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Gambit’s 40 Under 40 (2014) 

Our 2014 class of 40 accomplished people under 40

Every year Gambit's 40 Under 40 issue provides glimpses into the innovations, new developments, social improvements, science breakthroughs and artistic achievements of the young people in our area.
Here's our 17th annual 40 Under 40.


Ruhul Amin, 33
Electrical engineer, Stennis Space Center

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Book currently reading: The Future of the Mind by Dr. Michio Kaku
Favorite Twitter account to follow: @michiokaku
Favorite local band: Rebirth Brass Band
Favorite restaurant: Katie's Restaurant
What do you do in your off time? Play soccer, volleyball, do yoga, bike, cook and volunteer
Dancing or karaoke? Dancing

  Electrical engineer Ruhul Amin developed a technique that allows instruments in space to filter out clouds and other atmospheric interference to take pictures of algae blooms in coastal waters.

  He also is working on a process that will allow satellites to track ice from the polar cap as it moves and melts.

  "Most of the work I do is basically via satellite," says Amin, who commutes every day from his home Uptown to the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, where he works. "On the International Space Station there's an instrument that takes a picture. I developed an algorithm that extracts only useful algae information."

  An algae bloom can cause contamination of drinking water. It cuts off oxygen to plants and fish below it and causes them to die, and toxins from some algae are carried by sea spray and can cause disease in humans who inhale it. Amin has applied for a patent for that technique and one for detecting shadows and is working on another for ice, which from space looks the same as clouds and shadows.

  "We just want to see where that ice is broken in the ocean," Amin says. "It's obviously important information for the shipping industry, the fishing industry and everyone else, but also it's important for global warming. ... If we can successfully separate (the ice from the clouds in images) ... we can see how much ice is moving, how much is melting and all sort of things," including weather and climate patterns.

  In New Orleans, Amin serves as secretary for Slow Food NOLA and volunteers with the Rodrigue Foundation and NOLA Trash Mob. — KANDACE POWER GRAVES


David Armand, 34
Writer, instructor, editor

www.davidarmandauthor.com, @darmandauthor www.facebook.com/davidarmandauthor

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Book currently reading: A Miracle of Catfish by Larry Brown
Favorite new album/CD: Nothing More's Nothing More
Favorite restaurant: Jazmine Cafe
Dancing or karaoke? Dancing

  

   Louisiana native David Armand is the author of two published books, The Pugilist's Wife, which earned him the George Garrett Fiction Prize, and Harlow, which has earned him comparisons to William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor from reviewers far and wide.    When he was in third grade, Armand started drawing comic strips. Even though they weren't examples of the kind of literary fiction he's made a name for himself creating, they did spark a love for storytelling. In high school and college Armand took writing more seriously and submitted stories for publication.    He teaches creative writing at South-eastern University in Hammond and just finished his third novel, The Gorge, which is forthcoming from Southeast Missouri State University Press.

  "I've gotten used to the idea of being called a Southern writer, and even more so a Southern gothic writer," Armand says. "The responsibility of that is to really capture what's unique about this area, Louisiana, New Orleans and even where I grew up, in Folsom. Place is very important to me."

  Armand says his future holds more storytelling. "I'd like to have a book come out every other year, and just kind of slowly build up an audience and readership, and be able to travel a little bit more and read in different places. I don't want to be overly successful right off the bat, because I think that puts a lot of pressure on you. But it would be nice to be a little more comfortable." — JEANIE RIESS


Andrea Armstrong, 39
Associate Professor of Law, Loyola University New Orleans

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Book currently reading: Punished: Policing Lives of Black and Latino Boys by Victor Rios
Favorite new album/CD: Lee Fields and the Expressions' Emma Jean
Favorite Twitter account to follow: @TalibKweli
Favorite local bands: John Boutte, Brass-A-Holics, Charmaine Neville and Herlin Riley
Favorite restaurants: Cafe Reconcile, Liberty's Kitchen, Il Posto
What do you do in your off time? "Dance and music. I have two small daughters that I adore. I'm with them quite a bit. Then it's really music."
Dancing or karaoke? "Dancing by far, though I've been known to rock 'Brick House.' Dance is a really important part of my life."

  Andrea Armstrong created a new certificate in Social Justice at Loyola Law that aims to distinguish to potential employers and fellowships, the exceptional students who have focused their training on serving the poor and marginalized.

  Born and raised in New Orleans, Armstrong left the city to enroll at New York University. She later earned a master's degree in public affairs from Princeton University and a law degree from Yale.

  Armstrong, the first African-American woman to serve in the Peace Corps in Turkmenistan, has been an advocate for international human rights, prisoners' rights and abolition of the death penalty. She has been a member of Loyola University's law faculty since 2010.

  "As an academic, I have the freedom to think and write about deeper structural issues that may be politically unpopular but also helpful towards accomplishing change over the long term," she says. To that end, Armstrong has done extensive research on penal plantation slavery and has published articles calling for prison reform. She currently is working on an article about racial bias and findings from implicit association testing.

  Armstrong sees the certificate in social justice as just the first step in supporting a new crop of socially conscious attorneys and advocates.

  "As a Loyola faculty member I can help build the next movement of activists for social justice through teaching, advising, and fostering a space for students to embrace their role as future advocates. In addition to the new certificate, we are building a public service concentration in our skills curriculum, fostering an ongoing community of activism through hosting speakers and events, as well as building a Loyola Social Justice website that will host materials and videos to support social justice advocacy more broadly." — APRIL ISAACS


Ansel Augustine, 37
Director, Office of Black Catholic Ministries for the Archdiocese of New Orleans

@PREACH504

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Favorite new album/CD: Anomaly by LeCrae
Favorite Twitter account to follow: @KermitRuffins
Favorite local band: Rebirth Brass Band
Favorite restaurant: Dooky Chase's Restaurant
What do you do in your off time? "I like to read and go to the gym and lift weights."
Dancing or karaoke? "Dancing, because I can't sing worth a lick."

  Ansel Augustine has spent his career rebuilding the community, advocating for social justice and equality and nurturing a new generation of black Catholics.

  He began working in ministry 15 years ago at St. Peter Claver Catholic Church in his home parish. After Hurricane Katrina, he helped rebuild his church and the neighborhood that surrounds it, and continues to be an influential force in the community, advocating for equality in education and social justice.

  He is director of the Office of Black Catholic Ministries for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, which identifies and fosters the rich diversity of black Catholics. Previously he served as associate director and coordinator of the Catholic Youth Office's Black Youth and Young Adult Ministry.

  Augustine, who also is a member of The Wild Tchoupitoulas Mardi Gras Indian tribe, says one of his favorite things about his job is that it enables him to inspire new generations of New Orleanians.

  "I do what I do because our youth are our future," he says. — DELLA HASSELLE


Bridgeja' Baker, 17
Owner, Creative Jewelry by Bridgeja'

www.creativejewelrybybridgeja.com, @cjbybridgeja; www.facebook.com/JewelryByBridgeja

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Currently reading: King Lear by William Shakespeare
Favorite musician: Kanye West
Favorite subject in school: History
Favorite local band: Rebirth Brass Band

  At age 10, Bridgeja' Baker launched her own jewelry line, which has won national accolades and is sold on QVC.com.

  When 10-year-old Baker's new braces broke after hours, her father drove her to an orthodontist's office in Mandeville, which was located next to a bead shop. Smitten with the art of creating fashion accessories, Baker took 30 jewelry-making classes at the shop.

  "I loved the classes, and the owner was really impressed," Baker says. A friend's parent threw a party featuring her jewelry, and Baker sold $1,107 worth of items. "I was like, 'I have to make this a business.'"

  Now 17, Baker has sold her jewelry at Essence Market Place Arts Expo, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation and www.qvc.com. She has been recognized by first lady Michelle Obama's chief of staff. She regularly donates jewelry to silent auctions for nonprofit organizations, and a percentage of her earnings is donated to the LA/SCPA, Children's Hospital and Unity for the Homeless.

  A senior at Isidore Newman School, Baker hopes to attend Savannah College of Art and Design majoring in fashion.

  "My ultimate goal is to become a great fashion designer," Baker says. "As long as you have some drive, pretty much anything is possible." — MISSY WILKINSON


Robin Barnes, 27
Singer/songwriter; founder and CEO, Fit By You
www.fitbyyou.co, @RobinMBarnes, www.facebook.com/robinbarnesmusic

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Book currently reading: The Power by Rhonda Byrne
Favorite new album/CD: Sam Smith's In the Lonely Hour
Favorite Twitter account to follow: @Women_Fit
Favorite local band: "I can't put me, huh?"
Favorite restaurant: Mint Modern Vietnamese
What do you do in your off time? Play golf
Dancing or karaoke? Dancing!

  After a life-threatening health crisis, jazz singer Robin Barnes created fitness apparel with a local spin on wellness.

  Robin Barnes is a musician, so she knows New Orleanians like to move. What's missing, she believes, is awareness of what it means to live healthfully.

  Her realization came two years ago, when the singer contracted a sudden illness. She thought it was jet lag, but it turned out to be a rare kidney infection. Her doctor was upbeat; it wasn't until after her recovery that she found out she was lucky to be alive.

  The close call convinced her that a positive mindset is essential to wellness. It also inspired her to create Fit By You, a line of fitness gear emblazoned with Carnival-themed motivational slogans. These days, she starts her morning with a 5 a.m. workout, spends the day managing her businesses and wraps up the week with regular music gigs. As a mentor to local high school and college students, Barnes is determined to spread a message of achievement through positivity. — ANNA GACA


G. Wogan Bernard, 34
Partner, Chaffe McCall LLP

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Book currently reading: Inferno by Dan Brown
Favorite local band: Rebirth Brass Band
Favorite restaurant: Clancy's
What do you do in your off time? "Spend as much time as I can with my wife and three kids."

 G. Wogan Bernard is helping redevelop New Orleans while also constructing a legal career of rising national prominence.

  In both his role as board member of New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity and his job fostering commercial developments in new construction as well as rehabilitation projects, Bernard is literally helping rebuild his hometown.

  A graduate of Jesuit High School, Bernard earned a degree in economics from Washington & Lee University. He got his law degree from Louisiana State University, where he served as a senior editor of the Louisiana Law Review.

  He accepted a position with Chaffe McCall law firm in May 2006, a time when the city was booming with commercial projects to meet huge infrastructure and housing needs. It was a daunting task for a recent college graduate, but Bernard brokered complicated deals, often using tax incentives, to help keep the flow of development active to this day.

  For his accomplishments, Bernard was one of the youngest fellows ever accepted by American College of Mortgage Attorneys. He also is a leader in the American Bar Association's Real Property Probate & Trust Section and an in-demand speaker at legal conferences across the country.

  "A lot of my success is based on support and mentorship from Chaffe McCall, as well as my family," Bernard says. "I take a lot of satisfaction in what I do, in being part of the continued redevelopment of New Orleans, of seeing the results of what we do." — FRANK ETHERIDGE


Patricia Besselman, 38
Managing Partner, Besselman & Associates
Chairwoman, Young Professionals, Jefferson Chamber
www.besselmanandassoc.com

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Book currently reading: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Favorite local band: Rebirth Brass Band
Favorite restaurant: Galatoire's 33 Bar & Steak
What do you do in your off time? DIY projects
Dancing or karaoke? Dancing

  Patricia Besselman has worked to breathe new life into the Jefferson Chamber by pulling in more young professionals.

  In 2012, Besselman was in her late 20s when she became managing partner of her father's firm, Besselman & Associates, and attended her first Jefferson Chamber of Commerce meeting. She knew it was important to network with other business professionals, but she didn't feel she got much out it because she was so much younger than other members.

  Now, Besselman serves as chairwoman of the Young Professionals, which focuses on building relationships between business people under the age of 40. The committee hosts networking events, educational programs and facilitates community involvement.

  "I consider it a landing pad for young people," Besselman says.

  Besselman spearheaded an initiative to stage the first Fat City Fest this month in Metairie. The event, which she says is designed to showcase an area in the middle of a renaissance, will feature local bands, food and retail vendors.

  "My goal is to essentially make people aware of how unique the area is and highlight the resources we have," she says. — DELLA HASSELLE


Caitlin Cain, 38
Regional Advocate, U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy
www.sba.gov/advocacy

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Book currently reading: Last Train to Paris by Michele Zackheim
Favorite restaurants: Boucherie, Patois, Bouligny Tavern
What do you do in your off time? Play tennis, walk my dog, hang out with friends and family
Dancing or karaoke? Dancing

  A trained economic developer and urban planner,  Caitlin Cain fosters grassroots growth across five states.

  If you're a small business owner, or aspire to be one, Caitlin Cain is your go-to person in Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico. As an advocate at the Small Business Administration, Cain represents the interests of entrepreneurs, helping them gain access to resources, navigate regulations and voice their concerns to Washington.

  The most interesting part of her job, Cain says, is the opportunity to meet working people in every industry: independent fishers, small manufacturers and mom-and-pop hardware store operators. Her home base is New Orleans, where in her former job as economic development director for the Regional Planning Commission, Cain was instrumental in securing development of the Veterans Administration Medical Center and BioDistrict.

  In May, she hosted a symposium for small business leaders, encouraging them to make connections and share experiences as they build the base of the regional economy. — ANNA GACA


R. Erich Caulfield, 39
President, The Caulfield Consulting Group
@rerichc

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Book currently reading: The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Means of Ascent by Robert A. Caro
Favorite local bands: Brass-A-Holics, Rebirth Brass Band and Trombone Shorty
Favorite restaurant: Jaqcues-Imo's Cafe
What do you do in your off time? "I love live music. I love movies. I have TV shows I follow."
Dancing or karaoke? Dancing

  Erich Caulfield helps government function better for the people of New Orleans.   The Baton Rouge native has an extensive resume of leadership positions, including serving as chief policy advisor to former Newark, New Jersey, mayor Cory Booker. Soon after, President Barack Obama appointed Caulfield a White House Fellow, and he worked at the White House Domestic Policy Council.

  When Caulfield had a chance to return home to Louisiana, however, he jumped at it. He was selected to be the New Orleans Community Solutions Team Lead for the White House Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Initiative. Working closely with Mayor Mitch Landrieu's senior staff, Caulfield helped implement federal programs, and his team ultimately helped create dozens of new construction jobs, cut the number of patients waiting to get psychiatric care in emergency rooms by 25 percent and helped nearly 70 homeless residents find housing.

  "In a real way, SC2 represented what government is supposed to be," Caulfield says. "How can you give people who live in New Orleans, which I love, a shot at a better life? That's what it's all about."

  After SC2 completed its two-year run in New Orleans, Caulfield founded The Caulfield Consulting Group and serves as its president.

  "SC2 didn't come with any new money," he says. "It showed me if you're very thoughtful about using what you already have, you can have a great impact on people's lives." — DELLA HASSELLE


Anthony Cerrato, 37
Director of fabrication, Solomon Group
www.solomongroup.com

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  Anthony Cerrato creates environments that can transport audiences to another place and time, and his talents in fabrication and scenic art will be exhibited in a huge way when Campaigns of Courage: The Road to Berlin opens next year at the National World War II Museum.

  The project, the largest to date for the Solomon Group, involves creating immersive scenes in nine galleries, representing a desert in North Africa, the Ardennes Forest where the Battle of the Bulge was fought, and other locations pertinent to the WWII campaign.

  Cerrato began working for Solomon Group in September 2012 and already has inked his resume with the Emmy-nominated CBS broadcast set for Super Bowl XLVII, The Train Car Experience at the World War II Museum and sets for Essence Music Festival. Before coming to New Orleans, he directed and produced numerous theatrical works, built sets and engineered scenery in New York City, North Carolina, Detroit and Philadelphia and worked with touring productions and performers all over the world, including Mikhail Baryshnikov, Philip Glass, Richard Foreman and others. — KANDACE POWER GRAVES


Dave Davis, 25
Actor, comedian
@randomayhem

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Book currently reading: The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
Favorite Twitter account to follow: @Obrett11 (@platinumlifestyleplus on Instagram)
Favorite local band: Ballzack
What do you do in your off time? "Practice piano, practice guitar — I have to doodle, draw, build a sculpture, paint. I have to do something every day or I think the day's a waste. I'm also taking voice lessons and improv classes."
Dancing or karaoke? "My back pocket karaoke song is 'Sixteen Tons' by Tennessee Ernie Ford. ... I love dancing, and I love learning different styles."

  Dave Davis is a New Orleans actor who has been featured in True Detective, The Walking Dead and several leading roles in SyFy network features. He also co-founded the music and comedy group Bare Handed Bear Handlers, which will debut a webseries next year.

  The New Jersey native, who attended Ben Franklin High School and Lusher Charter School, spent five years working with the New Orleans Shakespeare Festival and performed the lead in the 2012 production of Hamlet. Davis has racked up a dozen diverse film credits, including "Toby" on the acclaimed series True Detective.

  "I auditioned five times, each time drastically different characters — whether it's a thug, or someone with cerebral palsy," he says. "It was cool to show the local casting directors what I'm capable of, and I've established a relationship with them over the years."

  But his passion is Bare Handed Bear Handlers, a music and comedy group he's in with Owen Legendre. The group produced viral-ready, over-the-top music videos, premiered the short film Guisheppy's at the New Orleans Film Festival, and plans a webseries (Jingle Boys, about a jingle company), and forthcoming feature film.

  "We're working on the script now, and when that's done, which is the hardest part, we're getting the money, we're getting the team and we're going to take over," he says. "We plan to make movies the rest of our lives." — ALEX WOODWARD


Greg Dietz, 38 Ted Neikirk, 38 James "Jammer" Orintas, 38
Owners, Theo's Pizza
www.theospizza.com

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Books currently reading: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks and Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965 by Mark Moyar
Favorite new album/CD: From the Hills Below The City by Houndmouth
Favorite local band: Honey Island Swamp Band
Favorite restaurant: Sylvain
What do you do in your off time? "I love playing with my kids. I coach my kids' soccer teams. I love jogging at Audubon Park. And playing tennis with my wife."
Dancing or karaoke? Karaoke

  In November 2004, three college friends went out on a limb and opened a new pizza restaurant on Magazine Street. Fast-forward 10 years, and the owners of Theo's Pizza have successfully added two more locations and a food truck, all while managing to consistently give back to the community.

  As one of the first restaurants to open on Magazine Street after Hurricane Katrina, the trio served up pizza, water and beer, working tirelessly to keep spirits hopeful and bellies full while people were cleaning up after the storm. Since then, Theo's has continued to engage with the community and donate whenever they can.

  Every month, the three owners personally host a birthday party at the Salvation Army Center of Hope, providing pizza, party favors and laughter for the kids who reside there. The company also supports numerous other organizations, including Boys Hope Girls Hope, Heart Gift, The Pro Bono Project and the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

  "We are more than excited to do that," Dietz says. "What we feel is this: we rely on the community to be successful. Therefore, we feel its only fair to give back."

  Besides, he says, it always brightens an event when the company donates a couple of pies. After all: "Pizza is an everybody food." — DELLA HASSELLE


Jeffrey Doussan Jr., 31
Owner, RoadSNAP
www.roadsnap.com, @jdoussan

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Book currently reading: The Lean Startup by Eric Ries and Business Adventures by John Brooks
Favorite Twitter account to follow: @gselevator
Favorite local band: Cowboy Mouth
Favorite restaurant: Square Root
Dancing or karaoke? Karaoke

  Jeffrey Doussan, Jr. is the owner of RoadSNAP, a transportation technology and traffic safety company that aims to get people where they need to go safely and efficiently.

  Doussan, a seventh-generation New Orleanian, has always been an entrepreneur, from starting his first business at age 8 to consulting for businesses around the city.

  He started RoadSNAP six years ago and has since expanded the company into six states, with offices in New Orleans and Raleigh, North Carolina. Doussan says though the high-tech products are an important part of his company, "where we can make a difference, and affect everyone's day, is on smaller roads, pedestrian areas, and we have some great things going on in the city of New Orleans, specifically where we're trying to push New Orleans to be a biking and walking city."

  RoadSNAP supports sustainable urban design by providing the devices and the safety countermeasures needed to implement the city's Complete Streets ordinance, which says that all roads must accommodate all users, including drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and the disabled.

  "The projects that we're able to do in New Orleans are the ones really touching the locals," he says. "The Lafitte Greenway is going to open next year. You're going to see our products on the Lafitte Greenway."

  He plans to build on his company's core values and provide solutions that have a positive impact.

   "It's about solutions that matter and make a difference for the user and do something for our city and for our society. My next big challenge is enlarging the size of my family and staying in New Orleans and making sure that New Orleans is a vibrant place to continue to have family here. And hopefully my kids will stay here." — JEANIE RIESS


Jolene Fehler, 39
Executive director, Funny Bones Improv
www.funnybonesimprov.com, @fbimprov

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Book currently reading: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Favorite new album/CD: Ray LaMontagne's Supernova
Favorite local band: Country Fried
Favorite restaurant: Bhava
What do you do in your off time? "Play with my kids and listen to live music."
Dancing or karaoke? "Really, both. ... I'm an Organ Grinder, dancing in a dance krewe. ... I sing very badly Don't Stop Believing by Journey."

  Jolene Fehler's nonprofit Funny Bones Improv brings laughs to children in hospitals in New Orleans and Chicago, including several monthly performances in the Crescent City since 2009.

  "To watch kids' transformation from sadness and stress to laughing and smiling and just being a kid is incredibly special," she says. "It gave comedy a purpose to me."

  Fehler and a few comedian friends first performed at a children's hospital in Chicago in April 2008. Funny Bones' volunteer players now perform four times a month at Tulane Hospital for Children, Ochsner Medical Center and Children's Hospital (and in Chicago, they perform four times a month at Rush University Medical Center, Advocate Lutheran General and Oaklawn Hospital). Fehler also is a "laughter yoga" teacher, and she does corporate improv training for workplaces.

  She has performed improv comedy for more than 13 years and studied improv at the Second City Theater in Toronto and Chicago as well as Chicago's IO Improv and Annoyance.

  "I want Funny Bones to be in 20 big, or little, or any cities, because there are kids in hospitals in all these places," she says. "Whether they're there for a broken arm or something more serious, it's pretty spectacular to get to laugh with them and share something beautiful." — ALEX WOODWARD


Gabriela Fighetti, 36
Deputy Executive Director, The Institute for Innovation in Public School Choice

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Book currently reading: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Favorite Twitter account to follow: @peterccook
Favorite local band: Hurray for the Riff Raff
Favorite restaurant: Peche
What do you do in your off time? "Hang out with friends and, now that it's fall, go eat and drink outside."
Dancing or karaoke? Karaoke

  Gaby Fighetti directed the Recovery School District's (RSD) successful development and implementation of OneApp, a centralized citywide student enrollment system that gives students choices in schools; she now will establish school choice policies across the country. 

 Her experience with OneApp propelled Fighetti into a new job in September working for the Institute for Innovation in Public School Choice, where she will try to forge policies in educational districts across the country that will give all children a fair chance at a good education.

  Fighetti arrived in New Orleans to become executive director for student enrollment at RSD when the city was recovering from Hurricane Katrina and struggling to function without a centralized public school system. Driven by what she describes as the sense from childhood (spent in the good public schools of middle-class suburban New Jersey) of the "fundamentally unfair" reality of children's ZIP codes determining their school and their school determining their destiny, Fighetti launched OneApp within eight months of coming to the RSD. The app, which is in its fourth year, now has 90 percent participation among schools in the city and places 90 percent of applicants in kindergarten through ninth grade in one of their top three school choices.

  "I came down to New Orleans with the purpose of creating a more fair and equitable enrollment system, and that idea is very dear to me," she says. "I'm a real geek for this; I'm a real believer in school choice. In the long term, I'm looking to help districts build one like we have in New Orleans and then ensure that the system is serving families as well as it can. It's really hard work, but I'm excited to do this." — FRANK ETHERIDGE


Benjamin Foley, 37
General manager of offshore renewables, Keystone Engineering Inc.

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Book currently reading: Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett
Favorite new album/CD: Jason Isbell's Southeastern
Favorite Twitter account to follow: @BillSimmons
Favorite local band: Papa Grows Funk
Favorite restaurant: Brigtsen's
What do you do in your off time? Goes to New Orleans Saints games and plays with his daughter
Dancing or karaoke? "It depends on how many cocktails I've had. I'd probably do karaoke first."

  Thanks to Benjamin Foley, clean energy may soon be a lot more affordable.

  Foley is general manager of Keystone Engineering Inc., a local firm with more than 25 years' experience with oil and gas projects. Recently, however, Foley and his team have been a tour de force in a new sector: offshore renewable wind industry.

  Keystone Engineering recently designed an innovative new structure for wind turbines, which will decrease costs associated with the industry. Using Foley's "Twisted Jacket" technology, developers can construct large-scale wind farms that produce clean energy. The invention is being used at two new East Coast wind energy projects that recently received $47 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy.

  Wind farms are slated to use the design in Europe and Asia, and the Keystone team is working with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, to study and build larger turbines.

  "To develop offshore wind to power major eastern cities is very important to reduce reliance on foreign industry and to reduce environmentally deleterious energy practices we use," Foley said. "Unfortunately, it's quite expensive to generate wind power. People have a tendency to say they're all for ecologically sound technology, but not if it costs them more money." — DELLA HASSELLE


Cherie Melancon Franz, 37
Founder, Thinkerella
www.mythinkerella.com; @MyThinkerella; www.facebook.com/thinkerellanola

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Book currently reading: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Favorite Twitter account to follow: @FleurtyGirl
Favorite local band: Rebirth Brass Band
Favorite restaurant: Vincent's Italian Cuisine
What do you do in your off time? "I play with my kids."
Dancing or karaoke? Karaoke

  Cherie Melancon Franz found an ingenious way to introduce kids to the fun side of science: make it a party game.

  She founded Thinkerella in March, coming up with the idea after a spa-themed party her daughter attended. Franz thought parents needed an activity option for parties that was fun and educational.

  Thinkerella is a mobile science lab that offers fun, nontoxic activities for kids 3 to 13 years old. By building ball shooters out of noodles, or making snow out of polymers, children can develop a love for science while having fun at birthday parties, youth group meetings and after-school sessions, Franz says.

  "Each kid gets a lab coat and safety goggles, and they turn into little scientists as soon as they put them on," Franz says. "I started it because I wished a company like that had existed sooner for my daughter: You plant the seed of science, but it's all very fun and exciting."

  Thinkerella has been a success and has expanded to include ThinkerKids, an after-school program conducted at 10 local elementary schools in the New Orleans area. Franz regularly hires teachers to help with the programs and has taught more than 1,000 children about the fundamentals of physics, chemistry, aerodynamics and more.

  After all, as Franz says, "You're never to young to change the world." — DELLA HASSELLE


Candace Frisard, 35
Owner, World Martial Arts

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Favorite local band: Rebirth Brass Band
Favorite restaurant: Taqueria Corona
What do you do in your off time? CrossFit training and competition
Dancing or karaoke? "Definitely dancing. I don't think anyone wants to hear me sing."

  This year, Candace Frisard became the first Louisiana woman to be nominated to the Martial Arts Hall of Fame.

  "I'm super excited about it," says Frisard, who adds she's "tried her hardest" to change the perception that martial arts is just for men. "You don't see too many martial arts women actresses, just a lot of actors. That needs to change."

  For Frisard, practicing martial arts has become a way of life. She began training in 1985 through the Kenner Parks and Recreation Department and became an instructor at World Martial Arts in Kenner in 1994. A year later, she took over the program.

  She won two gold medals in the Junior Olympics in 1998 and since has attained two national titles, but her focus isn't only on winning medals and shattering stereotypes. A third of her week is devoted to pro bono service, teaching at-risk youth in the same martial arts program in which she was raised.

  "I really just want to share the knowledge," she says. "That's my goal every day. It helps you be a really disciplined person." — DELLA HASSELLE


Michael Giusti, 36
Senior media adviser and instructor, Loyola University

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Book currently reading: Free by Chris Anderson and The Autobiography of St. Ignatius Loyola
Favorite Twitter account to follow: @NiemanLab
Favorite local band: Kermit Ruffins
Favorite restaurant: Katie's Restaurant
What do you do in your off time? Read old detective novels
Dancing or karaoke? Dancing

  Michael Giusti is Loyola University's senior media adviser, an award-winning journalism instructor and a national expert on the business of media and newsroom management.

  Since Michael Giusti returned to Loyola University in 2006 to serve as senior media advisor, Loyola's student newspaper The Maroon has tripled its advertising revenue and risen to national acclaim, winning more than 150 city, state, regional and national awards for journalistic excellence. An expert in the business of media, Giusti serves as the managing editor of the New York-based financial-industry trade magazine The Daily Funder and contributes as a freelance writer to national and international news outlets.

  "I love my work at Loyola and also the opportunities I have to do consulting for other college papers, to help them avoid common pitfalls and ensure a viable economic future for their publications." — MARK ALLAIN


Colin Grussing, 29
Entrepreneur/Investor
52businesses.com; rootsuit.com; @colingrussing

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Book currently reading: Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen
Favorite new album/CD: Volcano Choir's Repave
Favorite restaurant: Adolfo's

  Colin Grussing's first business venture, the Root Suit, proved so profitable that it allowed the Lafayette native to invest in New Orleans real estate, establish the motorcycle side-car maker NOLA Sidecars and launch 52 Businesses, which is helping get one business up and running every week for a year.

  Ever an entrepreneur, Grussing already had designed a medical device by the time he earned a mechanical engineering degree from Yale University. After watching friends embark on unfulfilling career paths and having his own bad experience as a production assistant on a New Orleans-shot film, he chose to blaze his own trail. Taking an idea from the sitcom It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Grussing ordered 15 green spandex body suits, sold them all online in less than 24 hours and had a waiting list of 2,500 orders. He since has used that early success to promote start-ups in New Orleans through not only 52 Businesses (which helped New Orleans Saints kicker Thomas Morstead launch his What You Give Will Grow nonprofit) but also in his role as general manager of NOLATech Week, which in its fourth year reported an 50 percent increase in attendance and number of events.

  "For a while, I wanted to retire within five years, because I had enough to live on, but I realized what I enjoy is launching businesses and helping other people do the same. It's really crazy how difficult people think it is to start a business, so I wanted to show them how to do it without risking their life savings or quitting their day job. It's something I really get energized by." — FRANK ETHERIDGE


Lesli D. Harris, 39
Attorney, Stone Pigman Walther Wittmann LLC
www.stonepigman.com; @LeslieHarris

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Book currently reading: Natchez Burning by Greg Iles
Favorite Twitter account to follow: @nytimes
Favorite local band: Trombone Shorty
Favorite restaurant: Marcello's Restaurant & Wine Bar
What do you do in your off time? Hang out with friends, have cocktails and decorate my house
Dancing or karaoke? Dancing

  Lesli Harris uses her legal skills to fight for same-sex marriage rights in Louisiana. When she's not working for LGTBQ rights, she's helping the growing local entrepreneurial community thrive.

  As one of the lead attorneys representing Forum for Equality in Louisiana, Harris filed a lawsuit challenging Louisiana's ban on recognizing same-sex marriages that are performed legally outside of the state. The lawsuit charges that Louisiana's refusal to recognize those marriages denies individuals equal protection and due process as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

  "I think as a lawyer it's right to fight for people who are discriminated against on a daily basis," Harris says. "I have a lot of friends who are gay and lesbian, and they're being stripped of their rights. Justice requires a recognition of same-sex marriage."

  To help entrepreneurs, Harris recently helped launch Stone Pigman's CornerStone Program, which provides startups and individuals with low-cost legal services to protect new ventures. She also is lead author of Fashion & Entertainment Law Guide blog and co-chair of the New Orleans Bar Association's Entertainment, Intellectual Property and Technology Law Committee. — DELLA HASSELLE


Dr. Mara Haseltine, 37
Dermatologist, Poole Dermatology
www.pooledermatology.com, @DrPoole1

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Book currently reading: Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain and Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Favorite new album/CD: The National's Trouble Will Find Me
Favorite local band: the subdudes
Favorite restaurant: Cochon
Dancing or karaoke? Both

  Dr. Mara Haseltine helped pass legislation prohibiting minors from using tanning beds, which can cause deadly melanoma.

  When she was selected to be president of the Louisiana Dermatological Society, Haseltine wanted to "leave a mark."

  "I had no history of political activity, but a good way to leave a mark is make a law," Haseltine says.

  Specifically, Haseltine wanted to make a law prohibiting minors from using tanning beds. Only six states had passed similar laws, and in some cases it was a struggle. But Haseltine's compelling testimony and that of her patients, young women with melanoma, helped the bill pass through the Louisiana House with only one vote against it.

  "I said, 'This is not controversial. Tanning causes melanoma,'" Haseltine says. "We have large studies to prove that now. Even [using a tanning bed] once is associated with a 60 percent increase of melanoma."

  Louisiana became the ninth state in the nation to pass laws against tanning bed use by minors.

  "It is a real win for Louisiana," says Haseltine, who adds she hopes to continue being an advocate for patients and doctors. — MISSY WILKINSON


Claire Jecklin, 36
Co-principal for academics and school development, New Orleans Charter Science & Mathematics High School
www.noscihigh.org; @SciHighNOLA

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Books currently reading: Focus by Mike Schmoker and Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Favorite new album/CD: Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings' Give the People What They Want
Favorite Twitter account to follow: @SciHighNOLA
Favorite restaurant: Dick & Jenny's
What do you do in your off time? "Read, take my dog to the levee, go out to eat and see music."
Dancing or karaoke? Dancing

  Claire Jecklin, co-principal of Sci High, believes in teacher-led schools and sees success every time a graduate walks across the stage.

  Jecklin and her husband, both educators, wanted to live in a city where teaching could change lives. They thought New Orleans might be it, so they booked plane tickets — for Aug. 28, 2005. The trip was canceled because of Hurricane Katrina, but the couple eventually moved to the Crescent City anyway.

  Jecklin began teaching at Sci High, a standalone Uptown charter school with an emphasis on STEM subjects and one of the most demographically representative student bodies in the city. Several years later, she shares the principal's office with Chana Benenson, a 40 Under 40 winner from 2009.

  As Co-principal for academics, Jecklin oversees the school's effort to build career education and college readiness into the curriculum. To do it, she's expanded internships, advanced placement classes and opportunities for students to earn technical certifications. "The job just keeps changing," she says. "That's the goal of a principal: to continue to push the growth of the school, push what we're offering for our students and our community." — ANNA GACA


Onassis Jones, 39
Mental health specialist, Cafe Reconcile
www.cafereconcile.org; @bishop_oj (Instagram)

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Book currently reading: Five Star Church: Serving God and His People with Excellence by Stan Toler and Alan Nelson
Favorite restaurant: Houston's
What do you do in your off time? Listen to music and relax by the lake
Dancing or karaoke? "Dancing. I was a drum major at McDonogh 35. We had to do a lot of dancing."

  New Orleans native Onassis Jones provides training and mental health support to at-risk young people at Cafe Reconcile.

  Jones is the organization's mental health specialist, where he has led group and individual counseling sessions. Last year, participants in the program, which mentors and trains at-risk youth for work in the restaurant industry, had a 90 percent reduction in substance abuse and 67 percent reduction in mental health issues.

  Jones earned a master's degree in divinity and psychology from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and served an internship and practicum at Covenant House.

  "My passion just kicked in," he says. "Even the people considered 'rough and tough' in their community had a sincere heart, and they were crying for help." Jones then worked as a case manager, counselor and family intervention specialist at Orleans Parish Juvenile Drug Court for seven years before joining Cafe Reconcile in January 2012.

  His goal is to see a 100 percent graduation rate.

  "We want to identify the barriers so we can empower, educate and equip our young people to be successful — not only to be productive in the workforce but also in family life, which will ultimately impact their peers," he says.

  "Eventually, I'd like to do a community resource center with an education component, a counseling component and financial literacy. You can help young people mentally, emotionally and getting a job, but they need to know how to handle their finances." — ALEX WOODWARD


Tiffany Langlinais, 24
Designer and CEO, Freret & Napoleon
Nonprofit development manager, American Diabetes Association
www.freretnapoleon.com; @freretnapoleon; www.facebook.com/freretnapoleon

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Book currently reading: The World That Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square by Ned Sublette
Favorite local band: Hot 8 Brass Band
Favorite restaurant: Peche
Favorite hotspot: Bacchanal

  Tiffany Langlinais debuted her fashion and jewelry label at three regional fashion weeks less than a year after teaching herself to sew.

  She bought a sewing machine for her birthday, thinking it would be fun to make her own clothes. After a month of practice, the self-taught seamstress applied to Fashion Week New Orleans at the urging of a friend, designer Brennan Manuel. She was selected as one of 10 finalists in its Top Design Contest. What started as a hobby is now a full-fledged fashion business — a fairly typical dynamic for the ambitious Mississippi native.

  "I am the kind of person who always has to have something going on," Langlinais says. "I just don't sleep a lot, honestly."

  Langlinais spends her days coordinating events for the American Diabetes Assocation. She's currently spearheading three nonprofit community walks. In her off time, she shows her fashion and jewelry collections at events in New Orleans, Austin, Texas and Mobile, Alabama.

  "I definitely want to create a flagship store on Magazine Street," Langlinais says. "I have so many grand plans for the year to come." — MISSY WILKINSON


Hien Nguyen, 30
Kim Tran, 35
Owners, Wink Design & Events
www.winknola.com; @WINKnola; www.facebook.com/WinkDesignandEvents

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Favorite local band: Groovy 7
Favorite restaurants: Square Root and August
What do you do in your off time? Eat, shop, sleep
Dancing or karaoke? Dancing

  Kim Tran and Hien Nguyen's events company throws lavish parties for individuals, corporate clients and local charities.

  Wink Design & Events co-owners Kim Tran and Hien Nguyen are known for extravagantly transforming spaces with lighting, drapes and props. They've even coined their own catchphase: "Wink it out!" (which they say often, in unison).

  Tran and Nguyen launched the business from their West Bank homes in 2009, doing weddings for friends and family. Five years later, they have a downtown office and clients like the National Baksketball Association, Mercedes-Benz, Coca-Cola and New Orleans Saint Pierre Thomas. Thomas hired Wink to throw the inaugural event for his ICAN Foundation, an initiative to fight childhood obesity.

  "We want to do concerts, weddings, festivals — everything," Tran says.

  The business partners say the event nearest to their hearts is the Prom of Champions, a yearly bash for children ages 12 to 17 who have cancer and blood disorders. Wink donates its services to throw a red-carpet party featuring limo arrivals, paparazzi and a candy room.

  "It's great to have the kids experience something normal, because they're always in the hospital," Tran says. "For this prom, our committee Winked it out." — MISSY WILKINSON


Jesse Reeks, 27
Pianist, organist, accordionist

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Book currently reading: A Load of Hooey by Bob Odenkirk
Favorite new album/CD: Thom Yorke's Tomorrow's Modern Boxes
Favorite local band: The Kirk Nasty
Favorite restaurant: The Munch Factory
Dancing or karaoke? Karaoke

  Jesse Reeks is the full-time organist at St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square, but his musical talents extend far beyond the church.

  Reeks plays piano, organ and accordion with singers and bands around New Orleans — and with his wife Lulu Reeks, a violinist — and he's completing a master's degree in organ performance at Loyola University.

  He comes from a family of professional musicians. Reeks' mother has been the pianist at Pat O'Brien's bar for more than 20 years, and his father teaches music at Loyola and plays clarinet in the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. Reeks' first piano teacher was his mother, before he moved on to the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, where he focused on learning to play jazz.

  In addition to providing the sacred music for St. Louis Cathedral, Reeks plays a secular classical performance every year at the Jackson Square landmark.

  "The cathedral is really the pinnacle of the city. I'm really happy living in New Orleans. I'm just really grateful to be able to make a living as a musician." — JEANIE RIESS


Mary Kathryn Rodrigue, 31
Founder and Owner, The Wellness Studio, L.L.C.
www.surprisinglywell.com

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Book currently reading: Voltaire in Love by Nancy Mitford
Favorite new album/CD: Maroon Five's V
Favorite Twitter account to follow: @anthonyryanauld
Favorite local band: Stone Rabbits
Favorite restaurants: Three Muses and Herbsaint
What do you do in your off time? Write and spend time with the family
Dancing or karaoke? Dancing

  Oncology counselor and fundraiser Mary Kathryn Rodrigue's latest venture, The Wellness Studio, takes the edge off therapy by providing an aesthetically pleasing, thought-provoking space with nontraditional offerings such as group therapy for parents and teens who need help navigating social media.

  Rodrigue's life took a new direction when her husband Drew died from Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2009.

  "We often come to a fork in the road where we can become bitter or better," Rodrigue says. The tragic experience led her to start two cancer-related nonprofits — Y.A.T.S. (Young Adults Take a Stand) Against Cancer and The Drew Rodrigue Foundation — targeting adults aged 21 to 39, an age group she discovered had few resources for financial and psychological support in the wake of terminal illnesses.

  In its first year, the Drew Rodrigue Foundation raised $50,000 for Hodgkin's Lymphoma research, and Y.A.T.S. Against Cancer raised $25,000 at its first fundraiser. "It was my way of honoring Drew, then it turned into helping people," Rodrigue says.

  Through the years, Rodrigue has helmed many successful fundraisers such as the annual Bugs & Brew for Drew and the recent Kicking Cancer in the Gut for Chef Carl Schaubhut of Cafe Adelaide.

  Rodrigue's other passion is counseling. She studied oncology counseling for young adults at a time when few people were doing it, and she considers herself a trailblazer in the specialization.

  "The visual aesthetics in The Wellness Studio play a vital role in breaking down the stereotypes of mental health in general. ... Each of the elements in the offices has been designed with a specific purpose and is riddled with psychological metaphors. I definitely want the studio to be that go-to (spot) for people who may have been apprehensive of going to therapy." — APRIL ISAACS


Leah Sarris, 32
Program director, Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane University

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Book currently reading: Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink
Favorite new album/CD: Andrew Bird's Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of...
Favorite local band: The Deslondes
Favorite restaurant: Killer Poboys
What do you do in your off time? Bike riding, cooking, exploring southwest Louisiana
Dancing or karaoke? Zydeco dancing

  Chef Leah Sarris of Tulane University is the program director for the world's first medical school-based teaching kitchen.

  After earning her bachelor of science in culinary nutrition from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island and working overseas in a Michelin starred kitchen, Sarris entered the world of culinary research and development.

  Since moving to New Orleans in March 2012, she has created a culinary medicine program from the ground up, overseeing establishment of a state-of-the-art, 4,600-square-foot teaching kitchen, an elective section of courses for medical students and an ongoing series of community cooking classes with The ReFresh Project that has helped improve health and food access in the Broad Street corridor.

  "I am so excited about how far we've come in the last two years and am working to take what we've accomplished in our community to a national level, to show that it works, that what we're doing in research, by helping people decipher nutrition and build kitchen confidence, is making a real difference in people's health." — MARK ALLAIN


Barrie Schwartz, 25
Director, My House NOLA
www.myhousenola.com, @myhousenola, www.facebook.com/MyHouseNola

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Book currently reading: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Favorite new album/CD: Rubblebucket's Survival Sounds
Favorite local band: Sweet Crude
Favorite restaurant: Coquette
Dancing or karaoke? Dancing

  Barrie Schwartz is the founder and director of My House NOLA, a creative culinary production company that partners with food trucks and vendors across New Orleans to produce eclectic events centered around food.

  Schwartz's first thought after a trip to Austin, Texas, a city known for its bustling food truck scene, was to start a brunch food truck in New Orleans. Once she started talking to a few existing local truck operators, however, she realized her skills would be more effectively applied to rounding up the trucks.

  "I realized that there are food truck lots and events in other cities that didn't exist yet in New Orleans," she says. "That was sort of the impetus."

  In addition to pulling together trucks, lights, picnic tables and live music for events like the St. Claude Food Truck Park, My House NOLA also caters events, from weddings to corporate conferences.

  "I've always been entrepreneurial, and it's not that I'm extremely organized, I'm sort of extremely good at being holistic and making sure that everyone's happy," Schwartz says. "I'm a good stress manager.

  "I think we've done a really awesome job of getting our name out there, and a lot of people know about us, and I think we do a really good job of doing a huge array of events all over the city with nonprofits, for-profits, corporate entities and grassroots companies. I think I'd like to streamline it, so instead of having three to six events every month, we have four big projects that we consistently do every year." — JEANIE RIESS


William Stoudt, 26
Executive Director, Youth Rebuilding New Orleans
www.yrno.com, @wostoudt, www.facebook.com/youthrebuildingnola

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Favorite Twitter account to follow: @beingnola and @dosomething
Favorite restaurants: Peche and Boucherie
Dancing or karaoke? Dancing

  William Stoudt is the executive director of Youth Rebuilding New Orleans (YRNO), a nonprofit he helped start in 2005 as a 17-year-old living in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the federal levee failures.

  Right after Katrina, Stoudt and other New Orleans teenagers were left out of some recovery efforts because many rebuilding teams were wary of teenagers wielding sledgehammers and taking part in other activities considered too dangerous for young people. Stoudt and a group of his classmates at Jesuit High School didn't let that stop them, banding together to form the grassroots organization-turned-nonprofit that he now leads.

  Stoudt manages YRNO's various programs, from Project Homework, which engages local and out-of-town youth to build and sell homes to local teachers at a discounted price, to employment programs for young people, to the Future Leaders Initiative, which uses Americorps volunteers to introduce new skills in schools.

  "I realize that I will not always be considered a youth, and so Youth Rebuilding New Orleans will have, I think in the future, someone else come in, get trained underneath me and then have somebody else come up behind me," he says. "And for me that means different opportunities to make a bigger impact in the city of New Orleans.

  "I've always been very passionate about politics here in New Orleans, as well as helping more people. ... I think eventually I plan on running for some sort of office in New Orleans." — JEANIE RIESS


Susan Todd, 31
Executive director, 504HealthNet
www.504healthnet.org; www.facebook.com/504HealthNet

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Book currently reading: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Favorite new album/CD: The Revivalists' Live @ Tipitina's
Favorite Twitter accounts to follow: @healthcare.gov, @504healthnet and @beingnola
Favorite local band: Brass-A-Holics
Favorite restaurant: Peche
What do you do in your off time? Jogging, tango dancing, reading and cooking
Dancing or karaoke? Dancing

  As executive director of the nonprofit 504HealthNet, Susan Todd led a successful effort to secure state funding enabling a consortium of organizations to continue providing quality primary care and behavioral health services to 54,000 low-income and uninsured residents in the greater New Orleans area.

  Todd worked with the Louisiana Legislature to get $10 million in funding to continue the Greater New Orleans Community Health Connection program, which helps pay medical costs for uninsured and underinsured residents in Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes. (The program originally was funded through a $100 million federal grant, which ran out last year.) She also works to get people enrolled in the insurance marketplace, improve and expand services at the clinics and educate people about the importance of preventative health care.

  "The majority of our patients are at or below 100 percent poverty," Todd says. "[The clinics] exist in various neighborhoods so they can see everyone who walks through the door ... and make sure that everyone in our community can have high-quality care."

  On her off hours, Todd is an avid scuba diver — she once worked for NASA training astronauts underwater — and she helps with patient intake and serves as a Spanish translator at Luke's House, one of the few free clinics in the area. — KANDACE POWER GRAVES


Andrew Vaught, 32
Artistic director and co-founder, Cripple Creek Theatre Company
www.cripplecreekplayers.org; @cripple_creek

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Book currently reading: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas and You Can't Go Home Again by Thomas Wolfe
Favorite local band: Hurray for the Riff Raff
Favorite restaurant: Cochon
What do you do in your off time? Play tennis, walk around the French Quarter and go to the zoo
Dancing or karaoke? "Karaoke. I like singing 'Mama Tried' by Merle Haggard."

  Covington native Andrew Vaught is artistic director and co-founder of Cripple Creek Theatre Company, which has produced more than two dozen plays and original works. He also is a playwright and has directed several performances.

  Vaught, who studied drama at Kenyon College, founded Cripple Creek in 2006 as a voice for "social and political issues we were seeing in the country at the time, and New Orleans was and still is the crucible for all those issues," he says. "We wanted to start an organization that definitely created work, or presented work, that dealt specifically with issues grappled with in the area."

  In 2013, the company presented Possum Kingdom, a play Vaught wrote around a theme of environmental justice, and Clybourne Park, Bruce Norris' decades-spanning drama on race relations — performed on St. Claude Avenue, ground zero for the city's gentrification issues. In spring 2015, Cripple Creek will present Marc Blitzstein's opera The Cradle Will Rock, and Vaught also is working on The NOLA Project's Robin Hood at the New Orleans Museum of Art sculpture garden. He wants Cripple Creek to expand its role as a civic, or civilian, theater.

  "We want to push our work so it's as accessible as it can be," he says. "How can we remove all roadblocks to a diverse audience, remove all impediments to that, and ensure theater can serve as a civic function in this city? How do we focus the work we do at Cripple Creek to really address problems in an open way, an inclusive way and an active way? How is it a show, how is it a civic dialogue and how is it a stepping off point for people to make changes in their lives and lives around them?" — ALEX WOODWARD


Sandy Villere, 39
Partner, Villere & Co.; Co-founder, Villere Equity Fund
www.villere.com

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Book currently reading: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Favorite Twitter account to follow: @SeanPayton
Favorite local band: The Radiators
Favorite restaurant: La Petite Grocery
What do you do in your off time? Watches football and coaches his kids' baseball and football teams

  Sandy Villere helped bring the only independent mutual fund in the area to New Orleans and manages the No. 1 performing fund in its category, which has more than $1 billion in assets.

  Co-founder of the Villere Equity Fund, Villere is co-portfolio manager of the five-star-rated Villere Balanced Fund, named the No. 1 performing fund of its kind three years in a row.

  Under his family's leadership, the money management firm Villere & Co. has become nationally recognized. But his achievements haven't been restricted to the financial sector — he also has earned plaudits for his efforts to improve education in New Orleans.

  Villere, a father of three, helped found the Choice Foundation, a charter organization that now operates Lafayette Academy, Esperanza Charter School and McDonogh 42 Charter School.

  "When everybody evacuated from Katrina, there were discussions: Where am I going to move? Those thoughts never crossed my mind," Villere says. "I knew I had to roll up my sleeves and make the city better. And now it's such a truly entrepreneurial hub. Anything goes — it's incredible." — DELLA HASSELLE


Scott Walker, 39
News anchor, WDSU-TV
www.wdsu.com, @ScottWalker6

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Book currently reading: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Favorite Twitter account to follow: @westwingreports
Favorite local bands: Jeremy Davenport and Rebirth Brass Band
Favorite restaurant: Mr. John's Steakhouse
What do you do in your off time? Play basketball and hang out with my kids
Dancing or karaoke? Karaoke

  WDSU-TV news anchor Scott Walker is an award-winning veteran journalist, but the proudest moment in his career has nothing to do with accolades. It was raising $50,000 to increase awareness of a deadly skin disease that killed a Northshore toddler.

  After seeing the story of Tripp Roth, a boy suffering from epidermolysis bullosa (EB), a disease with no cure that causes widespread blistering on the skin and mucus membranes, Walker decided to use his platform as a recognized news anchor to connect fundraising with EB awareness.

  "It was so hard to accept that a kid could be in so much pain just from a touch," says Walker, who has won several awards for his work at WDSU, including an Edward R. Murrow award this year for coverage of a stranded Carnival cruise ship. In 2012 and 2013, the Press Club of New Orleans named him Best News Anchor in New Orleans.

  Walker launched a website and WDSU aired a public service announcement to spread the word that he would run a half-marathon to raise funds for EB awareness in memory of Roth, who died of EB in 2011. Walker's initial goal was $5,000, but he raised 10 times that amount in three months.

  The half-marathon also forced Walker to get into shape, he says. Now, four half marathons later, he's committed to staying healthy and helping others.

  "That was a pivotal change in my life, to be able to be a part of that," Walker says. — DELLA HASSELLE


John R. Williamson Jr., 32
Owner, CAD Printing; Founder, Firstwitit.com; President, MSAADA Inc.
www.cadprinting.biz

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Book currently reading: The Art of War by Sun Tzu
Favorite new album/CD: T.I.'s Paperwork
Favorite local band: Rebirth Brass Brand
Dancing or karaoke? The two-step

  John Williamson has used the valuable life lessons he learned while serving in the U.S. Army in establishing a profitable printing business and launching an online fashion venture while also extending his family's tradition of community service into the 21st century.

  As an 18-year-old and recent graduate of John Ehret High School, the West Bank native remembers wanting to get away from home and see the world, so he enlisted in the U.S. Army and requested assignment in Germany. Returning to post-Katrina New Orleans, Williamson sensed that the national and even international business and philanthropic entities now had an eye on Louisiana, so he took his knack for logistics and utilized it in establishing CAD Printing, which creates custom banners, menus, promotional materials and other items. This year he launched the fashion-forward, custom-tailored fashion site www.firstwitit.com.

  Both businesses enable the charitable community outreach of MSAADA (Swahili for "helping people that need help"), a nonprofit founded by Williamson's late grandfather Arthur Mitchell. The organization currently is raising funds to provide and maintain educational computer tablets for local schoolchildren.

  "The military made me who I am, but I went into the military with discipline and a strong mind because of my foundation in my father, who's owned several businesses for over 25 years," Williamson says. "And I don't think I've peaked. I just acquired a tour bus and we're gearing up now for a cross-promotional tour with Firstwitit and MSAADA — advancing education through technology — with special events and concerts across the South." — FRANK ETHERIDGE


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