Photography by Stefan Radtke
Forging careers in industries that range from government to agriculture, these 24 rising stars under the age of 35 are changing the business and cultural landscapes of Westchester County.
By Paul Adler, Nick Brandi, Cristiana Caruso, Joe Cesarano, and Michelle Gillan Larkin
Location: 3THIRTY3 Luxury Apartment Homes by Cappelli Development, 333 Huguenot Street, New Rochelle, NY
Hair & Makeup: Marissa Schmahl, Ashley Lauren Salon
Brandon Lloyd, 26
Lower Hudson Valley Regional Representative
Office of NYS Governor Kathy Hochul
It was a series of national tragedies that spurred Brandon Lloyd on to a life of public service. “I remember sitting in my dorm, watching the verdict in the Michael Brown case,” recalls Lloyd. “That verdict coupled with the tragic death of Trayvon Martin three years prior served as a catalyst for me to become involved in politics. I resented the fact that I felt powerless and had no ability to effect change, and I believed entering politics would give me the agency to do so.”
As Lower Hudson Valley regional representative for the Office of New York State Governor Kathy Hochul, Lloyd is already making this dream a reality, maintaining relationships and communication with elected officials throughout Westchester and serving as Hochul’s representative at public events, city council meetings, village and town boards, and the County Board of Legislators. Lloyd also reports back to the governor on local developments as well as those in the state capitol. “It’s very rewarding to hold this rank,” says Lloyd, “as it allows me to represent underserved and marginalized communities throughout the region while elevating and uplifting their voices so that they are recognized by the state.”—PA
Madeline Clappin, 29
Strategic Director & Cofounder
It’s thanks to people like Madeline Clappin that our county’s future looks so bright. Clappin cofounded her own architectural firm in the middle of a pandemic — a feat that would be impressive for a 29-year-old at any time in history. Her firm, Arketekcher, has been a resounding success since its 2021 genesis, serving more than 50 projects across Westchester and New York City, growing to four employees and earning a 2022 Best of Westchester win.
In addition to her work with Arketekcher, Clappin is also the co-chair of the Urban Land Institute, serves as a member of the AIA Unified Task Force, and helped found the Waterfront Task Force. “To me, finding a way to land a project is a puzzle to be solved. We are never discouraged by failure and parlay our relationships into new opportunities,” says Clappin. “By investing a lot of time and energy into our pursuit of work, we’ve been able to open a lot of doors that are often closed to firms of our size.”—PA
Rachel Greenspan, 31
GHP Office Realty LLC
Rachel Greenspan knows how to close a deal. Focusing on the sales, acquisitions, and financing of GHP Office Realty’s owned and managed commercial and industrial properties, Greenspan has had to fill a multitude of responsibilities. Since taking on her role, in 2019, she and her team have administered over $208 million in acquisition, refinance, and modification loans, including lines of credit. On top of leasing vacant space in order to sell three properties and facilitating those transactions, totaling 216,830 square feet, Greenspan also contributed to the acquisition of two new properties, one in Westchester County and the other in Charleston County, SC, expanding the company’s footprint in the process.
But brokering leases isn’t the only ship that Greenspan helms. Overseeing all of the suburban Tristate area, she works closely with property management on GHP’s major capital improvement projects. Greenspan prides herself on her drive and close attention to detail, bringing both to the table whether she’s dealing with a small, local company or a national brand. The 31-year-old doesn’t see herself slowing down anytime soon: In addition to working as a registered New York State licensed real estate agent, she is in the process of completing her real estate broker’s license in South Carolina.—CC
Austin Schatz, 31
Cofounder & CEO
Westchester Mushroom Company
Austin Schatz wants mushrooms to be your new favorite food. Founded in 2021 with cohorts and fellow farmers Jonathan Vantman and Benny Liu, Schatz turned his interest of creating tangible sustainability into a full-scale operation, creating Westchester County’s first-ever indoor mushroom farm. Always conscious of the importance of an accessible agricultural presence within a community, Schatz can be found anywhere from farming the mushrooms to managing the company’s social media to brokering deals with local restaurants. Schatz is also big on quality control, making sure his products are harvested mere hours, not days, before they are ready for your table.
Found in all ten DeCicco & Sons locations, available as a subscription service, and on the menu at nearly a dozen Westchester restaurants, Schatz’s shrooms have transcended being just an ingredient: They are a love letter to the local and farming community. “Westchester Mushroom Company has allowed me to bring my passion for growing food to my broader community; there is no higher reward,” says Schatz. “We’re proud to join a growing movement of young farmers and producers who are bringing agriculture back to a county that was once an agricultural hub.” —CC
Katherine Wonder, 30
Sunset Bridge Consulting
Katherine Wonder is a social media maven. Having launched her consulting business in 2020, during the height of the pandemic, Wonder helps her small-business clients focus on social media growth, targeted content creation, and specially designed marketing campaigns. From real estate teams to contractors to hair salons, she works with companies across multiple disciplines. Wonder takes every client assignment personally and gives each her undivided attention. In 2023, she was honored as one of Alignable’s Local Business Persons of the Year. But Wonder also wants to share her marketing and social media savvy with the masses. Navigate to her company’s Instagram, and you’ll find dozens of handy videos — all created by Wonder — on how to help yourself or your small business. On top of all her duties as president of Sunset Bridge Consulting, Wonder is also a published children’s-book author. —CC
Ashley Scott, 28
Digital Product Senior Analyst
As a member of the Strategy and Transformation team, Ashley Scott manages the product-development process for PepsiCo’s data marketplace platform, which includes the design, build, and implementation of the enterprise-wide, platform-based data solution. She ensures that product delivery is aligned with stakeholder goals to provide a global data-standardization platform. “One of the things I enjoy most about working at PepsiCo is that they provide a space for me to thrive professionally,” says Scott. “As a result of their investments in digital transformation, I have been able to expand my skillset and explore opportunities to succeed.”
Passionate about “encouraging and championing diversity in the pipeline,” Scott founded her own consultancy, Data Girl Ash, in her spare time. The entrepreneurial sideline offers educational resources, career coaching, and mentorship to college students, postgraduates, and working professionals who aspire to pivot to the tech-and-data arena without a technical background. In this role, she demonstrates tactical approaches to making data-driven decisions while empowering others to succeed, underlining her unwavering commitment to use her success to help those who share her passions for data and technology.—MGL
Neel Anand, 28
Westchester Technology Group
While some young entrepreneurs take many years to build a successful company, success has come more quickly, and naturally, for Neel Anand, the 28-year-old owner of Westchester Technology Group. In just over five years, Anand has grown his business from a single-proprietor consultancy to one of the top IT companies in the county. The young business owner garnered the attention of an outside investor after securing an impressive array of clients, including auto dealerships, construction firms, small businesses, and even a national pharmaceutical company. And he is setting his goals even higher. “Truthfully, even with the accomplishments we have made, I don’t think I’ve even scratched the surface yet,” Anand says. “My goal was to create a seven-figure company. Now that we’ve reached that, I’m pushing hard to create an eight-figure company before I turn 30.” And with impressive testimonials from satisfied clients who hail his drive, coupled with a charismatic, “can-do” personality, one would be wise not to bet against him.—JC
Chelsea Pagano, 28
Communications & Marketing Manager
Westchester County Government
Barely 28 years old, Chelsea Pagano has plenty on her plate. As communications and marketing manager for Westchester County government, she is a key liaison for functions such as IT services, website maintenance and design, and translation. She is also responsible for producing brochures and flyers, advertisements and eblasts, scheduling, proclamations and certificates, journal ads, and even graphic design (which she quickly learned and mastered), as needed. But it’s possible that Pagano never shines brighter than when she is managing the county executive’s social media presence. With her keen eye and culture savvy, Pagano grew the county’s audience on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter by double digits while increasing the county’s LinkedIn audience by triple digits. She has also worked to utilize video more effectively on all platforms.
“Chelsea is one of the most diligent, creative, and dedicated people I have ever worked with,” says Catherine Cioffi, director of communications for Westchester County. “Chelsea comes to work every day with positivity and innovation, and seeing her grow in her career has been a joy. We are very lucky to have her!” —NB
Shannon Sullivan, 30
Director of Camp & Teen Services
YMCA of Central & Northern Westchester
Shannon Sullivan is a dedicated, lifelong Girl Scout and cheer coach who embodies the YMCA values and mission in everything she does. Responsible for overseeing all the camping and teen programs offered by the YMCA of Central & Northern Westchester, she supervises more than 100 program staff and volunteers for the roughly 800 young campers who show up each year to spend their summer with the YMCA. But that’s not all.
This double master’s degree holder also runs the YMCA’s acclaimed teen programs, including the Teen Leaders Program, which promotes the Y’s values in the development of teenagers throughout the community. She also oversees the Youth and Government Program, which teaches teens the importance of being involved in local and state government while providing hands-on experience. During her tenure with the teen programs, Sullivan doubled participation, created two new programs, and secured funding to keep these programs free for community teens. It’s no wonder, then, that under her direction, YMCA Camp Combe received the “Most Loved Summer Camp” distinction from Hulafrog in 2022. —NB
Nicholas Lombardi, 27
Senior Community Engagement & Communications Manager
The Arc Westchester
As the brother of a young adult with autism, Nicholas Lombardi brings a unique, firsthand perspective to his role at The Arc Westchester. The Hawthorne-based organization supports children, teens, and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as their families, by offering programs and services that foster independence, productivity, and participation in community life. From an early age, Lombardi learned to embrace people of differing abilities and celebrate their contributions to the community. “As a society, we can always do better when it comes to finding meaningful ways for people with developmental disabilities to engage in their communities,” he says.
Technologically skilled and richly versed in the world of social media, Lombardi writes articles and creates content for the organization’s website and social media platforms on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube in an effort to increase the organization’s online visibility and community engagement. —MGL
Alyson Kuritzky, 33
Associate in Family & Matrimonial Law
Abrams Fensterman LLP
Considered both collegial and collaborative, Alyson Kuritzky has already proved herself to be more than just another attorney. As an associate in the White Plains Family & Matrimonial Law Department at Abrams Fensterman, LLP, Kuritzky handles family law and divorce matters for high net worth clients and helps supervise and run the firm’s White Plains Matrimonial Department. She is involved in more than 50% of the department’s cases and is a second chair at trials to Jill Spielberg, one of the region’s premier matrimonial attorneys. But Kuritzky’s impact is felt beyond the courtroom; she has also helped grow and shape the culture of the White Plains Matrimonial Department and is regarded as a “go-to” person in that department.
Colleagues also aver that Kuritzky’s work ethic is unmatched, demonstrating a tenacious yet consistent support of her coworkers. She is also known for her unparalleled dedication to her clients — a dedication that often sees her working around the clock to ensure their needs are met. In key ways, she is already a leader and represents the future of the Westchester legal community. –NB
Jonah Bassuk, 16
Chief Executive Officer & Founder
Strong Heroes, Inc.
If anyone truly personifies a natural-born leader, it’s Rye Brook’s Jonah Bassuk. This is clearly demonstrated by his role as founder and CEO of Strong Heroes, Inc., a Westchester-based organization dedicated to eradicating health inequities and maximizing health outcomes across all populations, particularly among children and historically underrepresented and marginalized communities. But what’s truly mind-boggling is that Bassuk manages his considerable corporate responsibilities while attending classes as an 11th grader at Blind Brook High School. Here’s just a snapshot of what this trailblazing teenager has accomplished so far:
Through Strong Heroes, Inc., over 8,000 toys, books, and resources have been donated to children’s hospitals. The organization has also secured volunteer service in excess of 600 hours and monetary donations from more than 500 individuals. A zealous advocate for community engagement, public policy, and more equitable health outcomes for all stakeholders, Bassuk and Strong Heroes also partnered with New York Medical College to provide IT equipment that helped engender a collaborative health-equity program. His social enterprise has even provided numerous scholarships to students from underrepresented populations, enabling real-world, hands-on experience in the healthcare and medical professions.
“Education, access, and policy have an enormous impact on the lives of individuals and families,” says Bassuk. “When we positively influence social determinants, we can achieve extraordinary outcomes.” —NB
Yecenia Tovar, 33
Assistant Court Clerk
Village of Bronxville
Yecenia Tovar has spent her entire career working in the court system. Currently, she assists two judges with courtroom duties in the Bronxville criminal, traffic and vehicle, parking, civil, and landlord-tenant sections. While devoting her career to the legal field, Tovar has continued to work very closely with her community. She started an organization called LatinXvote, which during the pandemic registered more than 100 people to vote and get counted by the U.S. Census. She has also worked alongside Westchester County legislators to secure funding for a self-defense program at the YWCA in Yonkers for local women. For her dedicated work to the people around her, Tovar has received proclamations from Yonkers mayor Mike Spano, County Legislator Christopher Johnson, and Congressman Jamaal Bowman. She was also recently appointed chairwoman of the Yonkers Youth Bureau Board and serves as a member of the Yonkers Planning Board.
As a first-generation Mexican American woman, Tovar has worked hard to represent people who share a similar background and lead by example while inspiring the next generation. Her love for her Yonkers community is unmeasurable, as she devotes substantial time and effort every day to make Westchester’s largest city a better place. —CC
Alessandra Cortina, 34
Founder & Owner
The Cortina Law Group and the ALC Consulting Group, LLC
Alessandra Cortina is here to create a legacy. Beginning her career in human resources as a generalist for a Fortune 100 financial institution, Cortina was hungry for more. Pivoting her entire life, she enrolled in New York Law School in TriBeCa to chase her dream of being an attorney. After law school, she continued to work in the corporate world, but she knew her mission wasn’t over; she wanted to open her own company and law firm. With the birth of ALC Consulting Group, LLC, and The Cortina Law Group, Cortina is helping entrepreneurs, business owners, and high-performing professionals realize their dreams — doing her share of inspiring along the way.
“Being a lawyer and mentor for women in business is important to me because I get to help women build generational wealth and protect their legacies. We aren’t taught how to do this; it’s something we learn through experience, success, hardships, and trials,” Cortina says. “My passion is to support women as they build their businesses and empower them through providing knowledge, education, and the tools they need for success. My desire is to see women become confident and protected business owners.” —CC
James Nolan, 33
County Legislator, District 15
Westchester County Board of Legislators
James Nolan is only the fifth person under the age of 35 to ever be elected as a county legislator. Representing District 15 in Yonkers and Bronxville, Nolan is the minority whip of Westchester County and serves as chairperson for the Westchester County Appointments Committee. But public service and politics weren’t Nolan’s first callings in life. He started his career by founding The Michael Nolan Foundation in memory of his brother, who was slain in a 2015 shooting. The group gives athletic scholarships to one student-athlete from each Yonkers public school. Nolan currently serves as the only Republican on the Board of Legislators, securing funds for public safety, community-based groups, and infrastructure projects.
Nolan doesn’t just talk the talk; he walks his own walk, knowing well the community he represents. In addition to his political position, he holds a union job as a sanitation worker in Yonkers and is one of the only elected officials in the county who is a card-carrying union member. —CC
Kahleel Neil, 25
Director of Marketing & Sales
WOW! Building Maintenance Solutions Inc.
At just 25 years old, Kahleel Neil is already a veritable master of marketing. As director of marketing and sales for WOW! Building Maintenance Solutions Inc., Neil is constantly producing sales materials, developing marketing campaigns to increase revenue, and building relationships with industry partners and clients throughout the region. Neil is also responsible for growing the company’s customer base, analyzing market data, and managing a team of sales and marketing professionals.
Not only has Neil excelled in this role by bringing company revenue up to $1 million a year through his campaigns and strategies; he also developed and implemented a successful customer-retention program that currently stands at an incredible rate of 99%. Neil even created training programs for the company’s sales and marketing teams. “I feel like I have transitioned from being this fresh newbie to a seasoned professional with an in-depth understanding of what marketing and sales means for a brand,” shares Neil. “I see myself growing professionally to become one of the best-known marketers in the USA.” —PA
Jack Hornickel, 34
Staff Attorney, Food and Farm Business Law Clinic
Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University
Growing up in Midwestern farm communities, Jack Hornickel has been surrounded by agriculture his entire life. Upon moving to New York City for college, he stumbled on his first Greenmarket while exploring the Bronx by bicycle. The urban-rural connection that centered around fresh food not only felt reminiscent of home but also inspired and motivated him. In 2012, Hornickel enrolled in law school to support regionalized food systems and act as an advocate for small farmers. Since then, he has provided countless hours of pro bono legal services with the Food and Farm Business Law Clinic.
In addition to his legal practice and supervision of law students, Hornickel is constantly working to build improved management systems, more effective programming, and innovative policy proposals. With a deep-seated passion for making the Hudson Valley a better place, he has conducted novel research on the impact of farm-labor legislation, delivered guest lectures with several institutions, and, at the height of the pandemic, created a cost-share program for farm estate planning. Hornickel’s mission remains unchanged from the time he first stumbled upon that Bronx farmers market: to improve conditions for New York State agriculture while exercising care and humility in providing direct service. —CC
Meghan McMahon Bautista, 31
Manager, Learning & Development
A common thread in the life of this rising star is to give back and help others in their respective career paths. Meghan McMahon Bautista gets to apply that philosophy regularly as manager of Learning & Development for PURE Insurance, a fast-growing specialty property-and-casualty insurer. Having quickly worked her way up through the HR track, Bautista oversees enterprise-wide development opportunities for the firm’s more than 1,000 employees across the U.S.
She holds a BA in biological psychology from Pace University, where she received the Biological Psychology Award at graduation. Bautista also holds an MA in industrial organizational psychology from CUNY School of Professional Studies and is an ATD-certified training facilitator and an active member of the International Society for Organization Development and Change. During her time at PURE, Bautista also completed her master’s in industrial organization psychology from CUNY.
“There is plenty of research out there that supports the connection between employee well-being and overall company growth and profitability,” says Bautista. “At the end of the day, it comes down to a simple truth: When people feel valued, understood, and truly supported by their employers, they perform at their best.” —NB
Kamran Saliani, 28
Founder, Artistic Director & Actor
Irvington Shakespeare Company
Each day, Kamran Saliani works to bring culture, community, and great drama to our county. As founder, artistic director, and main resident actor of the Irvington Shakespeare Company (ISC), Saliani selects the productions that the ISC will produce. “I fundraise for the season and build relations with community members, local leadership, and our wonderful businesses and institutions within Irvington and beyond,” he says. “I am also responsible for hiring the cast and crew for our shows and being the point of contact for schools and groups who want to work with us for workshops.”
Over the past three years alone, Saliani has raised more than $100,000 to stage four productions with the ISC and has performed in more than 60 productions himself, including films, theatrical works, and staged readings. Notably, legendary British actor Sir Ian McKellen recently trusted Saliani to stage a revival of his acclaimed one-man show, Acting Shakespeare. “Shakespeare’s works reflect many of the themes and challenges present in our world today, offering catharsis and hope,” reflects Saliani. “The Irvington Shakespeare Company seeks to decolonize and perform Shakespeare’s plays in ways that everyone can understand in order to better process this critical moment in time.” —PA
Shyjab Villacis, 27
Director of Marketing & Public Relations
Cabanillas & Associates
According to his boss, Cabanillas & Associates CEO Christopher Cabanillas, the life story of Shyjab Villacis is “the personification of the American Dream.” Cabanillas notes that Villacis came to America at age 4 with his father, speaking no English and with “nothing more than the clothes on their backs.” Excelling in school, Villacis launched his professional career in marketing after snagging a coveted job in digital operations with Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Today, Villacis is director of marketing and public relations at Cabanillas & Associates, where he has raised the law firm’s social media platforms from roughly 1,000 followers to nearly 90,000, while also serving as executive producer of Univision Radio’s El Show De Cabanillas on LaX 96.3 FM and Mega 97.9 FM. The firm specializes in immigration law and other legal services for the Hispanic community in Westchester. “The work I do is so important because it’s directly changing people’s lives for the better,” explains Villacis. “We are helping people achieve the American Dream every single day.” —PA
Kirsten James, 29
At just 29 years old, Kirsten James already has a pretty impressive professional reach. As the communications manager of Iona University, James develops internal and external communications for the school, such as press releases and talking points, while producing and pitching a range of compelling news stories. James is also tasked with copy-writing duties and creates content for the university’s website and marketing materials. “Every day is different, and there’s always a new story in the pipeline, which makes my job very exciting,” says James.
Additionally, James writes all emails for Iona’s men’s and women’s basketball teams and works with local media, like News12 Westchester, to get the university’s message out. “I feel the work I do is important because it makes a difference,” says James. “Whether it’s sharing good news about Iona in a press release or sharing someone’s human interest story, I know what I write sparks something — a conversation, a phone call to loved ones — and the stories are written memories that will live on forever.” —PA
Patrick Murphy, 29
Owner & President
New Logical LLC
In order to meet the needs of his clients from all angles, Patrick Murphy has to wear a lot of hats. In the eight years he’s been in business, Murphy has moved not only local but national mountains. He introduced professional livestreaming to amateur and semiprofessional sports teams and leagues, covering events as large as the United States of America Snowboarding and Freeski Association (USASA) Finals and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in soccer. Murphy has also brought many local business staples in Westchester into the 21st century, including helping the Yonkers Chamber of Commerce use modern media to help its businesses connect. He’s personally advised and glued together the IT components of the Town of Rye’s Town Council and Park Commission meeting livestreams and made them among the only in New York State to be simulcast on public television, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter (the streams will soon be added to Instagram and TikTok as well). Murphy also oversees social media pages and websites for four elected officials in Westchester, the entire Nassau BOCES school system, three local sports teams, three real estate brokerages, the Yonkers Chamber of Commerce, and multiple local restaurants. Murphy remains as versatile and multitalented as a Swiss Army knife in the eyes of his clients, who know he can fix many of their problems at the drop of a hat. —CC
Annie Vargas, 26
Sustainability Education Associate
Groundwork Hudson Valley
Promoting environmental sustainability from the ground up takes many different forms for 26-year-old Annie Vargas. In their role as an intergenerational educator at Yonkers-based environmental group Groundwork Hudson Valley, Vargas teaches public school students and members of the community about issues such as climate change, alternative growing systems, and food equity. They also help oversee the group’s science barge, a floating garden that yields up to 300 pounds of produce every year and provides a perfect venue for the organization’s ongoing lessons about renewable energy and hydroponic systems. Vargas is also fluent in Spanish and intermediate in American Sign Language, enhancing the accessibility of the group’s educational mission in vulnerable communities like Yonkers, where food insecurity, urban heat islands, and air pollution pose quality-of-life challenges. In addition to their full-time job, Vargas is furthering their own environmental education by pursuing a master’s degree in ethnobotany — because their commitment to this important cause doesn’t end just because the workday has. —JC
Frank Tobitsch, 29
If you’ve ever been besotted by Christmas in Manhattan or felt the holiday spirit magically infuse you during a stroll down your own Main Street, there’s agood chance you have Frank Tobitsch to thank. An architect of seasonal joy, Tobitsch is responsible for developing creative programs and design concepts for the Mount Vernon-based American Christmas that not only serve the business objectives but ensure that the products maintain the company’s standards of creative excellence, timeliness, and profitability.
But ushering in the most wonderful time of the year is no easy task. Tobitsch’s position requires an excellent creative aesthetic and digital design knowledge, which are just some of the feathers in his cap. He is a visionary in terms of design and constantly pushes the envelope with new and thought-provoking designs. But for all of his talents, Tobitsch remains very mindful of the colleagues who support his efforts, not only by serving as a mentor to his team members but also making everyone around him want to be a better leader. —CC