You are the owner of this article.

40 Under 40: The Class of 2020

  • 28 min to read

Attorneys, social change agents, educators, fitness gurus, culinary champions, television personalities, filmmakers, performing artists, business leaders, and many more ... as in past years, these high-achievers were nominated by friends, family, coworkers, admirers and Connecticut Magazine staff. Get ready to be inspired!

Do you know someone who should be part of the next 40 Under 40? Nominate them here!

Ben Goldman

23 • Hartford

TV news anchor • @bengoldmantv on Instagram and Twitter

Ben Goldman2.jpg

Ben Goldman

Goldman, a Wethersfield native, anchors the Fox 61 news on weeknights at 4 and 11 p.m. He started as a freelance reporter for Fox 61 when he was a 16-year-old high school student. A brain cancer survivor, Goldman reported on Connecticut charities with his Ben Goldman’s Charity Corner, highlighting many nonprofits giving back in the state. After graduating from Wethersfield High, he attended UConn and, in the summer before his senior year, became Fox 61’s weekend morning anchor. Goldman completed his senior year in Storrs while working full time in Hartford and was eventually promoted to his current role. “I consider myself lucky and extremely blessed to be in a job which I’ve dreamed about since the age of 4, living out my dream and doing so in the place I’ve lived my whole life,” Goldman says. “Every single person has a story and it’s my honor to give a voice to those stories and share them in my home state.” Outside the studio, Goldman is an avid golfer (he has two holes-in-one to his credit) and jazz pianist.

For the best Connecticut Magazine content, plus the week's most compelling news and entertainment picks, delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Shaun Chambers

36 • Hartford 

Fitness brand founder • bodyrocfitlab.com and @bodyrocfitlab on Instagram

Shaun Chambers.jpg

Shaun Chambers

For more than 10 years Chambers has been a certified personal trainer and, in 2015, established his own fitness brand, BodyRoc FitLab, a circuit-style interval workout with an innovative group personal training program. Since opening his first brick-and-mortar location in West Hartford, Chambers has expanded BodyRoc to Avon. He was a finalist in America’s Most Inspiring Trainer in 2017, sponsored by Reebok, and was a 2015 recipient of the 100 Men of Color Award by the Hartford Courant. Demonstrating a deep passion for his community, Chambers established a youth fitness program with the Hartford Yard Goats and developed a fitness partnership with The Village of Families and Children in Hartford.

Amanda Roy

37 • Hartford

Community organizer • @mander.roy on Instagram

Amanda Roy 1.jpg

Amanda Roy

As director of community impact at the Greater Hartford Arts Council, Roy has worked to help communities thrive through vibrant arts programs and is an advocate for art and artists. In 2018 she launched Make Music Hartford, a part of the international Make Music Day movement, which brings free, community-wide, outdoor musical celebrations to hundreds of cities worldwide on June 21 every year. For the past two summers the Hartford version of the event has been praised for its participatory activities which bring local musicians and other members of the community together to make music. Other programs Roy has developed include the Arts Catalyst Cohort, which brings together small arts organizations to determine goals and pursue capacity building, and ArtWORKS, a professional development workshop series for artists and arts organizations. Roy believes there is a direct link between arts and thriving communities. Outside of her work with arts organizations in Hartford, she is an avid canoer who chronicles her paddling adventures across the U.S. on her website canoe52.com.     

Anthony Valentine  

26 • Bloomfield

Social entrepreneur • @visionairevalentine and @kulturemag on Instagram

Anthony Valentine.jpg

Anthony Valentine

After earning a degree in biology as a pre-med student at Central Connecticut State University, Valentine switched careers, becoming a social entrepreneur and ultimately launching Kulture Magazine, a print and digital publication aimed at helping high school and middle school students develop on an emotional level. Valentine has distributed the magazine, which features interviews with artists, musicians and others as well as glossy photos, to schools where it is used alongside lesson plans and curriculum. “The best way to describe Kulture Mag is scholastic news and social media coming together and having a child,” Valentine says. “Through Kulture I travel to high schools and middle schools throughout the Northeast and speak to students about being the best versions of themselves and the legacy they leave behind.” Last year he was honored at the 100 Men of Color event at The Bushnell in Hartford and featured in Forbes. New Balance executives were impressed enough with Kulture Magazine that they collaborated with Valentine on a sneaker giveaway.

Dan Orlovsky  

36 • Westport

Sports analyst • @danorlovsky7 on Twitter, @dorlovsky on Instagram

dan orlovsky

Dan Orlovsky

Orlovsky has been famous in Connecticut since he was a teenager. In 2000, the senior quarterback led Shelton High School to an undefeated season and the Class LL state championship before being named state player of the year. Despite receiving interest from traditional college football powerhouses, Orlovsky stayed in state and attended UConn. He rewrote the school’s record book — still holding every major passing mark in Huskies history to this day — and also led UConn to the program’s first bowl game, a 39-10 win over Toledo in the Motor City Bowl in 2004. Orlovsky was named MVP of the game. The Detroit Lions selected Orlovsky in the fifth round of the 2005 NFL Draft. Serving mostly as a backup QB in his 12 years in the league, Orlovsky was uniquely preparing himself for his second career as an ESPN football analyst. Orlovsky was already considered a rising media star when he joined the network in 2018. Now he provides color commentary in the broadcast booth (he recently called the Camping World Bowl on TV and the Rose Bowl for radio) and intelligent and insightful analysis on studio shows including Get Up!, NFL Live and SportsCenter.

Chandra Kelsey

39 • Branford

Public health advocate

Chandra_Kelsey.jpg

Chandra Kelsey

Chandra Kelsey is passionate about public health for women. She works full time at Yale University’s School of Public Health and is active with the Connecticut Breastfeeding Coalition. While serving on its board, she advocated for policies to have more places accommodate breastfeeding mothers, including making Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven the first breastfeeding-friendly campus in the state. This allows anyone who visits the campus private lactation space with an outlet and refrigerator. She partnered with the Department of Public Health’s It’s Worth It! project to help women of all socio-economic backgrounds meet their breastfeeding goals. In addition to educating low-income women about rights and resources, she helps others navigate insurance companies and get lactation support. Kelsey’s work also included testimony for employment protection for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and paid family leave. She collects infant-care donations for homeless women with newborns and volunteers at the New Haven Diaper Bank.

Wanjiku (Wawa) Gatheru

21 • Pomfret

Rhodes Scholar • @_wawaaaaaaa on Instagram

Wanjiku (Wawa) Gatheru 2.jpg

Wanjiku (Wawa) Gatheru

Gatheru, a University of Connecticut senior, recently became one of just 32 students nationwide selected to the American Rhodes Scholar Class of 2020 to continue postgraduate studies at the University of Oxford in England. Becoming a Rhodes Scholar, the first in UConn’s history, is only the latest achievement in a long line of them for the Pomfret native and environmental studies major. Gatheru was a 2019 Truman Scholar and a 2019 Udall Scholar, the first in UConn’s history to win both awards in the same year. She was also the recipient of the McCullough Leadership Award, UConn’s highest student leadership award. At Oxford, Gatheru plans to pursue dual master’s degrees in nature, society and environmental governance and evidence-based social intervention and policy evaluation, and plans on a public service career that focuses on community-based environmental solutions centered on frontline communities of color. At Oxford she will also research overlooked barriers to participation of people of color in the environmental field. Eventually, she hopes to run for Congress, potentially becoming the first black congresswoman from Connecticut’s 2nd Congressional District.

Alex Morsanutto

28 • Norwalk

Filmmaker • silvermineproductions.com, @ajmorsanutto on Instagram, @silvermineprods on Facebook

Alex Morsanutto.jpg

Alex Morsanutto

An award-winning filmmaker who specializes in film, TV and commercial production, Morsanutto is the co-founder of Silvermine Productions. His commercial clients include Unilever, Brother Printer, Kiehl’s, CBS and Chevrolet. His narrative work, including his film Hi-Glow Retro, a 1970s-inspired disco dramedy, has been screened globally and brought home many awards. Other work has been featured on Short of the Week, The Atlantic, No Film School, and Fox Sports. Morsanutto graduated from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts with honors. He double-majored in film/TV production and journalism. In 2019, he went into production on Operation Cavity, a new children’s adventure series which will premiere this year on the film festival circuit, and he is directing the pilot for Street Credits, an indie TV series filming in Philadelphia and Wilton. He frequently films at locations in and around Fairfield County. Last year he founded the Norwalk Film Festival as a way to give back to his community and help support other filmmakers.

Tatiana Paredes   

36 • East Hartford

Corporate diversity pioneer • prospanica.org

Tatiana Paredes.jpg

Tatiana Paredes

In 2002, when a college professor offered Paredes an internship at the Greater New England Minority Supplier Council, she jumped at the opportunity and fell in love with the nonprofit sector. Her experience helped her to discover a need for diversity programs in corporate America and she soon found herself pioneering the first corporate supplier diversity program for Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford. Her initiatives have helped minority businesses, such as female-owned and LGBTQ-focused companies, become part of the corporate supply chain. Paredes says companies such as these bring “innovation and new ideas from left field,” which is what many large corporations need to stay unique. Paredes was honored as the first recipient of the Hartford Business Journal’s Community Excellence and Nonprofit Award and has been featured in numerous publications nationwide. She is the president of Prospanica (the Association of Hispanic Professionals, Connecticut chapter) and is working for New Britain-based Stanley Black & Decker to develop her second corporate supplier diversity program from the ground up.

Ming Thompson

37 • New Haven

Architect • chothompson.com, @chothompson on Instagram

Ming Thompson 2.jpg

Ming Thompson

Thompson is the co-founder of Atelier Cho Thompson, a multi-disciplinary design and concept firm with offices in New Haven and San Francisco. A Yale and Harvard graduate, Thompson’s innovative, award-winning approach breaks down boundaries between architecture, interior design and graphics for the way people live and work today. Clients include restaurants, offices and schools with collaborations “in many different ways.” One office project, for example, may resemble part library, part coffee shop and part home. Her projects include a San Francisco school district that is reimagining the cafeteria and graphics and branding for some educational start-ups and other tech firms. She is doing pro bono work on a parklet in her beloved New Haven. Thompson says that she is “excited to work on projects that help bring design in Connecticut forward and to do projects that are successful at a national scale to bring jobs, attention and energy to Connecticut.”

Julia Pistell

36 • Hartford

Comedy company managing director • juliapistell.com, @echochorus on Twitter

Julia Pistell2.jpg

Julia Pistell

Pistell is one of the founding members of Sea Tea Improv, which began as a touring group in 2009 — she became managing director when their theater opened in Hartford in 2016. Sea Tea does shows all over the country and a minimum of 300 unique shows (after all, it is improv) per year at their theater. Pistell teaches improv at her theater in addition to Capital Community College, Hartford Stage and in the corporate environment. She says she’s had the most fun interacting with Alzheimer’s caregivers and Newtown children with the Ben’s Lighthouse charity. Pistell also co-hosts the Literary Disco and The Radius Project podcasts and is a grants manager at the Connecticut Science Center. She serves as a freelance producer for WNPR’s Where We Live and has filled in as host on The Colin McEnroe Show. Pistell, whose background is in nonfiction writing, was formerly the director of writing programs at the Mark Twain House & Museum. Behind the scenes, she serves on numerous committees, including selecting Hartford’s first poet laureate and being a part of the Planning & Zoning Commission’s working group for the city’s 400th anniversary. In 2018 she was the first runner-up for Entrepreneur of the Year (Social Good category) at the Connecticut Entrepreneur Awards.

Ocean Vuong  

31 • Hartford

Writer • oceanvuong.com, @ocean_vuong on Instagram

Ocean Vuong

Ocean Vuong

Look up any “Best Books” list for 2019 and you’re likely to find Vuong’s memoir-novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. It’s been a meteoric rise for the Vietnam-born, Hartford-raised writer, who also won a prestigious MacArthur “genius” award last year. Also remarkable is that Vuong is the first person in his family to learn to read. It’s a poignant fact given that his coming-of-age novel is a love letter written to his mother. Now, Vuong is one of the most celebrated writers in the country, crafting poetry and other works that have earned him the 2014 Ruth Lilly/Sargent Rosenberg fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, a 2016 Whiting Award, and the 2017 T.S. Eliot Prize for poetry. Currently living in Massachusetts, Vuong is an assistant professor in the MFA Program for Poets and Writers at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Mercy Quaye

29 • New Haven

Founder and principal consultant at The Narrative Project • @Mercy_WriteNow on Twitter, @writers__block on Instagram

Mercy Quaye.jpg

Mercy Quaye

A New Haven native, Quaye is a storyteller for social good by using public relations to help organizations successfully reach goals through effective communications. She focuses on getting them to communicate their issues more fruitfully than just by receiving news coverage. A former New Haven Register reporter and current columnist for Hearst Connecticut Media Group, of which Connecticut Magazine is a part, she combats injustice through The Narrative Project, a mission-driven communications firm based in New Haven. Sparked by the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, The Narrative Project grew from small meetings in coffee shops and universities. “Everyone should participate in positive societal change in the way that they can,” she says. To foster such change, The Narrative Project offers socially conscious communications consulting to help organizations to reach diverse audiences and build their brand.

Daniel Lage

38 • Bridgeport

Attorney • @attorneydanlage on Facebook

Daniel Lage.jpg

Daniel Lage

During his life, Lage has demonstrated persistence in the face of adversity. Twenty years ago in Bridgeport, he was an 18-year-old runaway, high school dropout, and new father. To better his life, Lage says he chose books over the streets. He got his GED, started college at Housatonic Community College and finished at Quinnipiac University. He managed to take a full course load while also working a full-time job and raising two children. After many years and lots of hard work, he graduated from the University of Connecticut School of Law in 2015. As a lawyer he has dedicated himself to defending other underdogs like him. Practicing criminal defense law at Ruane Attorneys at Law in Shelton for the past four years, he has made quite the mark — including working to overturn three wrongful convictions, one of whom, Marquis Jackson, spent 20 years in prison. Beyond criminal cases, Lage specializes in representing those discriminated against by employers and the government.

Kelly August

39 • Norwich

Community festival director • roseartsfestival.com

Kelly August.jpg

Kelly August

Four years ago, August revived Norwich’s summertime Rose Arts Festival, which had been inactive since 1998. A single mother of two boys, August works as a project manager for Barnes & Noble College’s Design and Construction Department. She used her own money and connections to launch the rebirth of the festival. “A little bigger and a little better is the goal” each year, she says. There are more than 32 events at the day-long festival including the performing arts with live music, free art classes, more than 100 arts-and-crafts vendors, races, and a kid zone. The festival takes place in June at a local park during the day and continues at night with all the galleries open and live music continuing. August also transformed the old Rose Queen Competition to the Rose Court Competition that anyone can enter. “It’s like having a whole party for the city,” she says.

Nic Novicki

37 • Orange

Actor • @nicnovicki on Instagram and Twitter

Nic Novicki.jpg

Nic Novicki

Novicki is an actor, comedian and producer who has performed on six continents. The Orange native has television credits that include Boardwalk Empire, The Sopranos and Private Practice. Novicki has produced several feature films, TV pilots and web series and is an active member on the Producers Guild of America’s Diversity Committee. As a stand-up comedian, Novicki has traveled the world, including tours through Armed Forces Entertainment that saw him perform in, among many other countries, Kosovo, Egypt, Turkey and Jordan.

Novicki, who was born with a rare form of dwarfism, is a board member of Easterseals Southern California and the founder and director of the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge. He launched the film challenge in 2013 in response to the under-representation of talent with disabilities both in front of and behind the camera. Filmmakers — with and without disabilities — are given a weekend to write and produce 3- to 5-minute shorts that help change the way we view disability. Judges, comprising a diverse group of industry talent, determine the best film, filmmaker, actor and awareness campaign. Novicki now makes his home in Hollywood.

Nicole Zuraitis

35 • West Haven

Musician • @NicoleZmusic on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter 

nicole-zuraitis

Nicole Zuraitis

A jazz vocalist and pianist, Zuraitis is the singer for the Birdland Big Band and the Dan Pugach Nonet ensemble. She was co-nominated with Pugach for a Grammy in 2019 for their arrangement of the classic Dolly Parton song “Jolene.” She has also won the New York Coffee Music Project Songwriting Competition, is an ASCAP Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composers Award recipient, and a finalist in the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition. Her 2017 album Hive Mind won the Best Jazz Album from the International Music and Entertainment Awards and she was awarded the Johnny Mercer and People’s Choice Award in the American Traditions Competition. She’s toured the world with legendary musicians and taught workshops internationally as well as locally at the Litchfield Jazz Camp where she is a faculty member. She holds residencies in New York City at 55 Bar and Birdland Jazz Club and splits her time between Brooklyn and West Haven. She also works to give back with her music. Proceeds from her album Pariah Anthem go to dogs in need and portions of her album Hive Mind go to mental health advocacy.

Joel and Lani Gargano

35 • Chester

Restaurant owners • granoct.com, @granoct on Instagram

Joel and Lani Gargano.jpg

Joel and Lani Gargano

Husband-and-wife team Joel and Lani Gargano opened Grano Arso, an Italian restaurant specializing in housemade and milled pasta, in 2017. Two years and a few months later, the downtown Chester restaurant has firmly established itself as one of the state’s best dining destinations. In December the restaurant took home the prestigious Connecticut Restaurant Association award as Restaurant of the Year and has earned praise from food critics across the state. Joel, who is the head chef, learned to bake at his parents’ Branford bakery, Cheri’s Bakery. He graduated from Johnson & Wales’ culinary program and honed his cooking chops at restaurants such as Providence’s Chez Pascal and by working for Tyler Anderson at Millwright’s in Simsbury and Jonathan Benno at Lincoln Ristorante in New York. Lani runs the restaurant’s front of house and handles its publicity. A nurse by training, she says that working at a restaurant, like being a nurse, is all about taking care of people. Lani also takes over the kitchen during the restaurant’s popular Vietnamese popup, which sees her making Vietnamese dishes inspired by her family’s recipes.

Rocio Alicea

35 • Orange

Eye care physician • veovisioncenter.com, @dr.rocioalicea on Instagram

Rocio Alicea.jpg

Dr. Rocio Alicea

Dr. Alicea moved from her native Puerto Rico in 2011 to improve her life and the lives of others. Three years after working at the Robbins Eye Center in Fairfield, she opened her own practice, Veo Vision Center in Orange, “from scratch with no patients,” she says. An optometrist, Alicea also serves as the primary eye care physician at Fair Haven Community Health Center, which offers a full range of affordable health care for low-income people. She is a low-vision consultant with the Bureau of Education and Services for the Blind, helping patients who are legally blind have a better quality of life such as being able to sign everyday paperwork. Alicea has made multiple trips to underdeveloped communities in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and here in Connecticut to provide people with a wide range of eye care including checking for glaucoma and other ocular diseases as well as prescribing corrective lenses.

Bill Shufelt

36 • Greenwich

Brewery founder • athleticbrewing.com, @athleticbrewing on Instagram and Twitter

Bill Shufelt.jpg

Bill Shufelt

In 2018 when Athletic Brewing Co. launched as the nation’s first brewery dedicated to exclusively producing non-alcoholic beers, many in the state’s craft beer community rolled their eyes. You can’t get beer to taste good without alcohol, they said. There’s no demand for it anyhow, they added. It’s safe to say that Shufelt and co-founder and head brewer John Walker have proven the doubters wrong. From 2018-19 the company’s production volume grew 1,000 percent, and the plan is to up capacity 10-fold this coming year. Along the way, Shufelt and Athletic have emerged as leaders in the burgeoning NA-beer movement and have been featured in this magazine, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Thrillist, Bloomberg and on NPR. A native of Darien and a graduate of Middlebury College, Shufelt had the idea for the brewery a few years back after healthy lifestyle changes and a love of endurance sports led him to give up alcohol. Today, Athletic beer is distributed nationwide and offers free shipping through its website. More importantly to Shufelt, the company is destigmatizing non-alcoholic beer one delicious brew at a time.

Eva Bermúdez Zimmerman

32 • Newtown

Community organizer, politician • @EvaBerZim on Twitter, @Evalazu on Instagram

Eva Bermúdez Zimmerman.jpg

Eva Bermúdez Zimmerman

In 2015 Zimmerman was awarded Latina Citizen of the Year by the state General Assembly after she navigated more than 7,000 Connecticut residents to health insurance through the Access Health Marketplace. It is just one example in what for Zimmerman has been a lifetime of community-minded activism. As a child she was the youngest plaintiff in the landmark school desegregation case Sheff v. O’Neill, and her activism has long been fueled by experiencing underfunded classes and losing friends to gang and drug violence that plagued Hartford. At 12 she volunteered for Al Gore’s presidential campaign, and later participated in humanitarian efforts in Brazil and a student strike in Puerto Rico. In 2018 she sought the Democratic nomination as the state’s lieutenant governor. Though she lost to veteran Connecticut politician Susan Bysiewicz, she racked up an impressive 40 percent of the primary vote. A former Newtown councilwoman, she continues to organize to promote better voter turnout and advocate on behalf of worker’s rights working for the Service Employees International Union Local 2001 as the childcare and organizing director.

Dana Bucin

39 • Hartford

Attorney • murthalaw.com, @danabucin on Twitter

Dana Bucin 1.jpg

Dana Bucin

Named “Attorney of the Year” in 2019 by the Connecticut Law Tribune, Bucin is an immigration attorney and partner at Murtha Cullina LLP. She regularly provides multilingual representation in Romanian, Spanish and French in addition to English, and she has proficiency in Italian, German, Hungarian and Latin. As chair of the Murtha Cullina Immigration Practice, Bucin represents clients on immigration matters such as green card applications, work visas, student visas, foreign investor visas, asylum, naturalization, religious work visas, deportation defense, and more. She also routinely works on initiatives to help ensure access to justice for immigrants, and has advocated before federal authorities, advised on legislation at the state and federal levels, and raises awareness of immigration rights through the various pro-immigration boards on which she serves. In addition, she is a consul of Romania to Connecticut, an honorary position conferred onto her by the government of Romania. In 2019 she made Newsweek Romania’s list of Top 100 Romanians Worldwide.

Carissa Decelles

28 • Willimantic

Art director • @rheelgirl on Instagram

Carissa_Decelles2.jpg

Carissa Decelles

Decelles is a graphic designer at Norwich-based Miranda Creative. After graduating from UConn, Decelles struggled to get work because she is in a wheelchair due to spinal muscular atrophy, which she’s had since she was 18 months old. Most companies in her field are not handicapped accessible, but she found a role with Miranda Creative. At 27, Decelles was promoted to art director, creating graphics for Hartford’s new Parkville Market food hall. She likes working for a smaller firm because “you get to make more of an impact with your work,” which includes client contact, research, branding and logos. Decelles was goodwill ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s local chapter, and volunteers with organizations including Assistance Dogs Unlimited, Independence Unlimited, CureSMA (Connecticut chapter), and the Connecticut Art Directors Club.

Layla Lisiewski

35 • Greenwich

Motherhood advocate • thelocalmomsnetwork.com, @thelocalmomsnetwork on Instagram

Layla Lisiewski 2.jpg

Layla Lisiewski

A mother of three with a fourth on the way, Lisiewski knows the stress of motherhood and understands the need for a sense of community. That’s why Lisiewski, of Greenwich, created The Local Moms Network, an online site providing moms with a comprehensive, user-friendly listing of local resources. “Parenthood can be isolating and it’s important to share what we learn along the way,” Lisiewski says. Established in 2016, with co-founders Megan Sullivan and Jessica Blouin, the organization is a national brand in 25 states, providing women with entrepreneurial opportunities to join her team and launch their own business while working around their children’s schedules. Today, The Local Moms Network has over 2.5 million users. Lisiewski hopes to expand the Network’s reach across the country. While running a national company, Lisiewski remains involved in her community as co-chair of the Bruce Museum Gala 2020; member of the Greenwich Academy Alumni Board; and a committee member for Greenwich United Way, Bruce Museum, and Greenwich Land Trust. “I’m most proud of accomplishing a working mom-life balance that works for me,” she says.

Colt Taylor

36 • Essex

Chef • @chefcolttaylor on Instagram and Twitter

ColtTaylor5.jpg

Colt Taylor

Taylor began his cooking career in high school at Saybrook Fish House and Dock & Dine in Old Saybrook. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, he worked as a chef in New York, Los Angeles and Miami, honing his craft in the Big Apple kitchens of Le Bernardin, Gotham and Babbo. With a variety of perspectives on global flavors and classic techniques, Taylor took the helm at One if by Land Two if by Sea in Greenwich Village, which was awarded a Michelin star in 2014. As an outspoken activist, he served as the dean of culinary development for the Restaurant Opportunities Center, a nonprofit organization that fights on behalf of restaurant workers’ rights. On the verge of opening a restaurant in Miami, Taylor returned home to Essex when his mother, artist Melissa Barbieri, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. He opened The Essex in 2017 and Los Charros Cantina in 2018 in the same Main Street building. Los Charros is authentic and forward-thinking Mexican fare, while The Essex — which changed menus 45 times in 2019 alone — allows you to, as Taylor puts it, “step into the mind of the chef.”

Alyssa Naeher

31 • Seymour

Pro soccer player • @alyssanaeher on Instagram and Twitter

Alyssa Naeher

Alyssa Naeher

Naeher is one of the most famous people on this year’s list of 40 Under 40 honorees. That kind of thing can happen when you’re the starting goalkeeper on the team that wins the World Cup in the most popular sport on Earth. Naeher was a backup on the 2015 team that captured soccer’s grandest prize, but the 2019 edition of the U.S. Women’s National Team featured Naeher as the last line of defense. The U.S. won their first three games by a combined score of 18-0. The competition stiffened but Naeher stayed stingy with three consecutive 2-1 victories to lead the Americans to the final, where she logged her fourth shutout of the tournament in a 2-0 victory over the Netherlands. Naeher starred in soccer and basketball at Christian Heritage School in Trumbull before heading off to Penn State, where she became an All-American goalkeeper. She won the Golden Glove as the outstanding keeper in the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2008. The Boston Breakers of the National Women’s Soccer League drafted her in the first round of the 2010 draft and she was the league’s keeper of the year in 2014. Naeher was an Olympian in 2016. She currently plays for the Chicago Red Stars.

Andy Friedland

29 • New Haven

Associate director, Anti-Defamation League of Connecticut • connecticut.adl.org, @friedlandbeforetime on Instagram

Andy Friedland.jpg

Andy Friedland

With a sharp rise in hate crimes statewide, nationally and internationally in the past three years, Friedland’s job as associate director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Connecticut office keeps him busy. A former team leader with AmeriCorps, he is a primary responder to combat anti-Semitism, other bias incidents and all forms of bigotry. He works with schools, law enforcement and “whoever comes into the picture” to educate people about anti-Semitism and its local origins. Friedland has led educational programs on topics such as the Holocaust and genocide and the separation of church and state. He has lobbied for and testified for the ADL’s initiative Backspace Hate for legislation to address online harassment, including cyberstalking. Connecticut has good laws, Friedland says, but adds that it’s important to “keep laws up to date and take on the issues that are really important and dangerous.”

Sarah Howroyd

37 • West Hartford

Opioid treatment advocate • sarahhowroyd.com

Sarah Howroyd 2.jpg

Sarah Howroyd

A car accident in 2004 sent Manchester native Howroyd into a spiral of self-destruction. Now, more than a decade later, Howroyd is a true advocate for individuals and families suffering from opioid addiction. Her chance for recovery came in 2015 when she met retired Manchester Police Chief Marc Montminy. They formed a bond that aided Howroyd’s recovery and together, in 2015, founded the Manchester HOPE Initiative. The program — the first of its kind in the state — aims to divert opioid users to treatment instead of jail. She has won countless awards for her work at HOPE, including a congressional citation from the state Senate for her continuous work combating Connecticut’s opioid crisis. Howroyd also is the director of mental health and addiction services for the iCare Health Network and sits on the Governor’s Alcohol and Drug Policy Council, a statewide opioid overdose workgroup. Howroyd lives by the mantra, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Oscar Suarez

39 • Hamden

Attorney • halloransage.com

Oscar Suarez1.jpg

Oscar Suarez

Suarez is a partner at Halloran Sage, a Connecticut-based law firm that handles transactional and litigation work. Years of experience representing both local and national banks and lenders in state and federal court have provided Suarez with insight into the issues his clients face. He represents financial institutions involved in foreclosures and loan recovery, lender liability claims, landlord-tenant issues, and loan restructuring. Suarez also represents clients in all facets of title disputes including priority claims, reformation of mortgages and quiet title actions. Through his leadership as co-chair of Halloran Sage’s pro bono committee, Suarez has assisted the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center in its work to prevent veteran homelessness. During his time as co-chair, Halloran Sage has a 100 percent referral acceptance rate of pro bono cases from the CVLC, only denying cases due to conflicts. Suarez serves on the board of New Haven Reads, an organization focused on increasing children’s literacy skills by providing free tutoring, family support and access to books. He also coaches his children’s soccer teams.

Stephen Schirra

27 • Ellington

Sports nonprofit founder • aroundtheworlds.org, @stephenschirra on Instagram

Stephen Schirra 2.jpg

Stephen Schirra

Schirra is the founder of Around the Worlds, an internationally recognized, award-winning nonprofit based in Ellington. Through free soccer camps, Schirra aims to use sports as a catalyst for social change and youth development globally. In less than four years, Around the Worlds has held free training programs on five different continents, directly reaching over 5,000 children from 110-plus youth-based organizations in 48 countries. Schirra is adamant about going beyond organized instruction to also provide his young beneficiaries with the necessary tools to learn and grow in the game. He has hand-delivered countless pairs of cleats, goalkeeper gloves, jerseys, and goal sets along with nearly 2,000 soccer balls which (coupled with other programming) have gone on to impact thousands of underserved children. Schirra also holds free speaking events on his days off and has a fully established scholarship fund, the Gabriel Yeris Scholarship Fund. Schirra’s work has been seen on ESPN, and he has been recognized by the New England Patriots, New England Revolution, Boston Celtics, Major League Soccer, and more. He has also secured grants and partnerships from Walmart, Target, Walgreens, PlayStation and New Balance.

Brooke Goff

33 • West Hartford

Attorney • gofflawgroup.net, @gofflawgroup on Twitter

Brooke_Goff.jpg

Brooke Goff

Goff has been taking over male-dominated fields since she became the first girl to play on the boys’ football team at Hudson Falls High School in New York. Her firm, Goff Law Group, is the only female-run and single-owned personal injury law firm in Connecticut, according to Goff. At age 29, she litigated the largest single case against the Boy Scouts of America, representing 19 victims of child sexual assault by a specific scoutmaster. A judge initially dismissed the case, citing the 30-year statute of limitations, but the lawsuit was later resolved on appeal. The founder of the Hartford County Professional Women’s Group, Goff believes in empowering women and educating the public. As part of that effort, she provides free legal advice on Radio 104.1. Her face is on more than 40 billboards, making her the most highly visible female personal injury lawyer in the state.

Alvin Tran

32 • Orange

Assistant professor of health administration and policy, University of New Haven • @iamalvintran on Instagram and Twitter

Alvin Tran 1.jpg

Alvin Tran

As an assistant professor, researcher and advocate, Tran is committed to exploring and sharing information on the intersection of body image, disordered eating behaviors, and racial and sexual minority health. In 2018, the Orange resident received the SPARK Boston Activism and Advocacy Award and has contributed to 13 research publications, with the lead on six. The first of his family to attend college, Tran uses his expertise to empower students to become future health change agents. In 2019, after completing postdoctoral training at Yale University, Tran created the WeEmbody (WE) Lab at the University of New Haven to train students in promoting health equity and addressing appearance-based discrimination and stigma. Currently he is working on research projects and advocacy efforts identifying risk factors for eating disorders and other mental health conditions. After completing a Strategic Training Research Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders fellowship at Harvard University as a doctoral candidate, Tran researched loosely regulated dietary supplements and is now highlighting their dangers and creating public health programs and policies to protect youth.

John Rehm

37 • Stratford

Brewer • tworoadsbrewing.com, @johnrehmbeer and @tworoadsbrewing on Instagram

John Rehm.jpg

John Rehm

As director of brewing operations at Two Roads Brewing Co. in Stratford, Rehm has been a force behind the scenes at what is today the country’s 21st-largest craft brewery. Working with brewmaster Phil Markowski, Rehm helped design Two Road’s second brewery, Area Two, a barrel-aging and sour beer-making facility which opened in April. He also developed the recipe for Lil Heaven’ session IPA, Two Road’s best-selling beer. A native of Stratford, Rehm always had a love of science and exploration and graduated from La Salle University’s science, business and technology program in 2004. Enchanted by the science of formination, and encouraged by the business viability of the brewing industry, he started working as a brewer in addition to teaching courses part-time in physics, materials science, and electronics at his alma mater. He worked at John Harvard’s Brewhouse in Wayne, Pennsylvania, and at the Philadelphia Brewing Co., as well as other breweries, building a name for himself in the industry before returning home to work at Two Roads. Today, beers he helped create are available throughout Connecticut, in 14 other states and even internationally. 

Omika Suryawanshi  

18 • Ridgefield

Education advocate • @om1ka on Twitter

Omika Suryawanshi 2.jpg

Omika Suryawanshi

Suryawanshi is only in her second year as a Jefferson Scholar at the University of Virginia in an accelerated master’s program, but her résumé will already knock your socks off. A double major in American studies and computer studies, she is a Rodman and Coca-Cola scholar and was named a Connecticut Association of Boards of Education Student Leader and UNICEF Top 10 Young Leader. In high school she worked with Leap into Technology and led coding classes for middle school girls and moderated panels for Women in Tech. She is a member of the American Parliamentary Debate Society, Engineering Student Council and Indian Student Association. Suryawanshi is the founder of The Admit List, a nationwide force that offers low-income high school juniors and seniors one-on-one free remote college counseling by college students. The Admit List also helps students complete the first draft of college application essays.

Carlos Marrero

29 • East Hartford

Founder of children’s mental health clinics  •  latinenrichmentorg.wixsite.com/leoclinic

Carlos Marrero.jpg

Carlos Marrero

From an early age, Marrero knew he had the power to change his community. As an ambitious student at East Hartford High School, Marrero received his certified nursing assistant certificate through Capital Community College before his high school diploma. His work led him to care for the elderly, including his beloved grandfather who at the time had progressing Alzheimer’s. Caring for the elderly helped Marrero discover the need for additional mental health services within his community. He went on to receive his bachelor’s degree in psychological science from Central Connecticut State University and then a master’s from Springfield College. In 2013, Marrero founded The L.E.O Clinic (Latin Enrichment Organization) which has evolved from elderly mental health care to a children’s mental health care clinic. With five locations in Hartford and East Hartford, the clinic offers after-school programs for at-risk youth as well as in-home treatment options for children and families. Seeking to break down barriers and stigmas surrounding mental health and wellness, Marrero in 2019 developed an extended-day treatment facility for individuals and families suffering from behavioral health difficulties.

John Michael Mason

29 • Hartford

Film advocate, college sports coach • @smallstategreatbeer on Instagram

John Michael Mason

John Michael Mason, Chairman of the Cinestudio Board of Directors poses at the theater on the campus of Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., on Wednesday Dec. 11, 2019. The theater is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Mason is the head men’s and women’s track & field coach and an instructor of film studies at Trinity College in Hartford. A native of Massachusetts, Mason arrived in the state to attend Trinity as an undergraduate and returned to earn his master’s in American studies. He serves as board chairman for Cinestudio, a nonprofit independent film theater on Trinity’s campus. Under Mason’s leadership, the theater has navigated a difficult landscape of decreased attendance nationwide. According to Mason, Cinestudio “remains a must-see destination for audiences interested in experiencing cinematic productions at the highest technical standard in a beautiful 1930s-style film house.” Mason is also the director of the Trinity Film Festival, an international short film competition that invites some of the most talented undergraduate filmmakers in the world to Hartford each May. The ninth annual Trinity Film Festival on May 2 will also be a celebration of Cinestudio’s 50th anniversary. Another project of Mason’s is Small State Great Beer, an all-Connecticut craft beer festival in downtown Hartford. The fifth annual festival will take place Sept. 19 at Constitution Plaza.

Aurora Farewell

37 • New Haven

Architect • aurorafarewell.com, @aurora_farewell_architects on Instagram

Aurora Farewell.jpg

Aurora Farewell

Principal and founder of Aurora Farewell Architects, Farewell is the daughter of a painter and an architect, so it’s little wonder that she developed an early love of drawing and design. After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Yale and a master’s in architecture from the Yale School of Architecture, Farewell worked in Southeast Asia and then in New York City for Richard Meier and later Shelton Mindel and Associates. She moved back to Connecticut in 2018 to raise her family and launch her firm. She says her work is “stylistically calibrated” to each client and space. She is currently working on projects throughout Connecticut as well as in New York City, Miami and San Francisco. The renovation of her New Haven home was recently featured in The New York Times. She says she is thankful for all those who have supported her efforts “in venturing out on my own and in trying to help define for this generation of female architects how we can be deeply committed to work and to family.”

Angelica Durrell

30 • Stamford

Musician, social entrepreneur • @intempo_org on Instagram

Angelica Durrell 2.jpg

Angelica Durrell

An Ecuadorian-born violinist, educator and social entrepreneur, Durrell has made a name for herself recently in Stamford and beyond. She is the founder and executive director of INTEMPO, an organization dedicated to making music education relevant, accessible and inclusive. The organization was a 2016 and 2017 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award finalist, won the 2019 Adolf Busch Award, and will receive Music for All’s 2020 Advocacy in Action Award. In 2017 Durrell became the first Latina commissioner of Stamford’s Arts and Culture Commission. And that’s not all. Her other accolades and accomplishments include having trained at the American Express Leadership Academy and the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures Advocacy Leadership Institute, being a National Arts Strategies Creative Communities fellow, serving as an artist ambassador for SpreadMusicNow and as a Sphinx LEAD inaugural fellow and a Sphinx Performance Academy alumna. She has also given talks on social entrepreneurship at Princeton University and the University of Michigan.

Jeffrey Devereux

30 • Hartford

Social entrepreneur • @jdevereux on Twitter

Jeffrey Devereux-202

Jeffrey Devereux

A few years ago Devereux and 40 Under 40 alum Onyeka (Ony) Obiocha co-founded Breakfast Lunch & Dinner (BL&D), a company that seeks to bring the Hartford community together through a variety of events and programs. Devereux and BL&D have done just that by spearheading Hartford’s epic monthly street food event, the Know Good Market, which is the largest event of its kind in the city. In addition, BL&D started a summer concert series called Wadsworth, Alive! at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art’s inner courtyard, helped Blue Earth Compost run a successful crowdfunding campaign to buy a compost dump truck, formed a new DJ Collective called Cafeteria Radio to support local music and DJs, and took over event coordination of First Night Hartford, the city’s New Year’s Eve celebration. Devereux is also co-founder of the nonprofit Active City, which supports and raises funds for organizations working to improve and grow youth sports and recreation in Hartford.

This article appeared in the February 2020 issue of Connecticut Magazine. You can subscribe here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get the latest and greatest content from Connecticut Magazine delivered right to your inbox. Got a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com, or contact us on Facebook @connecticutmagazine or Twitter @connecticutmag.

The senior writer at Connecticut Magazine, Erik is the co-author of Penguin Random House’s “The Good Vices” and author of “Buzzed” and “Gillette Castle.” He is also an adjunct professor at WCSU’s MFA Program and Quinnipiac University

Mike Wollschlager, editor and writer for Connecticut Magazine, was born and raised in Bristol and has lived in Farmington, Milford, Shelton and Wallingford. He was previously an assistant sports editor at the New Haven Register.

Albie Yuravich is the editor in chief of Connecticut Magazine. A product of the Naugatuck River Valley, he's also been a newspaper editor and writer at the New Haven Register, Greenwich Time, The Register Citizen and the Republican-American.