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Gambit’s 40 Under 40 (2015) 

The class of 2015: 40 New Orleanians you need to know

Gambit's 18th annual 40 Under 40 Awards pay homage to some of the brightest and most innovative young people in a range of areas, including health care, crime, literature, education, art, law and more.

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Christine Albert, 38
Associate vice president of marketing, Touro Infirmary

Book currently reading: Please Forward: How Blogging Reconnected New Orleans after Katrina, edited by Cynthia Joyce
Favorite new album: The Phosphorescent Blues by Punch Brothers
Favorite Twitter account: @wwoz_neworleans
Favorite local band: Lost Bayou Ramblers
Favorite restaurant: Patois
What do you do in your off time? Travel and play tennis
Cocktails or beer? Cocktails

  Sometimes a success story sounds as if the desired result was inevitable. Over the past nine years, Christine Albert has made it appear Touro Infirmary's successful longevity was predestined. It was anything but.
  Albert joined Touro in 2006, when the city's public health system was still in crisis following Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures. Despite a long legacy of service in New Orleans, Touro needed to rebrand and reposition itself. As the senior manager of marketing, Albert led the effort.
  She doubled Touro's outreach efforts, hosting twice as many health fairs and other events and drawing double the number of attendees. The hospital also improved its digital presence, reverberating its messages across several social media channels and expanding the audience for Touro's website.
  Albert doesn't rest on pass successes; she says she still has a lot to do. "The role of marketing, within Touro and within health care in general, is a really powerful one," she says. "We want to be sure that we're continuing to be that resource for people, meeting them where they are, when they need us, giving them the information they need." — Cate Root


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Jeff Asher, 32
Senior analyst, Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office; author, The New Orleans Advocate's Behind the Numbers blog; CEO, Jeff Asher Consulting; @Crimealytics

Book currently reading: The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia's Digital Dictators and the New Online Revolutionaries by Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan
Favorite Twitter account: @ScottDKushner
Favorite local band: Rebirth Brass Band
Favorite restaurant: Coquette
What do you doin your off time? I throw the ball with the dog, play softball, watch sports, read and watch HGTV and ridiculous Real Housewives shows with my wife.
Cocktails or beer? Beer, definitely beer.

  In a metropolitan area area traumatized by violence, Jeff Asher analyzes crime data to discover solutions that will have a measurable impact on public safety.
  Asher returned to his native New Orleans recently after spending 10 years in Washington, D.C., where he earned a master's degree in security policy studies from George Washington University and worked in counterintelligence for the CIA.
  In his role as a senior crime analyst for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office, Asher now performs tactical analysis: identifying criminal hot spots, mapping the social networks of gangs and using data to solve crimes. He also writes a blog for The New Orleans Advocate called Behind the Numbers, where he charts larger trends in violence and discusses the efficacy of crime prevention policies. Through Jeff Asher Consulting, he helps businesses analyze problems and craft workable solutions.
  "My business goal is to be able to provide analytical support to all types of organizations that don't typically analyze their problem set," Asher says. "From a New Orleanian's standpoint, I want to use analysis as a force multiplier to help solve any number of civic problems." — Dena Marks


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Ryan Ballard, 37
Co-owner, Castillo Blanco Art Studios; co-founder, Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus;; @kreweofchew

Book currently reading: Cosmic Trigger by Robert Anton Wilson
Favorite new album: With a Little Help From My Fwends by The Flaming Lips
Favorite Twitter account: @AlYankovic
Favorite local band: Ballzack and Odoms
Favorite restaurant: Palace Cafe
What do you do in your off time? I spend time in the ocean or on the beach. I love to spear fish and fly trick kites and kayak and play with my dogs.
Cocktails or beer? Depends on the situation… mostly on whether I’m wearing a costume, a suit or flip flops. I’m usually either a dirty vodka martini guy or a cheap beer guy

  Ryan Ballard takes the stereotype of a lone tortured artist and turns it on its head. He’s a conceptual artist who believes art is a collaborative process and works hard to help others unleash their imaginations — as evidenced by his co-founding of the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus and co-ownership of Castillo Blanco Art Studios.   Chewbacchus is a sci-fi themed Mardi Gras parade of 80 or 90 groups that Ballard refers to as a “nerd mafia.” He says his job is to help the various groups achieve their vision, do amazing things within an organic structure (that he says he runs like a benevolent dictatorship) and let things skate to the edge of chaos — a line he says he loves to push and has gotten very good at straddling.   Castillo Blanco is where Ballard creates art, but it’s also a space for other artists and activities associated with Chewbaccus and Ballard’s other collaborative art projects. As for why he chose to settle in New Orleans, this adventure-loving world traveler said it’s because the city’s “not entirely civilized” and is the “weirdest, wildest place in the United States” where he can be himself and thrive.   “In life, you really only get to choose between love and fear,” Ballard says. “You can choose to shrink in a shell or you can do what you love. And choosing what I love has worked for me every time.” — Laura Ricks


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Amy Sneed Barrios, 39
Owner, Multimedia Solutions;; @amysneedbarrios

Book currently reading: Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Favorite Twitter account: @andylassner
Favorite local band: Vivaz
Favorite restaurant: Jacques-Imo's
What do you do in your off time? Hang out with my kiddos.

  In a decision many would consider professional suicide, Amy Sneed Barrios voluntarily walked away from a high-level television career in order to create a media consulting and PR business that takes advantage of her media experience, allows her to work for causes in which she believes and provides the more balanced work and home life she was seeking.
   Sneed Barrios believes in getting things done, a drive that others recognized early when she was offered a job as an associate producer at a Baton Rouge television station while still in college. From there she went to Dallas to work but was lured back to New Orleans to be the executive producer at WDSU-TV. It was a job she loved, until her eldest son reached kindergarten and her late-night hours meant less time with him. Barrios decided to walk away from the job, a decision she says was easy to make and one in which she had complete confidence.
  Sneed Barrios now uses her television experience to help clients tell their stories, and she's particularly passionate about causes involving children. Everything she has done, from her 17 years in television to becoming a mom, positioned her perfectly to do the work she now does, she says.
  "I feel really good that I can take what I have learned and use it to help people," she says. "And I feel fortunate that I can do this on my own terms. I'm exactly where I am supposed to be." — Laura Ricks


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Sonya L. Brown, 29
Community Engagement Connector, Boys Town Louisiana

Book currently reading: Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes and Black Women in America by Melissa Harris-Perry
Favorite new album: To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar
Favorite local band: Tank & the Bangas
Favorite restaurant: Katie's Restaurant
What do you do in your off time? Sing, write songs, paint, and craft — anything artsy.
Cocktails or beer? Cocktails

  Sonya L. Brown is a community leader who advocates locally and nationally for foster children and works as a community engagement connector at Boys Town Louisiana, a nonprofit that provides interventions such as parenting education, safe shelter, and mental therapy to at-risk family members. Motivated by her own experiences in foster care and in Boys Town programs as a teenager, Brown seeks financial and community support for adolescents raised in foster homes. In June, she testified before the U.S. Congress about the large number of foster children placed in the juvenile justice system for minor infractions. She has worked with the Louisiana HCR 168 Task Force, which is studying ways to change public policy to provide financial and other resources for children leaving the foster care system and entering adulthood. She also is helping organize a Louisiana chapter of the Foster Care Alumni of America, which connects former foster-care children with each other so they can share what they've learned and lend support. Brown says she plans to expand her work with foster children.
  "I am currently working towards getting my [licensed clinical social worker] certification," she says, "and will continue working with young people who have aged out of foster care, but more so on the mental health side of things." — Dena Marks


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Katherine Hall Burlison, 37
Curator of Decorative Arts, Louisiana State Museum

Book currently reading: For work, I've just finished reading a few about female education in the 19th century. At home, I'm reading Ann Lamott's Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts On Faith.
Favorite new album: Something More Than Free by Jason Isbell
Favorite local band: New Orleans Suspects
Favorite restaurant: Shaya or Herbsaint
What do you do in your off time? I go see live music, travel and spend time with my husband and two dogs.
Cocktails or beer? Cathead honeysuckle vodka and soda, or wine

  Katherine Hall Burlison is working to preserve and share the rich history of Louisiana through her position as curator of decorative arts at the Louisiana State Museum. Though she grew up in Mobile, Alabama, Burlison says part of her passion for Louisiana culture and history stems from her own heritage as the descendant of French immigrants who arrived in Louisiana in the 18th century.
  As curator, Burlison is in charge of the care and exhibition of more than 5,000 objects for the state museum. She acquires new artifacts, and works with curatorial and exhibition staff to provide information about the artifacts and exhibits for the public.
  Burlison developed the only permanent exhibit of Newcomb pottery in New Orleans at Madame John's Legacy Museum in the French Quarter. She also was instrumental in the recent donation to the museum of an armoire from Rosedown Plantation by M.S. Rau Antiques.
  Outside her job, Burlison expands upon her role as historical ambassador by staying involved in the community as a member of the Junior League of New Orleans and the Newcomb Archives Committee at Tulane University. — Kate Watson


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Carlo Carino, 17
Jesuit High School student

Book currently reading: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Favorite new album: Surf by Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment
Favorite Twitter account: @thefirstteenola
Favorite local band: Neutral Snap
Favorite restaurant: Commander's Palace
What do you do in your off time? Play golf and piano
Cocktails or beer? Neither; I'm 17

  Jesuit High School student Carlo Carino has parlayed an early exposure to golf into an opportunity to travel, play with professionals, earn college scholarships and lead young people in anti-bullying efforts.
  Making a birdie on the 18th hole at Pebble Beach, California while playing with former U.S. Open Champion Tom Lehman would be the culmination of a dream for many. For Carino, that's something he checked off his bucket list at 16. Thanks to First Tee, an organization that gives kids an opportunity to play golf, he started at 7 and has been recognized not only for his skills on the course, but also his leadership qualities.
  Having lost a friend to suicide due to bullying and as part of his work with First Tee, Carino created a program where he educates young people about the dangers of bullying and teaches them ways to provide positive reinforcement to others. Carino has a 4.43 GPA and is a former student at New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. He chose golf over piano because of the time commitment but still plays piano to relax.
  He plans to study medicine in the future.
  "My mom came from a poor family in the Phillipines, where my grandmother barely made enough to support her and her siblings, so she really wanted me to be successful," he says. "And as the first generation (of my family) in America, I want to make a difference." — Laura Ricks


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Bo Dollis Jr., 34
Big Chief; band leader of the Wild Magnolias; @bodollisjr

Favorite new album: All of Anthony Hamilton's music
Favorite local band: Tank and the Bangas
Favorite restaurant: Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse
What do you do in your off time? Spend time with my family.
Cocktails or beer? Cocktail — Crown apple

  Bo Dollis Jr. has been masking for more than 20 years. As Big Chief and leader of the Wild Magnolias tribe, which also performs as a band, he is an authority on Mardi Gras Indians' tradition and music.
  Dollis says his goal is to uphold the tradition, while also keeping it fresh: "More people are getting into it," he says. "Back in the older days, like when I first started, we had the same people. ... Nowadays, you have all races come out to the second line with you. It's bigger and better than ever."
  Dollis took over as leader for Wild Magnolias when his father, the late Bo Dollis Sr., became ill. He brings an inclusive, modern edge to the once-secretive tradition of masking and performing.
  "I just kept it going," Dollis says. "I want a little blues, I want a little hip-hop, I want a little reggae, a little bit of everything that everybody listens to, but still have the Mardi Gras Indian feel."
  Dollis' 2016 Mardi Gras suit will pay tribute to his father, who died in January. He's planning a festival called Bo Fest for mid-April. Beyond preserving the New Orleans Indian tradition and moving it forward, his goal is both simple and grand: to earn a "Grammy or get a big-time award." — Cate Root


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Brad Cashio, 37
Attorney, Cashio Law Firm;

Book currently reading: Redshirts by John Scalzi
Favorite new album: The Tomb of Nick Cage by The Tomb of Nick Cage
Favorite local band: Marina Orchestra
Favorite restaurant: Pizza Delicious
What do you do in your off time? Support live local music.
Cocktails or beer? Beer

  Brad Cashio is an accomplished lawyer who serves the community by making legal services accessible, volunteering at local prisons and mentoring young professionals in his field.
  A native of the New Orleans area, Cashio attended Loyola University School of Law, where he earned three awards for legal excellence. After graduating at 23, he founded Cashio Law Firm, a private practice that specializes in personal injury law. In addition to mentoring young attorneys about ethics in personal injury law, he offers pro bono and discounted legal services for low-income individuals, nonprofit organizations, small businesses and churches.
  Cashio spearheaded an initiative to provide affordable estate planning to older musicians through the Preservation Hall Foundation's Legacy program. For another project, he leads Bible studies at Orleans Parish correctional facilities and Jefferson Parish juvenile detention centers.
  A dedicated public servant, Cashio searches for new opportunities to contribute to the community.
  "My primary goal is not to grow my business, but simply to find more ways to help people whenever possible." — Dena Marks


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Elizabeth Elizardi, 38
Head of Early Childhood Education, Isidore Newman School; director, Green Trees Early Childhood Village

Book currently reading: The Diary of Laura: Perspectives on a Reggio Emilia Diary, Carolyn Edwards and Carlina Rinaldi, editors
Favorite local band: Sweet Crude
Favorite restaurant: Apolline
Cocktails or beer? Cocktails

  Elizabeth Elizardi's marriage to a New Orleans native and her studies under researchers in positive psychology — the study of happiness and human flourishing — combined in creating the Green Trees Early Childhood Village at Isidore Newman School. With guiding principals of connection, community learning and constant learning, Green Trees has reached full enrollment of 155 students (ages 6 weeks to 4 years), just three months into its first year.
  Elizardi's background includes earning a Master of Applied Positive Psychology degree at the University of Pennsylvania, the first school in the world to offer such a degree. She also writes about positive psychology for Psychology Today online and Positive Psychology News Daily, and contributed writings to the book Character Strengths Matter.
  She finds her inspiration in helping young people understand the world.
  "These children are learning about their impact on the world around them," Elizardi says. "Just knowing that this is the prime time for their brain development, and how we can execute a vision toward human flourishing for them and their community, excites me." — Frank Etheridge


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Matt Estrade, 39
Research administrator & chief mentor, Care Partner Mentoring;

Book currently reading: Contented Dementia by Oliver James
Favorite local band: Paul Sanchez
Favorite restaurant: Arnaud's
What do you do in your off time? Spend time with my beautiful wife and three kids; volunteer with the Cub Scouts
Cocktails or beer? Local beer

  Matt Estrade is a father of three who works full time as a research administrator at a hospital, is earning a master's degree in gerontology and is devoted to lessening the burden of Alzheimer's disease and dementia through support groups for patients and caregivers.
  Estrade was in college when his grandfather developed Alzheimer's, and he watched as the disease took an enormous toll on his mother as a caregiver. A few years later Estrade started working in gerontology.
  Though dealing with Alzheimer's patients is complicated and has many limitations, Estrade believes small things can make an enormous difference for patients as well as their caregivers, family and friends and he counsels those dealing with Alzheimer's and dementia on ways to provide care and support while still treating the patient like an individual who has history, stories, feelings and moments of awareness.
  "I am driven because I really think that I can make a difference," Estrade says. "I've seen it in my support groups. I can educate and empower people, give people a nudge and really change things for them and the person with dementia and Alzheimer's." — Laura Ricks


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Dr. L'Issa L. Gates, 33
Physician & partner, Westside Clinics AMC

Book currently reading: Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery
Favorite local band: Jeremy Davenport
Favorite restaurant: Clancy's
What do you do in your off time? I love to spend time with family and friends.
Cocktails or beer? Cocktails

  L'Issa Gates first identified her natural aptitude for science in high school and has combined her knowledge as a physician with her passion for public service to advocate for children and abuse prevention. She also became the first African-American to become a partner at Westside Clinics AMC in Marrero, where she is a primary care pediatrician and participates in the AMA Doctor's Back to School Program, in which minority doctors and medical students introduce children to professional role models.
  Gates says her grand-father was an early inspir- ation for her career in medicine. His position as a minister taught her to value using the art and power of developing relationships and using a personal gift to touch others. The Louisiana State University graduate has a passion for connecting with people and showing a genuine interest in improving their lives. In both her professional and private life she looks for opportunities to have a positive impact on people's health and their lives, volunteering regularly at her church and in the community.
  "Careerwise, I'd like to continue with primary care pediatrics," Gates says. "But I'd also like to become more involved with the community and link with the doctor sector to help young people who may be interested in a career in medicine realize their goals." — Andrea Blumenstein


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Nicole DeAbate Fraser, 39
Owner, Nurture Nannies; founder, Nurture Change;;; @nurturenannies

Book currently reading:

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Favorite new album: Florasongs by The Decemberists
Favorite local band: Rebirth Brass Band
Favorite restaurant: Shaya, Lilly's, Milkfish
What do you do in your off time? My off time is spent with my family. ... We love spending time outside or working on my 5-year-old Jude's inventions and crafts. Even just sitting on our yard swing talking to him is pure happiness.
Cocktails or beer? Cocktails

  A few years ago Nicole DeAbate Fraser was in a situation common to many new mothers: trying to secure reliable, thoughtful child care so she could return to work full time. Her experience led her to come up with a her own solution and she founded Nurture Nannies, an individualized service for finding nannies and baby sitters.
  "I really, genuinely created the service that I wanted as a mom who needed a nanny," Fraser says. Nurture Nannies takes each family's preferences and lifestyles into account, whether it's attachment parenting, breastfeeding or dietary needs. Her focus is to deliver superior child care to her clients, and match nannies to environments where they are valued, respected and happy in their work.
  As part of Fraser's community outreach, Nurture Nannies hosts two weekly in-store events at Whole Foods Market Arabella Station: story time at 10 a.m. Thursday and a craft time at 11 a.m. Saturday.
  Fraser is passionate about giving back to the community. She has worked with Dress for Success to provide free child care so unemployed parents can attend job interviews. She also founded Nurture Change, a nonprofit that teaches children about social responsibility and environmental activism. The mission is personal: "My son is 5," Fraser says. "I want him to to grow up seeing problems and understanding there is a solution that he can implement." — Cate Root


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Alexander John Glustrom, 29
Filmmaker, photographer & artist

Book currently reading:

The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay and The Tao of Travel by Paul Theroux
Favorite new album: To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar
Favorite Twitter account:
@NatGeo and @melontao
Favorite local band: Mama Ray, The Quickening
Favorite restaurant: Shaya
What do you do in your off time? Ride my bike, train jiu jitsu and hang out in the park with Liza Jane (his dog)
Cocktails or beer? Beer

  For five years Alexander Glustrom worked tirelessly with a team to gather first-person interviews and video footage to create the award-winning documentary Big Charity: The Death of America's Oldest Hospital, which premiered at the New Orleans Film Festival in 2014 and was named 2015 Documentary of the Year by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.
  While attending Tulane University, Glustrom founded the student service organization TUCAN, which works with the Boys and Girls Club. He later served as director of the Boys and Girls Club of The Iberville public housing development. He says it was during time he spent at Iberville, both working with the Boys and Girls Club and filming a music video, that his focus turned specifically to Charity Hospital, a looming structure visible from the basketball court at the housing development.
  Big Charity is the result of asking questions and "an amazing story unfolded in front of me," Glustrom says. He currently is working on a documentary about a small town in southwest Louisiana. He was recognized by the city for his contribution to ExhibitBE, a legal space where graffiti artists can create artworks, and Glustrom's art can be seen in murals at Nola Brewing Company and for the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus.
  He's not done yet. "I'd like to keep telling stories and continue to generate and inspire change through art and film," Glustrom says. — Andrea Blumenstein


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Johanna Gilligan, 35
Founder and executive director, Grow Dat Youth Farm;, @GrowDatNOLA

Book currently reading:

A Path with Heart by Jack Kornfield
Favorite new album: Jimmy Lee Williams
Favorite local band: Lost Bayou Ramblers
Favorite restaurant: My favorite dining experience is the prix fixe lunch at Restaurant August
What do you do in your off time? Spend time at home with friends and family
Cocktails or beer? One fancy cocktail a day is my idea of heaven.

  It's yet another bountiful harvest for the Grow Dat Youth Farm in City Park this fall. The 7-acre, nonprofit operation has launched its first-ever autumn Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program filled with fresh produce such as beets, carrots, kale, collard greens and Grow Dat's signature seven-variety lettuce mix as part of an expected 20,000-pound crop yield for 2015, an increase from 17,000 pounds last year.
  Working as an educator in downtown public high schools before Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures, Johanna Gilligan saw her students stuck with fast food chains as sources for both meals and jobs. Thus, the idea for Grow Dat — an initiative to provide nutrition, employment and positive experiences for area high-school students — was born.
  "I believe we are doing something very crucial at this moment in time, with the problems of unemployment levels for young black males in the city, the disconnect from nature, and the lack of access to healthy foods," Gilligan says. "It's exciting to see how much can be done by young people if we give them the right directions and opportunities." — Frank Etheridge


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Jennifer Hale, 37
Sports reporter, FOX Sports; founder, Sideline Pass nonprofit;; @jenhale504; @sideline_pass

Book currently reading:
Andrew Jackson Higgins and the Boats that Won World War II by Jerry E. Strahan
Favorite new album: Starting Something by Lena Prima
Favorite Twitter account: @GoldenRetriever
Favorite local band: Lena Prima, Robin Barnes
What do you do in your off time? Exercise, cook, volunteer
Cocktails or beer? Kir Royale and red zinfandel

  Jennifer Hale appreciates a good story, and that's not just because she's living one. The sideline reporter for FOX Sports also has worked as an investigative and political reporter and a morning show host at WVUE in New Orleans and has racked up awards for both sports and news reporting. She also puts effort into the greater good as a women's health spokesperson for Thibodaux Regional Medical Center and as founder of the nonprofit Sideline Pass.
  What ties together Hale's career? "Storytelling," she says. "You have to be able to tell a good, concise story. ... Don't waste people's time. Tell them what they need to know and what they want to know."
  Hale launched Sideline Pass earlier this year with a goal of fostering one-on-one interactions between girls and women who have established professional careers. To build her roster of mentors, Hale looked to her circle of friends: "I have made so many awesome, amazing girlfriends here in New Orleans. ... They're the total package. They bring so much to the table."
  Hale, who wrote a book on Alabama plantations in 2009, keeps one eye toward the future: "I seem to keep reinventing myself," she says. "I definitely want to grow Sideline Pass. ... I'd love to do [more] features. ... I love doing stories ... that show why sports is bigger than just the game on the field or on the court." Oh, and also, "I'd like to write another book." — Cate Root


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Angelica Harris, 17
Student, Golfer

Book currently reading:

Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Favorite new album: 1989 by Taylor Swift
Favorite restaurant: Sake Cafe
What do you do in your off time? Volunteer at inner-city schools

  Angelica Harris is an award-winning scholar and golfer who founded Angelica's Angels to teach golf and life skills at the Chartwell Center, a school for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
  Despite her own difficulties with dyslexia, the Harvey native became a National Honor Society Scholar and Beta Club member. She attended Louise S. McGehee School from nursery school to 10th grade before deciding to be homeschooled in order to dedicate more time to her life-long passion: golf.
  A golfer since the age of 4, Harris was named the 2013 | The Times-Picayune All Metro Golfer and the 2014 First Tee of Greater New Orleans Player of the Year. She currently competes on the United States Specialty Sports Association, Arrowhead and Kelly Gibson Junior Tours. Between the putting green and her books, Harris teaches weekly classes on golf, character, education and healthy habits to autistic children at the Chartwell Center.
  She plans to continue studying, playing golf and performing community service.
  "My ultimate goal is to finish college and to help kids who struggle with learning disabilities like I did," she says. — Dena Marks


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Megan Holt, 34
Postdoctoral teaching fellow, Tulane University

Book currently reading:

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Favorite new album: Viper's Drag by Henry Butler
Favorite local band: The Radiators
Favorite restaurant: Crabby Jack's and Clancy's
What do you do in your off time? Hang out with my 2-year-old son Jefferson.
Cocktails or beer? Cocktails

  Megan Holt spearheads community literacy programs in New Orleans. When she got her doctorate in English in 2013, she realized she could use the degree to improve quality of life for illiterate New Orleanians.
  "I got involved with community literacy projects, and that led me to get on the board of the Young Leadership Council's (YLC) One Book One New Orleans project and the Literacy Alliance of Greater New Orleans," says Holt, a native of Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
Under her leadership, One Book One New Orleans won YLC Project of the Year, and Holt won YLC Volunteer of the Year. She also serves as a board member for the Lower 9th Ward Street Library.
  "Literacy skills help lower crime and poverty rates, ensure a greater voter turnout — everything we struggle with in our city is in some way tied to literacy," Holt says. "The power to read can change your life."
  She has a clear-cut goal: "I would love to see New Orleans' functional illiteracy rate drop by 5 percent in the next 10 years." — Missy Wilkinson


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Benjamin Marcovitz, 36
Chief executive officer, Collegiate Academies;

Book currently reading:
The Road to Character by David Brooks
Favorite new album: Hit n Run by Prince
Favorite local band: Allen Toussaint
Favorite restaurant: The Galley
What do you do in your off time? Engage with my family and children.
Cocktails or beer? Beer

  With experience as a teacher at St. Mary's Academy and training from the Harvard University's Graduate School of Education, Benjamin Marcovitz returned to New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina to a shattered education system. In 2008 he helped establish New Orleans Charter Science and Math Academy and lead it as principal to quick, dramatic success.
  In 2012, Marcovitz took the helm of Collegiate Academies, a network of New Orleans open-admission charter high schools credited with sending 98 percent of its graduates to college and 71 percent of its students with disabilities to college — double the state average.
  "A huge motivator for me is my first child, my daughter with significant special needs," Marcovitz says. "What I want to see is for her to be treated with the same expectations and demands as someone without special needs.
  "My ultimate goal is to show everyone who doubts that any human being can radically transform their world. In fact, it is possible, it is an imperative and the greatest joy I have in life is being able to talk about that fact with children." — Frank Etheridge


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Ashley Howard, 34
Assistant professor of history, director of African and African-American Studies Program, Loyola University New Orleans

Book currently reading:
All God's Children by Fox Butterfield
Favorite Twitter account: @jelani9, @Loyola_NOLA
Favorite local band: Tank & the Bangas
Favorite restaurant: Dreamy Weenies, High Hat Cafe
What do you do in your off time? Hang out with friends, explore the city, garden
Cocktails or beer? Cocktails

  Scholar Ashley Howard has a unique perspective on African-American history and a commitment to engaging the public in conversations about race, violence and historical perspectives.
  Growing up in Omaha, Nebraska, Howard devoured books about African-Americans, but found few about her part of the country.
  "The thing that drew me to the history that I study was that the stuff in the history book was very distinct from the history I was interested in," she says. Now director of African and African-American studies at Loyola University New Orleans, Howard calls herself "a scholar of racial violence," specializing in the Midwest. She considers it her duty to teach beyond academia and says she relishes speaking to community groups.
  Harris says incidents like the shooting of teenager Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri and the Black Lives Matter movement make her work more relevant than ever. "It's an honor to be able to speak about these things, but they're such heinous events to make your research relevant in the present," she says. She's currently working on Prairie Fires, a book about 1960s urban unrest in cities like Omaha, Cincinnati and Milwaukee.
  "My ultimate goal is to keep on the path that I'm on, to instruct students to be thoughtful and engaged global citizens, to continue to research issues that inspire me and that make a difference in the world," she says. — Anna Gaca


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Beomjune Kim, 39
Oral and maxillofacial surgeon, LSU Health Sciences Center and University Medical Center

Book currently reading:
Experiencing God by Henry and Richard Blackaby and Claude King
Favorite restaurant: Luke
What do you do in your off time? Play tennis and piano, travel
Cocktails or beer? Beer

  Imagine the list of specialists needed to combat an aggressive case of cancer in the head or neck. A medical doctor who can chart a treatment plan. A dentist who can manipulate your jaw, teeth and gums. A microvascular surgeon skilled in reconstruction and restoring patients to full function. In New Orleans, you can find all that experience in one man, Dr. Beomjune Kim.
  Kim is a congenial and curious doctor. His intense specialization allows him to offer comprehensive care to patients. "My main interest is head and neck cancer and head and neck reconstruction," Kim says. "I don't only focus on taking cancer out, but also I'd like to reconstruct the patients to where they were before surgery, before they had cancer."
  Louisiana has a high rate of oral cancer, and overall, more than 60 percent of patients with head or neck cancer survive. "They deserve to have a better quality of life," Kim says. "The level of satisfaction is greater because eventually they get to look like what they looked like before surgery."
  Kim embraces new technology, such as virtual surgical planning and medical modeling, while hoping for advancements such as tissue engineering. Kim says his ultimate goal is "to develop not only as a surgeon but also a good researcher and good doctor." — Cate Root


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Eric J. Mark, 39
Chef, assistant professor, Delgado Community College Culinary Arts and Hospitality Program

Book currently reading:
Cuisine & Culture: A History of Food and People by Linda Civitello
Favorite new album: Tin Star by Lindi Ortega
Favorite local band: Anders Osborne
Favorite restaurant: Brigtsen's Restaurant
What do you do in your off time? I love to get outdoors and go kayaking and things like that.
Cocktails or beer? Czechvar beer

  As the youngest faculty member of Delgado Community College's culinary arts program, Eric J. Mark teaches core classes and serves as mentor to aspiring young chefs in cooking competitions.
  Mark learned the restaurant business by washing dishes as a 14-year-old and working his way to new positions. After stints in renowned restaurants such as Prejean's Restaurant in Lafayette, Mark attained a culinary degree at Delgado Community College and soon was hired to join its faculty.
  As an instructor, he combines his restaurant and classroom experiences to help students learn the cooking and business sides of restaurants. Mark developed the curriculum for the Culinary Arts Certificate Program of the Louisiana Technical College system. He mentors Delgado students in cooking competitions and works with youth at the nonprofit job-training program at Cafe Reconcile as well as special education students in Jefferson Parish.
  "I'd like to continue my education and focus on teaching," he says. — Will Coviello


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Yelena Zaitseva McCloskey, 29
Vice president, Deposit and Product Management, IBERIABANK

Book currently reading:
Liar's Poker by Michael Lewis
Favorite local band: Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue
Favorite restaurant: Commander's Palace
What do you do in your off time? Play tennis, see live music.

  At 14 years old, Yelena Zaitseva McCloskey packed her bags for the U.S. and left Kazakhstan to begin a student exchange program. She landed in Shakopee, Minnesota. "You could barely find it on a map," she says.
  She was selected among 3,000 students to receive the scholarship as part of the Soros Foundation and Rotary Secondary School exchange program, which allowed her to live with three families throughout the year. She graduated high school at age 15 and graduated from Pennsylvania's Franklin & Marshall College at 20 after studying in Bulgaria and Germany. She worked as an auditor at Ernst & Young in New York for a year after graduating, transferred to Moscow, then returned to the U.S. to receive her Master of Business Administration degree from UCLA.
  "I'd always been a big numbers person," she says. "My favorite classes were mathematics. ... Everything seems so logical. ... The banking industry overall, it's so dynamic. Every day is a new day. You always need to learn to adjust. I'm also passionate about providing economic opportunity to communities."
  After completing an 18-month development program under Citigroup, McCloskey was promoted to the banking company's vice president of Citi Treasury Investments at age 26. She now is vice president of deposit and product management at IBERIABANK, creating and overseeing programs like Bank at Work, which extends the benefits given to corporate accounts to employees of those account holders, from loan assistance to mortgages.
  She moved to New Orleans in March 2014 with her husband, who introduced her to the city six months after they started dating. She's a big fan of live music — her family is made up of pianists.
  "There's so much to do," she says of New Orleans. "It's astonishing how much the city has grown and changed." — ALEX WOODWARD


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Crystal D. McDonald, 34
Co-founder and CEO, GoToInterview;; @go2interview;

Book currently reading:
The Clock of the Long Now: Time & Responsibility by Stewart Brand
Favorite new album: Beauty Behind the Madness by The Weeknd
Favorite Twitter account:
Favorite local band: Hot 8 Brass Band
Favorite restaurant: Dooky Chase and Irene's Cuisine
What do you do in your off time? Nothing makes me happier than spending time with my husband and 2-year-old son. The days that we cook, play, or explore together are my best days.
Cocktails or beer? Cocktails, of course.

  Crystal McDonald is changing the way businesses hire workers while also giving jobseekers the platform they need to reach employers. She and her husband Todd created GoToInterview to address the hiring challenges they experienced as fast food franchise owners. The company is a web-based employment service that saves employers and jobseekers the resources typically spent on a first interview. Employers post questionnaires online, and candidates respond.
  Through a partnership with Job1, the company offers prospective employees assistance in refining their responses to interview questionnaires and shows them how to market their skills.
  "We want to literally transform the way employers and jobseekers think about the hiring process," McDonald says.
  The entrepreneur also is active in the community, serves as vice president of the Women's Professional Council, is on the Contemporary Arts Center Audience Advisory Committee and is an advisor for the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans. — Kate Watson


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Trixie Minx, 34
Burlesque producer & entertainer; @TrixMinx

Book currently reading:
Memoirs of an Elusive Moth by Adele Friel Rhindress
Favorite Twitter account: @RuPaul
Favorite local band: That's not a fair question in a city that is literally made of music.
Favorite restaurant: Jacques-Imo's
What do you do in your off time? Catch up with friends over coffee, cocktails and cheese or take my puppy to the dog park.
Cocktails or beer? Champagne!

  Trixie Minx — founder of Fleur de Tease and co-founder of Creole Sweet Tease burlesque shows — is at the forefront of New Orleans' modern burlesque scene. Minx is quick to call burlesque's growth in popularity over the past 10 years a collaborative effort. "There's not just one 'Queen,'" she says. "There's a huge focus on the individual, and it's important to me people look at the whole as well."
  Minx produces and stars in burlesque shows such as Fleur de Tease and Creole Sweet Tease throughout New Orleans. Her admission-free Burlesque Ballroom show at the Royal Sonesta Hotel is credited with helping to bring burlesque back to Bourbon Street.
  The productions may vary in theme and setup, but Minx says they all "pay homage to the living legends who laid the groundwork" for modern burlesque.
  An advocate for the local arts culture in New Orleans, Minx currently is working to get health coverage for burlesque performers through the New Orleans Musicians Clinic & Assistance Foundation. — Kate Watson


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Megan Mouton, 32
Owner, Clue Carre: New Orleans' First Live Escape Game;; @cluecarre

Book currently reading:
Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton
Favorite Twitter account: @mattbellassai
Favorite local band: Better than Ezra
Favorite restaurant: Brigtsen's Restaurant
What do you do in your off time? Hang out with my husband and daughter.
Cocktails or beer? Mocktails (she's pregnant with twins)

  Megan Mouton became an entrepreneur when she found a form of entertainment in Europe that she hadn't seen in Louisiana and opened the first live escape game venue in New Orleans.
  Before launching that business, Mouton worked as a vice-president at Event Rental for five years. On a visit to London in September 2014, she experienced her first live escape game in which participants are locked in a room and have 60 minutes to break out using puzzle pieces, logic, keys and codes to find the exit. Upon returning to the U.S., she thought the experience would be popular in New Orleans and opened her first location in January. She already is opening a second location near her original spot.
  "We are adding three additional experiences," Mouton says. "This gives us the ability to have a larger repeat customer base. With five total rooms, we can accommodate 43 people per time slot which is perfect for large corporate team-building groups." — Dena Marks


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Paul Michael Noel, 39
Commander, 2nd District, New Orleans Police Department (NOPD)

Book currently reading:
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
Favorite new album: GoGo Juice by Jon Cleary
Favorite local band: Bag of Donuts
Favorite restaurant: Vincent's Italian Cuisine (St. Charles Avenue)
What do you do in your off time? Anything outdoors, softball, jogging. And Netflix.
Cocktails or beer? Cocktails

  As a commander in the NOPD's 2nd District, Paul Noel is spearheading reforms to the way the department handles sexual assault cases. The department's Special Victims Section came under fire in 2014 after the city Inspector General found dysfunction, mismanagement and more within the department. NOPD appointed Noel to head the newly formed Sex Crimes Special Task Force and reinvestigate 360 cases originally reported between 2011 and 2014.
  Noel says he has high expectations for himself and the four officers assigned to the task force. First and foremost, he says, he wants the unit to help victims — and he doesn't want the reforms to stop at New Orleans.
  "My goal is for the New Orleans Police Department to serve as a model for law enforcement agencies across the country in the way they investigate and interact with victims of sexual assault," Noel says.
  He has an impressive background to call upon. He earned a master's degree in criminal justice from Loyola University New Orleans and graduated from the FBI National Academy, the DEA's Drug Unit Commanders Academy and the FBI's Law Enforcement Executive Development Program. Noel regularly lectures at Tulane University and teaches ethics in criminal justice classes at the University of Phoenix. — Kate Watson


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Michele Oelking, 39
Director, Academic Success Center, Tulane University; @TUPeerEducators

  Michele Oelking's academic and life-coach counseling efforts are successfully helping at-risk Tulane University students, including those with learning difficulties, to overcome obstacles. Her cutting-edge approach is increasing student retention and earned her the President's Staff Excellence Award from Tulane in 2012.
  Oelking works with students to help them set their goals, as well as understand what might be standing in their way — all in a neutral place and without pressures from parents and teachers. She uses neurologically based strategies, while getting the students to focus on their strengths and identify ways to overcome their obstacles. For example, in people with ADHD, interests and motivation are closely related, so she helps students connect those dots. She also believes in what she calls "body doubles," or students who help each other, such as a roommate who will help a student get up in exchange for assistance in subjects with which they need help. She also urges accountability by setting up weekly activities and leaving it to students to gradually take responsibility for moving the meetings forward.
  "There is such an emphasis on metrics in education and often the human element is overlooked," she says. "I think we really need to rethink education and some of our approaches to it." — Laura Ricks


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Holly-Anne Palmer, 32
Producer/owner, Wine Lovers — The Musical and Happy Hour Entertainment;

Book currently reading: Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson
Favorite new album: Anything by Saint Bernadette or Angela McCluskey
Favorite local band: Big Chief Monk Boudreaux and the Golden Eagles
Favorite restaurant: Muriel's Jackson Square, Dick & Jenny's
What do you do in your off time? Host parties, hit up live music venues, travel with my husband and stepson, hang out at my dear friend Oliver Manhattan's parlor on St. Claude Avenue testing out new cocktails and costumes, volunteer as the New Orleans Cub Scout Pack 48 event leader — my stepson is a Bear Scout this year.
Cocktails or beer? Definitely a cocktail queen."

  Broadway producer Holly-Anne Palmer launched two theatrical companies with shows that have been seen by more than 2 million people worldwide.
  When the Broadway South tax credit program brought Palmer to New Orleans in 2009, she planned to a stay a month, but found an atmosphere conducive to creative experimentation in the Crescent City.
  "Because it is less expensive here, we can try things and fail," she says.
  In 2010, Palmer re-envisioned a show in New Orleans she originally had produced in New York: Wine Lovers — The Musical. "The audience has, like, six glasses of wine," she says. "Everyone is hammered at the end."
  The musical has played to 2 million people, including audiences on four cruise ships.
  Its headquarters are in New Orleans, as are the offices for Palmer's other company, Happy Hour Entertainment, which has several cocktail-based comedy productions.
  "We want to kick off the Wine Lovers tour in New Orleans in the fall, and we are trying to get onto a cruise ship based out of New Orleans for 2016," Palmer says. "We have been here seven years, and every year we grow by 30 to 40 percent. The company is based here, so all the money goes back to Louisiana." — MISSY WILKINSON


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Jonathan Rhodes, 36
Executive director, Louisiana Civil Justice Center (LCJC); community advocate

Book currently reading:

Our Only World by Wendell Berry
Favorite new album: Something More than Free by Jason Isbell
Favorite local band: Original Pinettes Brass Band
Favorite restaurant: Parkway Bakery & Tavern
What do you do in your off time? Spend time with family, renovate houses, volunteer
Cocktails or beer? Beer

  A busy three-day span last week for Jonathan Rhodes shows his dedication to improving life in Louisiana. On Monday, he was at Children's Hospital to provide legal counsel for children vulnerable to "health-harming legal issues" (asthma from substandard housing, for example) in partnership with LCJC, the nonprofit Rhodes has led as executive director for the past two years. During his leadership, the center has roughly doubled its services, now reaching 15,000 people annually in Louisiana's 64 parishes. After work Tuesday, Rhodes joined leaders of neighborhood organizations to discuss neighborhood-level solutions to the city's crime problem. He visited a senior center in Central City Wednesday as part of LCJC's program to help low-income elderly residents navigate estate planning and wills.
  "I'm motivated by a desire to serve my community," Rhodes says. "I'm fortunate I'm able to do that through my job, using my background as a lawyer to help promote social justice. Friends and family are helpful enough to allow me time to volunteer for causes outside of my job." — Frank Etheridge


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Amanda Rivera, 38
Architect, Eskew+Dumez+Ripple

Book currently reading:

We're Still Here Ya Bastards: How the People of New Orleans Rebuilt Their City by Roberta Brandes Gratz
Favorite new album: 9 Dead Alive by Rodrigo y Gabriela
Favorite Twitter account:
Favorite local band: Sweet Crude
Favorite restaurant: Domenica, Mariza, Shaya
What do you do in your off time? Travel, paint, plan for the next costume opportunity
Cocktails or beer? Champagne!

  "I might be the only half-Cajun, half-Guatemalan female architect that you will ever meet," says Amanda Rivera, adding she always knew what she wanted to do and loves creating spaces for people so that they can carry on their "mission."
  Rivera says she was naturally drawn to architecture, going back to when she was 13 and realized she was probably way too old to be playing with Legos. Though architecture is a field dominated by men, Rivera says she's had great mentors along the way, including one of her firm's founding partners, Allen Eskew. He made her the "co-pilot" on one of the city's most recent high-profile additions to the landscape, Crescent Park along the Mississippi River in Bywater and Marigny, a job that became more intense when Eskew died unexpectedly during the project. Rivera said it took "150 percent" over several years to complete the park, but she considers that kind of open space for residents to be one of the city's greatest assets.
  "I don't view architecture as work, I view it as a lifestyle," she says. "There's a saying that architects don't retire, and that even when they've left a job, they still keep drawing. I'm never going to say I've had enough. It's part of me." — Laura Ricks


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Michael Schachtman, 32
Attorney, Louisiana State Bar Association; founder and president, New Orleans Bulldog Rescue;

Book currently reading:

Bienville's Dilemma by Richard Campanella
Favorite local band: Anders Osborne
Favorite restaurant: Hank's Super Market
What do you do in your off time? Camping at the beach or lakefront
Cocktails or beer? Typically Tito's vodka with a splash of ginger ale

  Minnesota native Michael Schachtman moved to New Orleans to attend Loyola University's College of Law, drawn to the program's distinguished history of training activist attorneys. After graduating and making a home for himself in the city, Schachtman worked toward his current role in the Access to Justice Department of the Louisiana State Bar Association, where he helped initiate the Lawyers in Libraries program, bringing free legal assistance through public libraries in every parish.
  A dog lover, he established the New Orleans Bulldog Rescue five years ago to keep canines out of shelters, and also to help victims of domestic violence deal with family dogs as the survivors transitions into a new situation. The group recently added an new initiative, the Bully Care Brigade, which brings dogs to visit residents in nursing homes.
 "What keeps me motivated is that I feel very lucky to have the ability to go to school for law," Schachtman says. "Now I have to pay it forward and have discovered a natural source of energy and enthusiasm, both personally and professionally, to devote my time and energy to things I care about." — Frank Etheridge


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Jeffrey Schwartz, 33
Founder & executive director, Broad Community Connections

Book currently reading:
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
Favorite new album: Gasa Gasa Live by Lost Bayou Ramblers
Favorite Twitter account: @CityLab
Favorite local band: Sweet Crude
Favorite restaurant: Shaya
What do you do in your off time? Lately I've been building bookshelves and renovating my house.
Cocktails or beer? Sour beers and tiki drinks

  Jeffrey Schwarz created Broad Community Connections to help develop a 15-block commercial and residential corridor in Mid-City with an eye toward improving the whole community.
  A New Orleans native, Schwartz examin- ed development on Broad Street as part of a practicum requirement while attaining a master's degree in urban planning at MIT, and compiled a report on the Broad Street corridor while on a New Orleans City Hall Mayoral Fellowship in the Office of Economic Development.
  In 2008, he founded Broad Community Connections to develop the corridor. Rather than focusing on a single initiative such as health or food access, the nonprofit organization takes a holistic approach to development. Schwartz sits on the board of the ReFresh Project, which brings together a diverse range of businesses and organizations at 300 N. Broad St. including Whole Foods Market, Tulane University's Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine, FirstLine Schools' central offices and Liberty's Kitchen, a restaurant that offers job training to at-risk youth, and a teaching farm.
  "I'd like to continue to develop a model of real estate development that enables long-term community development programming," Schwartz says. "I'd also love to continue to work on new infrastructure and resiliency projects, such as improving the transit system in the city and region and playing a role in having the city adopt the Urban Water Plan." — Will Coviello


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Erin Seidemann, 35
Author, airplane pilot, supervisory analyst for Raymond James & Associates

Book currently reading:

The Pilot's Operating Handbook for the Piper Seneca
Favorite local band: Anything with lots of brass
Favorite restaurant: K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen
What do you do in your off time? Mostly, I fly. When I can't fly, I run, read and enjoy the lakefront where I live.
Cocktails or beer? Fruity cocktails

  After more than a decade among the small percentage of female aviators worldwide, Erin Seidemann chronicled her triumphs and challenges as a woman in a male-dominated field with her debut memoir, Postcards from the Sky: Adventures of an Aviatrix, being released this month.
  As a licensed pilot flying Orion, her Cessna 172SP, Seidemann encountered many struggles during her adventures as a female pilot. A lover of travel, Seidemann got a thrill seeing various landscapes from the perspective of a private plane, a feeling that helped propel her past nay-sayers and chauvinists and ultimately drove her to write a book about it to inspire other women to join her in her passion.
  Seidemann appreciates how much can be seen from the altitude of a small plane and how different it is from the limited visuals a passenger sees during a commercial flight. She supports programs such as the Civil Air Patrol that have youth programs in which kids can join as cadets and get introduced to aviation for free. When she's not working, Seidemann is an avid runner, blogger and globe trotter.
  She recently upgraded her aircraft to a Piper Seneca. "The thing about flying is it's about getting a bigger airplane," she says. "You always want the next thing. It is a lifelong addiction." — Andrea Blumenstein


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Amy Sins, 38
Chef and proprietor, Langlois; managing partner, New Orleans Jazz Quarters; @CookbookNOLA ; @LangloisNOLA

Book currently reading:
Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn
Favorite Twitter account: @tatephoto
Favorite local band: Jeremy Davenport, St. Augustine High School's Marching 100 band
Favorite restaurant: Meauxbar
What do you do in your off time? I'm teaching myself to paint, but my real hobby is work, because I love my jobs.
Cocktails or beer? Cocktails

  Renaissance woman Amy Sins is a business owner, chef, farmer and radio host.
  After Hurricane Katrina, Sins seized a chance to follow a longtime dream. She left a sales career to open Langlois, a "dinner party-meets-restaurant," where guests socialize and learn to cook alongside staff in the kitchen. The format, she says, was inspired by childhood memories of her parents' dinner parties at their cattle farm in Ascension Parish.
  In the past year, Sins has gotten in touch with another kind of roots by creating an urban farm in the 9th Ward. Sins shares staff between operations and says it cultivates a team atmosphere.
  "When my guests come in and they're having collard greens, I can say that myself, my waitress, my dishwasher — we grew this. It makes the food even more personal," she says.
  Sins also co-owns the New Orleans Jazz Quarters bed and breakfast and hosts WRBH's New Orleans By Mouth, a weekly radio show about food in New Orleans. — Anna Gaca


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Scott Sternberg, 31
Media and public affairs attorney, Baldwin Haspel Burke & Mayer

Book currently reading:
With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by Eugene Sledge
Favorite Twitter account: @beingNOLA, @skooks
Favorite local band: Robin Barnes, Flow Tribe
Favorite restaurant: La Boca
What do you do in your off time? Volunteer with YLC, go to the zoo with 2-year-old son George, watch New Orleans Pelicans games

  As general counsel for the Louisiana Press Association and an attorney who has represented news organizations like The Lens and The Advocate, Scott Sternberg has found a "niche practice."
  "I call it media and open government," he says.
  Sternberg — a a 2006 graduate of Louisiana State University and a 2010 graduate of LSU's Law School — is an attorney for Baldwin Haspel Burke & Mayer and also teaches First Amendment and media law at Loyola.
  "Government accountability, the idea of libel and privacy, open records, open government — those are things I deal with in my practice and in the classroom," he says. "The cases I really enjoy are the cases that are somewhat high-profile, in that we're helping people. ... It feels good, No. 1, because we're helping the client, but we've also done something good for community — open government is good government. ... I think people trust the government more when they know what's going on."
  Sternberg became interested in law while working at LSU's Reveille newspaper and at a nonprofit organization in Washington D.C. where he did legal work for students and become interested in students' rights and open government issues. He also serves on the board of directors for the Young Leadership Council and often represents people working in politics.
  "My third favorite day is the close of qualifying for the Louisiana election," he says. "That's when you get to see who's running for what and start speculating."
  He also is active on Twitter (@slslsu) and praises the New Orleans' Twitter-verse for its watchdog eye on government. "A Twitter community that cares about government accountability," he says. "I like when those people give me a hard time."
  The Louisiana State Bar Association awarded Sternberg the 2015 Stephen T. Victory Memorial Award, and he serves on the Louisiana State Bar Association's Young Lawyers Division Council and the Federal Bar Association's Young Lawyers Division Board. — Alex Woodward


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Isabella Tancredi aka DJ Bella, 16
DJ, model and actress

Book currently reading:
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Favorite Twitter account: @porterrobinson
Favorite restaurant: Rock-n-Sake
What do you do in your off time? Sketching, traveling and seeking out new music

  Isabella Tancredi, aka DJ Bella, began spinning at 13 and books gigs from New Orleans throughout the Gulf Coast, Alabama and Florida while expanding her creative talents to include modeling and acting. Next summer, she's taking her DJ set to Europe.
  After assisting a DJ in Mississippi, Tancredi was inspired to acquire her own equipment and blossomed into her music personality: DJ Bella.
  Tancredi began performing theater and Irish dance at the age of 5 and attributes her developing stage presence to these early performances. She made her film debut in Impact Earth with Tom Berenger and looks forward to continuing to seek out new creative roles.
  The DJ spends her free time watching YouTube and listening to SoundCloud and other music websites, and she also draws and sketches. Recently Tancredi began modeling and mixing music for runway shows.
  Though her talents create some career options, Tancredi says she plans to attend college, where she is considering studying music production, international business or illustration and animation. "I want to be happy with what I do," she says. "I love sharing my talent with people." — Andrea Blumenstein


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Christine Vinson, 39
President, Vinson Guard Service

Book currently reading:

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Favorite new album: Songs of God and Whiskey by the Airborne Toxic Event
Favorite local band: Shamarr Allen & the Underdawgs
Favorite restaurant: Commander's Palace
What do you do in your off time? Spend as much time with my family as possible and fish with my brother.
Cocktails or beer? Cocktails after work and beers for the game.

 Christine Vinson serves as the newly elected president of Vinson Guard Service, one of the largest privately owned security companies in the United States. Vinson made her way through the ranks of the company her grandfather founded in 1963 and first served at Vinson Guard's Baton Rouge branch. But she missed New Orleans and transferred to the city's offices in 2001, working alongside her father, company President Joseph D. Vinson Jr.
  In August, the company's board of directors elected Christine, a security officer licensed by the state of Louisiana, as president. She says she will continue to promote the guard service within the community and emphasizes that the company's employees are crucial to its continued success.
  Christine is a member of the Junior League of New Orleans, is on the board of directors for Crimestoppers of Greater New Orleans and serves on the Louisiana State Board of Private Security Examiners.
  "I really think it's important for local business owners to have crime awareness," she says. — Kate Watson


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Kent Wascom, 29
Writer, instructor at Southeastern Louisiana University;; @kentwascom

Book currently reading:
A Little Life by Hanya Yanigahara
Favorite new album: The Duke of Burgundy by Cat's Eyes
Favorite Twitter account: @nolacampanella
Favorite local band: Helen Gillet
Favorite restaurant: Meauxbar
What do you do in your off time? Read, cook, rant.
Cocktails or beer? NOLA Blonde, bourbon, red wine, daiquiris, Pernod, Herbsaint

  Kent Wascom is writing a six-book set of historical novels that cover the time period from the Louisiana Purchase to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. The first in the series — and his debut novel — The Blood of Heaven, won the 2012 fiction prize from the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival and found its way to many notable publications' best-of-2013 lists. His 2015 follow-up, Secessia, received rave reviews from Publishers Weekly and The Washington Post.
  Wascom is humble about being an acclaimed novelist. Paraphrasing Barry Hannah, he says, "If the team is Southern Letters, then I'm very happy to be there." Juxtaposing icons such as Richard Wright and Flannery O'Connor with contemporary writers like David Armand and Jesmyn Ward, Wascom says, "One can't help but feel anything but pride to be a part of all of this. ... It's something that's worth preserving, that actually is an identity, and that we're really lucky in that way to have that identity."
  Displaying the sort of ambition you'd expect from someone planning a six-novel cycle, Wascom says, "From here I want to keep working. I want to finish this project that I set out to do, and to do some justice to the history of the Gulf Coast." — Cate Root


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LJ Young, 24
Quality assurance manager, Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office

Book currently reading:
You Can, You Will: 8 Undeniable Qualities of a Winner by Joel Osteen
Favorite Twitter account: @BenjaminSWatson
Favorite restaurant: Commander's Palace 
What do you do in your off time? Spend time with my family

 LJ Young went beyond his job description to be a mentor for men re-entering the community after their incarceration.
  As quality assurance manager at the sheriff's office, Young is responsible for budgeting, auditing and compliance. But he felt he could do more for inmates in the re-entry program, so he helped them learn trades and line up jobs upon their release.
  "I see a lot of people my age in here that are doing the exact opposite of what I'm doing," he says. "It's not because they're bad people, they just made bad decisions. I had one guy who said he wanted to be an engineer, but he hadn't even received a high school diploma. It would have been easy to laugh at him. ... He ended up going to Delgado; he just enrolled in Tulane."
  Outside the sheriff's office, Young operates his own consulting business, Crescent City Business Solutions. He finds spiritual relief by playing piano as minister of music at Hosanna Fellowship Church.
  "My ultimate long-term goal is to help people in urban communities receive better quality education in New Orleans," Young says. "Research shows the better the education, the better the outcome." — Anna Gaca


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