Oklahoma Gazette's Forty Under 40 Class of 2019

Meet this year’s Forty Under 40 class.

The diverse group of honorees in this year’s Forty Under 40 class provides a glimpse of what the future of Oklahoma City might look like — driven, enterprising, community-minded and abundantly creative.

These are individuals striving to make Oklahoma a richer, better place by impacting various groups and issues in unique ways through work in the fields of law, the arts, public relations and public service, among others.

Meet this year’s Forty Under 40 class.

Whitney Anderson
Age 35
Executive Director and Co-founder, The Dragonfly Home

Whitney Anderson left behind a longtime corporate position when she realized she needed to be an advocate for victims of sex and labor trafficking. She first learned about the issue during a business course and decided to become part of the solution.

“After working with human trafficking survivors on a mission trip to Africa, I was further inspired,” she said, “inspired by the survivors’ strength and courage to begin volunteering nearly full-time at a nonprofit in Oklahoma City.”

She and two co-founders started The Dragonfly Home in 2016. The facility became Oklahoma’s first state-certified service program for victims of human trafficking. The crisis center provides non-residential services like case management, emergency relocation, mental health services, assistance with medical care, court advocacy and employment and education support. 

The facility also provides a safe space and a supportive community.

As executive director, Anderson facilitates volunteer training and ensures the facility complies with state certification standards.

“We at Dragonfly are inspired daily by the human trafficking survivors we serve,” she said, “inspired by their courage, strength and resiliency. We are motivated in knowing that true healing and restoration is possible even after the most brutal trafficking experiences.”

Anderson is a member of the Chickasaw Nation. She recognizes the additional need to serve a marginalized population with culturally appropriate care.

Anderson is also CEO and co-founder of Unveiled Human Trafficking Training and Consulting, an organization that offers training courses and educational programs to those who want to learn more about the issue of human trafficking.

Additionally, The Dragonfly Home is a member of Oklahoma Human Trafficking Task Force, where Anderson serves as chair of the Training and Awareness Committee.

Previously, Anderson served as assistant executive director at Beautiful Dream Society, an emergency shelter for adult female victims of sex trafficking.

Janelle Marie Archer
Age 26
Marketing and Public Relations Manager, Allied Arts

Janelle  Marie Archer has made her mark on Oklahoma City’s advertising and arts communities in several big ways.

Archer is a marketing and public relations manager with Allied Arts, an organization that helps fund arts organizations and educational outreach programs throughout Oklahoma.

Archer said the most gratifying aspects of her job are meeting community leaders and seeing those who benefit from the programs Allied Arts helps provide. She is honored to tell those stories.

“I’ve met people who’ve claimed that a program that one of our member agencies has done has completely saved his life,” she said.

Archer is a member of Ad 2 OKC and Junior League of Oklahoma City and is a board member of American Advertising Federation Oklahoma City Ad Club and Plaza District Association.

This year, Archer also chaired Oklahoma American Advertising Awards (ADDYs). She praised the diverse work of regional advertisers and creative organizations that participated in the awards.

She previously served as a content marketing specialist with BigWing. While there, Archer led a team as director of Confluence Conference, a national digital marketing conference that brought hundreds from the marketing field into Oklahoma City.

Archer described Confluence Conference as an opportunity for creative professionals to collaborate rather than compete. She said it was an accessible conference that offered the marketing community a chance to learn and network.

“I think creating community in any industry is really important,” she said. “I’ve learned to be more innovative and inspired in my work through other people. I think it’s validating to be able to have those connections and have really important open-ended conversations with people who are passionate about the same things that you’re passionate about.”

Carrie Ellis
Age 35
Owner, Lush Fashion Lounge

Carrie Ellis opened Lush Fashion Lounge in 2008 at the age of 23.

She had just graduated college with a bachelor’s degree in fashion marketing and a minor in business administration from University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) and briefly considered working in sports marketing. After a job search, she decided to open a clothing boutique.

Her popular store, which carries clothing and accessories for women and men as well as trendy gear for local professional and collegiate sports teams, grew quickly from a six-person staff to a team of 50 and a warehouse as well as a brick-and-mortar location and online shop.

Once the shop took off and had the means, Ellis decided to use her position to give back, especially since she had some bumps in the early days of opening a business.

Now Boevers participates in the fashion marketing program at UCO, mentoring aspiring entrepreneurs and helping grade their business plans. She also approached a mother of a staff member about ways the business could get involved in charity endeavors.

Lush now partners with American Cancer Society’s Real Men Wear Pink campaign, Warriors for Freedom and local animal shelters, creating custom shirts and donating the proceeds from sales.

Lush has also worked with children’s and women’s organizations like Ally’s House, OK Foster Wishes and YWCA, offering shopping sprees and styling sessions. Ellis hopes to continue doing hands-on volunteer work with various organizations.

She said other aspiring entrepreneurs should be patient and work hard, even if things are difficult in the beginning. 

“Don’t be afraid to take risks,” she said, “and don’t be embarrassed by failures that come before success!”

Jennifer Burgess-Wright
Age 37
Corporate Director of eCommerce and Marketing, Coury Hospitality

Jennifer Burgess-Wright has played a key part in Oklahoma’s hospitality industry through her work with Coury Hospitality over the past 12 years.

Through her role in digital marketing, she oversees marketing and branding for Coury Hospitality’s impressive portfolio. In Oklahoma, she has been involved in the opening of four hotels and six restaurants. She regularly collaborates with Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau to bring influencers to Oklahoma City.

“I like that there’s no monotony in my daily work,” Burgess-Wright said. “I get to work with people throughout the country, but I think most importantly, they all have a heart of hospitality and of serving others.”

She was also recently selected for Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell’s OklaX initiative and is involved in Project Blue Sky, which was formed to rebrand the state of Oklahoma and increase tourism.

“It’s going to be really transformational, in my opinion, for Oklahoma,” she said.

Burgess-Wright is a member of Junior League of Oklahoma City, where she is serving as the Mistletoe Market special events chair.

She also serves as chair of the Oklahoma chapter of Women in Lodging, an organization that seeks to empower women in lodging, provide community outreach and offer educational programming. Burgess-Wright has helped develop the group’s social media presence and increase attendance.

“I’ve always enjoyed mentoring other women,” she said. “Through Oklahoma Women in Lodging, I’m able to help women who are just coming into the industry or even shed light on our industry and how you can forge your own path in hospitality.”

In 2019, she was named Outstanding Women in Lodging Leader of the Year.

Matt Burkholder
Age 35
Director of Community Engagement, Oklahoma Zoological Society

If you’ve attended a special event at Oklahoma City Zoological Park and Botanical Garden recently, then you have the creative efforts of Matt Burkholder to thank. Burkholder has been responsible for planning and implementing the popular outings so many zoo guests enjoy, including Safari Soirée, Ostrich Egg Breakfast and ZOObrew. 

Burkholder received his bachelor’s degree from Lindenwood University. He started his career as a part-time grade school teacher and a football, basketball and track coach at Casady School. After teaching, he shifted to the oil and natural gas industry and became a contract landman.

Later, his passion for education and nonprofits brought him to Camp Fire Heart of Oklahoma, where he worked as communications coordinator for several years and aided fundraising efforts. He said it was a “natural progression” to move from teaching to telling the stories of nonprofits.

He has worked at Oklahoma Zoological Society since 2017, where he started as coordinator of special events. He quickly doubled attendance at the zoo’s gala, Safari Soirée, and greatly increased the zoo’s sponsorship income.

“One of my favorite things I get to do is I get to connect a lot of our donor base to our conservation mission at the Oklahoma City Zoo,” he said.

This year, he became director of community engagement. Burkholder also added two new brand-new zoo events, Wine in the Wild, a winter wine event, and Brainy Beasts, an animal-related trivia night.

He said ZOObrew remains his favorite event. It is a fundraiser that allows guests to explore the zoo after hours while sampling beer flights from over 55 breweries. This year, the event was even more focused on conservation.

“We’re doing a lot of animal enrichment activities that will connect the beer lovers to conservation missions,” he said. “I’m really excited about that part of it.”

Burkholder also oversees Oklahoma City Zoo’s young professional organization, ZOOtroop.

Ronn Burton
Age 33
Founding Artistic Director, 19th Century Hound

Ronn Burton is an Oklahoma native who received his bachelor’s degree in theater from Shenandoah Conservatory and now splits his time between Oklahoma City and New York City, working as an actor, director and filmmaker.

He has appeared in numerous productions, including Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma’s recent production of Frost/Nixon. His additional Oklahoma credits include acting and directing at Lyric Theatre and productions with Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre (OKC Rep), Carpenter Square Theatre, Reduxion Theatre and Sooner Theatre. He is a member of Actors Equity Association.

Burton has contributed to Oklahoma City’s theater scene significantly with the founding of his own company, 19th Century Hound. He recognized the need for a new type of theater experience after three local companies closed in 2017. 

“We have a lot of really talented Oklahoma City artists, and the opportunities for them were disappearing a little bit,” he said.

He wanted to create those opportunities in a unique, fresh setting that will hopefully introduce new ways of storytelling to a broad local audience. He decided to bring immersive theater to Oklahoma City.

This goal resulted in a collaboration with Factory Obscura’s Beyond installation, for which Burton created an immersive show, Those Who Lie Beyond.

“Part of our mission is immersive nontheatrical spaces, so Factory Obscura was a great partner for that,” he said, “and then also collaboration in a new way.”

 Burton was selected to attend Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab in New York City in 2018 and 2019. He was also accepted to Directors Lab Mediterranean in Lebanon this year.

Burton is an adjunct acting professor at Oklahoma City University (OKCU) and University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) as well as an acting and voice instructor at Lyric Theatre’s Thelma Gaylord Academy. 

“I think we’re all meant to be creative,” Burton said.

Carter Campbell
Age 35
Director of Account Services, Freestyle Creative

Carter Campbell graduated from Oklahoma State University (OSU) in 2007 and since then has carved an impressive path through Oklahoma City’s advertising world.

Campbell currently holds a position as director of account services at Freestyle Creative, where he leads the account services and digital marketing teams and oversees strategy for the company’s accounts. He enjoys that his work is diverse and different every day. 

Campbell was part of creating a campaign for Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, which he points to as one of his greatest creative contributions to the Oklahoma City community. Freestyle Creative even took part in a build of one of Habitat for Humanity’s houses.

“I think the overall general sense of Habitat for Humanity ReStore and its mission and its vision and values is something that we can relate to as a company, as well,” Campbell said.

He also currently serves as president for American Advertising Federation Oklahoma City Ad Club. Campbell said he appreciates getting to know other professionals in his field.

“It’s a big part of our story to help with education and get people informed,” he said of OKC Ad Club. “And it’s also a great way to bring us all together and provide programs for continuing education.”

With OKC Ad Club, he has been integral in bringing the district Advent10n conference to Oklahoma City in 2020, which will draw advertising professionals from around the region.

Campbell’s past positions include senior account executive at Staplegun, a management position at BigWing and brand manager at Boiling Point Media. He also served as operations committee member for the 2016-2017 Confluence Conference.

Jeff Chanchaleune
Age 34
Chef and Owner, Gorō Ramen and Gun Izakaya

The culinary landscape of Oklahoma City would look much different without the contributions of Jeff Chanchaleune.

As a chef, restaurateur and partner at 84 Hospitality Group, Chanchaleune has been instrumental in diversifying Oklahoma City dining options, most notably with 16th Street Plaza District’s Gorō Ramen and Gun Izakaya in The Paseo Arts District.

Chanchaleune received his bachelor’s degree from University of Oklahoma (OU) with a focus on advertising. He worked in this field briefly and unhappily before deciding to leave it behind for a life as a chef.

“I spent a lot of my days looking at food websites or blogs,” he said. “I was like, ‘What am I doing? You know what, I think food is my true passion.’”

The leap made sense for Chanchaleune, who grew up in the kitchen with his father, a chef. He opened Kaiteki Ramen food truck in 2013, which received national recognition. In partnership with fellow restaurateur Rachel Cope of Empire Slice House, he then created a ramen pop-up called Project Slurp.

In 2016, he opened Gorō Ramen. He has been pleasantly surprised that something as different and fresh as ramen has been embraced so fully in Oklahoma City. He called Oklahoma City “an emerging food scene.”

“A lot of [Oklahoma City’s] population and a lot of people in Oklahoma are becoming more open to other types of food,” he said. “They just need to be introduced to it and educated about anything that is new.”

Gun Izakaya opened in July 2019. Chanchaleune continues to develop additional restaurant concepts.

“There’s a Japanese saying; it’s called  ‘kaizen,’” he said. “It means ‘constant improvement.’ So I’m always figuring out a way to make something better, whether it’s execution, organization, food or ingredients.”

Clayburn Thomas Curtis
Age 34
Attorney, Overman Legal Group and Consultant, Climb Collective

Clayburn Thomas Curtis is a founding partner at Overman Legal Group and a founder at the consulting firm Climb Collective. An Oklahoma native, he earned his Juris Doctor from University of Oklahoma (OU) College of Law in 2011.

Curtis spent about six years in the public defender’s office of Oklahoma County, which he described as a greatly rewarding period. He was involved in Oklahoma County diversion programs, including ReMerge, which endeavors to keep women with children out of prison. He was also an attorney in the drug court.

He said that while the state might see people “as a file,” he aims to see the humanity in every case.

“Every client I represent is a person,” he said. “They all have a story.  They’re not just a file on a piece of paper. I try to bring that human element and compassion to my practice.”

Now Curtis accepts cases ranging from speeding tickets to first-degree murder.

This year, Curtis was awarded the Clarence Darrow Award from Oklahoma Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, distinguishing him as Oklahoma’s criminal defense attorney of the year.

The award recognized his work on four homicide cases. Two of these were conducted through the public defender’s office, and another was a pro bono case.

Curtis said he believes his position can be used to advocate for different groups and issues, hopefully changing public perception in the process. For example, he seeks to change the negative stigma associated with cannabis use through his work consulting for cannabis brands through Climb Collective.

“I think both the firm and Climb [Collective] are both uniquely positioned to help with a progressive change,” he said.

Donnie A. Dahlgren
Age 39
President and CEO, Stryker Integrated Solutions, LLC

Donnie A. Dahlgren has a passion for protecting people and property. As president and CEO of Stryker Integrated Solutions, he has put together a team dedicated to fire protection, safety and security in the state of Oklahoma.

Dahlgren’s academic background includes an associate’s degree in fire protection from Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City (OSU-OKC) and a bachelor’s degree in industrial safety from the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO).

Dahlgren got his professional start as a firefighter and EMT in Cushing, Oklahoma. He held the position for 10 years. It was there that he realized that many emergencies could be averted.

“A lot of things that I noticed were human error,” he said. “A lot of incidents could be prevented. Sitting around the fire station, we were always reacting to bad situations. Being there, you could see, ‘Well, this could have been prevented if somebody would have had preventative measures in place.’”

In 2009, he made the shift to the life safety and fire protection industry. He worked for two major companies in various positions to learn the business, and many of his loyal customers followed him when he opened Stryker Integrated Solutions in 2016.

Stryker Integrated Solutions is now a $2 million company. It provides fire alarms, access control, CCTV and maintenance services. It is licensed to provide services in Kansas, Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma. Dahlgren has made a commitment to remain in Oklahoma City no matter how much his company grows.

He is a member of American Society of Safety Engineers and the Oklahoma Burglar and Fire Alarm Association.

Lauren Paige Daughety
Age 33
Executive Vice President, Vann & Associates

Lauren Paige Daughety serves as executive vice president of Vann & Associates, a public relations and marketing firm that she helped found with business partner Tony Vann.

Daughety graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and public relations from University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) and worked for several years in corporate communications. She said starting an agency on her own was not on her radar at 24 years old, but it has paid off.

“Owning and operating an agency fulfills my love of solving problems, and a fast-paced environment is where I thrive,” she said. “Plus I genuinely wish to help organizations reach their goals through effective communications and creative solutions.”

Vann & Associates also offers free services to partnered nonprofit organizations as part of its community initiative.

In 2018, Daughety helped launch Brownie Mary & Jane Cannabis Marketing. This firm assists business owners with the unique challenges they face in the burgeoning medical cannabis industry.

Daughety is a member of Oklahoma Museums Association board of directors and for the past two years has created an annual campaign for Oklahoma Museum Week, highlighting Oklahoma’s cultural institutions as part of a larger, international campaign.

Additionally, Daughety is a member of Public Relations Society of America and PRConsultants Group.

Daughety calls herself a “champion” of Oklahoma’s culture.

“Deep within the roots of Oklahoma, there is a sense of value based on hard work, culture, acceptance and forgiveness,” she said. “Within that, we find all of us can collaborate and gain success by working hard and understanding a variety of different perspectives. To champion that culture is to maintain it, perpetuate it, grow it and welcome new ideas which will continue the heritage and shape our future.”

Melanie K. Dittrich
Age 37
Attorney, DeWitt, Paruolo & Meek

Melanie K. Dittrich is an attorney who is passionate about positively impacting her community. She received her Juris Doctor from Oklahoma City University (OKCU) School of Law in 2009 and joined DeWitt, Paruolo & Meek in 2012. In 2017, she was promoted to partner.

She was selected as an Oklahoma Super Lawyers Rising Star in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Dittrich is serving a second term as a chair of Oklahoma Bar Association’s Women in Law Committee. In addition to planning and organizing the annual Women in Law Conference, the committee promotes networking and service opportunities.

During her first year as a chair, Dittrich started an annual clothing drive to benefit Suited for Success, a nonprofit that provides professional clothing and career development services to women. The committee also sponsors events to benefit ReMerge, Domestic Violence Intervention Services and Infant Crisis Services. Dittrich said these types of events allow lawyers to help communities in the city.

“Every year, when we’re planning events for the Women in Law Committee, that’s always something that’s been at the forefront,” she said, “providing opportunities for our members to be involved in the community and in different events that have a positive impact on the community.” 

She is also involved in Young Lawyers Division of Oklahoma Bar Association, where she has served as a board member since 2016. She serves on the board of Patrons of OKC Animal Shelter.

“Although my ambition and strong work ethic are key to my professional success, I also believe it is important to be connected with and give back to the community in which I practice,” Dittrich said. “Through my leadership roles with the OBA Women in Law Committee, OBA YLD Board and OKC Animal Shelter Board, I am able to devote my time to causes I am particularly passionate about—empowering women, advancing young lawyers and animal welfare.”

Angie Doss
Age 36
Chief External Relations Officer, Sunbeam Family Services

Angie Doss serves as chief external relations officer with Sunbeam Family Services. The social service agency aids children, families and seniors in need in Oklahoma. It also provides mental health services and foster care.

“What I love the best is that we really are holistic services that fit the needs of our community,” Doss said. “We are here to help, and we’ve been around since 1907.”

Doss volunteered with Educare Oklahoma City, a Sunbeam program, for two years before landing what she called her dream job with the organization. As a member of the Sunbeam executive team, Doss oversees fundraising efforts and serves as a public face of the agency. She joined in September 2018 and played a key part in her department exceeding fundraising goals for the first time in three years.

Her previous experience includes several years in the marking department of Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, serving as the organization’s director of marketing and communications from 2012 to 2018.

At Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, Doss helped expand the Letter Carriers’ Food Drive from 28 to 190 Oklahoma cities. During this drive, mail carriers collect donated food while working their routes.

Doss is from San Diego and moved to Oklahoma in 2008. She said Oklahomans have a welcoming nature she hasn’t seen anywhere else.

“I think what surprised me most about Oklahoma is how generous the community is in terms of supporting individuals and families when they need it,” she said. “The kindness that radiates out of Oklahoma City is really comforting and inspiring.”

Derek Duty
Age 39
Director of Sales and Marketing, Anthem Brewing Company

Derek Duty has found the perfect place for his mix of sales experience, love of craft beer and passion for community service in his position as director of sales and marketing with Anthem Brewing Company.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in communication from University of Oklahoma (OU), Duty worked in sales at various companies, including Yeti, before landing at Anthem Brewing about a year ago. He said the job has been perfectly suited to his desire to always “help people first.”

He immediately set a goal to increase the company’s community presence and outreach.

“We’ve always had a really cool community vibe about what we do,” he said. “But I really wanted to make that more of who we are as a brand.”

To that end, he started a program called Cheers to Charity in which a local charity is featured each month and receives a portion of Anthem Brewing’s taproom sales.

The idea initially grew out of a desire to help the population experiencing homelessness in downtown Oklahoma City. One early partner organization was Someday Soon Foundation, which provides basic necessities to those experiencing homelessness.

Duty said it was important that the company also support community arts and culture, so Anthem has partnered with events like Norman Music Festival and Oklahoma City Pride. Although it is a craft brewery hoping to grow, Duty said community outreach will always be extremely important to the team.

“Our situation’s like, ‘How can we use our brand to make this cool place way cooler and better and make the community better in a neat way?’” Duty said.

Ryan C. Early
Age 37
CEO and Founder, Nayr Holdings and Can-Tek Labs

Ryan C. Early is founder and CEO of Can-Tek Labs, a manufacturing facility of hemp-infused products in Oklahoma. The labs were registered with U.S. Food & Drug Administration in 2016, the first and only facility in the state to do so.

Can-Tek Labs produces over 70 products, which are sold through Early’s distribution company, American Wholesale Hemp. The diverse products include CBD oils, phytocannabinoid-rich supplements and topical products, CBD-infused water, beauty products, pet products and more.

Can-Tek Labs products are THC-free, containing hemp-derived cannabinoids and none of the psychoactive compound found in cannabis.

“Hemp has the potential to drastically transform this world,” Early said. “From biofuels and plastics to CBD and breaking into the pharmaceutical industry, the applications are endless.”

In June 2018, Can-Tek Labs hosted Mid-America Medical Cannabis Conference and Expo. In April 2018, Can-Tek brand PureCannaceutical cohosted World Medical Cannabis Conference & Expo.

Early has also been at the forefront of hemp legislation in Oklahoma. Starting in 2016, he contributed to efforts to pass an industrial hemp pilot program, which culminated in House Bill 2913 being signed into law in April 2018.

The bill created the Oklahoma Industrial Hemp Agricultural Pilot Program, which allowed his research and development company Hempyre Genetics to form a research partnership with Northwestern Oklahoma State University. The program researches and breeds industrial hemp.

Early and his company continue working to remove the stigma from hemp and cannabis and make strides in breeding and seed studies.

“We’re really excited about the future of genetics with the hemp industry,” Early said.

Jennifer Edwards
Age 35
Program Manager, REI Oklahoma Women's Business Center

As program manger at REI Oklahoma Women’s Business Center, Jennifer Edwards is dedicated to helping Oklahoma women successfully start and operate their own businesses.

Women’s Business Center provides workshops, networking opportunities and other resources to help women business owners excel.

Edwards has now been at REI Oklahoma Women’s Business Center for 10 years. She pointed out that women are starting to expand into industries and fields that have typically been male-dominated, making it an exciting time for women in business.

“I think that women-led ventures have more potential in Oklahoma now than ever before,” she said.

Edwards has also helped create networking breakfasts, starting with Oklahoma City Women’s Business Breakfast. The monthly initiative started about eight years ago as a way for women to come together to learn, share experiences, voice feedback and find connections.

They have used the Oklahoma City model to launch three additional business breakfasts throughout the state, including in Tulsa. Edwards said Women’s Business Center strives to provide resources that are accessible not only in cost, but also in location.

Edwards is a member of Moore Involved Young Professionals Group. She also serves on the advisory council for Oklahoma Commission on the Status of Women and on the board of Enid Women in Business.

In 2017, Edwards was named Women in Business Champion of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Edwards said that learning about women’s backgrounds and what motivates them is the best part of her job.

“Getting to hear those stories, as women come through our doors, about what’s led them to this point so we can figure out what the best type of assistance is we can provide them, that inspires me,” she said.

Celeste J. England, Esq.
Age 33
Attorney, Celeste J. England Attorney at Law, PLLC

Celeste J. England, Esq.  received her Juris Doctor in 2012 from Oklahoma City University (OKCU) School of Law. Shortly after, she opened a firm of her own, Celeste J. England Attorney at Law, PLLC, where she focuses on advocating for clients who are victims of domestic violence and providing low-cost mediation services.

“I think what’s most gratifying about the day-to-day with my job is I’m helping people through one of the most difficult times of their lives,” she said. “But I’m helping them without sending them into bankruptcy.”

England’s father was a small business owner who was unable to afford an attorney at different points of England’s childhood. She saw a need for affordable legal services.

England also volunteers at Oklahoma County Courthouse Access Clinic, providing free legal services for guardianship and probate matters.

Previously, England was involved with Oklahoma County Bar Association Lawyers for Learning, serving as vice-chair and chair. In 2017, she received the Oklahoma County Bar Association Community Service Award.

England is passionate about public education and has held several independent fundraisers and book drives in support of Oklahoma City Public Schools. Starting in 2018, her firm has sponsored a local classroom for an entire school year. She and her husband coach and mentor young athletes.

Volunteerism is so important to England that she provides paid time off to her employees to join volunteer opportunities.

“I think it’s important to give back to our community,” she said. “We all need to stand together and help each other.”

Recently, England was selected as part of the 2019-2020 Oklahoma Bar Association Leadership Academy.

Matt Farley
Age 30
Business Development Executive, Insight Creative Group

Matt Farley brings a passion for education and the state of Oklahoma to his work with Insight Creative Group, where he serves as business development executive.

Farley graduated from University of Oklahoma (OU) with both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. His father worked extensively at universities, and Farley grew to love and value education.

“Literally no one can take an education away from you,” he said. “I’ve seen it change people’s lives.”

When he moved into working at marketing and communications agencies, he kept that passion for education alive. At Insight Creative Group, he was part of creating a marketing initiative for Oklahoma CareerTech, a statewide system of career and technology centers.

He was also involved in the recent rebranding of Oklahoma City Public Schools, creating a new logo inspired by the scissor-tailed flycatcher bird.

“The most gratifying thing for me is when we’re able to tell a great story that people are able to take a lot of pride in,” he said.

Farley was among the marketing professionals selected for Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell’s OklaX initiative and Project Blue Sky. He calls himself an “Oklahoma lifer” and expressed enthusiasm for telling the story of Oklahoma and putting it on the map for the rest of the world.

“Oklahoma City is crushing it,” he said with a laugh.

Farley serves as vice president of membership for American Marketing Association OKC and as sponsorship committee chair for IgniteOKC. He sits on Oklahoma Memorial Union Board of Trustees. In 2017, he became part of Leadership Oklahoma City’s LOYAL Class XIII.

In 2019, Farley was named to The Journal Record’s Achievers Under 40 class.

Alexa Goetzinger
Age 28
Director of Education, Artspace at Untitled

Alexa Goetzinger draws upon a background as an art teacher to spark creativity in Oklahoma City residents.

She serves as director of education at Artspace at Untitled, a nonprofit and contemporary art center that holds numerous exhibitions and educational programs. Goetzinger manages the center’s mentorship, artist-in-residence and short films programs. She also oversees studio workshops.

She said one of her most important contributions to the center is expanding its mentorship program from two to 10 Oklahoma City high schools, welcoming 120 students from area schools monthly. Goetzinger is in her fourth year of working with the program.

“Not only does the mentorship program function as an incubator for creative thought, it’s a totally different experience than the classroom,” Goetzinger said.

Students spend an entire day at Artspace, creating and collaborating on projects, using professional tools and learning what the life of an artist is like.

In 2018, Goetzinger and Emma Difani cofounded Connect: Collect, an annual exchange for printmakers. The project culminated in a May 2019 exhibition titled Print as Object, which ran in Nona Jean Hulsey Art Gallery at Oklahoma City University (OKCU). Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition’s (OVAC) Creative Projects Grant funded the project.

“With Connect: Collect, we were able to accomplish our goal of having a print exchange that highlights Oklahoma City as a place of creative impact and power,” Goetzinger said.

She is already planning 2020’s Connect: Collect, featuring at least 15 Oklahoma artists and 15 national and international artists. She also hopes to continue developing her own art, with a focus on printmaking and paper installations.

Goetzinger is a member of The Paseo Arts Association, Oklahoma Museums Association and OVAC.

Kori Hall
Age 35
Deacon, Frontline Church Downtown and deadCenter Film Festival Coordinator

Kori Hall uses a background in social work and the performing arts to support and influence various Oklahoma City communities.

Professionally, Hall works as a deacon and women’s discipleship director at Frontline Church Downtown and also is on staff at deadCenter Film Festival as a festival coordinator. Both positions allow her to provide creative platforms for others and allow her to engage with diverse groups.

This intersection between creativity and advocacy is important in many areas of Hall’s work, and giving marginalized communities access to the arts is one thing she feels is integral.

“I think that when you’re building relationships with those who are in any type of crisis, so often, we’re focused on the crisis and not the person as a whole,” Hall said. “And so having access to art is a way for us to get to know the person as a whole.”

She calls her main focus “public policy advocacy,” and the issues of homelessness and mental health care are ones close to her heart. Hall volunteers with RestoreOKC and does advocacy and advisement work for 405 Center.

She is also part of Mayor David Holt’s Oklahoma City Task Force on Homelessness, which was formed in April this year. Hall brings her experience as an on-the-ground social worker and case manager to the group.

In the past, she has also been on the board of directors at Be the Change, a nonprofit serving transition-age youth experiencing homelessness. She previously served on the day shelter board committee for City Care OKC and continues to work with the organization. In November, she will join the City Care OKC board.

JoBeth Hamon
Age 29
Oklahoma City Council Member

JoBeth Hamon was elected to Oklahoma City Council on Feb. 12, 2019, at the age of 28. She serves Ward 6 and is the 11th woman to serve on the city council.

Originally from Washington State and Oregon, she graduated with her bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU) in 2012. She moved away to Chicago for two years and then returned to Oklahoma City and took a position with Mental Health Association Oklahoma in 2014.

She began as a community engagement assistant and in 2016 transitioned to a role as education coordinator. She is responsible for coordinating Mental Heath Association Oklahoma events, including Zarrow Mental Health Symposium, which is the largest mental health conference in the region. Hamon said it’s a unique opportunity to bring “cutting-edge” conversations to the provider community.

She also helps facilitate suicide prevention training.

When she moved back to Oklahoma City, she chose not to get a car and instead began utilizing public transit. Through this life experience and her work in the field of mental health, she began taking note of how several elements of her life were structured.

“In general, in the last few years, I’ve noticed how mental health and public health work intersect so much with our government policies and practices,” she said.

She decided to run for city council, with a mind toward working for affordable housing and making Oklahoma City more transit-friendly and walkable.

Hamon has also volunteered with CommonWealth Urban Farms since 2014 and currently serves on its steering committee. The farm is a community-supported urban project that aims for sustainability and meaningful use of empty lots in Oklahoma City.

Hamon said the “sense of do-it-yourselfness” in Oklahoma City residents and a commitment to making the city better keeps her motivated and encouraged.

Ben J. Harvey, MD
Age 39
Ophthalmologist, Dean McGee Eye Institute

Dr. Ben J. Harvey has dedicated himself to combating blindness and eye injuries in Oklahoma. He is an ophthalmologist, glaucoma specialist and anterior segment surgeon as well as a clinical assistant professor with Dean McGee Eye Institute.

Harvey received his medical degree from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine in 2007. He completed his ophthalmology residency at Dean McGee Eye Institute and served as a glaucoma fellow at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at Palm Beach Gardens.

He currently serves as president of the Oklahoma Academy of Ophthalmology, of which he has been a member since 2008.

He was part of the society’s efforts to advocate for patients to obtain early refills of eye-drop medication since patients often apply more drops than needed and run out faster than their refills. This resulted in the passage of House Bill 1819, also known as the Early Eye Drop Refill Bill.

Harvey and Oklahoma Academy of Ophthalmology are currently focusing on providing protective eyewear for young Oklahoma athletes.

“I have seen many patients who suffer from potentially preventable vision loss,” he said, “either through lack of knowledge for the need of eyewear or lack of access to protective eyewear. Having that available [and] taking those limitations out of the equation, I think, would be a great benefit to Oklahomans.”

He also volunteers at Crossings Community Clinic, a health clinic facilitated by Crossings Community Church. He performs screenings for diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma.

“Any way you can give back to the community is important,” he said. “This is a way in which I can donate  my time and help those out who don’t have access to care.”

Harvey is a member of American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Glaucoma Society, Oklahoma State Medical Association and American Medical Association.

Ashley Howard, MAEd
Age 33
Director of Business Development, Koch Communications

Ashley Howard works as director of business development at Koch Communications, where her duties include liaising with businesses and community organizations, developing marketing strategies and campaigns and more.

Her past experience includes several years at The Oklahoman Media Company, where she served as events, promotions and educational services manager and audience development manager.

Howard is passionate about nonprofits and has spent several years working with organizations that support Oklahoma.

“I think somewhere inside of me, I just love giving back,” Howard said. “And I have a lot of experience in both marketing and fundraising, and so I bring a unique skillset to the boards I sit on.”

Those boards include Force 50 Foundation, OKC Beautiful, Teach for America, Redline4Kids and American Lung Association. Howard is also a member of ReadOKC Task Force and a volunteer at LifeChurch.

Howard helped launch Redline4Kids in June 2017. The organization serves patients at Oklahoma children’s hospitals, allowing them to see and experience exotic cars while in treatment.

She also is working with Force 50 Foundation, which seeks to streamline resources for veterans in Oklahoma. Currently, not all resources are connected or even always aware of one another. Force 50 will be able to connect veterans with services from job readiness assistance, homelessness, VA benefits and more.

“Our vision is to get that partner network up and fully functioning in a way that is useful and allows a holistic approach to serving people that served us,” Howard said.

She was born in San Diego and has been in Oklahoma City since August 2013. She quickly noticed that Oklahomans are always seeking to improve.

“I love this revitalization mentality where everybody is all-in on making the city better and really investing to make it a great place to be,” Howard said.

Rachel Hubbard
Age 38
Interim Director, KOSU

Rachel Hubbard has made her mark on local public radio during her long and successful career at KOSU.

She began at the network as a student reporter in 1999. After graduating with her bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma State University (OSU) in 2003, she joined KOSU as the state capitol reporter and then went on to become news director. Today, she serves as interim director for the station, helping to create programming that informs and impacts.

“I think the thing that is most gratifying is being able to contribute to a more informed citizenry,” Hubbard said.

Hubbard also brought StoryCorps to Oklahoma City in 2018, allowing Oklahomans to share and record their stories. In 2016, she helped secure a Localore grant so KOSU could conduct unique coverage of Native American communities.

Hubbard’s contributions at KOSU have received awards from Oklahoma Society for Professional Journalists and Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters. She was part of the Oklahoma Engaged team covering elections in 2016 and 2018, which received the regional Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Innovation.

Hubbard frequently mentors aspiring journalists as part of the NPR Next Generation Radio Project boot camp.

Hubbard also spearheaded an innovative collaboration with The Spy in 2012, creating a platform to feature local Oklahoma music. Now this programming airs nightly on KOSU from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m.

“As an Oklahoman, I feel we have some amazing things that are going on here, and people don’t know about it on a national level,” Hubbard said. “And so when I talk to people from NPR Music, there is a real need for people to be on the ground and to be listening to local music and elevating artists.”

In addition, Hubbard serves as interim editor for StateImpact Oklahoma, a collaborative journalism project involving KGOU, KOSU, KWGS and KCCU.

J. Blake Johnson
Age 34
Attorney, Overman Legal Group and Consultant, Climb Collective

J. Blake Johnson is a founding partner at Overman Legal Group, as well as a founder of the cannabis industry consulting firm, Climb Collective.

Johnson received his Juris Doctor from University of Oklahoma (OU) College of Law in 2015. He graduated Order of the Coif, Order of Barristers and National Order of Scribes.

From 2015 to 2019, he was employed at Crowe & Dunlevy, one of Oklahoma’s oldest law firms. There, he founded and also chaired its Cannabis Industry Practice Group, putting himself at the forefront of cannabis law in Oklahoma just as the industry was taking off after the State Question 788 vote.

Johnson left the firm and helped found Overman Legal Group, which opened its doors this year. He said the firm is geared toward doing public interest work.

“We’re taking aim at some policies and practices in Oklahoma, and Oklahoma City more specifically, that we think are ripe for challenge,” he said, “with the intent to use our legal resources to improve life on the ground here.”

He said decarceration is one overarching policy goal of the firm.

Johnson has continued making moves within the cannabis industry as well, co-founding Climb Collective alongside Overman Legal Group. The firm already represents roughly 200 cannabis companies in Oklahoma.

“I’ve been involved in the cannabis industry in Oklahoma probably longer than any other attorney in the state,” he said. “That was the impetus for forming the new companies, to work with other progressive legal minds that are equally focused on this new industry.”

Johnson said its work has helped launch hundreds of small business in Oklahoma.

Chase Kerby
Age 34
Art Moves Director, Arts Council Oklahoma City

Chase Kerby is an Oklahoma performing artist and advocate whose goal is to share art and support his community, whether is through playing music himself or being involved with Arts Council Oklahoma City.

As a singer-songwriter, Kerby has performed extensively at local events like Norman Music Festival, regionally for several years at South by Southwest (SXSW) and even nationally as a competitor on season nine of The Voice.

He currently plays lead guitar and piano for Beau Jennings and The Tigers.

At Arts Council Oklahoma City, Kerby directs the Art Moves program. This initiative stages free weekday art events around downtown Oklahoma City.

Residents might find a jazz saxophonist on one of the streetcars one day and a painter doing a live demonstration in the library on another. Kerby said this helps artists and audiences connect in new ways.

“Being able to champion art and its importance on a daily basis is pretty damn gratifying,” he said.

Kerby is also performing arts staff liaison for the yearly Festival of the Arts, overseeing the entire performing arts side of the festival. This involves organizing over 150 acts over multiple stages.

Kerby is open about how deeply he is invested in Oklahoma City and how much he cares about positively impacting his community. He has organized numerous outreach events, including book and clothing drives for Positive Tomorrows.

“Once you get a taste of being able to see a little bit of a positive impact on something [or] on someone that isn’t you, all of a sudden, you’re like, ‘I really want to do more of this,’” he said.

Michael Trenton Krat
Age 27
Owner, Neighborhood JA.M.

Michael Trenton Kraft has found a fun way to mix his love of breakfast food with community outreach.

As creator and proprietor of local restaurant Neighborhood JA.M., Kraft has brought upscale breakfast and brunch to Oklahoma. It has quickly become a modern space for customers to share breakfast items like popular biscuits and jam, unique pancakes and Tulsa-sourced coffee.

The restaurant currently has three locations, including a new location in Tulsa that opened recently.

Kraft came up with the idea for Neighborhood JA.M. when he was attending college at University of Mississippi. He worked on the concept for several years before opening the first location when he was 25 years old.

Despite the restaurant’s success, Kraft wanted to do more than merely serve food. He came up with the idea for Breakfast with Benefits. On the first Friday of every month, Neighborhood JA.M. opens for dinner and donates 20 percent of sales to a local organization, school or nonprofit.

“I think it’s really important for us to give back,” he said. “I think in a restaurant, conventionally, people wouldn’t think that is possible or something that really makes sense.”

He said the event creates a “fun atmosphere” and even helps bring his staff together.

Breakfast with Benefits also gives an opportunity for customers to visit the restaurant after hours. Neighborhood JA.M. locations usually close at 2:30 p.m. daily.

Past partners in Breakfast with Benefits include several local schools, Children’s Hospital Foundation, Mutt Misfits Animal Rescue Society and Hope Is Alive. 

Neighborhood JA.M. will open two new locations in the next year, one in Midtown and one in east Edmond.

Caroline E. Lowery
Age 34
Executive Director, Oklahoma Humanities

Caroline E. Lowery draws upon 15 years of experience in the humanities community as Oklahoma Humanities’ newest executive director.

Oklahoma Humanities supports public programs based in the humanities disciplines, including history, ethics, philosophy, art history and film studies. The organization serves 77 counties.

“Our federal mandate is to bring humanities-based public programming to all of Oklahoma,” she said. “I think that’s a tall order, specifically in Oklahoma, because of not only the wonderful diversity our state has, but also the geographical sprawl of our state. I’m really excited to bring our programming to all corners of our state.”

Oklahoma Humanities offers grants, reading and discussion programs, traveling exhibits and more.

Lowery received her bachelor’s degree from University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) and her master’s degree from University of Oklahoma (OU). She has served on the advocacy board at University of Central Oklahoma College of Liberal Arts since 2013. In this position, she helps raise money for liberal arts scholarships.

She credits community scholarships with helping her attend college when she otherwise would have had to work multiple jobs to afford school.

“A scholarship of $500 can change the course of your life,” she said. “You don’t have to work three jobs to be able to buy your books. You don’t have to sweat out every single little penny. You have the luxury of being able to focus your time and your energy into your future instead of into your present.”

Lowery is passionate about giving people access to the humanities, which she believes are integral to being an informed member of society.

“That has been my lifelong goal,” she said, “understanding our present by studying our past so you can dream about the future. I just think that the humanities are the lifeblood and the source code of our democracy.”

Monica McKee
Age 34
Director of Patient Services, Oklahoma City Indian Clinic

Monica McKee serves as director of patient services and acting dental director at Oklahoma City Indian Clinic.

McKee received her bachelor’s degree and her master’s degree in public health from University of Oklahoma (OU) Health Sciences Center. She has been with Oklahoma City Indian Clinic since 2007, where she started as a dental hygienist. 

Now, as director of patient services, she oversees the day-to-day administrative duties and is in charge of over 10 departments and 200 employees. She hires medical providers and develops initiatives to improve care for Native American patients.

McKee is also responsible for spearheading an initiative to make Oklahoma City Indian Clinic an inclusive and safe space. This year, it was the first Native American health facility to be awarded the LGBTQ Healthcare Equality Leader designation from Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

“I just saw a glaring need that was there,” McKee said. “When you talk about marginalized populations, especially within the Native American community, it’s an underserved population within an underserved population. The health disparities were really striking, to be honest with you.”

In an effort to make the clinic a more inclusive space, it changed its patient rights and intake forms and made it clear through signage that the clinic was accepting of LGBTQ patients. McKee also established a diversity council to focus on inclusivity policies.

She is also a member of the Oklahoma chapter of March of Dimes Board of Directors, where she serves as chair of maternal and child health. She is also a member of International Association of Healthcare Professionals and Native Oral Health Council.

Kristin D. Meloni
Age 31
Associate Litigation Attorney, The Rudnicki Firm

Kristin D. Meloni was born and raised in Texas but has called Oklahoma her home for more than seven years. She earned her Juris Doctor from Oklahoma City University School of Law in 2015, where she was a merit scholar and a member of the Phi Alpha Delta law fraternity.

Since then, she has become a force in the Oklahoma City legal community and currently works as an associate attorney at The Rudnicki Firm. The firm is comprised entirely of female attorneys. Meloni praised the collaborative and diverse environment in which she works.

She has helped impact various Oklahoma City communities, especially through her involvement in the Young Lawyers Division of the Oklahoma County Bar Association, where she has served in various leadership positions. The organization has a strong focus on community service.

“Anytime you give back to the community, I think that’s important,” Meloni said.

As co-chair of the board’s community outreach subcommittee, Meloni has helped organize several community service projects. For example, they helped improve and refresh different areas in The Salvation Army’s Chesapeake Energy Center of Hope in 2017.

Meloni has joined Oklahoma County Bar Association Young Lawyers Division in other community outreach efforts, such as donating items to schools and volunteering with The Salvation Army during holiday gift drives.

Meloni was also a member of a team from The Rudnicki Firm that took part in the 2019 Oklahoma Bar Foundation’s Lip Sync for Justice fundraiser. Not only did The Rudnicki Firm’s team win first place, it also helped raise more than $2,000 for Oklahoma Bar Foundation’s access to justice programs.

Meloni received Outstanding Young Lawyers Division Director of the Year Award at Oklahoma County Bar Association’s 2019 Awards Luncheon.

Halley Brunsteter Reeves
Age 33
Community Health Strategist, The Health Strategist, LLC

Halley Brunsteter Reeves has brought her skills as a health strategist to Oklahoma City, moving back to the state last December after several years in Massachusetts.

Reeves describes her professional focus as “health in all policies,” doing impactful work at the intersection of economic development and public health.

“What that means is trying to figure out ways to make our environments and policies — ‘policy, systems and environments’ is what they’re called in public health terms — promote health,” Reeves said.

Reeves strives to find investment strategies that promote health, as well.

Reeves earned a master’s degree in public health from University of Washington and a master’s degree in city planning from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is a member of American Public Health Association and American Planning Association.

This year, Reeves began a collaborative community health needs assessment process for OU Medicine. Her professional path also led her to Councilwoman Nikki Nice and OKC Health Task Force. The task force was established in August to address a food desert issue in northeast Oklahoma City.

The task force is focusing on this area’s lack of access to a grocery store as well as transportation options to food sources. Reeves created an informational website for the task force speaking to this issue, completing the site just 48 hours after the group’s second meeting. The site provides residents with information on transportation to grocery stores and food distribution centers.

Additionally, Reeves is a volunteer and a member with Crown Heights-Edgemere Heights Neighborhood Association and also rebuilt the organization’s website.

Amanda River MD, MPH
Age 35
Physician, Natural Remedy MD of Oklahoma and OU Medical Center

Dr. Amanda River has long been at the forefront of cannabis in Oklahoma.

River received her doctorate from University of Iowa College of Medicine. She is not only an attending emergency physician at OU Medical Center, but she also works at her clinic, Natural Remedy MD of Oklahoma, in Edmond.

The clinic was among the first to begin giving medical cannabis evaluations in the Oklahoma City area in 2018.

“Our clinic empowers patients and community members to move to a more engaged and empowered place with their health,” River said. “We see so many patients who felt stuck in the places they were in before experiencing what cannabis and lifestyle changes could do for them. Assisting the community in taking their health into their own hands is exciting, and I think has had a positive impact for many people.”

River has been surprised and impressed by how many Oklahomans have been eager to embrace the new industry. 

A major goal of the clinic has been to educate as well as evaluate patients. River would like to see the industry become even more educated and patient-focused. 

Recently, she completed a clinical nutrition course and will soon be certified as a Lifestyle Medicine physician.

“I am looking forward to incorporating more lifestyle education and interventions into my practice as a way to prevent and treat chronic diseases,” she said. “Our lifestyle choices make a huge difference to our health and are often overlooked in favor of pills and procedures in modern medicine. I’m excited to help guide folks in taking control of their own health through the activities they engage with every day.”

River also works as a physician on the National Hot Rod Association circuit.

Jennifer D. Sanchez
Age 34
Human Resources Manager, ClimateCraft Inc. and ClimaCool, Corp.

As a human resources manager, Jennifer D. Sanchez has extensive responsibilities, including creating programs for staffing, employee relations, training and more. She has grown in her role with Oklahoma City’s Climate Control Group throughout her eight years there, and she now leads a human resources team for ClimaCool Corporation and ClimateCraft, Inc.

Sanchez faces different tasks every day, but her favorite moments include bringing on employees and seeing how jobs can influence and support families.

“I think the most rewarding part of it is just being able to help people,” she said. 

Sanchez received her bachelor’s degree from University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) and within six months earned the Professional in Human Resources certification. She later became a Society for Human Resource Management Certified Professional.

Sanchez has also been a member of Junior Hospitality Club since 2010 and has served on the board of directors for six years. She jumped at the chance to meet others and give back to the Oklahoma City community.

“I think it’s important that when you have availability — whether it be time or funds or resources — to help people,” she said.

As special events chair in previous years, she has helped lead the club’s largest annual fundraiser and has spent time volunteering at Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Foundation for the Disabled, Peppers Ranch Foster Care Community and more.

In 2016, Sanchez was awarded Junior Hospitality’s Red Rose Award for her contributions to the organization.

She also enjoys baking and has had wedding cakes featured in Brides of Oklahoma magazine.

William W. Savage III (Tres)
Age 35
Editor-in-Chief and Co-owner, NonDoc Media

William W. Savage III ( Tres) has helped bring important independent local news coverage to Oklahoma through his work on NonDoc, an online publication based in Oklahoma City.

Savage is an Oklahoma native born and raised in Norman. While obtaining his journalism degree from University of Oklahoma (OU), he worked for The Norman Transcript and was also editor of OU Daily. He went on to work for eCapitol.net at the Oklahoma Capitol.

He helped start NonDoc in 2015. For the past two years, the site has been named Best Website by the Oklahoma chapter of Society of Professional Journalists. The publication has also won awards for online writing and site design.

“We set out to try to fill a void four years ago,” he said. “That void was to have a publication that, at times, had a more modern editorial freedom and voice while also being steeped in traditional journalism ethics and the civic watchdog roles that journalism is super valuable for.”

When NonDoc was in need of additional funding at the beginning of this year, the Oklahoma community rallied around the news outlet and it was able to nearly double its revenue from 2018 to 2019.

“I think that’s a testament to the fact that many people and organizations recognize critical demand for information about our civic processes in Oklahoma,” Savage said.

He also has extensive experience in the mental health-care sphere. He is a nationally certified Mental Health First Aid instructor and has been leading training courses since 2013 that help individuals respond to mental health crises. Educating others and breaking down stigmas about mental health are extremely important to him.

Jacob Ryan Snovel
Age 39
Adult Programs Coordinator, Moore Norman Technology Center

Jacob Ryan Snovel has spent several years of his professional career helping educate adult learners in new and exciting ways.

As an adult programs coordinator for industry education at Moore Norman Technology Center, Snovel has trained educators to use technology and designed curriculums that integrate social media and technology.

He also helped create a new yearlong program certification course that teaches marketing strategies and design. The course involved an internship before students were certified as user experience (UX) designers.

Snovel is also executive producer and owner of Perm Machine, a production company that produces feature films that have been shown at deadCenter Film Festival and Fantastic Fest.

He was able to merge his loves of film and education through creating Film Producers Conference, which was held for the first time this year. Snovel wanted to focus on encouraging filmmakers to create their own content as well as the topic of producing from a business and distribution angle.

“The inspiration really came from realizing that filmmaking isn’t a job,” he said. “And a lot of people see themselves as filmmakers. You can’t get onto Monster.com and look up jobs for ‘filmmakers.’ It’s not a thing. I wanted to really drive that home. You’ve got to learn to be an entrepreneur. You have to learn the business, and then you get to make your movies.”

The next conference will host over 70 producers and filmmakers.

He holds memberships in educational organizations Oklahoma Post-secondary Adult Career Education (PACE) and The Oklahoma Association of Career & Technology Education (OKACTE).

Elecktra Stanislava
Age 34
Youth Care Specialist, Sisu Youth Services

Elecktra Stanislava works extensively to support and educate the young people of Oklahoma through contributions to multiple organizations.

She is a youth care specialist at Sisu Youth Services, a shelter and resource center for at-risk youth. There, she supports clients and helps with case management as well as operational duties of the shelter.

Stanislava is also an instrument instructor with Rock N’ Roll Camp for Girls OKC, a one-week day camp where girls learn about music and collaboration. She has worked with the camp since 2015. She teaches drums, bass, guitar, keyboard and vocals. She even demonstrates death metal growl and can switch to an operatic style with ease.

“I teach the rock campers how to not blow out their voice if they want to do screams,” she said, “and how to switch back and forth.”

Stanislava is a songwriter and performer as well and plays several different genres. She is also a sound engineer. She has served as sound engineer for Bang Bang Queer Punk Variety Show and the booking manager for Sauced on Paseo’s Sunday Showcase, both since 2017.

“I’ve always performed music,” Stanislava said. “It’s very much a part of who I am. I started playing the organ when I was 4.”

Now Stanislava is a multi-instrumentalist and also provides free piano lessons at Sisu Youth Services. Creating safe, inclusive spaces for musicians in Oklahoma City is one thing that is tremendously important to her.

She contributes to Make Oklahoma Weirder and serves as the entertainment coordinator for OKC Pagan Pride Day.

Merideth VanSant
Age 32
Owner, 405 Yoga

Merideth VanSant has a diverse range of experience that has led her to impact Oklahoma in many ways, including through practice in yoga and mindfulness.

While getting her undergraduate and first graduate degree in Oklahoma, VanSant worked her way from greeter to lead regional trainer with Hal Smith Restaurants. She then moved to Washington, D.C., to become a management consultant with GINIA Group.

In 2015, while living and working in D.C., VanSant started looking for a community and found yoga. She got her teaching certificate and opened her fitness company, 405 YOGA.

“I wanted it be a place where, just by showing up, you were included,” she said. 

405 YOGA opened in Oklahoma City just a few years later. The D.C. location is still open but is currently moving to a new space in the same neighborhood. VanSant also organized the first Oklahoma City Metro Area Yoga Week in September 2017.

In addition, VanSant is co-founder of True U, a social enterprise company that provides mindfulness resources, leadership training and yoga to underserved teenagers.

“Most of the work we do is with preteen and teenage girls that are at poverty line or below,” she said, “that really need someone to believe in them and to teach them skills for self-confidence, leadership, emotional regulation, things that they might not be taught outside of our program.”

VanSant also serves as senior vice president of marketing for OHC Supply, a family-owned lumberyard and building supplier.

She is a board member for IgniteOKC and a committee member with Downtown Oklahoma City’s Mobility and Connectivity Committee. She is a graduate of Leadership Oklahoma City’s Signature Class 37.

Collin Rober Walke
Age 37
State Representative, Oklahoma House District 87 and Attorney, Select Legal Services

Collin Robert Walke serves Oklahomans both in his role as a state representative and as an attorney and mediator.

Walke received his Juris Doctor from Oklahoma City University (OKCU) School of Law. He worked as an assistant public defender from 2008 to 2011 and then spent several years at different firms.

He started Select Legal Services this year and now serves as corporate counsel for over a dozen companies in Oklahoma and Texas as well as representing individuals. He also has a mediation practice that handles roughly three mediations per week.

“It’s really fantastic and rewarding,” he said, “because I’m able to get people to save the time, expense and uncertainty of litigation by getting them to come to perhaps not a happier agreement, but at least an agreement better than the risks of going to court.”

Walke was elected to the Oklahoma Legislature in 2016, the first Democrat to hold the seat in over 30 years. He serves as vice-chair of Native American Caucus. He said the most rewarding aspect of the position is helping his constituents. Education is one area of focus for him.

“Improving things for the state is certainly one of the reasons why I got into it,” he said. “But being able to help constituents directly is the real joy in the work.”

He also co-founded AwakeOKC, a nonprofit organization focused on bringing mindfulness-based practices to Oklahoma City communities. The inspiration grew out of Walke’s own experiences with meditation.

“I think that mindfulness is not only important, it always has been,” he said. “But I think that it’s needed now more than ever because of the way our culture is.”

AwakeOKC classes are held five days a week and are donation-based.

Adèle Wolf
Age 30
Performing Artist and Event Producer, Adèle Wolf Productions

Adèle Wolf has been dazzling audiences around the world for several years, bringing her talents as a burlesque performer and show producer to international stages as well as venues in Oklahoma.

After developing an early interest in burlesque as a young performer, Wolf realized there were no local prospects to learn or enjoy professional burlesque in Oklahoma. She decided to create those opportunities herself. She founded Adèle Wolf Productions, at first producing relatively small shows in art galleries and clubs.

Over the course of seven seasons and multiple yearly events, Wolf’s shows have grown to include casts full of international talent, and her productions have graced the stages at Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma’s Plaza Theatre and Tower Theatre.

Her yearly slate includes New Year’s Eve Bash, Halloween Spectacular and Oklahoma City Burlesque Festival. The festival, founded in 2013, is Oklahoma’s largest burlesque production and takes place over two days.

Wolf is also an instructor at Oklahoma School of Burlesque, where she holds several workshops throughout the year.

Wolf is Potawatomi and Creek and a member of the LGTBQ community and has long been an advocate for diversity and representation within her shows and the performing arts.

“I think that it’s important for people to see themselves reflected in our media,” Wolf said, “because when you have more inclusive representation, then that translates into having a better world for everyone, ultimately. When you see Native people represented, that could make people think about Native issues where they may not have before. Same with other marginalized communities.”

Despite touring extensively, Wolf said Oklahoma City audiences remain her favorite to play for.

Abby Wolfe
Age 34
Director of Marketing and Communications, Cory's Audio Visual

Abby Wolfe calls herself a storyteller who finds joy in making an impact on communities through messaging. Over the years, she has used these skills to help influence the futures of clients, animals and children.

Wolfe graduated from Texas State University with a bachelor’s degree focused on public relations. She started at Cory’s Audio Visual in 2017 as director of marketing and communications.

Wolfe praised the Cory’s AV team and its company culture. She described her position as a “culture-in-chief,” someone who manages the constant changes at the technology-centered company.

Wolfe held previous communications positions at Central Oklahoma Humane Society and at Feed the Children. Both companies address big community issues that remain important to Wolfe.

During her time at Oklahoma Humane Society, Wolfe oversaw Rita’s Angel Fund, which provides medical treatment to animals facing euthanasia in underfunded shelters. She helped maintain Rita’s Angel Fund through in-the-moment storytelling, quickly raising thousands of dollars to save Oklahoma pets.

“The problems in our world today are multifaceted,” she said, “and that means that there’s not just a one-size-fits-all fix for those problems like hunger, like homeless pets. You name the cause; they’re all multifaceted. Those two jobs taught me how to find my portion of that resolution or solution to those multifaceted issues.”

Wolfe is a member of Public Relations Society of America. In 2018, she was named to Commercial Integrator magazine’s Forty Influencers Under 40 list.

Her work also received two Uppercase Awards of Merit for best website and branding from Public Relations Society of America in 2018.

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