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April 16, 2014

The Watch List

24 twentysomethings to watch

Welcome to the Watch List
Millennials get a bad rap. Every week, the airwaves are filled with news stories about how young people between the ages of 19 and 33 are unmotivated, lost and generally useless. These folks are described as a generation obsessed with selfies, not selflessness.

It’s a total load of crap.

Millennials may not have invented the Internet — thanks, Generation X! — but they are doing awesome things with it. Many of them aren’t living in their parents’ basements weeping into their piles of student loan financial statements. They are laughing in the face of a lackluster job market and forging their own careers. They are putting our community first. In short, they are kicking ass and preparing to rule the world.

Earlier this spring, LEO assembled a panel of representatives from various local organizations — Greater Louisville Inc., Metro Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Louisville Center, Louisville Independent Business Alliance, Sullivan University and Young Professionals Association of Louisville. From these meetings, guidelines for The Watch List were created — proven dedication to community, a positive attitude about themselves and Kentuckiana. We asked the public for nominations, and the panel narrowed down the entries into our inaugural Watch List class.

To celebrate LEO’s first ever Watch List, we’re throwing a party tonight for the winners at the Old 502 Winery, 120 S. 10th St., from 6-9 p.m. We encourage everyone to come out and help us commemorate their achievements. Tickets are $10 and include a glass of wine, food from Monkey Wrench, The Café and Eiderdown, and live music by DJ Cory Leonardo.

 

•Name: Jason Brown

Age: 27

Occupation: Co-Owner of Brownies “The Shed” Grille & Bar, Partner at Eventris LLC

College: University of Louisville, Sullivan University

Community Organization Involvement: YMCA, American Diabetes Association, Susan G. Komen, Harbor House of Louisville, Kosair Children’s Hospital, Families Against Autism

Describe why Kentuckiana is near and dear to your heart.

One thing my friends constantly give me grief about is how much I love the city of Louisville. They joke and say, “Jason Brown has never been outside of the city limits.” While I’ve traveled outside of our city limits many times, Louisville is where my heart is. I was born and raised here, and I couldn’t see myself anywhere else. 

I hold a lot of respect for every local business in town, especially the ones that have been around for decades. People don’t realize how much work it takes and, even more, the confidence it takes for someone to take that step and start his or her own business or company. 
And I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m a big horseracing fan. My family has always been really into racing, and I grew up around the track. Spending days at the races and being in that atmosphere is just something I genuinely love. My grandfather worked at Churchill Downs for more than 30 years; my aunt and uncle own a horse farm in Shelbyville. Needless to say, the sport of horseracing runs in my blood, and what better state to live in than My Old Kentucky Home?

What would you do if you won the lottery?

My dad has always had the saying “What’s mine is yours.” That is one thing I will never forget while I’m alive. So the very first thing I would do is ask my parents what they would like. They’ve done so much for me my entire life that it’s high time I returned the favor. I’d make sure they were taken care of and got whatever they wanted. 

I would then pick a few local charities that mean something to me and write out a few checks. I would also build a new playground or outdoor basketball court at St. Joseph’s Orphanage. I went to preschool and kindergarten there, and kids have always had a special place in my heart.

 

•Name: Jennifer Chappell

Age: 27

Occupation: Office Manager of Morel Construction Co.

College: Bellarmine University

Community Organization Involvement: Schnitzelburg Area Community Council, Louisville Independent Business Alliance, Feed the Dirt, Day Spring of Kentucky, Louisville Young Democrats, Louisville Zoo

What unique experiences separate you from other Watch List candidates?

I’m very invested in building up my community and seeing it thrive. Schnitzelburg can be a model for other neighborhoods if we can lead in green initiatives, collaborate with one another and support the idea of a healthier and happier community. We need leaders who step up to make this change, and I’m striving to be one of those leaders. 

There aren’t a lot of young women my age who spend their evenings in grade-school cafeterias leading community forums. At times, I’ve felt that my age and gender have affected how people have treated me. It pushes me to prove I can do anything in spite of them. We need more women in positions of power. Kentucky’s state legislature is only comprised of 18 percent women. 

How do you raise the bar for yourself?

People who get bored are boring people. There’s always something to do or something to get involved in. I like to motivate myself and others to get involved, do something that pushes your limits, and make a positive impact. People ask how I have time to do everything I do, but it isn’t about finding the time, it’s about finding the passion. When I do get discouraged or down, there is always someone to offer support. A community isn’t just one person, it’s a multitude working together. 

If you were the mayor of Louisville, what would be your top priority?

I’d look at the way Louisville moves and how we can improve public transportation. It would thrill me to see a light-rail system in Louisville before I die.

Describe why Kentuckiana is near and dear to your heart.

Whenever I describe Louisville to people, I refer to the slogan that was on the sign of a (now defunct) mom-and-pop pharmacy: “Big enough to serve you. Small enough to know you.” I’ve never felt like I have outgrown Louisville; rather, I feel like I am growing with it. It does live up to the name “Possibility City.” I feel like there are so many doors open here and so many wonderful people to make connections with.

 

Name: Justin Chelf

Age: 25

Occupation: President/CEO of Website Mentors

College: University of Louisville

Community Organization Involvement:

Best Buddies, Gallopalooza, Kentucky Bourbon Ball, Boys and Girls Haven, Louisville AIDS Walk, Academy of Preachers, Louisville Young Democrats, Eastwood Village Council, Jeffersontown Chamber of Commerce, St. Matthews Chamber of Commerce

What unique experiences separate you from other Watch List candidates?

In the Louisville area, I started one of the first web development agencies. As a nationally recognized authority on Internet marketing, I have watched my business grow and expand, adapting to the changes in the industry over the years and constantly developing new eCommerce businesses. 

How do you raise the bar for yourself?

By traveling to trade shows, conferences and private meet-ups for ongoing education and innovative techniques, I have been able to stay up to date on the latest technology in the web design and marketing industries. I also maintain a positive and optimistic attitude in the workplace, encouraging others to reach their full potential.

Describe why Kentuckiana is near and dear to your heart.

Louisville is a unique city with many eclectic areas that offer a plethora of cultures and activities. Our city is special because there are a great amount of outdoor festivals, walking/biking paths and other social events that cover all interests. It’s where you can start and grow a business and a family simultaneously.

What would you do if you won the lottery?

To help young adults, I would set up a nonprofit organization, teaching them life skills related to personal finances that are often overlooked in our current education system. Without my parents’ support, I would not be where I am today. To thank them for everything, I would take them on a dream vacation traveling across the world.

If you could be any super hero, what would it be, and how would you use that power to help our city?

Batman would be the super hero I would choose because he faced hardships and overcame them. He also saw negative things happening in his city and, because he did not have super powers to help other people, he used the assets he did have to protect the city and make it a better place. To help the city of Louisville, I would use my resources to protect everyone from hardships and keep the city free from crime.

 

Name: Nick Covault

Age: 28

Occupation: Programming Manager for Kentucky Center for the Arts

College: University of Kentucky

Community Organization Involvement: Governor’s School for the Arts, Kentucky Opera, Dare to Care Food Bank, Louisville Public Media, Gilda’s Club, Rex Robley VA Hospital

How do you raise the bar for yourself?

I embrace optimism and the collective strength and potential of those around me. Raising the bar requires one to accept that it’s OK to dream, and to be led by those dreams (which often involve calculated risks). Raising the bar is not always a comfortable experience, but as a mentor recently said to me, it’s best to lead yourself toward abundance (proactive and forward thinking) rather than away from scarcity (reactive and fear-based).

If you were the mayor of Louisville, what would be your top priority?

Hopefully I would hit the ground running, but in the process of doing so, a huge first priority would be simply to listen. Meet people and listen — people with experience in government, people outside of the system, people from various neighborhoods, generations and lifestyles. Personally, I could only lead a city if I understood it from the inside out — what challenges are out there, what makes Louisvillians proud and what are our dreams for the place in which we live?

Describe why Kentuckiana is near and dear to your heart.

Fundamentally, its pace, balance and sense of discovery. I can keep up with Kentucky, yet it is constantly surprising me, and I feel like I have so much to discover here. It seems there is always a new park, show, neighborhood or restaurant I have never heard of. I can be in the middle of Bernheim Forest one afternoon, and seeing groundbreaking theater downtown three hours later (with time for an amazing meal in between). The sense of history here — whether in the architecture of Old Louisville or the paths of the Olmsted Park system — can make any afternoon stroll a stunningly inspirational experience. There is an amazing system of diverse grassroots culture here that is thrilling to experience as well. Louisville is full of characters, diversity and people who love living here ... and I’m sure I’ve not even discovered half of them.

 

Name: Alie Faulkner

Age: 27

Occupation: Business Development Coordinator for Brown Mackie College Louisville

College: University of Louisville

Community Organization Involvement: American Cancer Society, Boys and Girls Club, Salvation Army, Center for Accessible Living, American Red Cross, Young Professionals Association of Louisville 

What unique experiences separate you from other Watch List candidates?

A unique qualification that sets me apart is my work history. I have had the opportunity since high school to work in a variety of industries including: health care, insurance, nonprofit and education. This has blessed me with the chance to work with a diverse population and see how each industry works and what processes make them successful. In turn, when given a task or project, I feel I am able to use my real-life experiences and think outside the box to develop a course of action or accomplish a goal. 

How do you raise the bar for yourself?

A philosophy I believe is “strangers are friends waiting to happen.” I raise the bar for myself and others by always focusing on relationships, both personal and professional. This day and age, with advanced technology and busy schedules, I think people forget to take the time to truly build lasting relationships in their lives. I realized after college that this was a strong quality of mine, and have been given the opportunity professionally to continue to focus on meaningful long-term connections.

If you were the mayor of Louisville, what would be your top priority?

I would take residents’ opinions and viewpoints for change into consideration, but I believe my top priorities would be to focus on my passion in education and health care. The goal would be to meet everyone in the field I can and gain feedback on changes that need to occur in these areas. 

Describe why Kentuckiana is near and dear to your heart.

I am proud to be born and raised in the beautiful state of Kentucky. We are known to have a small-town, big-city feel. I take pride in the support we offer to local restaurants, vendors, college teams and musicians in our area. Our city has been featured as one of the best places to live, and I think a lot of that comes from the close connection and passion we have as residents.

 

Name: Deena Fitzpatrick

Age: 28

Occupation: Designer/Photographer at Alan Mack, Opthalmic Technician at Elliott Rosengarten, OD

College: Hallmark Institute of Photography

Community Organization Involvement: James Graham Brown Cancer Center 

How do you raise the bar for yourself and others?

An important person in my life introduced to me the word/term dana, which, by my understanding, is the pali (language from the earlier text for Buddhism for generosity) — as in, giving without looking to receive. I am doing my best to live by that saying and know everything will be provided for. I don’t always feel like I have a lot to give; as single mom, it is not always easy to come up with the time. 

Describe why Kentuckiana is near and dear to your heart.

I grew up in Oregon, but Louisville has been my home for the last three years. I love being a “Derby City chick” — I have grown and explored new things that appeal to me. There are so many opportunities here. I have had some pretty wonderful things happen to me in this state, and it gives me comfort to sit in the quiet and watch the glow of the city’s lights and know I am here for a reason. 

If you were the mayor of Louisville, what would be your top priority?

Where do I even start? There are a lot of opportunities that are overlooked that could be great for Louisville. I think our public transportation could be improved, and I am concerned about subjects in schools that are lacking. Art is one of them, but I also think math and science need help as well. Everyone deserves a fighting chance in this world and not to have fear of judgment from others. I’d also maybe patch some of those small canyons on the side of the roads that swallow my car tires on my way to work. And promote the “buy local” mentality to support the little guys. 

If you could be any super hero, what would it be? And how would you use that power to help our city?

I would have to say Wonder Woman. She sticks out because she has a “hipster halo,” a rockin’ corset top, boots and that crazy lightning rope thing!

 

Name: Alex Frommeyer

Age: 26

Occupation: CEO/Founder of Beam Technologies, Founder of Uproar Labs

College: University of Louisville

Community Organization Involvement: Dreams With Wings, Smile Kentucky!

What unique experiences separate you from other Watch List candidates?

As a tech entrepreneur, I represent an ecosystem that is a vibrant but small segment of the local business community. Working with my two best friends from U of L to build the Beam Brush — the first connected toothbrush — from a napkin sketch idea has been an incredibly fulfilling and unique experience. 

How do you raise the bar for yourself and others?

I am constantly trying to place myself and our team at the leading edge of what’s possible in technology, and over the course of the past few years, we have been able to innovate across a number of industries (most notably health care) and build a deep sense of where the world is moving. Once you have a true sense of that perspective, everything is so exciting — and daunting — that you naturally begin to ask for more from yourself and those around you. 

If you were the mayor of Louisville, what would be your top priority?

Louisville is an incredible city that has some troubling health disparities and finds it a bit too convenient to forget everything west of Ninth Street. The cliché answer would be to foster growth in our tech, advanced manufacturing and general entrepreneurial scene, as this is where we will find the 21st century’s jobs and wealth. 

Describe why Kentuckiana is near and dear to your heart.

I have spent my entire life in Kentucky and my entire adult life in Louisville, moving here in 2006 as a U of L freshman. I instantly fell in love with the city, particularly the eccentricity and the accessibility of the people, who continuously impress and surprise me. When we started our first company, I reached out for help and am still blown away by the sheer volume of people who rolled up their sleeves to assist us — even when there was no direct benefit to them. 

If there was a movie produced about your life, who would play your character and why?

Kanye West would play my character; we are both hugely committed to building products the masses love.

 

Name: Ben Goldenberg

Age: 28

Occupation: Marketing Director of Jewish Community of Louisville

College: Ball State University

Community Organization Involvement: American Red Cross

What unique experiences separate you from other Watch List candidates?

I am one of the youngest directors at a nonprofit that I know of locally. I work alongside our CEO to plan for the future of the Jewish Community of Louisville. I’ve helped raise more than $5 million in my time at the JCL, which benefits Jewish causes locally and around the world.

How do you raise the bar for yourself?

I think strategically, and I take the global impact of the JCL’s efforts into account every day. I encourage my coworkers to work ahead so that we use our time as efficiently and deliberately as possible.

If you were the mayor of Louisville, what would be your top priority?

I would improve the walkability of Louisville and public transportation by studying traffic patterns to increase TARC lines in a smart way. I’d explore the possibility of light rail and encourage expansion of our bike trails.

Describe why Kentuckiana is near and dear to your heart.

I love that Louisville is large enough to always have things going on but small enough that I can get there quickly and easily. I like how traditional and charming it is here while still being modern.

If there was a movie produced about your life, who would play your character and why?

I would pick Edward Norton because he’s consistent, dependable, versatile and hardworking. 

What would you do if you won the lottery?

It would depend on the size of the win! I’d like to travel to Greece with my wife and experience the scope of ancient history there. I’d like to pay off my house and put some money away for a rainy day. 

If you could be any super hero, what would it be? And how would you use that power to help our city?

Captain Planet — I would work to bring pollution in our city down to zero and create a greener economy.

 

Name: Eric Gurevich

Age: 25

Occupation: Community Outreach Coordinator at Old 502 Winery

College: Denison University

Community Organization Involvement: Family Scholar House, Forecastle Foundation

What unique experiences separate you from other Watch List candidates?

I am a proud first-generation American, Kentuckian and Louisvillian. My parents fled the Soviet Union to make a better life for themselves and their children. Their perseverance and success is my inspiration to not only better myself but also my greater community. 

How do you raise the bar for yourself and others?

I’m deeply interested in collaboration and stacking functions. I’m not afraid to ask for help, especially from people in the know. It’s one thing to lead by example, but an entirely different thing to engage those around you and create something as a collective. As I see it, knowledge and life is a cumulative process, and we’re all trying to figure “it” out together. 

If you were the mayor of Louisville, what would be your top priority?

I’d zero in on innovation and how Louisville can become a model for sustainability for other medium-size cities across the globe. More than simply advocating for recycling or efficient transportation, I’d hope to take bold and brash steps to ensure Louisville’s viability for generations to come. 

Describe why Kentuckiana is near and dear to your heart.

Kentuckiana lies at the intersection between North and South, but it isn’t “Southern,” nor is it “Northern.” Our unique culture is what makes this such a special place. Yes, I’m in love with bourbon. Yes, our food and music scene is second to none. But it’s the people — it’s the same wonderful people I see day in and day out, and it’s the brand new folks I get the pleasure of meeting. Louisvillians make this place what it is.

If there was a movie produced about your life, who would play your character and why?

Joaquin Phoenix. His brilliance on the screen is compelling in nearly every role he’s ever played. Our lives aren’t constantly momentous, and I feel as if he’d capture the mundane quite beautifully. I can be quite serious, foolish and everything in between.

What would you do if you won the lottery?

I’d spoil my niece rotten, put half in a rainy day fund, and give the rest to WFPK and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

 

Name: Mimi Hwang

Age: 28

Occupation: Director of Hwang’s Martial Arts

College: San Jose State University

Community Organization Involvement: WHAS Crusade for Children, Wayside Christian Mission/Kentucky Harvest, Jefferson County Public Education Foundation, Kosair Children’s Hospital 

What unique experiences separate you from other Watch List candidates?

I have a fourth-degree black belt in taekwondo, which, as a female, helped empower me in my quest to carry on my father’s martial arts legacy in a predominately male world. I am a Korean-American female who runs and operates the family business, which was named one of the top 10 martial arts schools in the world. As a minority, I have faced discrimination and prejudice that I had to overcome to be the person I am today. I am able to recognize inequality that is present in our society, and I strive to educate and eliminate any unfairness. 

How do you raise the bar for yourself?

Growing up with a father who is an Olympic medalist, the bar set for my sister and me was without limits. Our parents taught us simply to be our best selves. Throughout my life, I’ve found that to ring true, which is why I try to pass that simple rule to my students. Be your best, and your bar will be limitless.

Describe why Kentuckiana is near and dear to your heart.

Kentuckiana residents have always welcomed my family with open arms. Kentuckiana is where our business really took off and enabled us to open three locations. It’s created an opportunity for our family to be able to give back in many more initiatives. Plus, the food and art scene here is absolutely amazing. 

If there was a movie produced about your life, who would play your character and why?

I would like to say I’d be played by someone like Jennifer Lawrence, simply because she is known for completely immersing herself in her roles. I completely immerse myself in everything I do, from running the daily operations and marketing of our business to trailblazing our community charitable efforts. 

What would you do if you won the lottery?

I would use that money to start a nonprofit that would enable scholarships and programs for underprivileged children to learn taekwondo. I know what it can do for anyone regardless of shyness, coordination, focus, etc. Taekwondo also brings awareness to the Korean culture, which I am very proud of. And then I would take a month vacation on a remote island drinking piña coladas!

 

Name: Katie Jaggers

Age: 21

Occupation: Social Media Coordinator at WaterStep

College: Western Kentucky University 

What unique experiences separate you from other Watch List candidates?

I have the unique ability to advocate for a cause and to actively listen to what is being said online relating to humanitarian issues, human rights and, specifically, the world’s water crisis. This has allowed me to develop unique messaging strategies that allow the motivations behind nonprofit work to drive change. I have learned that effective communication creates action. I lead a team of millennials in engaging different audiences, telling the stories of people in need and seeking further support for the world’s water crisis, all through social media. 

How do you raise the bar for yourself?

I motivate the staff I work with to look forward to the future of communication and connection. In order for positive change to occur, nonprofits need to be able to adapt and meet people where they are. That is what I am doing through social media. WaterStep events, tours and trips are no longer conducted in a vacuum. 

If you were the mayor of Louisville, what would be your top priority?

Louisville is a great city for innovation and forward thinking. My top priority would be supporting local businesses and encouraging further innovation and development through citywide collaboration. I would launch a campaign celebrating all of the innovative local businesses, nonprofits and individuals. I would meet with business owners to learn how Louisville can better support a progressive culture and economy.

Describe why Kentuckiana is near and dear to your heart.

After going away for college and studying abroad, I grew to appreciate the inventive and pioneering spirit of the area. While many look to Louisville and Kentuckiana and see a warm culture and friendly lifestyle, there is much more to the area than that. 

What would you do if you won the lottery?

I would support WaterStep’s next project in the Philippines. After we responded to Typhoon Haiyan, I worked closely with locals who connected with us through social media and have stayed in touch with them as we work to tell their stories in the U.S. Currently, we are seeking funding to return and bring even more chlorine generators to areas affected. From there, I would fund the rest of my education, as well as help my family financially.

 

Name: Aimee Jewell

Age: 24

Occupation: Development Fellow for Kentucky YMCA Youth Association, On-Air Personality/Board Operator/Technician for Main Line Broadcasting

College: University of Louisville, Bellarmine University

Community Organization Involvement: Young Professionals Association of Louisville, (YPAL), YPAL Cares, Louisville Girls Leadership, U of L Arts and Sciences' Recent Alumni Network, Kosair Children's Hospital, Children's Hospital Foundation, KY YMCA Youth Association, Lean In Louisville, Young Advertising Professionals, Brightside

What unique experiences separate you from other Watch List candidates?

I actively participated in every form of media in Louisville while working toward my bachelor’s degree. I have also been on-air on 102.3 The Max for two years and am on numerous boards in the Louisville community, while also earning my master’s degree at 24. 

If you were the mayor of Louisville, what would be your top priority?

If I were mayor, I think I would work on making our city a little greener. Mayor Fischer does a wonderful job, but I think by focusing on sustainability efforts, it would improve our environment. Whether that means more farmers markets or community gardens, I think we can only improve the wonderful programs that have been implemented thus far.

Describe why Kentuckiana is near and dear to your heart.

Growing up in Kentuckiana and living here for 24 years has given me the opportunity to see the city develop and thrive. I love the local-mindedness of the community, the state’s culture and the tight-knit, welcoming personalities you find here. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else but the bluegrass. 

If there was a movie produced about your life, who would play your character and why?

I would want Amy Poehler to play my character. Although she is an all-around goofball, in real life, she actively participates in many nonprofit organizations and believes in the power of girls, much like myself. She’s a great role model, a babe and is hysterical. No one can hate a movie that makes them laugh!

If you could be any super hero, what would it be, and how would you use that power to help our city?

I would be Batman. He did great, selfless things for the city of Gotham without receiving the credit he deserved. He did it without any superpowers, which shows anyone can make a difference in the world. I would help maintain Louisville’s low crime-rate ... I just might have to go to the gym a little bit more to get Bruce Wayne’s build.

 

Name: Nicole Kersting

Age: 27

Occupation: Partner/Attorney/Owner of Durrett & Kersting PLLC

College: University of Louisville’s Brandeis School of Law

Community Organization Involvement: Legal Aid Society, Domestic Violence Advocacy Program, Fairness Campaign 

What unique experiences separate you from other Watch List candidates?

As a lesbian, I face unique challenges in relation to my orientation, but also a unique opportunity to change the minds and opinions of people I meet. While I always have to consider the reaction people I encounter will have to my sexual orientation, I am often able to bring perspective and a personalized connection to those who had previously held negative opinions based on a lack of knowledge or experience. Being able to help people understand that we are all equal — simply by being myself and getting to know them — is one of the greatest opportunities I have.

If you were the mayor of Louisville, what would be your top priority?

If I were the mayor of Louisville, I would implement programs to help citizens currently struggling to survive financially while focusing on improvement and renovations to the areas of the city experiencing economic blight. The restoration and development of these areas into successful and vital business and residential areas would create local jobs, and individuals could receive a living wage for their work. The thriving economy created as areas of our city are restored would continue to improve the lives of all Louisvillians and further the social and economic success of our city. 

Describe why Kentuckiana is near and dear to your heart.

I moved to Louisville when I was 18 to attend U of L for my undergraduate degree. Despite being unfamiliar with the city and knowing very few people here, I was greeted with warmth and hospitality. I began to fall in love with the culture and the focus on the local community. Kentuckiana is near and dear to my heart because this is where I truly grew into an adult and developed my individual identity. 

If you could be any super hero, what would it be, and how would you use that power to help our city?

I would choose to be Wonder Woman and use her lasso of truth to help bring about true justice to the city, and country, in the legal system as well as the political system.

 

Name: Amanda Lukas

Age: 22

Occupation: Tutor at University of Louisville, nanny

College: University of Louisville

Community Organization Involvement: Planned Parenthood, U of L’s SOUL, Habitat for Humanity, Hosparus, U of L’s Rally for Life, Feminist Alliance Reproductive Justice Fair, Kentucky Derby Festival, EMW Clinic escorts, Gilda’s Club Louisville, Kentucky Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice 

What unique experiences separate you from other Watch List candidates?

I think for being only 22 years old, I have accomplished a lot. I have been heavily involved in the organizations I worked for, as demonstrated by the years of commitment I have dedicated. I was a tutor at REACH from 2010 to 2013, and I have been volunteering at Gilda’s Club since that same year. I haven’t just watched these organizations grow, I have been able to be a part of growing these organizations. I have gained experience to be able to eventually start my own nonprofit, which is a main goal of mine.

Describe why Kentuckiana is near and dear to your heart.

Louisville is my hometown. It wasn’t where I was born, or where I spent my childhood. However, I grew up the most in this city. Louisville is where I spent my young adult years, where I went to school, where I learned what my passion was. I became a part of this community through my volunteering, service and jobs. Louisville, for all of its quirks, is my home, and I want to make this city and the area around it the best it can be.

What would you do if you won the lottery?

I think I would keep my life pretty much the same, except maybe buy a better car and modernize my house. I would save a portion of the money to use for travel and graduate school. A good chunk of my money would be used to create my own nonprofit organization. I want to create an organization that focuses specifically on creating networks and resources for other businesses and nonprofits. Finally, the leftover money would be donated to reproductive justice nonprofits, an issue near and dear to my heart.

 

Name: Meghan Mando

Age: 28

Occupation: Communications Consultant, Healthcare Services Strategy at Humana

College: University of Kentucky

Community Organization Involvement: BG Magazine Advisory Board, Downtown Development Corporation Young Advisory Board, Ignite Louisville, Young Professionals Association of Louisville 

What unique experiences separate you from other Watch List candidates?

Even though I only moved here three-and-a-half years ago, I feel like I’m a great connector in our community. Although I’ve worked in different industries (legislative, legal, marketing, nonprofit), I’ve always adapted to the culture around me and found ways to tie in my past experiences in a way that’s relevant and innovative. I place importance in maintaining relationships from the different realms of my life, because I feel like working together and diversity of input is how change occurs. 

How do you raise the bar for yourself and others?

It sounds cliché, but I expect great things from myself. I know what I’m capable of. To settle for anything less is a waste of potential. I set high expectations that serve as guidelines for the things I hope to get out of life — whether that be my next career move, a fundraising goal for a nonprofit I care about, or how I should be treated by friends and family. Setting and clearly communicating expectations to yourself and others, and being honest with yourself — that helps raise the bar. 

If you were the mayor of Louisville, what would be your top priority?

Attract more corporations to be headquartered here. Louisville already has a great quality of life. However, we are having a hard time attracting and keeping talent, in spite of being a great place to live, because of the lack of jobs with upward mobility. We need to not just be a great place to live, but a great place to work.

If you could be any super hero, what would it be? And how would you use that power to help our city?

I would be Daredevil. With my increased hearing powers, I would eavesdrop on meetings going on in Louisville and find more ways for our community to work together. So many organizations recreate the wheel rather than partnering on an existing initiative. I believe this comes from not having all of the players at the table. Rather than having each entity looking for the solution, we should be researching and listening to what the rest of the community is doing and work together.

 

Name: Mo McKnight Howe

Age: 28

Occupation: Owner of Revelry Boutique Gallery

College: University of Louisville

Community Organization Involvement: Kentucky Natural Lands Trust, Louisville Visual Art Association, Louisville Independent Business Alliance, Forecastle Foundation, Olmsted Parks Conservancy, Kentucky Waterways Alliance  

What unique experiences separate you from other Watch List candidates?

I believe I am here to help give a voice to those who do not have one. There are people doing incredible things that I do not want to go unnoticed. The environment has the softest voice of them all, which is why I am so passionate about the many environmental organizations I am involved in. I think being passionate about multiple subjects has allowed me to connect people and ideas that may not have seen the light in one another.  

How do you raise the bar for yourself?

I try and utilize my strengths and always look for the strengths in others. I encourage my friends to get out and get involved. Focus on your passions and find organizations or events that support and enhance those passions. Give. Everyone, no matter how busy, can take the time to give, whether it be monetary or simply their time and talents.

If you were the mayor of Louisville, what would be your top priority?

If hell froze over and I became mayor, my top priority would be finding a way to balance the budget and develop a plan with the Visitor’s Bureau to make Louisville a more tourist-friendly town. I think our city has so much to offer, but oftentimes I meet people from out of town who have no idea what to do here.

Describe why Kentuckiana is near and dear to your heart.

I never left Louisville for a reason: There is more to be done here. This city, the people, the environment and the culture all matter very much to me. It truly is possible here! The city and its people have supported myself and my family in their dreams. For that and for many other things, I will always be grateful.

What would you do if you won the lottery?

I would have the luxury of hiring someone to run my gallery so I was able to dive deep into my own art. I have so many ideas but never the time to make them come to fruition. I oftentimes admit that I am too busy promoting the work of other artists to worry about my own.

 

Name: Mai Nguyen

Age: 26

Occupation: Environmental Program Coordinator for YouthBuild Louisville

College: Bellarmine University

Community Organization Involvement: Louisville Grows, Habitat for Humanity, Fuller Center for Housing, Olmsted Parks, Network Center for Community Change

How do you raise the bar for yourself?

Accountability is a value that resonates with me, because to be accountable to your word and in your commitments to and for others is the most important task in relationships and in getting things accomplished.

If you were the mayor of Louisville, what would be your top priority?

Increase the capacity for schools and programs to support youth, which would address violence and the barriers they face and create pathways to successful lives and careers. Also, I’d focus on infrastructure that makes sense — improves bikeability, walkability and provides truly accessible public transportation that is convenient, modern and affordable.

Describe why Kentuckiana is near and dear to your heart.

The Kentuckiana I live in now is radically different from the one I grew up in. To address, include and experience this area as a whole has allowed me to meet so many incredibly sincere and passionate people. I am glad Louisville is Louisville, and I don’t see it being the next “anything,” especially if that means pushing out communities in the name of progress. I have hope that infrastructure, food access, educational systems and job opportunities will improve over time — and in a way that is right for us — because of the community-minded people I’ve met (and continue to meet) who know struggle and are sticking around to change it.

If you could be any super hero, what would it be, and how would you use that power to help our city?

Captain Planet (duh) — to inspire and assist young people in solving problems and caring for the environment. The possibilities would be endless: greening vacant lots; cleaning up brownfields, Beargrass Creek and Rubbertown; restoring mountaintops; stopping the Bluegrass Pipeline ...

 

Name: Chelsea Nichols

Age: 24

Occupation: Associate Editor, IGE Media

College: Northern Kentucky University

Community Organization Involvement: Louisville Urban League Young Professionals, Trinity World Outreach Center, Junior League

How do you raise the bar for yourself?

It’s one thing to have high standards, it’s another to hold people to them. I think that’s what makes me different. You’ll never get a gold star from me for doing what you’re supposed to do. I expect more out of those around me because I know they can do better. As for myself, I’m doing things that are stretching me professionally and personally. In the past two years, I’ve seen a tremendous amount of growth. It’s been ugly, unfair and uncomfortable as hell, but I’m becoming the best version of myself. I’m loving what I see.

Describe why Kentuckiana is near and dear to your heart.

Louisville sees potential in its young professionals. Many of us, myself included, have bought into the idea that we have to leave here to create a name and a life for ourselves. Let’s not be so quick to write it off. There are opportunities here for us, but we have to take advantage of them.

What would you do if you won the lottery?

What wouldn’t I do?! I’d have to do the responsible thing by saving, investing and tithing, but after that I would: give some to my parents, set up a scholarship for minority students at my alma mater, donate some to LULYP and Junior League, give an offering to my church (in addition to the tithe), take an over-the-top vacation with my best friend, go on a shopping spree … oh, and get a new (used) car.

If you could be any super hero, what would it be, and how would you use that power to help our city?

I’d probably duplicate myself. There are plenty of organizations that need volunteers, and I want to help them. Then again, I’d like to have the ability to manipulate the weather. “Louisville” and “consistent” are rarely in the same sentence when it comes to weather. I’d love to change that.

 

Name: Michael Paoloni

Age: 25

Occupation: Founder of Elle Raiser

College: University of Louisville

Community Organization Involvement: The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, RaiseRED, Relay for Life

What unique experiences separate you from other Watch List candidates?

I would say that the lessons my mother taught me about others keep me so humble and blessed. I was always taught that if I wanted something, it wasn’t going to be handed to me. I started Elle Raiser on my own in a dorm room, and since then it has grown to 30,000 followers across social media networks. I was humble enough to keep it a secret for five years, and now I have an opportunity to use it to help others.

How do you raise the bar for yourself?

I raise the bar for myself and others by staying hungry and staying humble. It is easy to get caught up in the moment and forget where you come from. Staying hungry means you don’t want to be where you were yesterday, you need to keep working no matter how successful you become. Humility is what will bring this world together. Take the glory off your shoulders and give it where it’s deserved.

If you were the mayor of Louisville, what would be your top priority?

There are a few issues in Louisville that definitely need attention, such as parking, weather preparation and our non-smoking campus, but there is one issue that bothers more Louisville residents than anything else. I would make sure Louisville was painted red with no spots of blue. I would adapt our university’s slogan (“Louisville first, Cards forever”) and enforce it, putting more U of L pride in our city. The city revolves around U of L, and I think it deserves more support from the city.

Describe why Kentuckiana is near and dear to your heart.

Kentuckiana is close to my heart because I was able to make it my home. Moving here from West Palm Beach was tough, because I didn’t know anything about Louisville or Kentucky. Louisville has accepted me and made me who I am. I call Louisville my home and will always be grateful to be a Louisville Cardinal. The people of Kentucky have always supported me through everything and will forever have my support.

 

Name: Olivia Pedolzky

Age: 28

Occupation: Marketing & Sales Manager at Actors Theatre of Louisville, Owner/CFO of OakSt. Production Group

College: Indiana University Southeast

Community Organization Involvement: St. Anthony’s Catholic School, St. Mary’s Catholic Academy, Friends of the Waterfront, Shamrock Foundation

What unique experiences separate you from other Watch List candidates?

Not only do I own a local business, but I also hold a prominent position at the city’s leading arts organization and nonprofit. Both of these jobs help fuel my passion to grow community involvement in the arts, music and culture of the Louisville community.

If you were the mayor of Louisville, what would be your top priority?

I would push hard and campaign for the local options sales tax. I think it’s a fantastic tool that could help empower our community to improve and grow the arts through public infrastructure projects to increase tourism, community involvement and love for our city. Louisville is one of the greatest cities in the world, and our people should advocate and support that.

Describe why Kentuckiana is near and dear to your heart.

From the local food scene to a thriving downtown, bourbon and live music, from our beautiful parks to great local institutions, I have watched this city grow up just as I have. It’s amazing to see how Louisville has thrived in the 28 years I have been a part of it.

If there was a movie produced about your life, who would play your character and why?

I wouldn’t be from Louisville if I didn’t say Jennifer Lawrence. She’s hilarious, bold and fierce, and I think she would do me justice. But she would probably be busy, so in that case, I’d rather have an up-and-comer take the role and become famous for it.

What would you do if you won the lottery?

No doubt in my mind, I would invest it right back in Louisville. I would expand my business as well as my husband’s. I would strive to be a board member at Actors Theatre and donate to Waterfront Park on both sides of the river. My husband and I have been dreaming about opening up a German biergarten, so that would be on the list as well. I would definitely put a local grocery store in downtown. And my husband has always wanted a helicopter.

 

Name: Courtney Phelps

Age: 27

Occupation: Associate Attorney, Law Office of Compton & Associates

College: Howard University, University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law

Community Organization Involvement: Whitney M. Young Scholars Program, duPont Manual High School Alumni Association, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. (Louisville Alumni Chapter), U of L Law Clinic, Theta Beta Performing Arts Fraternity, Wesley United Methodist Church, Christ Hope Church, St. Benedict Center for Early Childhood Education, New Light Christian Fellowship, Louisville Metro Council District 1 Advisory Council

How do you raise the bar for yourself?

There are generally three practices I utilize to raise the bar for myself and others around me: consistency, positivity and accountability. I consistently read the Bible and do daily devotionals to achieve work-life and emotional-mental balance. Additionally, I surround myself with other like-minded positive individuals, leaders and responsible people. Finally, my friends and family and I hold each other accountable by making sure we are doing what we are called to do from a faith, civic duty and moral obligation standpoint.

If you were the mayor of Louisville, what would be your top priority?

As mayor of Louisville, my top priority would be education, jobs, economic development and public safety. I would expand the 55,000 Degrees goal and set a new one for an additional 20,000 degrees, essentially becoming the “75,000 Degrees” campaign. I would work to bring new jobs and substantial economic development to Louisville in general and the West End in particular. I would work with LMPD and the public at large to ensure public safety. I would also declare a state of emergency and seek to eradicate, renovate and occupy all vacant and abandoned properties.

Describe why Kentuckiana is near and dear to your heart.

Kentuckiana is near and dear to my heart because it is the city that raised me. It is the city that educated me. It is the city that made me who I am. Even as I matriculated at the historic Howard University in Washington, D.C., I was proud of my old Kentucky home and the heritage therein. This is the city that birthed Muhammad Ali, Diane Sawyer, Jennifer Lawrence, the “Happy Birthday” song and the cheeseburger. For that, I am proud to say: We are “weird” — we live, we work, we play, we are Kentuckiana, and there is nowhere better.

 

Name: Kelsie Smithson

Age: 24

Occupation: Self-employed, Consultant to nonprofits and small business owners

College: University of Louisville

Community Organization Involvement: Louisville Girls Leadership, Exploited Children’s Help Organization

How do you raise the bar for yourself?

As a leader, my goal has always been to create and encourage an atmosphere that is open to growth. I love the feeling of transferring my energy and passion onto others and am highly motivated to ensure that nothing in my life is stagnant. I seek to create a climate for change in our community by reaching out to those who also want to create change and bringing them together in a progressive, collaborative environment. I firmly believe that including those from all walks of life and all backgrounds, fields of study and professions is important.

If you were the mayor of Louisville, what would be your top priority?

One area I have always wanted to have more of an understanding of and influence in is the local education system. I think familiarizing myself with the standard of education that Louisville has and then seeking ways to improve and influence that system would be a top priority. There are so many resources available to the youth of today. I would want to invest in them in the best way possible by understanding exactly how the school system could best serve them.

Describe why Kentuckiana is near and dear to your heart.

I love Kentuckiana because it’s the pearl among the rough. It’s a brilliantly unique place that is constantly evolving while also being set in a rich history of tradition. The area’s progressive attitudes tied in with a respect for the arts, culture and civic engagement make collaboration and growth not only accessible, but attainable as well. There is nothing that can’t be done here. It is a place to thrive in, no matter what the end goal.

What would you do if you won the lottery?

My family would be taken care of, debts would be paid, savings and investments established to ensure that my loved ones were taken care of for a very long time. However, my largest and most substantial investment would be in the mission and success of Louisville Girls Leadership. There was no greater influence on my life than this program when I was a high school student, and my dream is to see it continue to thrive and grow for generations.

 

Name: Megan Vogt

Age: 26

Occupation: Realtor at C. Thieneman Realtors

College: Sullivan University

Community Organization Involvement: Boys and Girls Haven, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Younger Women’s Club

What unique experiences separate you from other Watch List candidates?

I love to give back to the community, whether it is helping out behind the scenes or being the face associated with an organization; it is my motto to “be the change I wish to see in the world.”

How do you raise the bar for yourself and others?

I enjoy pushing people to give their very best. I am always encouraging others to think outside of the box and find ways to achieve their goals. It’s important to never quit setting new goals for yourself.

If you were the mayor of Louisville, what would be your top priority?

It would be my goal to find ways to make Louisville a more compassionate and caring city. I think it’s important for people within a community to want to give back to the city in which they live. The first step is to inform people of ways to get involved and different causes around Louisville that could use the community’s help.

Describe why Kentuckiana is near and dear to your heart.

I was born and raised in Louisville and feel as though it has shaped me into the person I am today. Yes, I love horse racing and bourbon, but I believe there is a kindness here that gets buried below the hustle and bustle of everyday lives.

What would you do if you won the lottery?

I would pay off all of my bills, give to family, donate to multiple nonprofits and put away the rest for a few family vacations and my kids’ schooling and future endeavors.

If you could be any super hero, what would it be? And how would you use that power to help our city?

I love superhero movies, so to pick just one would be hard, but I would be Mystique from “X-Men.” I would love to have the ability to experience the world through other people’s eyes. I love hearing different perspectives; to be able to really walk a mile in someone else’s shoes would be a life- changing experience.

 

Name: Kristen Williams

Age: 25

Occupation: Youth Coordinator for Red Cross

College: University of Louisville

Community Organization Involvement: Food in Neighborhoods Committee, Louisville Grows, Network Center for Community Change, New Roots

What unique experiences separate you from other Watch List candidates?

I am a proud resident of the West End, actively engaged in re-investment in the area by the city and the empowerment of residents through community building, social justice and economic uplift.

How do you raise the bar for yourself and others?

I believe everyone should be an active citizen in their community regardless of where they live, income, status, etc. “Service to others is the rent we pay for our time here on earth.” —Muhammad Ali; I live this every day and encourage others to do the same.

If you were the mayor of Louisville, what would be your top priority?

I would work on creating a more walkable city, increasing health equity, home-ownership and resident-owned businesses in impoverished areas of the city, and creating a competitive workforce through our school system and universities.

Describe why Kentuckiana is near and dear to your heart.

The people in this city are friendly and kind. There are many ways residents can get involved in changing their community for the better here, and many people are interested in doing just that. I truly believe this is a compassionate city from my experience making friends and finding groups interested in helping build a brighter future for Louisville.

If there was a movie produced about your life, who would play your character and why?

I can’t think of any actress who would relay my youthful energy. I am brutally honest, energetic and passionate. At the same time, I can be a bit sardonic when discussing certain social and political issues. Junie B. Jones and Harriet the Spy were my all-time favorite kids’ book characters growing up, so if a made-up character could play a real person, I think they would hit the nail on the head ... if they studied Pan-African history and became addicted to NPR.

What would you do if you won the lottery?

I would start a few businesses in west Louisville and employ residents; finish the Louisville Loop in Shawnee; refurbish my house to make it 100-percent eco-friendly and sustainable; go back to school; save for my kid’s education; and invest.

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