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.
Carlos Quiles, 33, Meriden
Occupational therapist and athlete Why he’s on the list:Quiles has been in a wheelchair since age 2 when surgery to remove a tumor on his spine caused permanent damage. He has dedicated his life to assisting others in similar situations. He works at the Hospital for Special Care in New Britain, helping kids adjust to life in a wheelchair and overseeing the mentor program. Quiles also runs sports clinics and camps for children, plays on Connecticut’s only wheelchair basketball team and is a former Paralympic track-and-field athlete.
(Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)
Allison Williams, 26, New Canaan
Actress Why she’s on the list: Williams has been winning accolades since being cast as Marnie Michaels on HBO’s “Girls,” but saw her profile soar to new heights when she sang and flew—live—as Peter Pan in NBC’s holiday TV musical last November. “Girls” just began its fourth season and Williams continues to guest star on other shows, too.
Dr. Aditya Tadinada, 37, West Hartford
Assistant professor of oral and maxillofacial radiology at the University
of Connecticut Why he’s on the list: As part of a pilot study at UConn Health Center, Tadinada has found evidence that use of Botox—which has been deemed effective in relieving TMJ and is currently going through a 5-year, $4 million clinical trial by the National Institutes of Health—actually causes dangerous side effects including bone-density loss. His investigation is just one example of the research he’s doing to improve dental safety.
Clio Newton, 25, Madison
Artist Why she’s on the list: Newton has an uncanny ability to capture the spirit of her subjects in her lifelike charcoal and oil portraits—a skill noticed and celebrated by many who have commissioned her work including Yale-New Haven Hospital, which hired her to paint a portrait of Dr. Myron Genel in December. This year, she was awarded a residency at the AKKU Atelier in Zurich, Switzerland, where she is getting the opportunity to live and work abroad while she prepares an exhibition at the Kunskiste Gallery.
Allyson Angelini, 27, Ledyard Owner of Full Heart Farm and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) founder Why she’s on the list: Angelini purchased Full Heart Farm in Ledyard in 2012 (when she was only 24) through the USDA’s Farm Service Agency Program for Beginning Farmers and Ranchers. She just wrapped her third CSA season, feeding more than 50 families in her local area from her six-acre farm that grows organic fruit and vegetables. She also raises thousands of meat chickens, egg-laying chickens and 18 pigs a year.
Kia Levey, 38, New Haven
Project director, The New Haven MOMS Partnership Why she’s on the list: A lifelong resident of New Haven, Levey has deeply reinvested herself in the community, spending more than a decade working for nonprofits that benefit New Haven. As project director for the New Haven MOMS Partnership, she coordinates various agencies across the city to support the well-being of mothers and families by making services more easily available to those who need it.
(A. Sue Weisler/Datto)
Austin McChord, 29, Norwalk
Founder and CEO of Datto Why he’s on the list: In eight short years, McChord has taken Datto Backup from a one-man basement startup to one of the fastest-growing tech companies in the nation, topping high double-figure revenue for three years straight and employing more than 400 globally. Last year he was named a finalist for Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year as well as a CRN Top 25 Innovator. He is also on the board of the Connecticut Technology Council.
Nicole Braddock, 29, Oakville Baker Why she’s on the list:This self-taught baker teamed up with her husband to launch the mobile bakery business Hardcore Sweet Cupcakes in 2012—a delicious fusion of bold flavor profiles and vintage style. They travel in their cupcake truck, “Betty,” and work from their shop in Oakville. Their cupcakes, which won an episode of the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars,” pack a punch both in name and taste. Braddock will travel to Los Angeles later this month to bake cupcakes for the Academy Awards.
Alexis Smith, 36, Hamden
Deputy director, New Haven Legal Assistance Association Why she’s on the list: As the deputy director of New Haven Legal Assistance, Smith has been involved with standing up for those who aren’t always able to stand up for themselves. She is also past president of the George Crawford Black Bar Association, and has served as secretary for the Connecticut Bar Association, the Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology and Community Partners in Action. She referees high school soccer and basketball when she’s not taking care of her two young children.
Michael Black, 38, Fairfield Architect Why he’s on the list: After graduating from Vermont Technical College, Black founded Koala Residential Lifestyle, an architecture firm that designs and builds properties with a goal of creating structures that live harmoniously with nature. Rather than square footage and numbers, his designs are motivated by preserving the environmental landscape of Connecticut for future generations.
Sara Valentino, 38, Seymour
Social worker Why she’s on the list: Valentino is the co-founder and clinical director of Gaurdian Ad Litem Services, a charitable organization dedicated to improving the lives of those with mental illness. She leads the organization’s flagship program Melissa’s Project, which helps make the dreams and goals of those with mental illness, and their families, more attainable.
Sara Dziedzic, 34, Woodstock Teacher, Woodstock Academy Why she’s on the list: A few years ago, Dziedzic organized a group of her dedicated students to form Family Related Effective Solutions for Humanity (FRESH), a nonprofit service group that has since worked toward poverty relief and awareness in the Quiet Corner. Under her guidance, the students have raised more than $35,000 through extracurricular efforts, and have created a middle school mentoring program, funded summer camperships, run charity drives and have lent assistance to families struggling with poverty.
(Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
D.J. Cotrona, 34, New Haven, Actor Why he’s on the list: The ruggedly handsome Cotrona was an easy choice for a film like Paramount Pictures’ G.I. Joe: Retaliation, but the son of a school teacher who studied criminal justice and political science on a pre-law track at Northeastern University in Boston isn’t content to be eye candy in action films. His current gig involves starring as bank robber Seth Gecko in “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series” on the El Rey Network, which is based on the 1996 action-horror film written by Quentin Tarantino and directed by Robert Rodriguez, who launched El Rey. Season 2 started in January.
Ryan Hanrahan, 30, Guilford Television meteorologist Why he’s on the list: Hanrahan has been drawn to the weather since he was a boy growing up in Guilford. Today he educates the masses as the weekday prime-time meteorologist at NBC Connecticut and travels the state visiting schools to inspire a new generation to get excited about science and the weather.
Conor Horrigan, 32, Litchfield
Brewery owner Why he’s on the list: Horrigan walked away from an unrewarding Wall Street job to open Stamford’s Half Full Brewery, a beer company dedicated to reminding people to look on the sunny side of life. Today, his company works to support other entrepreneurs and dreamers to spread good beer and good cheer far and wide.
Matt Harvey, 25, Mystic
Major League Baseball player Why he’s on the list: In 2013 as the ace of the New York Mets pitching staff, Harvey, whose family has lived in the Mystic area for three generations, lit up the major league with his 95-mile-per-hour fastball and ended up starting the All-Star Game. Along the way he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated and posed wearing nothing but a baseball glove for ESPN The Magazine’s body issue. Despite all that, he still makes time to attend hometown charity events. After sitting out a year with an injury, Harvey will be back on the mound for the Mets in 2015 doing his home state proud once again.
Matthew Fitzsimmons, 34, Windsor
Assistant attorney general Why he’s on the list: It’s a brave new world of technology and Fitzsimmons is on the front lines of privacy and consumer protection. An assistant attorney general, he serves as chair of the Attorney General’s Privacy Task Force and is the state’s lead attorney on all matters involving data security and privacy. He has played a key role in multistate actions with Internet, technology, healthcare and retail companies across the country.
Teresa Dufour, 34, New Haven
Traffic reporter, “Good Morning Connecticut”/ host, “Connecticut Style” Why she’s on the list: The vibrant Dufour is a daily double threat: After providing thousands of commuters across Southeastern Connecticut with the latest traffic updates on “Good Morning Connecticut” from 5 to 7 a.m., she switches gears and is back on the air at 12:30 p.m. with “Connecticut Style,” where she shares the better parts of Connecticut life, including fashion, health, beauty and food.
Kate Stephen, 33, Bethlehem Jewelry designer Why she’s on the list: Stephen has been designing her line of contemporary, sculptural jewelry for the last 15 years. She pulls inspiration from nature to create her elegantly beautiful tangles of wire and semi-precious stones. She plays with asymmetry, color and texture in her designs that speak to a young, chic clientele. Sold online and in shops around the state, Stephen is carving a creative niche for herself.
Camila and Carolina Bortolleto (left and right, respectively), 26, Danbury Activists Why they are on the list: Born in Brazil, the twin sisters became undocumented residents of the U.S. when they moved to Danbury at the age of 9. In 2010, they co-founded Connecticut Students for a DREAM, a state chapter of a national organization of young adults that works for the rights of undocumented youth and their families. Despite the obstacles they faced, both went on to graduate college and continue to support the rights of undocumented residents. Camila serves as the program coordinator for Own the Dream Campaign at United We Dream. Carolina works as a college access coordinator.
Joey Logano, 24, Middletown, NASCAR driver Why he’s on the list: Last year was the best year of Logano’s ascendant NASCAR career—he set personal bests with five wins, 16 top-five finishes and 22 top-ten finishes, and was in the hunt for the Sprint Cup Championship until his No. 22 slipped off a jack during a pit stop with only 17 laps remaining in the final race, putting him 4th overall for the title. He also won the checkered wedding flag in 2014, tying the knot with longtime girlfriend Brittany Baca in December.
Jeremiah Grace, 33, New Haven
Administrator Why he’s on the list: As the Connecticut State Director for the Northeast Charter Schools Network, Grace advocates on behalf of students, works with lawmakers at the state level, and partners with schools and nonprofits to create a more unified advocacy for Connecticut’s at-risk children.
Nicole Wagner, 30, West Hartford
Scientist/CEO LambdaVision Why she’s on the list: While working on her PhD in Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of Connecticut, Wagner founded the biotech startup LambdaVision with one of her professors, Robert Birge. The company is on the cutting edge of vision restoration and plans to begin animal testing of a protein-based cure for some forms of blindness.
(Emily Taylor Photography)
David DesRoches, 35, Bridgeport
Writer/editor/producer Why he’s on the list: As an award-winning reporter for the Darien Times and an independent journalist, DesRoches exposed systemic illegal activity in a wealthy public school district that resulted in an independent investigation, multiple resignations and organizational restructuring. He also reported on the events in Ferguson, Mo., lived in Ethiopia for a year, where he worked for a nonprofit media project, and taught songwriting to people with physical and intellectual disabilities. He recently joined WNPR/CPTV as an education reporter.
Elizabeth Cox, 25, New Milford Dancer/dance teacher Why she’s on the list: Cox has danced as an ensemble member in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall and for the renowned modern dance company MOMIX. As a freelance artist she has worked with Adam Battlestein as a Shadowland dancer in his company Catapult Entertainment, which made a splash on the hit TV show “America’s Got Talent.” If you saw Darren Aronofsky’s The Black Swan, you saw her as a background dancer. Cox, who trained in classical ballet and jazz dance, has also taught for the past five years under the direction of Broadway veterans Elizabeth Parkinson and Scott Wise at Fineline Theatre Arts in New Milford.
Sarah Barrios, 20, Torrington Singer/songwriter/musician Why she’s on the list: One of Connecticut’s brightest rising stars, Barrios started her career in music just two years ago and with her vulnerable, haunting voice quickly made a name for herself as the girl to watch. She’s the New England Music Award’s 2014 winner for Best New Act of The Year, and is nominated this year for Female Performer of the Year. Awards will be presented at Showcase Live in Foxboro, Mass., on April 18.
Damon Maulucci, 37, Hartford/Canton
Writer/director/producer/co-creator of Sacred Heart University’s Film and Television Master’s Program Why he’s on the list:Maulucci is the writer/director/producer of the feature film Detonator, which had its theatrical release last April and is available on Amazon, Hulu and iTunes, and is gearing up for his next feature, This Thing On, to be shot in Connecticut. He distilled his experience as a film student at Columbia and an adjunct professor at area universities to create Sacred Heart’s FTMA program, which focuses on strong storytelling and prepares students for work in the industry.
Justin Liberman, 34, South Windsor
Director/co-creator of Sacred Heart University’s Film and Television Master’s Program Why he’s on the list: A professional director (he will direct his first feature-length film, Mary Joe, shot in Connecticut this year), he returned to his alma mater to create the school’s first film master’s program alongside fellow director and graduate Damon Maulucci. The FTMA program graduated its first class in May 2014 and hosted a film festival in September.
Bobbye Knoll Peterson, 37, Middletown
Executive director, North End Action Team (NEAT) Why she’s on the list: In her role with NEAT, Peterson has championed the North End of Middletown, helping to transform the neighborhood and leading efforts to create successful community programs including a farmers’ market and the city’s first gun buy-back, where more than 100 weapons came off the streets. The mother of three also coordinates the Oddfellows Playhouse outreach to at-risk youth, among her other civic engagements.
Joshua Westbrook, 32, Hartford
Artisan shoemaker/owner, The Brothers Crisp Why he’s on the list: The grandson of a prosecutor and judge, Westbrook always wanted to work with his hands and has always loved shoes. He decided to “go for it,” and set off for artisan shoemaking school in Oregon. Now he has a studio in a former industrial space in the Parkville section of Hartford and is making high-end shoes by hand, translating an old New England tradition into hip 21st-century style and attracting devoted clients like a doctor in Singapore. What’s next? “If I could tan my own hides I’d do it,” Westbrook says.
Benjamin Paletsky, 36, Morris
Farm entrepreneur/Morris Marketplace founder Why he’s on the list: Paletsky is focused on highlighting the uniqueness and emerging potential of Connecticut agriculture in a way that stresses the importance of local flavors and integrity while also making learning and eating well fun for families. Branded as South Farms, he developed a farmland business model with a weekly farmers’ market component that’s attracting a diversified portfolio of entrepreneurial businesses in food, agriculture, tourism, entertainment and services. Paletsky’s business acumen and his family’s deep roots in Connecticut agriculture make this project a natural progression of his talents.
Amy Kundrat, 35, Bethel
Director of New Media at Yale School of Management/executive editor CTbites Why she’s on the list: Kundrat’s polymathic talents hardly fit on any “occupation” line. In addition to her Yale “day job,” she’s a devout foodie who is Executive Editor and a partner in the vibrant Fairfield County food scene website CTbites, author of “Fairfield County Chef’s Table” and founder of her own new media and branding enterprise, ARK Projects. She’s also led product launches for the Financial Times and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and served as a director of external affairs in the nonprofit sector for museums, including the Philip Johnson Glass House in New Canaan and Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield.
Julie Daly Meehan, 31, Hartford
HYPE executive director/director of investor engagement and digital media Why she’s on the list: Meehan works for the MetroHartford Alliance, which is the leading business and economic development organization in Connecticut’s capital region. Meehan is also executive director of the Hartford Young Professionals and Entrepreneurs group. In 2014 Meehan was promoted, via the addition of a second role, and is now responsible for developing social media strategies to strengthen all the MetroHartford Alliance initiatives, including the Connecticut Health Council and the Connecticut Insurance and Financial Services Cluster.
T.J. Clynch, 30, Hartford
Founder of Civic Mind Studios & Downtown Yoga Why he’s on the list: Clynch is on a mission to revitalize our capital city. Between his two companies (the yoga studio grew out of the design firm) he works to introduce people to new areas of the city (hosting yoga at the public library for instance). Other projects include the open air market on Pratt Street, Hartford HodgePodge; the city’s first green cycling studio, Cycled Energy; and an Earth Day celebration.
Kate Lindsay, 36, Hartford Attorney Why she’s on the list: In addition to her case-load as an attorney with Bracewell & Giuliani, Lindsay has taken on pro bono work and worked with survivors of domestic violence. The lifelong state resident and UConn grad has also been a part of clinics to provide legal service to the homeless of Hartford as well as in efforts for fair housing and immigration.
Jamie McDonald, 38, Windsor
Restaurant owner Why he’s on the list: The young restaurateur’s new ventures, Bear’s Smoked Barbecue, in Windsor and Hartford, lit up the Connecticut food scene in the past year earning praise from The New York Times and just about anybody who sunk their teeth into the Kansas City-style barbecue served at the restaurant. McDonald is also a competitive eater. His personal record: 287 chicken wings in half an hour.
Liz Shuman (left), 38, Madison Inspiration and co-founder of OutRUN38 Why she’s on the list: As the “director of inspiration” for the nonprofit organization OutRUN38, Shuman has shown others what it is to push past obstacles. Shuman was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at age 7, when her life expectancy was just 12. She celebrated her 38th birthday in September (her current life expectancy), and is still running—her lifelong passion. Her friend Nicole Burke founded OutRUN38 to support her through frequent hospital stays and raise money for others fighting the disease.
Nicole Burke (right), 38, Clinton Co-founder of OutRUN38 Why she’s on the list: Burke founded OutRUN38 with the help of the organization’s inspiration, her lifelong friend Liz Shuman, and Brian Thomas, to raise money for programs and people living with cystic fibrosis. Born out of a small Facebook page, OutRUN38 literally runs on the backs of the nearly 5,500 runners who log miles for Liz across 40 countries. The original goal was to run 3,800 miles and raise $3,800 by Shuman’s 38th birthday. They’ve surpassed that, and hosted their first 5K in August.
Brett Orzechowski, 36, Hartford
CEO/Publisher of The Connecticut Mirror and The Connecticut News Project, Inc. Why he’s on the list: Orzechowski was appointed CEO and publisher of the nonprofit, nonpartisan, investigative news outlet, The Connecticut Mirror, and its parent organization The Connecticut News Project, Inc. in August 2013 after most recently teaching journalism at Quinnipiac University. He has 15 state, regional and national awards to his name over the course of his career.
This article appeared in the February 2015 issue of Connecticut Magazine