in college and taught K-12 art, math and communications.

After receiving a master’s degree from Carnegie Mellon University, she held a few jobs while maintaining a “thread of consistent wellness” — running full and half marathons, biking and practicing yoga. After giving birth to a daughter and becoming a certified yoga teacher, she said she noticed “wellness deficits” in her own life and in the lives of others, leading her to found YOGAMOTIF.

Young, a Pittsburgh native, volunteers her time both as a yoga instructor and as board chair of New Voices for Reproductive Justice, an organization that supports black women, femmes and girls.

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