Worcester’s own movers & shakers are at it again. This year a whole new series of Worcester juggernauts are here and sharing their secrets for success. Do you want to know what to expect of Worcester’s motivated groundbreakers come 2024? Read on my friends!
Anita Amin has always been a Worcester Stan. “ Worcester has been a place in which I found myself returning. From the second that I could drive, I would somehow end up here, either at the Java Hut or Tortilla Sam’s.” A Worcester State Alum, Amin pursued a degree in Business Administration and interned with Polar Beverages. The experience of studying food and flavor trends combined with her upbringing in an Indian/Pakistani household, put Amin on a path of one day launching her own business. On how her values weave into her work: “I’ve always been the one that will try something new. My dad and I spent time watching the food network together. I got my sense of entrepreneurship from him. He had several businesses, including a stall at the Worcester Flea Market. I have so many relatives with different dietary restrictions that even if I’m cooking for family I have to be very cognizant of many different culinary hurdles. I take all of that very seriously.” Amin found herself gravitating towards process improvement and customer experience. While working at the Hahnemann Community Health Center, Amin noticed a need. “I was sitting in a clinical setting with a bunch of students and residents. I was horrified at what a limited scope it was for nutrition and flavor in the cafeteria. I began bringing some extra prepared lunches in for people who wanted any. It brought me joy to make sure people were eating.” In February 2020, Amin was ready to launch her venture when of course everything came screeching to a halt. Finally in 2022, Amin was accepted into the Worcester Food Hub and was able to get fully insured and licensed. On what 2024 will bring: We will be doing a soft launch of premade lunches in January. I’ve already done some minor one-off jobs to get started, but my real entrepreneurial efforts starts this coming January 2024. I’m also really looking forward to one day having a brick and mortar space, ideally with a little local grocery attached to it. You might not know it just looking at her but: “I actually have a Worcester themed tattoo. It is the heart (of the commonwealth) with the ivy leaves underneath it and it’s on my left arm on my bicep”
David Quiroa came to Worcester through one of the city’s most familiar funnels, by attending Clark University. Hailing from Haverhill, Quiroa is a first generation Guatemalan American who studied Political Science and very quickly discovered his love for local politics. Quiroa has worked on Elizabeth Warren’s 2018 campaign, and, has served as a district representative for representative McGovern. More recently, Quiroa has served as Senator Markey’s Regional Director, closely managing the housing portfolio, amongst other tasks. On how his values weave into his work: “I believe that we need to care for the most vulnerable in our community. My parents were immigrant parents to this country. Growing up I realized a lot of services and things were out there but we didn’t always know how to access them. It helps that I can see things through the lens of the immigrant experience. So I work on that, using the lens. I work on accessibility. I understand that is a kind of struggle that happens when integrating and going into a new place; I always wanted to help with that. What better way than city hall? It’s at the local level that you have the most effect.” On what 2024 will bring: “I really deal with a lot of incredible people who work at city hall and in the community. Basically trying to figure out solutions to issues that the city faces. There’s an incredible support and network here in Worcester. I love public service. I’ve been a public servant going on for five years. It’s something that I love to do because you do see the impact of the work that you do. I am marrying my college sweet-heart I met at Clark in August 2024. That is what I am looking forward to the most.” You might not know it just looking at him but: I studied abroad and lived in Japan for a year. I studied Japanese while there.
Dr. Tasia Cerezo
Dr. Tasia Cerezo chose Worcester precisely because of what Worcester has to offer. “ I grew up in Florida and transitioned to MA after completing college to join AmeriCorp. I moved to Worcester two years ago this month in search of a diverse community for my family. Worcester, being the second largest city in New England, I knew would offer that to us. I wanted to be sure my children could see themselves in their classrooms.” On how her values weave into her work: Meryl’s Safe Haven completely weaves into my belief that a sense of community and belonging makes a difference in how we do or do not thrive. I value what we can do as a community and truly believe it takes a village. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today if there weren’t people who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself and I know how cliché that sounds but it’s true. The work of MSH is intended to provide opportunities for young people and families who just need someone to give them an inch. In some ways, the creation of my organization, Meryl’s Safe Haven, started as a passion project. I had always wanted to start a nonprofit organization but wanted to be sure it filled a need of the community and didn’t think I had found it, yet. As I grieved the passing of my aunt, worlds and ideas collided: the need for shelter programming, my desire to start an organization, her desire to one day start an organization for young people, and an idea to honor her memory. MSH is absolutely a passion that, I’m hoping, will have long-term impacts on the individuals we serve and the community as a whole. You might not know it just looking at her but: “I collect rubber ducks and I love music so much that I went through the casting for a game show. I couldn’t travel outside of the country for the taping so I had to ultimately bow out. I was heartbroken!”. Proud Moment: I am proud of is publishing my first children’s book: Fostered Love: The Journey of Foster-Parents. I wrote it about five years ago and decided in November to have it illustrated and self-published. The response to this book has been heartwarming.
Joseph Corazzini is a Worcester born and bred native. He went to North high, and then to Worcester State University for both his bachelor’s and master’s. The experience has given him a clear view of the systemic issues in the city, and inspired him to tackle some of these larger issues. On how his values weave into his work: I think the work that I do now with Clark University and working on community affairs speaks exactly to my most cherished values. As Vice President for Government and Community Affairs, I get to facilitate and activate positive community. I’m really glad that I’ve helped expand the Universe Park zone scholarship program. Now 1200 additional local students have the opportunity to attend Clark for free. Expanding access to education is huge for me and the community in which I grew up; This is a big step in how we celebrate our diversity and show gratitude toward our neighbors as a University. It is just building good bridges. Proud moment: I am so proud of all of the programs I developed out of school type programs while working in Framingham. I made it possible for students to pursue a career in education as early as being a junior in high school. The initiative grew to 6-7 different departments and generated revenue for the district. It was almost a (nearly) perpetual motion machine for academic careers. I’m immensely proud of what I achieved there, but I work hard still not to become easily satisfied. I constantly challenge myself. I want to keep growing in my work, and keep building bigger and better things. You might not know it just looking at him but: I DJ sometimes a little on the side, and I actually Paolo the baristo in the ‘made
for TV’ movie March Sisters at Christmas. You can watch the movie (and me) on Amazon Prime.
Brett Iarrobino & Emma Couillard
Brett Iarrobino & Emma Couillard are the two masterminds behind the Worcester Writers’ Collective. Iarrobino and Couillard are both Worcester transplants by way of Clark University. However, they each decided to put down roots in Worcester after their undergraduate experience. “Before I even realized how strong my connection was I was spending my summers here and just naturally treating this place like home. Today, I’m still living in Worcester, I teach in Worcester Public Schools, and I stay involved with several of the nonprofit organizations that play their part in keeping the city creative and active. I’ve grown so much, professionally and personally, from the work that I’ve done in this community, and that work has taught me a lot about organizing, being creative, and taking care of the people you are in community with. It’s difficult to imagine who I would be today without the work I’ve done, the memories I’ve made, and the connections I’ve found in this very special place!(I) “I started volunteering with Worcester youth, and the intense spirit of the city was immediately evident. The people of Worcester have a frankness, honesty, and openness about their stories. This candor has extended to the Worcester Writers’ Collective, in which everyone is forthcoming with their work and their experiences. You just have one beer with someone, and you will know what their childhood was like, and what their dreams are. The vibrancy and heart of people is what has kept me in Worcester.”(C) On how their values weave into their work: “Seeing people find and share their voice at the Worcester Writers’ Collective is incredibly rewarding. For years, I thought that writing was an exhausting, private existence. The Worcester Writers’ Collective is the opposite of that. People have so much energy, and they love sharing about their personal process. I find my own writing improving as I hang on to the other writers’ insights. Just by participating in this group, my writing has become more active and energetic. A simple conversation with another writer has often brought me to a realization of where I need to go. This is why I truly value this community. We come together to assist each other, and to celebrate each other’s achievements. I have not found this bond with any other group of people. It makes me feel incredibly optimistic about the future of Worcester’s writing community. We have some future legendary writers in our midst, and I’m there to organize all these great minds together.” (c) “I recently read several poems about Worcester with my seventh graders, and after we went off to write our own, I got to spend an afternoon reading through these incredible meditations on anything from their favorite-looking triple-deckers to the funny-looking bridge in Elm Park. To be able to do this in a classroom, where we are in community with each other daily, where we build routines, create inside jokes, celebrate good days, and process the tougher ones, just makes the writing and the learning even richer. And those Worcester poems we read? They were lifted directly from the Worcester County Poetry Association’s 2023 Rain Poetry collection, where I have the pleasure of serving on the Communications Committee and even know some of the winning poets firsthand. The short answer to this is writing, a beautifully obvious throughline for what I do, what I’m passionate about, and how I find ways to be creative in the city and collaborate with others.” (I) On what 2024 will bring: “It’s become clear to the WWC team we’ve tapped into a creative need that wasn’t being met in Worcester and we’re proud to have stepped up and held space for writers in a way that wasn’t always there in the city. . As we look ahead to 2024, I’m excited to find more ways to get these stories on their feet and bring more listeners and audience members into the fold. So many of our writers are telling stories that benefit from speakers, visuals, and production that we have the means to execute through accessible outlets like the JMAC. And, organizations like the WCPA, which have been around for a while and have existing infrastructure and connections, are out there doing work that aligns with ours in the city and the region. It’s time to keep getting folks in the room who can be collaborative and share our vision. (I) We are having our first public showcase of writing at the Jean McDonough Arts Center next year. It’s an amazing space where our writers will be able to present their work to an outside audience. I’m extremely excited for our writers’ words to be funneled into one product that shows off all the brilliance in our group. Personally, this will also be a culmination of a years long project. It’s an opportunity for us to bring attention to the dynamic community we have created. We had a vision for a group that would bring people together to challenge each other and make local writing better. Now that idea is about to be presented to everyone outside our little bubble. There’s some vulnerability in that, but mostly I am just enthusiastic about the future of this group. (c) You might not know it just looking at them but: “I had a serious concussion in high school when I fell off a bunk bed. I had trouble reading or writing for months. That made me not take either pastime for granted!” (c) “My favorite book as a kid was “Punk Farm” and it was actually written by local author Jarrett J. Krosoczka, famous for also writing ‘Hey, Kiddo’. Learning about that connection years later in my graduate program made me even more sure that Worcester is my home.”
Mags Munroe (and Scooby)
Mags Munroe hails from our own neighborhood.” Worcester wasn’t always my home. For most of my life, it was the city next door. And, I’m actually from a smaller town on the edge of the city, and Worcester was always the place I commuted to for work, meeting up with friends, or enjoying good food.” In 2022 after a brief stint in San Francisco, Munro felt compelled to move back and to make Worcester her home. Proud moment: “The mural I did for Lincoln Street School comes to mind. At the time there were modular buildings being added to the school to accommodate the students, and they were to be painted as part of World Wide Walls, (formerly known as POW! WOW!). After helping artist Kaplan Bunce, (Kapache1), on his mural, I was tasked to paint my own mural on the school. I knew I wanted to include an uplifting message, so I centered my mural around the phrase “Be You,” hoping it would be something the students would be uplifted by.” On where to find her in 2024: “This upcoming year, I really want to do more illustration stuff! I would love to do more artwork around Worcester. I also have been dying to do more large-scale work. One of my favorite murals I’ve done was for Glazy Susan, a beloved Worcester donut spot that shut its doors earlier this year. So, I would love to do more murals in the near future whether it be for local businesses or more public art.” On little known facts about Munroe: “I make a really mean vegan pizza bagel.”
Khalil Guzman-Jerry has lived in Worcester his whole life. “I grew up in the Sever Street Project Complex, eating Pickle Barrel after school, and getting ice cream from Jerry’s ice cream truck in the summertime.” More than that, Guzman-Jerry studied first Tatnuck Magnet, then University Park Campus School, and finally Worcester State. Every step of his life has been tied to the city that he loves, and for which he is filled with gratitude. On how his values weave into to his work: Guzman-Jerry values passion and intentionality. “One way I could answer this is I prioritize doing the best I can with whatever I create. I had an office job for 3 years. There was no art in my life. I felt so trapped, as if I could see the rest of my life play out in a cubicle. I swear I’d wake up and feel in an intense sadness. I quit my job. Started making art full time and decided I am going to give everything I have to this passion for the 5 years and If it doesn’t work I can say at least I gave it everything I had and there’s no regrets. So with in my work there is an intention of executing to the best of my abilities with every single thing I do, big or small. In another way, I would say my values and priorities lay around, establishing Worcester on a large scale, we can provide to the culture of this country and the world. We have so many talented people here and we’ve had people who made it out and we’ve had people who just haven’t gotten the shot yet and I think there’s a lot more people who haven’t gotten that shot, so with my work I really want to represent Worcester.” Proud moment: “I’ve been blessed with the opportunity belief and excitement people have in my work, something in the community that I’m really proud of would have to be the REC youth grow mural sponsored in partnership with PowWow. Itfelt definitely felt like a passion project. I love things that involve the community working together in any kind of way. I’m all for anything that gets people socializing and doing things together. The work that they do is amazing and the fact that they get kids closer to nature is truly unique. I was able to create a mural that adds color and vibrancy to their healthy farm and I’m really proud of the fact that I was able to work with Travis Duda.” On what 2024 has in store: I’m just really looking forward to working as hard as I can, meeting a lot of different people on the way and doing a lot of really cool stuff and having a lot of cool experiences and representing the city the best that I can. You might not know it just looking at him but: I tattoo myself I did not close I cut my hair even though my hair is crazy right now.
Mayor Mike Nicholson
Mayor Mike Nicholson is another Worcester County native, hailing from the nearby town of Gardner. After interning in the Mayor’s office through college, Nicholson pursued a career in public service. Before long his passion and commitment led Nicholson in the Mayor’s seat for the city of Gardener at the tender age of 25, making him the third youngest Mayors Gardener has ever had. On how his values weave into his work: The two ideas that guide how I chose to weave into my work is the idea that the main job of those of us in local government is to help build a community that people feel proud, safe, and happy to call their home, and the mantra that “people are policy” that I learned from working in Governor Baker’s Office. The initiatives I put forward, the work that we do, and the projects we undertake all have these as the underlying theme with them. Proud moment: One of the projects we’ve undertaken in Gardner is the re-instatement of the beginner band program at Gardner Elementary School and the re-vamping of our music programs as a whole. In my first budget that I proposed as Mayor, I re-instated the elementary school beginner band and instrumental instruction position, so that students would be back to playing instruments in our elementary school by the time the new school building construction was completed. In the first year over 190 students were participating in the program, with well over 200 students (a third of the full population of that school) participating in grades 3 and 4. I am very much looking forward to seeing how this program impacts our music programs in the long run as these students throw and progress through school.” What to look for in 2024: Facing some challenges with downtown Gardener’s disrepair back in 2020, Nicholson has been slowly working to rebuild. “We set up grant programs where local/small businesses could apply for funding for new signs or awnings for their storefronts, provided grants to properties who chose to renovate the street visible facades of their buildings, and set up two vacant storefront revitalization districts in the Downtown area and Timpany Boulevard corridor to create a targeted plan on how to proceed. Twenty-two buildings in the downtown area are under new ownership, over 50 businesses have newly opened their doors or expanded their services in Gardner, tens of millions of dollars of private sector investment has been poured in the City, and areas that once felt like they were hanging on by a thread have a new sense of life to them. I’m really excited how all of this growth and development will impact the City in the long run when it’s all finished and all of the construction that is currently going on throughout these locations is completed. We already know that Chipotle, Aldi, and Five Below are set to open in Timpany Plaza in the next six to eight months, and that a few restaurants have signed on to build out new locations in the downtown, but there’s a lot more potential out there that’s still waiting to be grasped.” You might not know it just looking at him but: “I marched in the 2013 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade as a member of the UMass Minuteman Marching Band, playing the trumpet.”
Kate Mastro took the scenic route toward a life in Worcester. Growing up in a nearby town, Mastro explored many of the adjacent cities including Boston, Providence and Nashua, before finally making her way to Worcester. “It became clear that the city was changing, growing, and becoming a vibrant landscape that I was eager to call home.” On how her work weaves into her values: “I love connecting people with one another and am fortunate my profession allows me to do this on a daily basis. Facilitating connections within the community and watching those relationships grow and thrive is a really cool thing to see.” Proud moment: “As a Sales Manager for Deep Eddy Vodka, I’ve been privileged to sponsor and support numerous events and causes, many of which celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. Being able to play a small part in facilitating the celebration of queer joy and unabashedly embracing your truest self is something that truly brings me happiness.” On where to look for her in 2024: “As the city continues to grow and diversify, I look forward to nourishing existing connections and supporting small, locally owned businesses. Shout outs to a few of my favorites: Pasta Mani, Maker to Main, and Ilah Jewelry!” You might not know it just looking at her but: “I once did tequila shots with Guy Fieri”
Like many of Worcester’s finest residents, Noel Stemn immigrated to the city from Monrovia, Liberia when he was 6 years old. “I immigrated here during a time of civil war in Liberia. Since then, Worcester has been home to me ever since, growing up in the inner city and being a part of my community every step of the way.” On how his values weave into his work: “Woo Juice is the community. From before opening the storefront to this day, Woo Juice has sponsored and donated to over 15 events. All of our beverages is has some type of significance and meaning to it that brands with the city/community. As the business continues to grow, we’ll continue to make an impact in our community.” Proud moment: Giving back to my middle school (The Nativity School) is something I’m the most proud of because that is where it all started for me, it’s part of the reason I’m in this position today. So to sponsor the basketball team and school by giving them juices, sneakers etc is something I couldn’t be more happy about, branding with Nativity is something the company will always do. What to look for in 2024: “Looking forward to working with more schools in the city/ central mass as well and gyms and hopefully groceries stores. Healthy juices is something everyone can benefit from and it’s needed more in all of our communities” You might not know it just looking at him but: I lived in Ghana for 2yrs and I’ve also been to 44 out of 50 U.S states.
Brad Chapman grew up in Paxton but spent most of his youth skateboarding the streets of Worcester. Aside from an 8-year stint in Boston, Worcester has always been his home. “When I moved back to Worcester in 2017, I dove into the art community head first. I started working at C.C.Lowell, going to all of the openings I could, submitting to shows at the Sprinkler Factory, ArtsWorcester, and any other galleries that would take my work. Worcester’s art community was and still is inclusive, welcoming and supportive, filled with hard working, talented emerging artists, making thought provoking work. I felt accepted and my creative passion was revitalized. I then made the decision to get my Masters Degree so I could start teaching, and began a low residency program at Goddard College, so I could stay in Worcester and continue building on the relationships within the art community.” Proud moment: I am assistant director of the Mary Cosgrove Dolphin Art gallery at Worcester State, and have been responsible for bringing hundreds of emerging artists into the space for a chance to share their work and ideas with the greater Worcester community. I curated the WooTown Funk exhibition in September 2022, proving to be a vibrant show with intriguing work which attracted the highest attendance of any exhibition in the gallery since its opening. Not only is the gallery hosting the upcoming GLOW Show at the gallery opening January 25th, accepting submissions until January 5th, I also have some opportunities for further community building in the works- so keep an eye out! On what 2024 has in store: I look forward to expanding my teaching in the future. I am an adjunct professor of Art at Worcester State and I hope to continue building classes and offering students more chances for self-discovery and a sense of agency and pride in their abilities. I will be having a solo exhibition at the Mary Cosgrove Dolphin Art Gallery at Worcester State University in March of 2024, called Step Right Up, which will feature paintings, sculptures and drawings, integrating vintage objects and cultural detritus from the past. This will be my first solo show and I am eternally proud of this body of work. You might not know it just looking at him but: “Along with proudly serving as a board member and being actively involved with Turn Back Time, the phenomenal nature-based educational center in Paxton where Veda is a teacher and administrator, we are also vintage & antique dealers. You can find our small business, The Bleau Pig vending at Vintage Rebel Curiosity Shop in Leicester, MA and Live Flea or Buy in Millbury, MA. Anything that doesn’t make it into my art or our personal collection ends up at either of those locations, filled with vintage, nostalgia and quirky oddities.”
Caleb Sandoz Encarnacion-Rivera
Caleb Sandoz Encarnacion-Rivera is proud Worcester native raised in the city’s Main South neighborhood. He attended the Worcester public schools from kindergarten through twelfth grade, eventually beginning my classroom teaching career in Worcester Public Schools at South High Community School, where I taught history. He currently serves as the new Director of Equity, Cultivation, and Recruitment for the Worcester Public Schools. On how his values weave into his work: “As a self-identifying Afro-Taino Boricua and Christian who grew up in the inner city, my entire professional career has been centered around work rooted in my faith, my ancestral and cultural history, and my lived experiences as a resident of Worcester that aims to dismantle oppressive structural power within institutions. I decided to become a classroom teacher because I viewed my practice as a form of activism, empowering students to tap into their abundant wealth of knowledge and become agents of change. As I have transitioned into education leadership over the past few years, I continue to hold those values from my time in the classroom. I have been able to develop further and advance my skills to view educational leadership through a social justice lens that prioritizes critical consciousness and identity, building capacity among students, caregivers, teachers, staff, and administration to be a part of a systemic transformation that disrupts dominant narratives and sustains social change.” Proud Moment: In 2018-2019, The Youth Civics Union research team successfully conducted the city of Worcester’s first-ever youth-led quantitative education research study on the impact that lack of teacher diversity has on students of color in the Worcester public schools. This was one of the most pivotal and proudest accomplishments of my career as an educator because it is the prime example of what I set out to do as an educator: disrupt and flip the power dynamics of systems of schooling to foster the growth and development of agents of change among our gifted Worcester public school’s scholars. You might not know it just looking at him but: “I am blessed to have grown up in a large, loving family with eight brothers, three sisters, and my beloved mother and father.”