Class of 2017


Here's your chance to learn about this last years amazing nominees!

Community Mogul

Ayana Iman_ Authentic Convos.jpg

ayana iman

Authentic Convos

Ayana Iman is a native of Trenton, NJ and proud New Jersey resident. In 2015, she launched her career as an Inspirational Speaker and Self-Help Blogger, using this website to teach others how to live in the “light” and cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Her focus on community collaborations has led her to a number of volunteer opportunities and community leadership roles. Ayana received her Bachelor of Arts in Communications/Journalism at Kean University and her Masters in Strategic Organizational Communication at Rutgers University.

Brandon Mets_ Getfitwitfade.png

Brandon Metz


Life Coach, Influencer, Personal Trainer and Entrepreneur. My page represents a positive message to promote health and fitness. The overall goal of my brand is to change lives and to build the youth up by using fitness as an outlet. 

Mardochee Louis - MGL Consulting Group.jpg

Mardochee Louis

MGL Consulting Group

Mardochee G. Louis is a credit expert with six years of experience in the finance industry. He graduated magna cum laude from Rutgers University with a bachelor of science degree in accounting and finance. He worked for the globally recognized accounting firm Ernst & Young, where he handled an array of financial services to improve his clients’ business needs.
While working at Ernst & Young, Mardochee utilized his increasing financial knowledge to successfully implement a personal plan to improve his own credit score. During this time, Mardochee developed the desire to help others by sharing this credit knowledge. He recognized that many Americans do not know how to properly use and build good credit
Mardochee’s desire to help others directly led to his founding of MGL Consulting Group and to his development of this guide. He has applied his firsthand experiences to provide an easy-to-understand, in-depth explanation of how to build your personal credit score..

Savereo Jackson- Chaingan9.png

Savereo Jackson

Chaingan9 Supply Company LLC

“From a Bond to a Brand” has been the tenant of the Chaingan9 Supply company since its’ beginning in 2016. The company is inspired by a group of friends who decided to take their strong loyalty, love, and commitment for each other to another level. The men have been friends since high school; some further beyond that. The allegiance didn’t become official however, until high school. With so many differences between the men, it was incredible to see the bond they created while in school. Taking the principles and morals of life in every facet head first with faith. Coming from Montclair, NJ the men individually are talented, and have a strong passion for helping people and the world. Together nevertheless, they are a creative force that continues to create in music, art, fashion, as well as media relations. The influence they have had on the community as well as their school has helped strengthened their network and become a voice for the culture. The company is focused on the culture and changing it for the better. Immediately they realized that having an abundant mind versus having an egocentric mind will get them to where we want to be individually and together faster, than being on your own. We hope you embrace the company on its journey to be an influence to the culture.

Shanea Phillips- BrunchnGrind.jpg

Shanea Phillips

Brunch N' Grind, LLC

Shanea Phillips is the founder and creator of Brunch N’ Grind—the ultimate young professional’s brunch. Shanea is a graduate of North Carolina A&T and has merged her passion for marketing and public service to form a career in Nonprofit Communications. She will be graduating with her Master’s degree in Public Administration in December 2017. She is also the co-founder of Link New Jersey and a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority inc.


Alec Ratyosyan - Paratrees LLC.jpg

Alec Ratyosyan


I am an Armenian-American, 22-year-old. I was born and raised in New Jersey. I grew up in Tenafly, then moved to Highland Park in 2011, where my folks and younger sister still reside. I played sports through my school years, including football, and wrestling, I also threw javelin on the track team.
I have lived in Newark since 2013. I am a marketing student attending Rutgers Business School, a founding team member of ParaTrees, as well as the COO. I also work as a project manager with BrownMill Company.
I am an outdoorsman, I enjoy backpacking, skiing, hiking, and water sports. I enjoy spending time with my family, friends, and my fraternity brothers of Alpha Phi Delta.
I strongly believe in the power of community. Before focusing my energy into entrepreneurship, I was the Chapter-Chair of NJPIRG, as well as the At-Large State Board Member. Our team was responsible for registering over 3,000 voters.
While working for SolarCity in May 2016, Kira Antoine introduced me to the founder of ParaTrees, Chrystoff Camacho. Realizing our commitment to the environment, we focused on solving environmental issues through the advancement of aerial systems to better maintain forests. In August of 2016 I made a full commitment to ParaTrees & BrownMill.
Aside from the environmental benefits of a healthy forest, there are economic and social benefits as well, from energy creation, to cleaner air. This is why we are committed providing services that make sustainable forestry even easier through the use of aerial systems.

Al-tariq Harris - The Power of K.jpg

Al-Tariq Harris

Power of K

Al-Tariq Harris a 19 year old college student who studied Fine Arts as my major throughout my high school career. In college, I currently major in film. Along with my good friend, Elijah Carr, we create a hand-drawn animated YouTube series titled Power of K. The series has grown over the course of four years with numerous episode screenings, one of which being played in the 4th Annual All American High School Film Festival.

Aside from the series, my film "Okay, Bubbie" has won two awards (being Best Screenplay and Best Film) awarded by the NAACP ACT-SO competition, while also having a screening in the 3rd Annual All American High School Film Festival. Quite a few of my art pieces have also been featured in different museum art shows, including the Montclair Art Museum and the Newark Museum. To this day, I work to excel in my craft in an effort to save the dying art of cartooning.


IMG_7011 - Justis Pitt.JPG

Justis Pitt


I began my company BrownMill in the eighth grade when I made my first bow tie. I started with a vision to make the best ties in the game, but then began to learn more about menswear and craftsmanship in totality. It intrigued my and there began my quest to becoming a tailor. I then began to intern in the city in my teen years which allowed me opportunity to learn more about my craft, design, and other artistic skill sets in general. Allowing this journey I met acquaintances who shared the same passion for design and the BrownMill vision as I did. These became my team members and eventually family

Joshua Olayinka- Setfreee.jpg

Joshua Olayinka

Setfreee Mobile App

I am a British born Nigerian who came to America for a better life. I study Computer Science and Business at NJIT. I have worked for two Fortune 500 companies: Goldman Sachs and AIG. I have a love for innovating in areas that are difficult.

Kyemah McEntyre - MindofKye.jpg

Kyemah McEntyre

Mind Of Kye

Im Kye, from East Orange New Jersey . I am 20 years old now, and I’ve been an activist all of my life. I share messages from my ancestors with the world. Abstractly I am an instrument , using visuals to redefine people of color. My work consist of paintings, film and fashion. I’m known for my paintings and fashion. In 2015, I designed my prom dress hoping to address the lack of self confidence I saw amongst the young women in my city. This dress and the words I said with it , went viral. Most would consider me to be an analog girl stuck in a digital world, I’d have to agree. I am a Junior at The New School studying fashion design. Ultimately, I focus on visualizing my truth in hopes that it will inspire others to do the same.

Help Us, Help Us


Grace Appiah

Rutgers University Newark Student Governing Association, Newark Youth Ambassadors & Still I Rise Young Women's Leadership Program

I am currently a student at Rutgers University Newark studying Public Administration and International Relations. I am a part of the Honors Living and Learning Community and the BOLD Women's Leadership Network. In addition, I am the Community Outreach Senator for Student Governing Association, a member of the Newark Youth Ambassadors and the founder of Still I Rise Young Women’s Leadership Program, (which will be based in Ghana to educate, and transform young women into leaders. It will be launched in two years).  

I was born and raised in Ghana. Growing up in an underprivileged country was the struggle. Myself and many of my friends did not have the necessary resources to help us with our academics and educational goals.  I moved to the United States in 2012. My journey to the United States was very challenging. It was a cultural shock. However, I gradually overcame that challenge.  America provided me with all the opportunities I never had and Newark became my second home. 

Participating in various community engagement programs in Newark and other places in New Jersey opened my eyes to the countless issues marginalized groups specifically African Americans and immigrant communities experience. I realized that I have a responsibility as a Global citizen to give back to not only immediate communities, but the world. I became a part of youth organizations to fight for quality education and equal opportunities for young people in Newark and other urban communities. Last March, I embarked on my first international service trip with Our Travels to Wilemstad, Curacao, which was very eye opening. In June, I traveled with six of my BOLD sisters and one of our faculty mentors to Kerala, India to help educate women on business strategy skills and women empowerment.

I want to travel and serve every country in world.  My ultimate goal is to work for the United Nations to continue to make the world a better place. 

Korede Akinyelure- Sisters in Training for Life.jpg

Korede Akinyelure

Sisters in Training For Life Inc.

Korede Akinyelure is currently studying Communication with a specialization in Public Relations at Rutgers University, The State University of New Jersey. Along with a minor in Digital Communication Information & Media Studies. Korede loves to spend her free time curating new ideas as well as working on ways to further her career within the field of entertainment media and technology. Korede is no stranger to giving back as she has always been happy to dedicate her time to lend a helping a hand to anyone in need. Whether it be through mentorship or giving back to the homeless. Her positive mindset and passion for serving the community has made her the perfect candidate to serve as Vice President on the board of directors of Sisters in Training For Life Inc. As Vice President, Korede aims to create long lasting and impactful relationships with young women. While advocating the importance of morals, scholarship, and sisterhood. Korede believes that sisterhood is all about making it one’s responsibility to be there as a source of guidance, kindness, and care to help one’s sister become the best version of themselves that they can be. In addition to being a student and mentor, Korede is also an entrepreneur that has recently launched her own Media Brand and Entertainment Website entitled, |Good Vibes| Fashion| Music which can be viewed at The purpose of GVFM is to promote the art that is Fashion and Music while also spreading Good Vibes and Positivity. 

Lorena Estrella - Sadie Nash Leadership Project.jpg

Lorena Estrella

Sadie Nash Leadership

Lorena is a first generation Dominican brown girl from Passaic, NJ. She i eeply committed to elevating the voices and stories of young women o olor and to creating safer spaces for young women to be unapologetically themselves. Over the last five years, Lorena ha orked on the program development and growth of Sadie Nash Leadershi roject in the City of Newark. Lorena is also a member of Move to En iolence Cohort 3 —a 10-year initiative designed by NoVo Foundation t trengthen the collective capacity to end violence against girls an omen in the United States. Lorena currently resides among the cherry blosso rees in Newark, NJ. She is also passionate about the arts as a means for social change and is currently learning the many ways to print without a press and to dance without music.

Marissa Banks - Calling My Future.jpg

Marissa Banks

Calling My Future

Calling My Future is designed to actively promote literacy by bringing it to the people that need it. I've been involved in Newark since coming to Seton Hall University through Skooled Mentoring and Newark Mentoring Movement Programs. Even though I'm from South Jersey,  I aim to spread the literacy revolution everywhere.  Calling My Future aims to give tools so that others can Call On Their Futures and expand their minds. "If I Can Give One Person One Book I've Practically Given Them The World" 


Pascal Faustin

Young Men Striving For Greatness, Inc.

My family instilled in me the importance of giving back. My parents are firm believers in God and with certain Haitian morals and values I grew up to care for those around me. I am from Irvington, a place not too many young black men can excel from. I remember getting robbed at gun point on Union and Chancellor. I remember the roof of my apartment collapsing in my room hours after leaving for school. I remember my mom having to leave my brother and I in the house alone at night so she could go to work. I remember getting straight A's and if I ever got a C, i was scolded for it. My parents expected perfection from me but knew I was just human.  They saw something greater in me that I often didn’t see in myself. I am the eldest of two boys and ever since I can remember, I was all about helping out. This mindset carried over all the way into adulthood where I find myself giving to a community that helped define the man I am today. For the past 4 years I have worked collaboratively as Co-Founder/ President of Young Men Striving For Greatness, Inc. From food drives to street clean ups, I can honestly say that the reward isn’t the recognition that comes, it’s about the lives we’ve impacted and changed. Currently living in Linden, NJ, I work for KIPP schools as a US History/ English teacher at Newark Collegiate Academy. 

Love Is Love


Albert Appouh

Newark Cares

I was born into a disadvantaged family in Newark, NJ. My parents, both Ghanaian immigrants, divorced when I was five years old. In my late teens, I came out as gay and then was diagnosed with bipolar disorder combined with schizophrenia and ADHD. In spite of my race, low-income status, and mental disabilities, I found the best way to overcome these challenges was to immerse myself in my studies and to stay active in my community by volunteering and taking on leadership responsibilities. I have maintained excellent grades throughout college, have become a student leader for various extracurricular activities and have volunteered regularly with organizations within my community. By taking the initiative to become a leader, and by having confidence in myself to succeed in any endeavor I choose to take. I realize that success does not become a reality without determination, hard work, and the ability to work with others, and I have applied this philosophy not just to my coursework, but also to how I live within my local community and now, gratefully, how I am seeking a path to my vocation as a teacher. By serving as an educator, I seek to be a role model for underrepresented minorities. No matter my role, I am committed to showing others that their background, medical history, sexual orientation, or social status has no effect on what they will be able to accomplish by applying hard work, determination, and by staying goal-oriented towards a brighter future.

Hansier Rodriguez- Student Advocate.jpg

Hansier Rodriguez

Student Governing Association, Alliance of E.O.F. Students of New Jersey.

I lived the first 13 years of my life in my native country, the Dominican Republic, where I first experienced what leadership truly meant. Growing up in the Dominican Republic, I witness many families struggle for children to have an education. As a Dominican child, I did not see many opportunities for youth to get involved in the community.  Which made me realize how lucky I am to stand where I stand. This is why I appreciate the opportunities that life offers me and I do not take anything for granted. Arriving to the United States was an explosion of opportunities which I was very grateful for since I wasn't able to get those privileges back in my native country.


Madeline Pugh

Independent music artist/Founder of FeedTheSouls

22 year old Jersey native, born and raised in Bloomfield, NJ. Singer, song-writer, producer, author, philanthropist, creator.

Mani Martinez_ Community Organizer.png

Emanuel (Mani) Martinez

I was born in Mexico in 1991. In 2000, my parents brought my sister and I across the Mexican-US border. After which, I grew up in Passaic, NJ. I was introduced to the city of Newark, as I entered Essex County College as an undocumented student, and simultaneously lived at the Covenant House shelter down the street. 
I started writing poetry at the age of 14. However, I did not commit to taking visual art and spoken word seriously until after the death of Michael Brown in 2014. His death and the mass outrage accompanying it compelled me to join a group of UPenn classmates to create art protest installations championing racial justice. Being involved in this process for about a year taught me the potential of using art as means of articulating struggle; a necessary process through which growth happens. I create poetry, paintings, murals, digital drawings, and spaces that build the courage and love of working class people for themselves and their struggles. 
I have spent the last three years observing the cultural waves being generated by artists primarily in Philadelphia and Newark. I have been part of organizing, contributing, performing, and building relationships at grassroots art parties, galleries, open mics, hip hop shows, artist hangouts, grassroots conference, and artist collectives. 
As a gender queer immigrant, I am indebted to the generosity and tenacity of Newark working class people in shaping my political consciousness. The inspiration for my art and my worldview is most deeply directed by our bond.

Shelly Ferrel- love is love.jpg

Michelle Ferrell

Legit Mind State

A ""Legit Mind State"" can be identified as a process of progressive and unconventional thinking. One serving food for thought that will satisfy the appetite for success. Shelly Ferrell, 25, is a Newark native and promising emcee who curates dope vibes with elemental hip-hop, produces visual aesthetics with photography and promotes fitness. Being ""Legit"" is a lifestyle and a disciplined process of thinking where you can do anything if you put your ""mind"" to it. 
Shelly Ferrell has opened up, along side New Jersey Karma Black, for DMV artist Ziggy World Wide in New York City. Shelly has also been a part of Open Doors Festival 2015 performing for the Femme Curators at Gallery 211. Most recently, Shelly has interned  and work along side with the wonderful team of Brooklyn Music Week.

With a style so eclectic, Shelly Ferrell can spread her Legit Thinking through various forms of music and creative platforms. L.G.I.T (Lets Get It !)"


Ashley Robinson- Gym Lionness.jpg

Ashley Robinson

Gym Lioness

Ashley was born and raised in Somerset, NJ. She is working on her degree at Rutgers University. She is also serving Active duty while maintaining her Professional status in bodybuilding as a bikini competitor. Ashley have been competiting for two years but have been actively in sports her whole life. Her dream is to inspire and educate women about self love and health and fitness. Her ultimate goal is to own her very own gym. 

Deja Jones- Curate Your Life.jpg

Deja Jones

Curate Your Life

Deja L. Jones is a Trenton native. She has also lived in Newark and Jersey City making her a true Jersey Girl. She is a graduate of the College of Arts & Sciences at Rutgers University-Newark, where she received her B.A. in Journalism & Media Studies and of Liberty University's Graduate School of Education where she received an M.Ed in Education Administration. She has worked in digital media and her work has been featured on sites such as Madame Noire where she worked as a women's lifestyle writer and personal essayist sharing Black women narratives. She’s worked for Saint Heron under the creative direction of Solange Knowles as an Arts & Culture writer. She also served as a web writer for Upscale Magazine scouting, scheduling, and interviewing, young, black, professionals to be featured in their Urban Entrepreneur Instagram campaign. Her work has also been featured on the Black Voices Channel for The Huff Post as well as other media publications such as Bauce Magazine, Blavity, HYCIDE Magazine, and She is currently the Editor-in-Chief of Black Girl Magik, an alternative and holistic web publication for women of color. In addition to being a writer, Deja is also a Newark educator where she has taught high school and now elementary school. She has worked for community organizations such as The Boys & Girls Clubs of Mercer County, The Boys & Girls Clubs of Newark and The Future Project. She is the President and Director of Programs for Curate Your Life.

Joe Moore_ Care More.png

Joe Moore

Care More

My name is Joe "SiR" Moore. A graduate from William Paterson University. I am a Father, Active member in my community, Artist & Photo Journalist. Born and raised in Paterson, New Jersey by my grandmother who has given me this fight for equality since I was 10 years old. Every Saturday we use to feed the people in need across the street at the YMCA and since then I have always taken part in helping the community that I am in. Care More was founded by Mercedes C. Smith and myself back in 2013. We are a non profit organization dedicated to giving back to those in need through care packages and conversations. I wouldn't call myself a humanitarian because I feel it is our duty to already be dedicated to where we live and the people of where we live. Don't you want your environment to be safe and active?! Through Photography and my artistry I strongly attack those things to help make my community an active, artistic, educated and safe environment. Currently a photography teacher for the Paterson public school board at an elementary school and a case manager for a men's homeless shelter in Paterson, New Jersey.

Keath Gerald- NJ Sharing Network.jpg

Keath Gerald


Plainfield native Keath Edward Gerald Jr. was born on May 9, 1990. His life was saved by a heart and liver transplant in 2015. In 2017, Keath graduated from William Paterson University with two degrees in elementary education and liberal arts. He is a 7 seven time Transplant Games of America medalist. He began volunteering with NJ Sharing Network to share the message of donation. He is now an employee there presenting at schools across the state to help students understand the importance of registering as an organ and tissue donor.


Ruqaiyyah Nubiaa Beatty

The Starter Kit Series

Ruqaiyyah “NUBIAA” Beatty is a filmmaker, poet, writer, model and storyteller based in northern New Jersey.  As a proud follower of the African spiritual tradition Ifá, Nubiaa is committed to progressive communication through the scope of love and enlightenment.Her self-developed workshop series, STARTER KIT, debuted at the Speak My Mind exhibition as part of the City of Newark's Open Doors Arts Festival in October 2016. Designed to create dialogue between men, women and children of color (but not limited to) surrounding their mental, physical and emotional health, the STARTER KIT is an activity that opens doors to healing through vulnerability, community and fellowship.

Visual & Sound

Hydeeah_ NotCommon.png

Hydeeah Johnson


Jersey female cinematographer/screenwriter/ director


Jay Golding

Yendor Arts

Jay Golding lives and works in Essex County, New Jersey. He attended Kean University for studio art, where he received his Bachelors in Fine Art in 2015. Golding has participated in a bevy of exhibitions, both group and juried in the greater Metropolitan area. He is also a muralist, who has contributed several public works to the City of Newark.



Jean Messeroux

Hueman by JM

Jean Messeroux is a 24-year-old Newark-based high school teacher, visual artist, and photojournalist documenting culture, expression, and reality through photography. After years of studying, experiencing and witnessing numerous forms of oppression, Jean created Hueman by JM, a digital artistic platform dedicated to documenting the authentic beauty and experiences of people of color. Jean uses his art to provoke critical thought, highlight the beauty of Newark and similar communities, and to tell the complex stories of oppressed people. 

Malcolm Rolling- Yendor Productions.png

Malcolm A. Rolling

Yendor Arts

An Urban Contemporary Afro Impressionist, Craftsman, Muralist and Production Manager at Yendor, Malcolm A. Rolling is a native of East Orange, NJ and also a Newark, NJ based Artist. Malcolm’s artistry favors the ability to repurpose discarded materials into presentable works of art. Such repurposed works include but are not limited to, creating useable gallery equipment, furniture and installation. As production manager, Malcolm not only facilitates mural operations but also is a public art consultant, teaching artist and mentor. The basis and spine of the artist structural creativity derives from a number of years studying visual art by way of traditional education and apprenticeship. Malcolm is a former carpenter, assistant sculptor, graduate of Elizabeth City State University with a BA In Fine Art and alumni of East Orange Campus High School where he studied animation. His passion for the arts is what drives he love for community, knowing that creativity and positive self expression is the way toward wholistic economic growth. 

Michelle _Shelly Spinelli_ Strothers -L.O.U.D Project .jpg

Michelle "Shelly Spinelli" Strothers

The L.O.U.D. Project

Michelle "Shelly Spinelli" Strothers is a spoken word artist and educator from Jersey.  Her work is rooted in self love, intersectional feminism, surviving abuse and radical restoration.
     Shelly was a member of Montclair State University's 2016 Slam Poetry Team placing 7th in the world,   co-coached Montclair State's 2017 Slam Team, tieing for first place, and is a member of the 2017 Nuyorican Slam Team, placing top 20 in the world. She has performed at a number of colleges and universities around the country and has co-facilitated the Sisterhood Summit and Yeah That's What She Said workshops.
     She is the Program Director for a literacy program, the L.O.U.D. (Living Our Ultimate Dreams) Project, based in Newark, NJ. L.O.U.D. strives to give youth the tools to express their stories and find their voice through slam poetry.  Shelly is also a teaching artist for Urban Word NYC and faculty member at Sadie Nash Leadership Project.
     She is a foodie, dancer and lover of all things creative. Her mission is to spend every day pushing art forward,  challenging herself to  invest into her mind, body and spirit, ignite a whisper of someone else to become a roar and to invest as much of her resources into her community as possible while also balancing self care and a decent sleep pattern.  
     This young unapologetically black woman believes in unity and the collaborative efforts of the community being the only way that marginalized people will collectively liberate themselves from those who have attempted to oppress us.