01.08 28 to Watch in 2008

Photo L-R: Lizette Cordiero, The Rev, Emily Lindbeck, Nathan Colby

Interviews by Sasha Fastovskiy, Kimberly Dunbar, Linnea Sheldon, Jennie Fitzgerald, Allie Bombz, Rachel Bryson-Brockmann, Alex Kantarelis, Alison Zawadski

Each January for the past three years, it has given Pulse great pleasure to feature in our annual “To Watch” issue some of the most outstanding individuals under the age of 40 in Worcester County. This year is no exception, and once again it was inspiring to receive nomination after nomination in support of members of our community ~ entrepreneurs, athletes, politicians, artists, community leaders, activists, and more ~ who represent the best that our region has to offer ~ educational excellence, financial growth, social conscience, artistic vibrancy, medical expertise, and community-minded political values. The 28 individuals we now introduce to you have proven that they are committed to ~ each in his or her own way ~ remaining a positive force in Worcester County and making life here the best it can be for all.

1. Allison Alaimo, 30, Director of Finance and Development for MA Veterans Inc.

This Worcester State College graduate has come a long way since starting out as a volunteer for the Massachusetts Veterans Inc. in 2001. “I never thought I’d be working for a non-profit,” says Alaimo, who comes from positions in the Bose Corporation and another manufacturing company where she helped increase commercial sales by over 100%. She sits as VP of the Board of the Worcester-area Women in Development and is actively involved in the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, the National Veterans Training Institute, Project Bread and Walk for Hunger, the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce. At MVI, she has helped fund-raise for the Korean War Memorial and instituted the Gold-Star Family Luncheon. Alaimo is also instrumental in the day-to-day functioning of the Veteran’s Shelter; a position she calls extremely important and necessary. “These are the people that fought for our country, I can’t imagine a better group of people to work for.” More recently, Allison ran for an at large seat in the Worcester City Council, where she vocalized the need to increase Worcester’s commercial tax base and improve public education. Alaimo finds that giving back and helping the community unbelievably rewarding. “We help get people on their feet, we can never do enough.”

2. Larry and Eddie Escobar, 38 and 39, Real Estate Developers, Worcester

Larry and Eddie Escobar are two great examples of Worcester kids born to make a difference. Born & bred on Eastern Ave. on Belmont Hill, these 2 brothers of Columbian descent are proving themselves a vital ingredient in the current real estate evolution of downtown Worcester. The Escobar brothers are currently developing two colossal buildings into residential condominiums and mixed use loft spaces. The Artic Loft Development buildings are located behind the Kenmore Diner, near where the Worcester Cold Storage Building once stood. One building will feature 36 residential units, mostly around 1200 sq. ft. The second building will feature storefronts, office space, and will soon be hosting a daycare center.

“We are investing in Worcester because we see opportunity here. As Worcester continues to grow, more and more professionals are drawn here, we plan to offer high end residencies within walking distance of downtown, the Canal District, and of course the public transportation of Union Station. We used to come down here in the 80s, when Union Station was a wreck…We would have never thought two kids from Eastern Ave. would be so involved in making positive changes in downtown Worcester!”

Larry and Eddie have a great appreciation for their hometown, to say the least. Larry loves Worcester’s history. “We like to put the history on the walls of our buildings ~ original stuff ~ old ladders, latch doors, the old furnace…they all date back to the 1800’s. That’s Worcester history right there!” Looks like the brothers Escobar have a pretty major commitment to Worcester’s future, too.

3. Four Year Strong

Four Year Strong ~ with a new CD, songs available on Itunes, a full line of merchandise, and close to 30,000 MySpace fans ~ are about to explode onto the national and international music scene, and all four members have their Worcester (Tatnuck Square, to be exact) roots to thank for starting them on the road to success. Together for nearly 7 years now, the guys started playing their heavy pop-punk sound when they were barely in junior high. Playing locally every weekend while other kids were doing homework, they created quite the following among the local high school crowd. Now in their 20s, the guys have moved onto much bigger things. And, after recently signing with I Surrender Records, released their first full length CD, “Rise or Die Trying.” Coupled with an extensive touring schedule with bands like From First to Last, The Starting Line, Daggermouth, and I Am The Avalanche, the CD is a major landmark for the Worcester boys. “We’ve released so many demos…and finally we have a CD, and it’s in stores. It’s crazy!,” said drummer Jake Massucco.

Even though the band is blowing up nationally, they’ve still got a die-hard fan base in Worcester who never miss a show. When the guys had their record release show this fall, they sold out the upstairs of The Palladium ~ so all the fans were captured on film for the band’s music video for “Heroes Get Remembered, Legends Never Die.” Just last month, the boys were back at the Palladium as part of the Festivus For The Rest Of Us Tour, sharing the stage with Armor For Sleep, Vanna/Valencia, and A Loss For Words.

No matter how big the band gets, Worcester will always be their home. “I love Worcester, I have it tattooed on my knuckles. If I was in Worcester right now, I’d be thrilled,” Massucco said. “Playing Worcester is awesome. Home shows are always the best shows. No show beats a Worcester show,” he added.

And with their new CD, video, and plans to start doing some serious touring, Four Year strong is proving that nothing beats a Worcester band, too.

4. Karen Manson, 31, Director of Student Affairs for the Colleges of Worcester Consortium, Worcester

During college, it’s easy to get caught up with a tight circle of buds, to get weighed down by grades and papers, and to never venture further off campus than the closest pizza joint. Karen Manson, 31, is working to connect the college crowd to their surrounding community.

As Director of Student Affairs for the Colleges of Worcester Consortium, Manson wears a number of hats.

“I work with student affairs professionals at the 13 member institutions,” she says. “I also do some student services such as class registration and I do some outreach to connect the students with their city.”

When Pulse caught up with her, Manson was preparing for and then dashing off to one of her many events. She was scheduled to meet up with students and take them around to a number of employers in the area. Then it was off to a social mixer and the holiday tree lighting and from there, she was dragging the students to a Sharks game. Here’s a Worcester whirlwind of activity if there ever was one!

Manson says she didn’t choose her career, her career chose her. After earning a BA in English at Plymouth State College, she went on to get her MA in Education at Sacred Heart University. She worked at Assumption College for 6 years before moving to Boston. Then Worcester called her back with the promise of her current position.

When Manson isn’t running around, helping undergrads and trying to encourage potential students to come visit Worcester colleges, she loves to hit the fine restaurants of Worcester with good friends. But even as she sits in one of the Shrewsbury Street locations, we can be assured that she is planning her next event.

For more information about the Colleges of the Worcester Consortium, go to www.cowc.org.

Salerno.jpg5. Mike Salerno, 22, football player, Shrewsbury

Mike Salerno is a local guy with big dreams. The Shrewsbury native is also an example of how hard work breeds great success.

After graduating from Amherst College last May, Salerno spent the summer playing football in Finland. “It was a good experience and a lot of fun being in a different part of the globe,” said Salerno, who is glad to be back stateside where he can watch the television shows he took for granted as well as enjoy his mom’s cooking, the two things he missed most while being overseas.

Salerno was a tremendous student-athlete at Amherst, balancing his political science major and duties as the football and basketball team captains during his senior year. Salerno, who is known as a leader among his peers, was recognized by the New England Small College Athletic Conference as their nomination for the 2007 NCAA Sportsmanship Award. Although Salerno didn’t take the big prize, it was still something that meant a lot to him. “I felt privileged to be nominated,” he said.

Salerno is currently a substitute teacher at Forest Grove Middle School but is currently reviewing football offers for the coming year. “I want to continue playing football at a higher level,” he said, adding that he is considering playing in Italy or for his hometown New England Surge. “If that doesn’t work, I want to go to law school or for finance.”

Salerno is also heavily involved in giving back to his community, which includes working with the Give Kids a Fighting Chance organization that his father Tony founded. “I think it is important because I gained so much from the community,” he said. “It made me who I am today.” And that is someone of whom we can all be proud.

6. Sylvia Cunha, 34, Marketing and Promotions for MassConcerts, Worcester

Working in Marketing and Promotions for MassConcerts, the region’s second largest concert promoter, might sound like a dream job, a chance to meet the sexy rock stars of the world and to hobnob with the music industry’s crème de la crème. In reality, the gig is 99.9% hard work and .1% glam. It takes a tough cookie to meet the demands of famous vocalists ~ and who better than a fabulously fresh and marvelously meticulous promotions hotshot! For example, it’s Sylvia we have to thank when we’re rockin’ out at The Palladium in Worcester ~ if she weren’t working tirelessly behind the scenes, some of the acts wouldn’t even take the stage.

“I basically make sure that the rock stars are happy on the show date,” Sylvia, 34, says modestly. “If they aren’t happy, it makes the day that much longer. We take care of whatever they need, even if it means sending out a runner to buy underwear for the band members.”

Yup, she said underwear. She has also fished out M&Ms of a certain color from the candy bowls, arranged favorite baseball hats of the band in very specific lines and has prevented everyone in the building from eating meat, all in the name of keeping those rockers happy. Seems stressful, but Sylvia knew from an early age that she wanted to be in the music industry.

“When you’re young,” she says with a chuckle, “you want to be like Madonna. They you find out that you don’t have any talent. But then you start meeting all of the people who work behind the scenes and they are the most interesting.”

For the new year, Sylvia might be thinking about carving out some more down time for herself. When she’s not bouncing from concert to concert, she enjoys absolute quiet.

“I just like to sit and have a cup of coffee,” the music maven confesses. “My days are so jam packed, if I can do that, it’s great!” But she’s not complaining at all ~ Sylvia loves (almost!) every second of her job and plans to keep musicians and fans happy for a long time to come.

For more info on MassConcerts, go to www.massconcerts.com.

7. The Rev (The Good Reverend Marloe D. Jankins Jr.), Musician, 29, Worcester

Say Amen Worcester. The Rev is in the pulpit. You are going to not only watch him in 2008, but listen to him too. The Rev is the type of person I consider a Flavor Savoir ~ a true school hip hop avenger. His mission: to preserve the legacy of original hip hop culture. The Rev recognizes that the positive and innovative energies which birthed hip hop culture seem to have been obscured by mainstream rap music these days. Original hip hop culture “…deserves to be preserved and appreciated.”

From creating and hosting a hip hop Open Mic at the club “The Sauce” in Okinawa, Japan to his time at Art Institute of Atlanta to moving to Worcester 3 years ago, The Rev has been working towards his goal of creating a hip hop television program which will provide youth with the opportunity to gain work experience in all aspects of broadcast production.

“H2FLO is the show to watch for,” and it will be airing on Worcester’s Channel 13 WCCA in the Summer of ‘08. Much like the origins of hip hop, “H2FLO” will be set on the streets, feature the expressive energy of Worcester’s youth, and it will be free. The program will highlight the history of hip hop while providing kids with the knowledge and resources to get involved in music creation, legal graffiti painting, and break dancing. “My method is to use hip hop to spark the interest, and let the kids control the interest.”

Sounds right on, Rev.

The Rev currently lives in downtown Worcester and studies Broadcast Communications at Worcester State College, and I might add he fries up a mean piece of fish. He fed me and it was proper. Worcester’s Flavor Savior is truly gettin’ it ALL cookin’. AAAMEN! – www.myspace.com/2507decatur

8. Gregg Lisciotti, 38, President of Lisciotti Development Corporation, Leominster

While the average college student was hitting the books and the parties, Lisciotti, a graduate of Fitchburg’s St. Bernard’s High School and of Bentley College (with a degree in Finance), was beginning his career in the real estate and development business…and he hasn’t slowed down since. “I started out doing single family homes my senior year in college,” he said, “and it just grew from there.”

Lisciotti is the founder and President of Lisciotti Development Corporation, which has developed office buildings, retail centers, industrial parks and residential subdivisions throughout Central Massachusetts. His most recent project is Orchard Hill Park, a 370,000 sq. ft. shopping development in Leominster.

When asked about his passion for the real estate industry, Lisciotti explained that it was always something that he wanted to do. “I always had a clear direction,” he said, “As far back as when I was playing in the dirt with my Tonka front end loader I knew this was it.”

As for his favorite part of owning the business, he said he particularly enjoys that every day is different. “You may start with a plan in the morning, but as the day progresses something happens and you go in another direction,” he said. “That’s the fun part of the job, but it’s also a lot of work.” Lisciotti plans to continue developing property throughout Massachusetts and hopes to expand into other markets.

Another benefit of his job? In addition to giving back to the community through bringing development and revenue into the area, he gets to give back in other ways, like through A Hand Up Charitable Foundation, a non-profit organization he is founding. The goal of the organization, which Lisciotti says is “…very close to his heart,” is to use his contacts in the business world to aide local charities throughout Northern Worcester County. – www.lisciotti.com

9. Lizette Cordiero, 26, Youth & Teen Director, YMCA

“Teens need to be taught that they’re individuals; building them into who they are and growing them into adults,” says Cordiero. Having grown up dancing, singing, and participating in the arts in Worcester, she knows what it takes to make teens feel like they belong in the community. “I went to school in New York, and the arts there were so amazing, but I kept getting drawn back to Worcester,” she said. “I knew I had to bring the art of New York to Worcester.” Cordiero believes there aren’t enough affordable arts programs here in her hometown, so she is adamant about making arts affordable and accessible. “Art is the vehicle for self-expression ~ music, writing, dancing. It keeps people from making wrong choices. It gives people options, helps bring up positive adults. I’m trying to bring it out of YMCA and into the community as a whole, but it needs to be a community effort. Even more so, we need to think of out of the box and into a global society.” At the Y, Cordiero supervises various youth projects and service learning international expeditions. “They watch me go, [and when] I come back alive, so they go too. It changes your life ~ it changes the kids, they recognize a sense of self and of community…it’s pretty cool.” Yes, Lizette, it’s the coolest.

10. Emily Lindbeck, 18, student and volunteer, Worcester

Emily Lindbeck, a freshman at Clark University and a longtime community service volunteer, is one of the few students who challenges the stereotype of the typical college freshman.

Emily spends her days working at the Community Engagement and Volunteering Office on the Clark University campus, where she is in charge of the promotion, advertising, and coordinating for all of Clark’s one-time community service events. These events include the Walk to Cure Cancer, American Red Cross Blood Drive, and the annual Fun-Run/Walk to raise money for Leukemia patients.

She also volunteers at Kids Café, a program run by and held at the Boys and Girls Club of Worcester. Each Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday night they feed about 300 local kids who are in need of a hot meal. “At Kids Café, we set up dinner tables, seat the children, serve them, and then sit down to enjoy their meals with them,” says Emily, who, while a student at F.W. Parker Charter Essential School, traveled to Nicaragua during her junior year through an organization called Seeds of Learning (SOL) and stayed for ten days, helping to build a schoolhouse for the impoverished children living in a small village with few resources. “This meal means so much to those kids. Many of them never get the experience of sitting down at the dinner table to eat with their families, and many of them are underfed. To sit down with these kids and see how happy they are that you’ve brought them food and are going to eat it with them is a truly heartwarming experience.”

During those rare moments when she’s not busy studying or helping out the Worcester community, something she’s committed to for the long haul, Emily loves to spend time with her family and her boyfriend.

11. Paul Hernandez, 30, Worcester, Youth and Education Advocate

Paul Hernandez is what Worcester needs a lot more of. He’s a super hero for the youth. In a city where it might seem unclear where kids factor into the big picture, Paul Hernandez is already on the scene, making it happen.

A transplant from Santo Domingo, Paul learned English while at South High. Soon after graduating, he became a leader in youth work and development in Worcester.

Since 1995, he has been involved with countless programs and organizations aimed towards bettering conditions for our future, for our kids. He must be a kid at heart. Where does the time & energy come from to be husband, dad, youth organizer and leader? He’s gotta be a super hero.

There isn’t enough ink and paper to print all of Paul’s accolades of community work in Worcester. From Youth Programs Coordinator for the Great Brook Valley Health Center to Downtown Campus coordinator for Worcester Public Schools, to HOPE, United Way, Save Our Poolz, public education advocacy…Paul is on the job, and was most recently rewarded with the 2007 Latino Dollars for Scholars Community Leader Award.

Through his work with youth in the city of Worcester, Paul Hernandez has affected the lives of many young people who would have fallen through the cracks, he has touched the lives of families who would have gone unnoticed, and he has played a crucial role in developing many of our young leaders who will in turn make our City a better place for tomorrow’s youth.

Although he didn’t run for school committee this past election, he has it on his radar. Paul is what Worcester needs for a better future. If you see him, thank him, and tell him “Please, Paul, don’t stop!”

12. Vicky Mariano, 21, Owner of Spiritual Haze Lounge, Worcester

What does it take to be an entrepreneur? For Vicky Mariano ~ a love for people, a dream at age 13, and the resources to make it happen! She is the owner of Spiritual Haze Lounge and a Clark University Senior.

Vicky had the idea for an alcohol and drug-free entertainment lounge since she was in 8th grade. She would throw parties without substance abuse for peers who didn’t succumb to social pressures. Over 100 people showed up every time and raved about the fun they had ~ her dream was getting clearer and more promising.

She majored in Business Management and had the resources at Clark to finally open her own business. Spiritual Haze, 482 Park Ave, is a place for people to “de-stress, socialize, and express themselves fully.” They feature musicians ~ from reggae to folk~ comedians, DJs, movie nights, bingo, theatre productions, contests, and much more.

“We’ve had people from different towns, states, countries, schools, locals, and visitors come together ~ everyone getting along, mingling, performing, creating art, eating and drinking healthy, smoking hookah, and leaving with a smile on their face and writing ‘I <3 Spiritual Haze’ on our chalkboard.” Although success has found her, she wants to keep improving as a true entrepreneur and she’s taking requests! “Anyone who has a good idea for an event, who wants to do something funny for a group of people, or to make an art installation somewhere I encourage to do it at Spiritual Haze! I look at myself as a director, behind the scenes… I want this space to be every ones, and for people to feel that way too.” 13. Matt Calamare, 23, Wrestler and Promoter, Fitchburg

Psycho Matt is flyin’ off the turnbuckle. His psycho elbow is aimed directly at your facepiece. What you gunna do, Fool!

Meet Psycho Matt, a.k.a. Matt Calamare, a hearing impaired Professional Wrestler & Wrestling Promoter. Matt grew up dreaming of slamming suckaz in the souplex. By the age of 23, Psycho Matt has wrangled his way into the wrestling ring and started handing out beatdowns for breakfast.

Matt got involved in wrestling as a producer for benefit show for the 2002 National Educational Assistant Dog Service. From there he quickly parlayed his way into working as ring crew at the New England Championship Wrestling show. Matt learned all he needed to know about putting on wrestling shows, and by the time the 2002 National Educational Assistant Dog Service benefit wrestling show came around, Matt was the interim general manager as well as security at The UCW benefit show for Meals on Wheels.

Soon Matt was working as a promoter in the Worcester area for various wrestling companies including Showcase Pro Wrestling, Top Rope Promotions, New England Championship Wrestling, Powerhouse Wrestling, and Eastern Pro Wrestling. Not satisfied with all the promoting work, though, he trained at and graduated from the Rhode Island Wrestling School and thus Psycho Matt was born.

Now, Matt is an official triple threat with a mission ~ to continue promoting, wrestling, and lending his time to charitable organizations as often as possible.

14. Derek Brindisi, 32, Acting Director of Department of Health and Human Services

Since taking over his current position (he has worked in the public health system since he was 18 years old), Brindisi says his highest priority has been teaching people about community health. “Most recently, there has been work within the community based on health disparities between healthcare access and minorities,” said Brindisi. Working with community based organizations, he has helped institute ways of development and various strategies of looking at systems to regionalize health systems and create new services overall. Brindisi also helped introduce Radon information testing in November ~ the first of its kind for Worcester. Brindisi, who sits on the Worcester State College Alumni Advisory Board, said that he sees himself in that department for many years to come, believing that an increase in health awareness will inevitably lead to a better life for the community as a whole. “It’s important that the community recognizes health is important. Quality of life will increase when we realize we must focus on a health lifestyle.”

15. George Sakhat, 36, Owner, El Basha Restaurant and Haiku, Worcester

George N. Sakhat, originally from Zahlé, Lebanon, has called Worcester home for over 20 years. He immigrated to the U.S. with his immediate family in order to join his extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins already living in the area.

Sakhat’s family opened El Basha on Route 9 in Worcester as a way for the extended family to work while also keeping their family ties strong. At the time, Sakhat was an undergraduate student at WPI. “I worked there as the host and waiter, running errands and helping out,” he explained.

After graduating with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, Sakhat started working as a mechanical engineer. He married in 1997, and drifted away from the restaurant business. “In 2002, with my wife expecting our second child, I decided to go back into the family business and try to help after we decided to open another restaurant on the West Side of the city,” he said.

As the owner and operator of El Basha on Park Avenue, Sakhat is still able to spend a great deal of time with his close knit family. The family continued expanding the business by opening up a third location in Westborough in 2005.

In late 2006, Sakhat also opened Haiku, a French-Asian fusion restaurant know for its steak, sushi, and seafood, right next to his El Basha location at 256-258 Park Avenue.

Spending time with his wife and three children, as well as the rest of his family has always been a top priority for Sakhat, and he is very thankful that he has been able to live his dream. “I have to thank the city for the success I’ve made in the past years,” he said. “I’m looking forward to continuing the growth, and possibly opening more businesses in the future.”

16. Lisa Wong, Mayor of Fitchburg, 27, Fitchburg

The lovely community of Fitchburg is getting a new zap of life with 28 year old mayor Lisa Wong leading the way.

“I worked hard at getting a very powerful and very positive message out to the voters,” explains Wong about how she came to be mayor. “I came to Fitchburg as an economic development professional…that led to me buying a house here because it’s a wonderful place to live, getting personally involved in the community.”

Wong wanted to be a leader during the difficult financial period Fitchburg was going through at the time, but she also wanted to help the city of about 40,000 people find a firm direction and plan for the future.

“I work in the city as the Director of the Fitchburg Redevelopment Authority, so I know the city very well,” Wong says. This intimate knowledge of the city inspired her to go beyond her role in economics and play a much more instrumental part in helping the place she calls home.

Wong believes that anyone, no matter what their age, has the ability to create positive change in their community.

“One should not shut [him or herself] out of opportunities to make a difference just because they don’t seem to be the right age,” she believes. “It depends on one’s spirit, one’s personality and one’s sense of purpose.”

And when she isn’t involved in meetings and city events, Wong loves spending as much time as she can outdoors. This political powerhouse can be found roller blading, hiking, kayaking, swimming and playing tennis.

17. Anthony Romeo, 23, owner of Gym and Juice

Anthony Romeo of Worcester began his career as a business-owner at the age of 19. A graduate of Holy Name High School, Romeo purchased his business while still an undergraduate student at Worcester State College.

He is now the proud owner of Gym and Juice, a supplement, tanning, protein shake and smoothie store located at World’s Gym in the Greendale Mall. While his employment prior to his purchase included miscellaneous pizza place jobs, he saw a great deal of opportunity in the supplement and protein shake business.

Currently working towards a Masters in Business Administration in Global Management and Finance, Romeo continues to develop his business, which has grown a great deal in the last few years. “I saw a huge potential in the growth of the industry”, he explained. “It’s also a passion because I take everything that I learn in school and bring it to application, so I’m maximizing my education as well as my profit.”

Romeo hopes to continue to grow his business, and to grow as an entrepreneur. He plans on continuing to build and diversify, possibly branching out into other industries.

As for his favorite part of being an entrepreneur, “I enjoy having the freedom to be able to truly help people and educate people about their choices,” he said.

Romeo points out that it was a challenge starting out at such a young age, but without a very supportive family and understanding friends he would have never made it this far. “Hard work and determination will get you far,” he said, “You need to stick with it no matter what, and it all pays off in the end.”

18. Cristal Perriello, 26, Media Relations Coordinator at Holy Cross College

Cristal Perriello, the new Media Relations Coordinator at Holy Cross College, says that at her job, no day is ever the same. She spreads the word about all the exciting things happening on campus ~ writing press releases, guiding reporters around campus, and talking with students.

Perriello, 26, has lived in MA all her life, growing up on the North Shore and attending college in Amherst, but hadn’t been to Worcester until she got the job at Holy Cross. Now a vocal fan of the city, she says, “Worcester is a great city that is often forgotten because it is an hour away from Boston. I want to help change that perception.”

Perriello isn’t only assisting students and faculty on the Holy Cross campus ~ she’s also spreading the word to all Worcester County residents. “I let people in the Worcester area know about all the wonderful and free (or minimally priced) events on campus,” she says. “From the award winning theatre department to the professional art shows at the gallery to famous musicians department and world-renowned lecturers, there is so much to do on campus that is open to the public.”

With Perriello’s help, Holy Cross is making a difference in local Worcester life. “Student Programs for Urban Development (SPUD) is a community service organization that consists of over 25 different outreach programs at various local churches, municipal offices, senior centers, shelters, museums, schools, and neighborhoods,” she says. “With over 350 active members, SPUD is the largest student organization at the College.”

When she’s not working, Perriello loves to cook and “…hit the slopes.”

19. Wil Darcangelo, 38, entertainer, Fitchburg

With a voice of a funky groove angel and a heart of gold, Wil Darcangelo is crooning and swooning his way into the hearts of Central Mass residents everywhere. But even as he sweeps the community off its feet, Darcangelo, 38, always remembers to give back despite a busy schedule.

Today, Darcangelo, who just released his debut album Tuesday is the New Saturday, is the resident headliner at the fabulous Fitchburg café/martini bar, Destare. But the journey there was a long and interesting one for this singer. After graduating from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, he worked in New York City and Toronto for a number of years, producing over 40 shows. But in 1999, with an impressive resume and razor sharp talent, Darcangelo returned to his roots.

“I just sort of had a change of heart and I wanted to come home,” he says with humility. “So in 1999, I moved back to Fitchburg, which is my hometown. I wanted to just go back to square one with everything that I had learned. I went back to my old community theater, I went back to my old church choir.”

Darcangelo currently spends his days either performing or involved in charitable activities. $20,000 from the first 5000 units of his debut album that are sold will go to create a professional performing arts mentorship and scholarship program for the city of Fitchburg. But this philanthropic performer refuses to stop there.

“I spend about 75% percent of my time performing and 25% of my time in activities for charity,” Darcangelo says. “It’s the thing that really kind of fuels me and I hope to gain enough notoriety as a performer so that it will make me that much more effective.”

For more information on Wil Darcangelo, go to www.Wildarcangelo.com

20. Michael Gilleberto, 28, Director of Operations for City of Worcester

Dealing with the day-to-day functioning of the entire city of Worcester is not an easy task. You’d never gather that from Michael Gilberto, the staff assistant of operations for the City Manager, who was more than happy to describe the job he found when he replied to an online want-ad. “I spent three years in the State House, was looking to join an office dealing, saw an online post about a job here in Worcester, and since the City Manager had been doing a lot for development in the city, I wanted to be a part of that. So I went, ‘Here I am.’” He has been involved with the city of Worcester since September 2005, acquiring his current position a little over a year later. “[We] deal with interdepartmental tasks, ‘customer service,’ intergovernmental relations, and neighborhood and community organizations as well,” said Gilberto. He also manages to find time to work with Women Together (a project on the design of Winslow Park), Neighborhood Watch, and a plethora of other various community groups. In the course of the next year, Gilberto hopes to continue working with his neighborhood groups and keep focusing on a special homelessness task-force initiative that has been in the works for a while now. “I look forward to continuing the City Manager’s efforts to provide Worcester residents a city government that is efficient, accessible, and well-coordinated.”

21 & 22. Danielle Tift, 22, and Joelle Valliere, 24, Coordinators, Corridor Nine Area Chamber of Commerce

Danielle Tift and Joelle Valliere are two determined women who are connecting the young professionals of Central MA through exciting and effective networking events and volunteer opportunities. Danielle is the Member Services Coordinator at the Corridor Nine Area Chamber of Commerce and Joelle (who has a two week-old baby) heads up the Young Professional Networking Group there ~ and somehow these two dynamos still find time to help others.

So what’s in their coffee?

“The group wasn’t a brand new idea by any means,” Tift says modestly. “We had been batting it around for a while. We wanted to have a forum in which young professionals could socialize but also learn professional development.”

“The response was very positive,” Valliere adds. “Our bosses were excited, the Board was excited and after our first event we really discovered how many people in our area were interested in such a group.”

But these aren’t your typical run-of-the-mill networking events. There’s no business card swap followed by awkward silence. Tift and Valliere have created warm and fun environments with zany and memorable group activities like crazy raffles in which people help each other to find the item of the moment, such as band-aids and socks with holes in them. At the next event, Tift revealed, they will have a frozen T-shirt contest. Teammates will work together to “defrost” and “de-wrinkle” a frozen tee.

Apart from networking, Tift and Valliere are determined to have the group focus on volunteerism. There are plans in the works for fundraising walks and mentorship programs for high school and college students.

“Joelle and I have very professional attitudes,” says Tift “and we have learned from incredible mentors on what it’s like to work in a professional environment. Now we want to give back to the community.”

kra.jpg23. Dr. Kansra, physician, 33, Shrewsbury

Dr. Nandana Kansra of Shrewsbury, originally from India, was recently nominated as one of the Top 100 physicians in the field of Primary Care by the Consumer Research Council of America. It’s no small feat, being chosen for such a prestigious list, but it’s no wonder that Kansra was picked, given her drive and dedication to bringing back the “care” in “patient care.”

After receiving her masters in Public Health in India, she moved to Boston and then to Newton, finally finishing her training at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Worcester. She worked for a year as a hospitalist, which was “…a valuable lesson on prevention as most of these patients were sick to the point where things had even gone too long uncared for or now the patient had serious health consequences.” However, she wanted to make an impact that was more long-term, which is what lead to her decision to change her focus to Primary Care. “I wanted to make sure that the patents in the long term continue to do well,” said Kansra. Her core philosophy is to “…prevent rather than having to treat.” So, Kansra focuses on forming trusting, nurturing relationships with her patients so that they can get to the root of the problem early on rather than waiting until the problem progresses to the point where medication or more dire actions need to be taken.

She makes herself available to patients outside of routine check-ups so that they feel comfortable confiding in her. Right now, she is “…embracing the moment…” and enjoying being able to do the work she loves. Through forming lasting relationships with her patients, Kansra hopes to leave long-lasting impacts on not just their health, but the overall quality of their lives.

24. Evan Wondolowski, 20, founder of Royal Tee Shirt Co. (royaltee.com)

Hailing from Paxton, and still calling it home, Evan Wondolowski knew as a child that he would always be dabbling in art. Now studying art as a junior at UMass Dartmouth, he has turned art into a career.

“The idea for Royaltee came two summers ago. Knowing I wanted to do illustration for a career helped the idea of a tee shirt company,” he said. Teaming up, he and his housemate ~ a business major ~ the two started screen-printing tees and selling them from their home. “We operate out of our apartment. We have boxes and boxes of tees in my living room… it’s just now starting to become a problem. I see that as a good sign though,” Wondolowski said. Due in large to their participation in many Worcester area events like STart on the Street and Holiday Arts Festival at the DCU Center, promotional work has been non-stop.

Up next for the tee shirt twosome? More designs. “I get inspired by pop-culture, music, graffiti, art and other artists. As a college student, I’m always kinda crunched for money, but I always seem to talk myself into buying a $30-50 book on graffiti or street art.” Royaltee shirts are becoming increasingly popular by the day; the website is getting tons of hits and the orders are pouring in. The company’s success hasn’t really hit Wondolowski though ~ he’s waiting until his creations are being worn by some pretty big people. “Someone I’d really love to see sporting a RoyalTee? Jonathan Papelbon!”

25. Kwasi Sarpong, “Roughly 32, I can’t keep up,” Worcester, Editor-in-Chief of The Radiant

Originally from Kumasi, Ghana, Sarpong has made quite the impression on Worcester (as well as Central MA) as a vocal leader dedicated to immigrant assimilation. He is on the Board of Directors of the Central MA American Red Cross, a co-chair of the Worcester Immigrant Coalition, a member of Worcester’s Infant Mortality Task Force, and a member of the State Department of Public Health’s Massachusetts Emergency Communication Taskforce ~ and he runs the African Community Development Corporation. However, The Radiant, a free African American newspaper that Sarpong founded and has been in charge of for the past three years, is one of his most talked-about accomplishments. “We live in an information age; people need to know what’s going on, where to go, where to be connected to,” said Sarpong. “Everyone’s broke and working two or three jobs, of course they want a free newspaper. We don’t talk about the things a regular paper does, we’re a resource newspaper.” With growing African American immigrant population, Sarpong knew that the best way to reach people was through print media, so he implemented a strategic plan to better understand what immigrants ~ of all nationalities ~ wanted to know about: “We go where they live, we hang around with them. We get businesses to offer jobs and jump in. Immigrants just want to learn. They want to lead the American dream ~ buy a house, get good credit, become a citizen, even open a bank account. These are all things we teach people how to do.” 2008 will bring big changes for The Radiant, as it gets a makeover from an ethnic-based paper to a paper that will serve the needs of all immigrants, eventually even expanding to other states outside MA. “We make sure people get help,” Sarpong said. “It’s about case management, getting people connected and served, it’s what I do every day.”

26. Troy Sibels, 38, Executive Director of the Hanover Theatre, Worcester

The new Hanover Theatre, scheduled to open in March 2008, is going to knock the socks off of theatre goers in Central Massachusetts. Broadway shows will finally grace a Worcester stage and Executive Director Troy Siebels is one of the many people responsible for this wonderful cultural opportunity.

“The Hanover Theatre is going to surprise a lot of people,” predicts Siebels. “Worcester is the largest city where you can’t see a Broadway show. There’s a hole in the market. Promoters asked us where the competition was and we said there was the Boston Opera House and the Providence Center for the Performing Arts, but no competition in Worcester itself. That astonished them.”

Siebels was first contacted to help with the Hanover Theatre while he was working at the Stoneham Theatre. Stoneham had seen much success over the seasons and Worcester was eager to follow the theatre’s prototype. Siebels, excited with the prospect of the project, eventually left Stoneham Theatre for Hanover.

“I loved the whole project,” he says, “There is such opportunity here.”

People can expect to see amazing theatrical performances at the new theatre, and Siebels says the stage will also welcome a number of well-known musical guests and comedic acts. For the kids, the theatre intends to bring in fun and lively shows like Sesame Street Live! and Blues Clues.

What lies ahead in 2008 for Siebels? Certainly not much down time at least until the theatre opens! In the meantime, Siebels spends every spare moment he can with his one year-old child.

For more information on the Hanover Theatre, go to www.thehanovertheatre.org.

27. Cha Cha Connor, 24, Activist and artist

Cha Cha Connor is a 24 year old Worcester native, anarcha-holic, human rights activist and performance artist who gets excited about affordable development, ending homelessness, and connecting with anyone who works for a more just Worcester.

In the past year, Cha Cha been in the Mexican states of Chiapas and Oaxaca “…doing human rights observation as people’s movements struggle for economic justice and self determination against a repressive government. Returning to the U.S. in April, I went on an east-coast tour as the Supermodels for Oaxaca, a protest theatre ‘models strike’ that used stilettos and style to draw attention to Oaxacan social movements.”

June 1 saw Cha Cha crash land on Millbury St. in South Kelley Square. “It’s a great neighborhood to be involved in, with a ton of artistic and activist creativity. One group I’m excited about is the residents and regulars at the Hotel Vernon who came up with the idea to do a ‘Women of Green Island’ calendar, celebrating the local places that are important to us, and fundraising for neighborhood improvements.”

Since 2005, Cha Cha has worked with a group of residents from all over Worcester called Real Solutions who raise concerns about how poor and vulnerable residents are being treated, especially with regard to city policies on homelessness, housing, and social services. Says Cha Cha, “Too often, ‘revitalization’ takes the form of gentrification, and happens without consulting working and poor folks already living in and contributing to a neighborhood. In Worcester I think we have a chance to do it differently – to organize for just and sustainable economic development that prioritizes our rights to affordable housing, decent jobs, education and healthcare.”

Venture into the nightlife of the Canal District, and you’ll probably find Cha Cha singing for the Happy Hour Hyjinx ~ a serenade of funk-inspired local tales of love and pride and beer and positive change.

28. Nathan Colby, 25, actor, theatre educator, theatre technician, Shrewsbury

Nathan Colby, 25, is the Go-To-Guy of theatre in Massachusetts. Need someone to run the light board? A person to direct and produce? A thespian to play that role that seems impossible to fill? This superhero of the main stage has already done it all and is still asking for more!

“Basically, I do more or less whatever I can get my hands on in theatre,” says Colby. “I went to school and got my BFA in musical theater, so my degree is actually in performance. I’ve performed a number of times at Foothills Theatre, but I also do a fair amount of tech work and educational work.”

According to Colby, he’s had quite the busy life. Last year he was named the Interim Education and Children’s Theater Director for Foothills and ran three educational workshops, directed last April’s children’s show and directed and produced four children’s shows throughout the course of this last summer.

But instead of pausing to take a vacation, or a breath for that matter, Colby is keeping his nose to the grindstone.

“I’m starting my 10th year at Shrewsbury High School as the technical direction and designer for their spring musical,” he says, “And I’m going work at Assumption College with their production of ‘Into the Woods,’ in which I’ll be performing as well as assisting the director in a guest artist capacity.”

As he looks to the future, Colby hopes that he can enjoy a life as an actor, while still staying in the field of education.

“Hopefully, I’ll be able to continue to balance things are my career progresses,” says Colby. “I’ll be able to work with students and act professionally.”

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And just to give you an idea of the kind of dynamic individuals we’ve highlighted in the past, help us congratulate two of our 27 to Watch in 2007 ~

Tianna Ta, whose first modeling gig ever was for the cover of Pulse Magazine’s July 2006 Swimsuit Issue, has been traveling around the world non-stop (she’s just back from time in Hawaii and Barcelona) and can now be seen on the cover of D Sport Magazine, on Spike TV appearances, in ads and billboards for Airsplat.com, on Maxim.com, as one of the Boost Mobile Hot Import Night Girls, and sooo much more…not to mention that she’ll be launching her own website very soon! Tianna’s career is on FIRE and we’re so proud of her ~ and we love that she comes visit us at Pulse when she’s in town!

Christina Andreoli, another standout from last year’s list, is now the working for City Manager Michael O’Brien as Director of Communications for Worcester. In that capacity, she is the official Spokesperson for the City ~ That’s quite an honor, but we’ve always know that Christina has what it takes.

Congratulations to these two ladies and to all of last year’s 27 to Watch ~ you’ve all done just what you said you would, continued to work towards a better, stronger Worcester County!