40 Under 40: Class of 2014
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This year’s best and brightest among Generation Next include philanthropists, artists, community leaders, athletes, educators and entrepreneurs—all nominated by friends, family, coworkers, admirers and Connecticut Magazine editors.
Jessica Carso, 33, Middlefield
Development director, Connecticut Humanities, Middletown
Jessica Carso’s philanthropic work has put her in high demand in the nonprofit sector, but, more importantly, as an advocate for social change she’s making a difference in people’s lives. Carso’s effective fundraising helped launch Wesleyan University’s Green Street Arts Center into the forefront of the Middletown arts community. She now is Director of Development for Connecticut Humanities, and is passionate about her volunteer work with the Middlesex County Community Foundation, where she helps to raise money for programs that will empower women and girls in the county to be self-reliant and reach their full potential.
Chion Wolf, 33, Hartford
Producer, WNPR’s “The Colin McEnroe Show”
It was Chion Wolf’s charitable spirit that opened doors for her at WNPR. After she volunteered for one of the station’s fund drives in 2006, the good deed led to an internship and eventually to “The Colin McEnroe Show” as announcer, producer, writer and occasional sidekick. A local celebrity in her own right now, Wolf also spends her time helping out arts organizations and many causes in the Greater Hartford community. She's also a founding member of the Hartford Hot Several marching band, in which she plays trash can bass drum, and champions the Hartford Has It campaign.
Vincenzo M. Landino, 28, Wallingford
Development manager, Connecticut Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
Vincenzo Landino uses his energy and charisma to make the world a better place. At the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation he is one of the principals behind “New Haven’s Finest,” an event created last year to honor local business professionals. Known as an idea man, Landino is also the founder of the HubCap, a one-of-a-kind NBIA Certified Business Incubator recently opened in downtown Wallingford. Business pros will be on hand to give guidance to new start-up companies and will mentor local public school students. Workshops and classes will be offered as well. We think Landino’s concept is a winner that will be a shot in the arm for many aspiring entrepreneurs.
Lily Gagliardi, 27, Middletown
Heart disease prevention activist
Lily Gagliardi was born with an extra pathway in her heart. The condition was difficult to diagnose and wasn’t identified until she was in high school. Surgery corrected the defect, but her experience inspired her to start Lily’s Kids Inc. to educate and help other young people with similar heart conditions. Her work led to last year’s passage of a law in Connecticut that now requires hospitals to screen for heart disease in all newborns. She also developed the Heart Yourself program that teaches children and their families how to keep their hearts healthy (she presented the program at the 2012 National Health Promotion Summit in Washington, D.C.). Last year the Connecticut General Assembly awarded Lily a special citation for her continuing efforts as a community leader.
Mia Landegren, 18, Bridgewater
Mia Landegren, the daughter of Patti and Erik Landegren (of Bridgewater Chocolate renown; Gwyneth Paltrow’s favorites) is a triplet, along with sisters Emma and Hanna—and she’s also one-of-a-kind. The former Shepaug High School (Washington) and 2012 Connecticut State Women’s Amateur golf champion is a freshman member of the national powerhouse University of Alabama women’s golf team. The top-10-ranked Crimson Tide begins the spring season in February. Notably, Landegren is joined on the Crimson Tide by Daniela Lendl, the daughter of the former No. 1 tennis player in the world (and part-time Goshen resident) Ivan Lendl.
Arika Kane, 28, Stratford
R&B singer, voice of VH1 “Hollywood Exes”
From growing up in a musical family in Killingly to being a singer-songwriter whose “Make It” is the theme song of VH1’s “Hollywood Exes,” with songs featured on “What Chilli Wants,” “Basketball Wives” and “Single Ladies,” Arika Kane is an artist whose brand of budding success is built on two big I’s: independence and integrity. Kane is aligned with the Connecticut-based independent label BSE Recordings, and while her VH1 affiliations may not seem deep and philosophical, talking to Kane and listening to her lyrics reveals that she’s all about empowering women and succeeding with substance, rather than flirting with the passing fancy of fame.
Christopher Rosario, 32, Bridgeport
Director of Anti-Blight & Illegal Dumping, Office of Neighborhood Revitalization, Bridgeport
Rosario began his career in Bridgeport mayor Bill Finch’s office as a constituent services representative. In 2012, he was put in charge of anti-blight services. Among other responsibilities, he works with Bridgeport neighborhoods in the “Clean and Lien” program, which removes severely distressed buildings and puts a lien on the affected property. When he took on this role, there was a backlog of 900 buildings on the blighted property list; now, says the mayor’s office, that number has beeen reduced to 500, and the average inspection turnaround period for these properties has fallen from 180 days to 30. He’s also a member of the statewide anti-blight task force.
Schuyler J. Ebersol, 20, Cornwall
Author, The Hidden World (Age of Tolerance)
The nephew of former NBC Sports chief Dick Ebersol says he’s worked on more than 50 books already, but it’s the first, published by Koehler Books in December, that everyone’s talking about. Like his Harry Potteresque Hidden World protagonist Nate Williams—who, after suffering a premature heart attack, finds out he's a shapeshifter—Ebersol discovered his passion for writing after a debilitating illness at 15 left him wheelchair-bound and unable to attend school. Now he’s recovered and a freshman at the University of Virginia, with a commitment from Koehler to publish all five projected volumes in the Hidden World series (No. 2 is finished), and three other completed manuscripts he’s shopping around.
Matthew Lesser, 30, Middletown
Connecticut state representative
It was May 2008 when Matthew Lesser was selected to run as a candidate for state representative. He was still in college, but had already earned a political reputation for himself throughout the state, credited with garnering huge voter turnout among students. He had worked on campaigns for big names, like Obama and Kerry. He was 25 when he first took office, but now in his third term, Lesser is still making waves, winning his last election in 2012 while battling testicular cancer. He was nominated by a 40- under-40 alum, who said “Matt is a strong progressive voice in the state legislature on democracy issues, economic justice and the environment.” Lesser has lived in Middletown, where, despite his role in state government, he still serves on numerous local boards and commissions.
Khalilah Brown-Dean, 37, New Haven
Her scholarly work on the political dynamics with regard to the American criminal justice system and voting-rights policy has garnered international attention. (She convened a 2005 national conference in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.) She’s been a political analyst, adviser and commentator for CNN, PBS, National Public Radio and the Wall Street Journal, and serves as a senior justice advocate for the Soros Foundation. Brown-Dean has authored the soon-to-be-published Diversity in American Politics and Once Convicted, Forever Doomed, which examines the consequences of mass incarceration for local communities and neighborhoods.