By Rachel Jones  |  Photographs by Michael Fornataro  |  Styling by Alyssa Otto

I’m sure you’re used to opening the March issue of WHIRL Magazine to see our carefully curated list of 13 Under 30, people who are making their mark on Pittsburgh before they reach age 30. But this year, our collection of nominees was bigger than ever! To accommodate, we expanded our annual feature to include even more movers and shakers who are making a difference in the Pittsburgh area. Let us introduce you to these incredible people in their 20s, and you’ll completely understand why the list of honorees could not be trimmed.

Dan Gorchynsky

Born in Chicago, where he attended traditional schooling during the week and Ukrainian school every Saturday, Dan Gorchynsky spent his most formative years in Door County, Wisconsin. “I will forever and always be a Cheesehead at heart, but have taken on black and gold pride and proudly own a Terrible Towel,” Gorchynsky says. He moved to Pittsburgh to earn a master’s in arts management at Carnegie Mellon University, and currently, he’s obtaining his MBA at the University of Pittsburgh and working as a user experience (UX) designer at American Eagle. His daily work of providing the best experience for all customers also reflects his motivation to improve the lives of his fellow community members. “Growing up, my family instilled in me the mantra of giving back to your community,” Gorchynsky says. “It is my belief that by aiding in its growth and evolution, one ensures the health not only of the city, but also of those that reside in it, both in the present and future.” Gorchynsky serves as an admissions ambassador for Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College, a Children’s Trust member for Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, a member of the inaugural class of Factory Fellows at the Mattress Factory, a New Guard member and avid supporter of the Pittsburgh Opera, and a volunteer for the Highland Park Community Council. “[Pittsburgh] is a microcosm of diversity, exemplified by its many neighborhoods, people, and cultural offerings,” Gorchynsky says. “The city’s commitment to its residents and future makes it truly a unique and great place to live.” For more information, visit ae.com.

Favorite Places in Pittsburgh:
“On any given day, if asked to go out, my go-to’s that never disappoint are: The Vandal for brunch (or any meal, to be honest), Station for wings, and Allegheny Wine Mixer for drinks. Outside of food, weekly and monthly staples of mine include Banjo Night at the Elks Lodge, Bluegrass Night at the Park House, and Emo Night at Mr. Smalls.”

Alexandra Bortot McCrossin

From her childhood in Murrysville to her current position as the University of Pittsburgh’s leadership annual giving associate, Alexandra Bortot McCrossin holds a strong connection to the Pittsburgh area. “I love living and working in Pittsburgh because I think it’s one of few remaining cities where the ‘American Dream’ is attainable for my generation,” McCrossin says. Helping to make dreams come true for fellow community members, she volunteers with the Junior League of Pittsburgh. An organization of women committed to volunteerism, developing the potential of women, and improving the community through the effective action of trained volunteers, the organization is celebrating its 95th birthday this year! “We like to remind people that we’ve been in Pittsburgh longer than the Steelers,” McCrossin jokes. Contributing to the group’s collective 7,500 volunteer hours annually, McCrossin’s current focus is on securing food access for households living below the poverty line in the East End of Pittsburgh and supporting Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank’s Produce to the People program in Braddock. She’s also excited to serve as the current chair of the Junior League of Pittsburgh’s Designers’ Show House committee. The premiere fundraising event took an 11-year break, but it’s returning to invite local designers to revamp a home in Wilkinsburg to become a future community gathering space. “The house is viewed as an ‘anchor property’ and will serve as a catalyst for positive growth within the Wilkinsburg community,” McCrossin says. “The people of Wilkinsburg have welcomed us to the community with open arms, and they are so deserving of this space.” For more information, visit jlpgh.org.

+ The Junior League of Pittsburgh’s Designers’ Show House is located at 1300 Wood St. in Wilkinsburg and will be open to the public May 4-20!

Favorite Places in Pittsburgh:
“I could spend hours and hours walking around Frick Park, listening to podcasts. It’s my refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city. And, of course, I love the North Shore on Saturday mornings in the fall — Hail to Pitt!”

Christy Pietryga

Penn Hills native Christy Pietryga studied sociology at Bucknell University but returned home to Pittsburgh to work in the nonprofit field. She found her niche at Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania (VLP), which assists over 2,500 veterans and their families throughout 18 counties in Western Pennsylvania. “The most rewarding aspect of my line of work is the effectiveness of our programs in assisting veterans and their households in the midst of a crisis,” Pietryga explains. “Whether a veteran and their family is experiencing homelessness, housing instability, unemployment or underemployment, or is in need of locating supportive services, we are able to assist in providing or locating the best possible solution.” As the Chief Operating Officer, Pietryga oversees the day-to-day operations of VLP’s 13 Housing, Employment, and Supportive Service Programs to maximize the empowerment of veterans as they navigate the transitions of life. Pietryga is also the co-chair of the Boot Camp Committee, which works with local service providers to help veterans experiencing homelessness find permanent housing in an average of 90 days. With the groundwork for the new initiative laid, the committee is now working on strengthening the system to continuously improve its efforts as Pietryga says her generation does best. “We have new ideas and ways of improving our systems and communities, challenging individuals in ways that they may never have thought before,” Pietryga says. “I believe that the mix of the past, the current, and the possible can bring promising results for Pittsburgh.” For more information, visit vlpwpa.org.

Favorite Places in Pittsburgh:
“You can usually find me at a spinning class after work at LA Fitness in the South Side. My husband and I really enjoy going to the restaurants on 8th Avenue in Homestead. Our current favorite is Eighth and Hays; their pot roast pizza is incredible!”

Joel Gray

Since 2007, Joel Gray has worked in sports on both the collegiate and professional level. Currently, the Pittsburgh native is the community outreach coordinator for the Pittsburgh Pirates, proactively identifying and developing partnerships with the community-at-large with a focus on diverse populations. “I also oversee the Pirates Community Tickets Program, courtesy of MLB’s Commissioner’s Community Initiative and MLBPA’s Players Give Back Program, which grants complimentary tickets to nonprofit and community-based organizations, youth programs, health-related causes, law enforcement, first responders, and active-military and veterans, and their families,” Gray says. “It is a blessing to have the ability to impact many with one simple act of my job, such as hosting a group of youth in the Pirates Charities Suite for an academic achievement. A majority of the time, it is their first experience at the ballpark and/or a professional sporting event.” Creating those special moments and inspiring youth is an important venture for Gray, and one that extends beyond the borders of Pittsburgh, too. Through his work with the nonprofit AfricaBookBagz, Gray works to help tackle academic hardships in third-world countries through the ideas and inspiration of youth throughout America. “Personally, I strive to provide a bridge of opportunity for growth and development within the next generation,” Gray says. “Through mentorship and volunteerism, my generation is making a difference and providing exposure and insight to various professions and careers that weren’t accessible in years past.” For more information, visit pirates.com/community.

+ Come volunteer with Joel Gray at the Pirates Home Run 5K and 10K on April 14. Mark your calendars for the Pirates African American Heritage Celebration on July 13+14, and the Pirates Spanish Heritage Celebration on September 7-9, too!

Favorite Places in Pittsburgh:
“The Andy Warhol Museum, Carnegie Museum of Art’s Teenie Harris Archive, Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, Mt. Washington’s The Summit, Shady Grove, and The Goldmark.”

Jeremiah Davis

Poet, spoken-word artist, rapper, teaching artist, social justice advocate — Jeremiah Davis wears a lot of hats. And he is able to incorporate all of his talents into accomplishing one common goal: bettering local youth. “The Heinz Fellow role involves me being a social justice advocate within education as a mentor, teaching assistant, and tutor for students at University Preparatory Academy at Margaret Milliones High School,” Davis says. “Finding different ways to help them further progress not just as students, but as people, is what provides the most joy in my position.” As a teaching artist through the Arts Greenhouse Program at Carnegie Mellon University, Davis teaches music and poetry to high school students, allowing them to freely express themselves and address real world issues that may not be acknowledged otherwise. The Toledo, Ohio, native stays connected to local youth as a coach for Homewood Community sports and is looking to take his work further by earning a master’s degree in social work and his teaching certificate. “My generation is boldly stepping up to shape the future of Pittsburgh through education, business, politics, community engagement, and more so that it can truly be the inclusive, most livable city that it’s far too often portrayed to be,” Davis says. “What I like best about living in Pittsburgh is that it’s a place wide open for you to create your own opportunities.” For more information, visit cue.pitt.edu/heinz.

Favorite Places in Pittsburgh:
“My favorite places are Spirit Lodge, the trails of Frick Park, Level-Up Studios, Mad Mex, and Showcase BBQ.”

Chelsea Cramer

The youngest attorney at Alcoa Corporation, Chelsea Cramer advises the company on environmental law, environmental litigation, transportation and maritime law, and commercial law, while also managing historic environmental liabilities. “Working at Alcoa is incredibly rewarding,” Cramer says. “The work is challenging, substantive, and dynamic, and every day brings something new. Alcoa values its people and its communities, which holds true to my character.” Cramer volunteers with two pro-bono projects: Landlord Tenant Hotline and Best Interests Attorney Project. With the first, she offers advice to people dealing with eviction or poor living conditions, occasionally representing these clients before the Board of Arbitrators. As a Best Interests Attorney, Cramer is court-appointed to represent children in custody battles. To inspire the future lawyers of the area, Cramer is an adjunct trial advocacy coach at Duquesne University School of Law, teaching second- and third-year law students courtroom advocacy skills. Outside of the office, Cramer is an animal foster parent, supports Bellevue Initiative for Growth and Revitalization, and sits on the board with Allegheny CleanWays, a nonprofit making strides to clean up Pittsburgh’s illegal dumpsites and keep our rivers in a natural state. “I think my generation is engaged, active, and conscious about patronizing local businesses and supporting local causes,” Cramer says. “My generation is informed about and invested in Pittsburgh’s future. We want to see the city thrive.” For more information, visit alcoa.com.

Favorite Places in Pittsburgh:
“Right now, my husband and I are on a mission to explore the 33 (and counting) breweries in and around the city. I also like to explore Bellevue. It’s a very old neighborhood with some unique nooks and crannies, stunning old homes, and stellar views of the city.”

Nathaniel Carter Jr.

Born and raised in North Braddock, Nathaniel Carter Jr. attended Waynesburg University to pursue a spot on the men’s basketball team. But he quit the team during his freshman year, choosing to follow his passion to serve others instead. This journey took him everywhere from volunteering in soup kitchens to completing community projects. After he earned his bachelor’s degree — making him the first of 13 siblings to do so — he continued to focus on working with nonprofits. Carter serves as a board member of North Braddock Cares Organization, a board member of The Housing and Education Resource Programs, Inc., a youth volunteer for Yahweh Ryse, and a mentor at Barrett Elementary School’s after-school program. He’s also currently attending the Pittsburgh Theology Seminary. In 2015, he established This Generation Cares (TGC), LLC, an organization committed to empowering individuals, families, and communities through services, community engagement, and mentorship. “I enjoy providing support for others and developing meaningful ways for others to receive quality, inspirational, and individualized care,” Carter says. “On August 8, 2016, I resigned from [my current] full-time job and began to work for TGC full-time. I didn’t receive a salary while working at TGC; however, I believed and had faith in the vision.” The leap of faith worked in his favor, as the organization continues to grow and is now entering the pre-construction phase for a community ministry center in the Mon-Valley area! For more information, visit thisgenerationcares.com.

Favorite Places in Pittsburgh:
“No. 1 is Yokoso Japanese Steakhouse with my daughter, Niara, to eat sushi. No. 2 is Point State Park. I enjoy the sight of the fountain and the serenity of the water.”

Helen Cestra

As a Multi Million Dollar Producing Real Estate Agent for Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, Helen Cestra helps the people of Pittsburgh find a place to call home. Along the way, she also creates bonds and connections that last long after the transactions are complete, and gets to explore different parts of the city every day. “As a Pittsburgh native, you can sometimes think you know everything about the city,” says Cestra, who hails from Fox Chapel. “But I’m here to tell you that you don’t. The city has this way of showing you new and unique characteristics.” In addition to admiring her community, Cestra also contributes to its success as a member of Pittsburgh’s 50 Finest class of 2017, a former member of the Girls Hope Young Leadership board, and a committee member for the Howard Hanna Children’s Free Care Fund. “I think the young professional scene in Pittsburgh has a major undertone of giving back,” Cestra says. “I know so many hardworking 20-some-year-olds who take time out of their busy schedules to give back to the community. We really care about the City of Pittsburgh and want to be here for the long haul, so we value the future of the city and the potential that it has.” For more information, visit helencestra.howardhanna.com.

Favorite Places in Pittsburgh:
“I live on Ellsworth Avenue, which is walking distance to most Shadyside destinations. On a Saturday night, you can usually find me in a restaurant on Walnut Street or South Highland Avenue. Home really is Fox Chapel, though, and because I work there, I spend most of my day enjoying everything it has to offer.”

Jordan Rose

Working out and making connections with others are two pillars in Jordan Rose’s life. And he’s found a way to combine both as the master instructor and general manager at Elevate Fusion Fitness. In addition to training the fitness boutique’s elite group of instructors and managing the class schedules, Rose also teaches a full schedule of classes himself. “I love meeting new people and getting to see them reach their goals,” Rose says. “It brings me tremendous joy to watch people elevate their lives and spirits through fitness.” Outside of the gym, his contributions to the worship team and both teen and young adult ministries at Petra International Ministries strengthen his community involvement and allow him to engage with more people in the area. “This is the city that raised me,” says Rose, who grew up in Point Breeze and attended Taylor Allderdice High School. “Living here allows me to stay close to family and see firsthand the big changes that have come to the city. There are so many restaurants, shops, and events that make Pittsburgh unique, and I feel blessed I get to experience it all. Working here has introduced me to an incredible fitness community here in Pittsburgh that’s full of supportive people who are all trying to make Pittsburgh a healthier place.” For more information, visit elevatefusionfitness.com.

Favorite Places in Pittsburgh:
“Some of my favorite places in Pittsburgh are Industry Public House, lululemon, and the North Shore.” 

Caroline Fitzgerald

Growing up in Squirrel Hill, Caroline Fitzgerald loved sports and the thrill of competition. The lifelong passion continues today, shining through her work as the business development manager at P3R, Pittsburgh Three Rivers Marathon. Her specific role entails collaborating with local and national companies that support the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon and other running events, creating special moments that unite the runners and fans of Pittsburgh. “The opportunity to get to know our runners, to hear their stories, and then to witness them accomplish their personal goals is humbling,” Fitzgerald says. “A runner crossing a marathon finish line is a physical demonstration of the triumph of the human spirit, and I consider it a true privilege to be part of that magic.” She shares the magic of sports as a girls’ basketball coach at Shady Side Academy, instilling confidence in her players. And she continues to spread her positive message by staying active in the community. “The youth of this city is committed to making Pittsburgh a more vibrant and inclusive community,” she says. “Every day, when I step outside, I feel like I am part of a community filled with real, hopeful people. I love Pittsburgh because, more often than not, it feels like Pittsburgh loves me back.” For more information, visit pittsburghmarathon.com.

+ May 6 marks the 10-year anniversary of the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon’s return to Pittsburgh! Track all of the race details at pittsburghmarathon.com.

Favorite Places in Pittsburgh:
“I feel at home when utilizing all of the different trail systems in Pittsburgh. I grew up running along the trails in Schenley and Frick Park, and now as an adult, I use the riverfront trails almost daily. It is a true gift to be able to run or bike along a ‘rail to trail’ site like the Great Allegheny Passage.”

Erin Drischler + Jordan Tomb

One year ago, Erin Drischler and Jordan Tomb created The Garment Project, a unique and empowering nonprofit that curates trendy clothing without sizes on them. “I love and appreciate fashion, and understand the confidence-boosting power of a great outfit,” says Drischler, who grew up in the North Hills. “Clothing and sizing were a huge part of my eating disorder recovery, and I wanted to offer a voice to those still struggling.” Three national retailers with Pittsburgh headquarters — American Eagle/Aerie, rue21, and ModCloth — have signed on for partnerships, and the duo teases that there’s much more to come in the near future! “We develop relationships with philanthropic retailers to maintain a versatile inventory of clothing and work closely with treatment centers to find candidates for our program,” says Tomb, an Indiana, Pa., native. “This year, we are going to be organizing volunteer events to get more of our community involved and to try some new ideas to help bring confidence to others through clothing.” Throughout their time in the city, they’ve enjoyed the mutual support and encouragement local business owners share with one another. “I believe my generation is doing a phenomenal job of pointing out that a system might be broken or could be done better, and then, instead of waiting for change to come, we create something completely new on our own. Millennials are creative and driven and are playing a large part in the reinvention of Pittsburgh.” For more information, visit thegarmentproject.org.

Favorite Places in Pittsburgh:
“We love living on the North Side. It’s our favorite neighborhood to walk around and explore. Each street is unique and every house has its own character. It’s beautiful. Legends is a favorite restaurant for date nights, Stage AE is a short walk away, and there are plenty of bike trails.”

Joshua Clear

Although he is a reverend, Joshua Clear is “not the Christian that you see in the news and on TV.” Clear says, “I have tattoos. I wear Supreme. Yes, I love Jesus, and yes, I bump Migos in my car. I am real. I hate fake.” After Jesus radically changed his life, Clear made it his mission to help others experience the same. For three years, he’s served as the college pastor at Amplify Church Pittsburgh City Campus, also known as The U. The U hosts weeknight gatherings at Amplify Church in the Strip District and Duquesne University, creating a safe place for college students of all backgrounds to find community and growth in their faith. “I love being part of a church that loves creating a place where anyone from anywhere can come and feel like family,” Clear says. “The biggest privilege is seeing someone’s life change.” Clear is known for preaching with enthusiasm and “bringing the fire,” and nothing sparks his soul more than knowing his colleagues and friends share a similar passion for life. “People have fire in their stomachs for something more than just things as normal,” Clear says. “People that love all people of all colors. People that aren’t scared to love, no matter the cost. People that actually care for other people. I truly believe that we can’t help but be passionate when we meet a very passionate Jesus.” For more information, visit amplifychurch.com.

Favorite Places in Pittsburgh:
“Can I be real? I am at Chipotle on Baum at least three times a week. (Laughs) I love being and walking on Walnut Street, but most recently, I’ve been digging Adda. I can spend hours there. They’re doing it right.”

Lauren Joseph

Pittsburgh native Lauren Joseph always knows the best events happening in the city. And most of the time, she’s the creative mastermind behind them! As the event and social media coordinator of Dickerson Creative Communications (DCC), she has a hand in designing and executing events for prestigious individuals and nonprofit organizations. “I love knowing that the work I do on a daily basis helps raise funds and awareness for these organizations,” Joseph says of the latter. She takes her involvement one step further by participating in a new volunteer initiative at DCC, where the staff supports different programs in the Pittsburgh area each month. “We love that our line of work allows us to help local nonprofits, but we also think it is important for us to dedicate some of our personal time to making a difference,” she says. As she continues to expand her philanthropic reach through her career and her community efforts, Joseph is excited to be part of a generation that is determined to make a difference on a local level. “My favorite aspect about living and working in Pittsburgh is how integrated and connected we are,” Joseph says. “I think we realize that when our community thrives together, we are able to thrive personally. There is so much happening around us, and I think my generation has the ability to soak that all in and work together to make a positive impact.” For more information, visit dickersoncreative.com.

+ Lauren Joseph and the DCC crew will be hosting Savor Pittsburgh on September 27! Come sample dishes from the area’s top chefs, while also supporting women’s and infants’ health research at Magee-Womens Research Institute.

Favorite Places in Pittsburgh:
“I definitely consider food to be a passion of mine, so some of my favorite places to go in Pittsburgh are restaurants. I love to find new places to eat, along with frequenting my top favorites: Penn Avenue Fish Company, Fat Head’s Saloon, Winghart’s Burger & Whiskey Bar, Chinatown Inn, and Gaucho Parrilla Argentina.” 

Conner Hagins

Conner Hagins’ philanthropic endeavors started at age nine, when he founded Cuddles for Kids. The 501c3 nonprofit makes donations to children’s agencies across the U.S., bringing toys and smiles to those who need them most. “My charity is very grassroots,” says Hagins, a junior at La Roche College. “I do a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff with huge help and support from my parents. We rely solely on donations, so organizing fundraisers and needs-based initiatives are a huge part of what we do. We don’t have a building or salaries, so your donation goes directly to helping those in need.” The work includes campaigns with Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Pittsburgh, the Mario Lemieux Foundation, the Pittsburgh Shoebox Project, the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation, and more, in addition to the support provided by local celebrities, athletes, and community members. Since the nonprofit launched in 2009, over $500,000 in items have been donated and $22,000 in grants have been issued. Hagins says the greatest reward the nonprofit brings is the genuine happiness created just by sharing his time with others. And he’s quick to emphasize that there’s no age limit to that feeling! “I recall some people my age always saying they can’t wait to make a difference when they’re older, and I always thought that was funny because you’re never too young to make a difference,” Hagins says. “You just have to have the heart and grind to want to do it. That is happening right here in the 412.” For more information, visit cuddlesforkids.net.

+ Arthur and Shonda Moats will be serving as honorary co-chairs of the 2nd Annual Cuddles for Kids 5K/10K Run/Walk on June 2! Sign up to participate today.

Favorite Places in Pittsburgh:
“I’m a sucker for Mt. Washington. The view of the city is remarkable. As a sports fan, Heinz Field and PPG Paints Arena are two of my favorite places. Wholey’s, Poros, and Pizzaiolo Primo are a few of my favorite places to eat, and of course, I can’t forget the North Park Lounge.”

Isaac Tarbell

A never-ending quest for knowledge and innovation has fueled Isaac Tarbell’s academic endeavors and his commitment to the community. After graduating high school in West Middlesex, Pa., he attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania, earning bachelor’s degrees in both Child Development and Family Relations, and Family Consumer Sciences Education; a master’s degree in Educational Psychology; and a post-master’s educational specialist degree in School Psychology. As he finishes his doctoral pursuits in School Psychology, Tarbell currently works as the supervisor of psychological services at Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS). “I work with a wonderful group of psychologists in applying evidence-based practices in mental health, learning, and behavior to help children and youth succeed academically, socially, behaviorally, and emotionally,” Tarbell says. He remains engaged with students and teachers throughout PPS by volunteering and working with Unified Sports through the Special Olympics, which provides an opportunity for students with exceptionalities to compete in extracurricular activities through track and field events. (He even raised funds for the program by participating in the Polar Plunge last month!) Tarbell hopes to continue making an impact by improving the lives of local youth on all levels. “I truly believe that our generation is adaptable and resilient when it comes to meeting the day-to-day challenges of work, home, and the world, especially through applications of technology,” Tarbell says. “We are truly consumers of knowledge.” For more information, visit pghschools.org.

Favorite Places in Pittsburgh:
“Currently residing in South Side, I love to frequent Carmella’s Plates and Pints! I also enjoy running through all different parts of the city, especially the Riverside and Frick Park Trails.”

Alyssa Lyon

Hailing from the Bronx, N.Y., Alyssa Lyon moved to the Steel City to study at the University of Pittsburgh and firmly planted her roots in the community. As the manager of community outreach and membership engagement and AmeriCORPS VISTA supervisor at the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group (PCRG), Lyon bridges gaps between policy and pragmatic community concerns; keeps stakeholders engaged; and ensures neighborhoods in Allegheny County are informed, monitored, and improved. “The most alluring aspect of my job is the ability to influence policy and legislation based upon community input and consensus galvanized through on-the-ground community work and engagement,” says Lyon, who recently earned a master’s degree in public management at Carnegie Mellon University. “Putting a voice to the policy, a voice that rightfully belongs to the people of Pittsburgh, is the most rewarding part of this work.” Lyon stays engaged in the community through multiple roles, including a board member for the African American Alumni Council at the University of Pittsburgh, supporting the community of alumni, while also promoting recruitment and retention of current students and staff; the chairperson for the Board of License and Inspection Review for the City of Pittsburgh, confirming independent oversight to the license and inspections determinations; and a participant in the Hazelwood Initiative, working toward revitalizing the Gladstone Middle School into a valuable community asset. She’s proud to be part of a generation that not only addresses the deprived spaces for young professionals, but also creates opportunities for collaboration and growth. “The greatest thing it’s accomplished is to highlight individuals, groups, and organizations that have captured the essence of a diversely socioeconomic and sociocultural progressive Pittsburgh.” For more information, visit pcrg.org.

+ Join Alyssa Lyon and the PCRG at the 8th Annual Community Development Summit, “Honoring the Past, Planning for the Future,” on May 15+16

Favorite Place in Pittsburgh:
“I do love being in Hazelwood. Not only have I spent formative years in the area, building relationships amongst residents and local organizations, but I’ve watched the neighborhood transform itself in a way that seeks to maintain the integrity of the community and its inhabitants. The whole process has been admirable.”

Alison Mears

After graduating from Emory University, Alison Mears lived in Atlanta before moving back home to Pittsburgh. “I’m not going to lie, I hated it,” Mears confesses. “I loved the strong backbone and communities that already resonated here, but it just needed a push. [My generation] grew up here in one era, traveled and saw the world growing, and now it is our turn to start the new era of Pittsburgh, giving it the same energy we have.” Mears definitely fits in the go-getter category herself, accomplishing her goal of opening a boutique spin studio, Steel Revolution, at age 23. I get to inspire people every single day,” Mears says. “My goal and what drives me is to teach people that the discipline, the power, and the passion they put into a ride should carry through their day-to-day life. If you can ride with purpose, you live your life with purpose.” Bringing a positive purpose to the community, Mears is a lululemon ambassador, a member of Pittsburgh’s 50 Finest for Cystic Fibrosis committee, and a field hockey and lacrosse coach at her alma mater, Shady Side Academy. “I have made the strongest connections throughout the city and that has allowed me to grow my business and allow it to flourish,” Mears says. “People in this city, somehow or another, go from being strangers to being family. And I absolutely love that.” For more information, visit steelrevolutionpgh.com.

+ Stop by the second Steel Revolution studio location, opening in Lawrenceville this spring!

Favorite Places in Pittsburgh:
“I have two loves: shopping and eating. When I’m not in workout clothes, I’m dressed in clothes from No 14 in Lawrenceville or Max Alto in Shadyside — hands down the two best clothing stores in Pittsburgh! My favorite restaurants are Point Brugge, Piccolo Forno, or Bakersfield.”

Britnee Nwokeji

Born and raised in Clairton, Pa., Britnee (Weatherspoon) Nwokeji has “always had a big heart and big dreams.” She’s accomplished many of those dreams so far, earning a bachelor’s degree in public health and a master’s degree in educational studies, which led to her current pursuit of a doctor of education degree with a concentration in health and physical activity. “My goal is to work in underserved communities, such as my hometown, helping them to thrive,” Nwokeji says. “I want to create healthier, sustainable communities and schools by creating community and personal enrichment opportunities for youth, and identifying effective strategies to eliminate health disparities.” As a program manager for Health & Prevention in the Community Health division of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, Nwokeji manages community benefits initiatives and teaches community education classes to youth. She also dedicates her time to mentoring a member for National Health Corps — Pittsburgh and mentoring middle school students at Pittsburgh Arsenal 6-8 through the hospital’s Health Rangers program. A proud part of this generation of “change agents,” Nwokeji is excited to live and work in an evolving city like Pittsburgh. “We all come from culturally diverse backgrounds, but we are willing to work together to make a difference in the Pittsburgh community,” she says. “We are extremely passionate, and we are willing to put forth the effort to make big things happen!” For more information, visit chp.edu.

Favorite Places in Pittsburgh:
“I am a big foodie! Some of my favorite places include Nicky’s Thai Kitchen and Bistro 2 Go. Pittsburgh also has reputable places for jazz. Little E’s and James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy are some of my favorites. The food is also great!”

Chalis Henderson

From a young age, Chalis Henderson’s parents taught her the importance of serving her community, having a heart for others, and helping others whenever she can. “They helped to establish my value system that is rooted in a love for God, and a love for giving to and serving people,” Henderson says. “I have always had a heart for community service and students.” In 2011, she founded the Chalis S. Henderson Scholarship Foundation. Thanks to the support of her community of donors, over $13,000 in scholarships have been awarded to students who are engaged in service to their community, church, and institution of higher learning. A move to Pittsburgh in 2014 sparked a new journey of positive adventures for Henderson, including getting married, becoming a mom, and founding Philanthropy, LLC. The latter is a social venture looking to change the face of philanthropy while also supporting the Chalis S. Henderson Scholarship Foundation. “We are trained to think that philanthropy is only for the wealthy,” Henderson says. “But when people grab hold to our new definition and new narrative, it’s a beautiful thing!” The welcoming attitude toward this initiative in Pittsburgh is truly inspiring to Henderson. “My generation is strategically taking advantage of what the city offers and using it for the greater good,” Henderson says. “It makes me so happy to see people living their passions and changing communities.” For more information, visit redefinephilanthropy.org.

+ Check out the “Faces of Philanthropy” mini-series on YouTube to learn more about Chalis Henderson’s campaign.

Favorite Places in Pittsburgh:
“My top three places are: Everyday Cafe in Homewood, Thai Me Up in the South Side, and Cucina Vitale in the South Side — clearly, I love to eat!”

Dan Folger + Christian Johnston

Friends Dan Folger and Christian Johnston met growing up in Shaler, Pa., and have grown to become business partners at GLD. “During my senior year at Duquesne, I really switched my focus over to running GLD full-time,” Johnston says, “finding a way to take our childhood dream and make it a reality.” And now, GLD is the leading online provider of urban jewelry. As the creative director, Folger creates content for GLD’s social media and website, while also collaborating with celebrities for jewelry releases. “I really like to see the vision you have in your head come to life with the final outcome of the photo or video that we do,” Folger says. As the CEO, Johnston is involved with both the business and creative sides of the company — from leading the design of all new products, to designing the high-end custom orders for celebrity clients. “I love everything about my job, but most of all, I love seeing how far we have come,” Johnston says. “Starting with our business in a little cardboard box, working out of our parents’ basements, and now working on building that same dream we had, but on a bigger scale, always will keep me going.” The duo stays close to their roots by hosting events in Pittsburgh, including the recent GLD x TGOD pop-up shop in South Side, which featured a performance by Wiz Khalifa. “I really think my generation is starting to come together as a team and supporting each other a lot more now,” Folger says. “They want to see the city win, and I’ve noticed a lot more events going on that are bringing everyone together. People need to see how important that is.” For more information, visit thegldshop.com.

Favorite Places in Pittsburgh:
“I love Downtown a lot. I love our restaurants and the rooftop nightlife. And how could I forget Pamela’s? Everyone should go there.” — Dan Folger

“I like going to the Strip District — getting some seafood at Penn Avenue Fish Company or Roland’s, or going over to Giovanni’s and getting a slice of pizza like we used to do when we rode bikes through the city as kids. I always make sure to stop back at Duquesne for a basketball game, and catch some of my old teammates playing. Love going to the Penguins and Steelers games, too.” — Christian Johnston

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1 Comment

  1. March 3, 2018 at 11:24 am — Reply

    These are powerful and beautiful souls in Pittsburgh – so grateful amazing people are doing amazing things in the city. We should have a WHIRL party or something because that’ll be a great way to swirl in more success.

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