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| THE FAYETTEVILLE OBSERVER’S 40 UNDER 40


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For nine years, The Fayetteville Observer has honored our area’s best and brightest young professionals, and we are proud to present them in this keepsake publication. Inside you will learn more about the honorees – their incredible success at a young age, selfless dedication to the community and tales of personal triumph over obstacles.

We look forward to seeing the impact these honorees have on the future of our community.

PRESENTED BY VALLEY AUTO WORLD BMW

SPECIAL THANKS

PUBLISHER Bob Gruber

TO OUR SPONSORS & PARTNERS

ADVERTISING DIRECTOR Lynnie Guzman EDITOR Matt Leclercq EVENT MANAGER Arianna Bannerman PHOTOGRAPHER Raul Ruberia Jr.

Ben Stout Construction • Heritage Homes Group of Keller Williams Airborne & Special Operations Museum Foundation The Richardson Firm • Cotton River & Co • An Affair to Remember Salvation Army

The contents of this magazine are copyrighted and may not be used or reproduced without written permission from the publisher.

CONTACT US AT: The Fayetteville Observer PO Box 849 Fayetteville, N.C. 28302 910-609-0657 advertise@fayobserver.com

Cape Fear Botanical Gardens • Debbie Bender Design Elite Catering • Five Star Entertainment Our 40 Under 40 Honorees were treated to a gala event at Cape Fear Botanical Gardens on Friday, March 8, 2019, where co-founder of H&H Homes Ralph Huff served as the keynote speaker. View photos from the event at

FayObserver.com

RALPH HUFF

THANK YOU TO OUR JUDGES

RUTHIE DENT

JIM GRAFSTROM

LYNNIE GUZMAN

TARA LEDFORD

DR. WILLIAM H. WALKER

DR. DESANDRA WASHINGTON

JOHNNY WILSON

Fayetteville Area Habitat for Humanity

Crown Complex/ Spectra Venue Management

The Fayetteville Observer

FirstHealth of the Carolinas

Methodist University

Fayetteville Technical Community College

Fayetteville Urban Ministry

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CLASS DIRECTORY 40 UNDER 40 HONOREES FOR 2019 JAMIE AMMONS, Systel

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BRANDON ANDREWS, Cumberland County Clerk of Superior Court Office VICTORIA ARMSTRONG, Elite Dance Center DOMINIQUE ASHLEY, Purposed Pearls Inc.

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DEBBIE BENDER, Debbie Bender Design LLC

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AUTUMN BLAKE, Heritage Homes Group at Keller Williams Realty . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . BRITTANY CAMPBELL, Sunshine Beauty and Bliss

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DR. TREMAINE CANTEEN, Cumberland County Schools . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . DR. MOLLY CAPPS, Moore County Schools

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ERIC DITMORE, Lewis, Deese, Nance and Briggs, LLP . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . CHRISTAIN “CHRISSY” FAIRCLOTH, Advanced Fiber Network LLC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . JOSHUA GRAY-HEIM, J.Co Salon & Blo'Dry Bar MEREDITH GRONSKI, Methodist University

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TYLER HAIR, Old South Apparel and Cotton River and Company . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . JAMESHIA JACKSON, Intergration Innovation Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . KRISTIN KESSAY, Household Six Home Improvements, LLC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . TANESHIA KERR, Greater Fayetteville Chamber . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . BRANDON LOCKLEAR, Hoke County High School . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . DR. VERNON LOWERY, Cumberland County Schools ANGELICA MCDONALD, McDonald Law PLLC

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LIZ MILESHKO, Airborne & Special Operations Museum Foundation HECTOR MIRAY, Faith & Fandom / Vertical Church Lumberton

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AYESHA NEAL, Gateway Communications, PLLC. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . JUSTIN NOBLES, Stedman Fire Department/Fayetteville Fire Department STEPHANIE OLIVER, Southeastern Health

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CH-HARA PEARSON, SCARS Inc & NuEra Credit Solutions LLC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . CORY PERRIS, Cumberland County Magistrate Office LUMUMBA QUOW, Barber Kings

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KRISTEN RALSTON, Cape Fear Youth Hockey Association . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . MATTHEW RICHARDSON, The Richardson Firm/ Cross Creek Divide Blog . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . YASMEEN ROBBINS, Cumberland County Schools

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CHAS SAMPSON, Seven Principles Corporation and GreenLeaf Financials

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KELSEY SARACCO, Cape Fear Valley Medical Center . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . DIXON SOFFE, First Citizens Bank

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BEN STOUT, Ben Stout Construction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . DR. ROBERT TABER, Fayetteville State University. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ADAM VAN TREUREN, US Army . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . TISHA WADDELL, Fayetteville City Council

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IESHIA WEST, Connections of Cumberland County KEVIN WESTER, Destiny Real Estate, Inc.

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RISING STARS MAKAYLIA RAY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . KENDALL LOWE

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ADRIAN & MARTIN CARDENAS

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| THE FAYETTEVILLE OBSERVER’S 40 UNDER 40

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JAMIE AMMONS, 25 | S

YSTEL

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amie Ammons is a graduate of Methodist University and account manager at Systel, where he has become one of the top producing new sales reps. He has always volunteered to help promote Fayetteville and support worthy causes. At 15, he achieved the rank of Eagle Scout while earning 63 merit badges. His Eagle Project was in support of the Child Advocacy Center (CAC), where he raised money to furnish an interview room and repair the flagpole. He served on the CAC's inaugural Blue Jean Ball committee when he was in grade school, and while at Methodist he was a founding member of the entrepreneurship club and started a "Shark Tank" style competition. He volunteered with the Reeves School of Business and assisted with its awards symposium. Upon graduating, Jamie had offers from companies out of town. He decided to stay in Fayetteville and give back to his community. He serves on the FTCC Foundation Board and the Methodist University Board of Visitors.

He has volunteered for the Historic Carriage Tours of Old Fayetteville for the Cool Springs Arts District and served as an ambassador for downtown. He was on the planning committee for the Lafayette Society Birthday Celebration. He is a member of the Fayetteville Independent Light Infantry and Fayetteville Young Professionals, and an assistant scoutmaster and merit badge counselor for Boy Scout Troop 740. Jamie is also a lifelong member of Haymount United Methodist Church. When I’m not working I’m… When I’m not working I am usually outdoors hiking and camping, or at white lake water skiing and sailing. What was your first paying job? My first paying job was as a dishwasher and kitchen assistant for events at Haymount United Methodist Church.

BRANDON ANDREWS, 29 | C

UMBERLAND COUNTY CLERK OF SUPERIOR COURT OFFICE

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multiple candidates for elected office with their successful political campaigns. He volunteers to help youth throughout the community. Particularly noteworthy are his efforts to help citizens in Spring Lake who have been adversely impacted by Hurricane Florence by providing food and badly needed supplies. He earned his Eagle Scout Award with Troop 29 in 2007.

randon Andrews works in the Criminal Division of the Clerk of Superior Court Office providing assistance to county citizens and ensuring the office runs smoothly. He has been identified to attend advanced training before the end of his first year of employment. Brandon also is a member of the United States Air Force Reserve. He volunteers as a mentor and a varsity basketball coach at Trinity Christian School. He has also shared his talents on numerous service projects to include roadside clean-up and assisting with voter registration, Boy Scouts of America, Cumberland County Democratic Party, Cumberland County Panhellenic Council, Fayetteville State University Bound Upward Program, and more. He has assisted FAYOBSERVER.COM

When I’m not working I’m… In the gym training young athletes to improve athletic skills. Who is someone that has influenced your life and how? My grandfather because no matter what was going on he made time for family even living on the west coast. He showed me how to be a man and always told me “Stay outta trouble and drink your orange juice.” |

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VICTORIA ARMSTRONG, 27 | E

LITE DANCE CENTER

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ictoria Armstrong has been the co-owner of Elite Dance Center for almost six years. The children’s dance studio earned The Fayetteville Observer’s 2018 Readers’ Choice Award for best dance school. She is a recognized choreographer at regional and national dance competitions. Within her studio, Victoria also runs “The Diamond Dancers” program, a tuition-free dance class for children with special needs. And she teaches a weekly dance class for adults with special needs at the Dorothy Gilmore Therapeutic Recreation Center. During the holidays, Victoria works as a cochoreographer for the dancers in “The Heart of Christmas Show” — a nonprofit performance that raises money for local children’s charities. What are people most surprised to learn about you? My major in college

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was actually not dance, but business. I was able to complete a business degree mostly online and focus on gaining as much hands-on experience as possible by working in a dance studio as both an instructor and secretary. This experience was incredibly valuable when I decided to open my own studio. My favorite quote? “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” — Mahatma Gandhi. Every day is an opportunity to influence a young person’s mind and outlook. The more we work to “be the change,” the more opportunity there is to influence others around us to do the same. Imagine the ripple effect that could stem from that kind of positivity.

| THE FAYETTEVILLE OBSERVER’S 40 UNDER 40


DOMINIQUE ASHLEY, 23 | P

URPOSED PEARLS INC.

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ominique Ashley founded The Queen In Me Mentoring program in 2017 to support young ladies in the Fayetteville area. The program, recently renamed Purposed Pearls Inc. hosts monthly free events and developed a $500 scholarship (Pettus-Credle Scholarship) for a young lady in the Fayetteville community who will be attending college. There have been two recipients since 2017. Among other honors, in 2017, Dominique was crowned Miss Black North Carolina US Ambassador, a title earned due to her involvement on the campus of Fayetteville State University and the Fayetteville community. In 2018, she was presented the Community Involvement Award from the Miss Black US Ambassador Pageant System based on her community service during the reign. Dominique’s volunteer work includes College Lakes Elementary School, Lions Lunch Buddy Program,

College Democrats.

Walker Spivey Elementary School, Girls Lunch Group, Action Pathways, Second Harvest Food Bank, Southeastern Community & Family Services, The Cumberland County Juvenile Crime Prevention Council, College Democrats of North Carolina, and more. Dominique was presented with the 2018 Anniken Williams Service Award from the College Democrats of America because of her unwavering support in the cause of the Democratic party and faith in the organization, and great contribution to the success of

What advice would you give your 16-year-old self? “Give yourself 10 minutes to cry and then go continue to conquer the world.” Who is someone that has influenced your life and how? My grandfather Eugene Ashley Jr. He is a Medal of Honor recipient and known as a hero to many. He has influenced my life by showing me the importance of lifting up those around me.

DEBBIE BENDER, 35 | D

EBBIE BENDER DESIGN LLC

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ebbie Bender is a certified event planner with more than 10 years of experience producing and executing flawless events. As owner of Debbie Bender Design since 2016, she works with clients of all budgets to help them with their wedding, vow renewal, birthday party, corporate meeting, or other special event. She is a selftaught florist and designer. Debbie believes that small business and local charities and nonprofits are the backbone to every community. Her company actively works with and donates to events and associations such as FAYOBSERVER.COM

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The CARE Clinic Annual Gala 2018, Cape Fear Botanical Garden, Cape Fear Regional Theatre, Thundering Paws Pet Adoption, Kidz Play, Ms Terry Sanford High School Pageant, and many more. Debbie is a Fayetteville native and graduate of Westover High School. She is wife to her husband, Andrew Thomas, a retired member of the US Army Special Forces. When I’m not working I’m… Snowboarding, playing with my oversized dog and slightly oversized cats, traveling to visit friends and doing projects around my home. What was your first paying job? Sonic Drive-In Car Hop on roller skates. S AT U R D AY, M A R C H 9 , 2 0 1 9

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AUTUMN BLAKE, 37 | H

ERITAGE HOMES GROUP AT KELLER WILLIAMS REALTY

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utumn Blake is an accomplished real estate agent in the Fayetteville area and has created dozens of raving fans in her years as a real estate professional. She is currently a partner in a Top 1% real estate team in this area — the Heritage Homes Group at Keller Williams Realty. Autumn is a Fayetteville native and uses both time and money to better the community through the support of nonprofit campaigns and events. She has a house full of rescue animals and has the biggest heart. From donating blood regularly to decorating a chair for the KidsPeace Chair-ity Auction, Autumn is a blessing to this community. She is a former board president for Fayetteville Animal Protection Society (FAPS) and has served on the board for more than five years. Her real estate career allows her to serve her beloved animals even more, and she makes a donation to the organization with every home sold.

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What are people most surprised to learn about you? I've taken a pottery class for the last eight years. I don’t do much except eat fancy cheeses and chat with my friends. They have been with me through the best and worst times in my life and we have such a close bond between all of us. It's more like a weekly therapy session. Sometimes I surprise myself and make something really cool. Who is someone that has influenced your life and how? My Mama. She was a single mother and worked very hard so we didn’t have to go without. She raised me to be a hard worker, corrected me when I was wrong, and she taught me to say my prayers.

| THE FAYETTEVILLE OBSERVER’S 40 UNDER 40


BRITTANY CAMPBELL, 31 | S

UNSHINE BEAUTY AND BLISS

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rittany Campbell is the owner of Sunshine Beauty and Bliss — where her #sunshinesquad provides all things beauty: Spray tans, makeup, nails, hair styling, lashes, waxing, facials, brows, teeth whitening and more. She has called Fayetteville her home for 10 years, attending Methodist University for both her undergraduate in marketing and master of business administration. Post-graduation, Brittany worked in marketing for five years before opening own small business first in her home, and now in downtown Fayetteville where she employs seven other like-minded individuals who bring out the inner Sunshine in all of their clients. Brittany has helped with social media for the Fayetteville downtown region, several downtown businesses and a global motivational seminar. She’s been featured in several magazines and newspapers, and she provided her skills for a national television series.

Brittany became an advocate for breast cancer awareness when her mother was diagnosed and is committed to the work of Susan G. Komen and Get Naked for Melanoma Foundation. She was a performing artist in 2017 Dancing with the Fayetteville Stars raising over $2,500 for CEED and she works extensively with a number of various area pageants.Brittany is a proud military spouse to Andrew Wolters, an active-duty special operations medic sergeant first class. What advice would you give your 16-year-old self? Just breathe and believe in yourself because you are filled with so much strength, compassion, and power. When I’m not working I’m… Traveling, snuggling my kitties, or playing checkers with my husband.

DR. TREMAINE CANTEEN, 38 | S

PRING LAKE MIDDLE SCHOOL

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r. Tremaine Canteen is the reigning Cumberland County Schools Assistant Principal of the Year (2018) and serves at Spring Lake Middle School. She has twice been named Teacher of the Year (2007 & 2012). She built the Youth of Promises mentoring program at AB Wilkins High School and Spring Lake Middle School as well as founded Spring Lake Middle School's Family Resource room. Tremaine has helped a 100 percent at-risk school graduate more than 90 percent of its students and also supports community efforts that promote voter rights, human trafficking awareness, drop-out prevention projects, and more. Additionally, she serves as a tutor for Steel Magnolias and My Brother's Keeper youth organizations. Tremaine plans to serve FAYOBSERVER.COM

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as the founder for single-gender charter schools in North Carolina to increase the graduation rate of male students and the number of male graduates from college. She is a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. Tau Epsilon Zeta Chapter (Community Service Chair), Principal Advisory Board of FSU, Teacher Education Advisory Board of FSU, Service Coordinator for Communities in Schools and Youth of Promise Mentoring Program where she serves as director. How long have you lived in our region and where are you from originally? I moved to Fayetteville in August 1998 from Georgetown, South Carolina, to become a proud Bronco at Fayetteville State University. What is your go-to podcast or favorite Netflix show? Podcast: T.D. Jakes Ministries; Netflix Show: “Frasier” S AT U R D AY, M A R C H 9 , 2 0 1 9

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DR. MOLLY CAPPS, 35 | A

BERDEEN PRIMARY SCHOOL

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olly Capps was nominated for Moore County Principal of the Year 2017. Along with her team of teachers at Aberdeen Primary, she has helped achieve recognition for PBIS and a School of Excellence designation. She even secured funding to take the entire second grade to see Pirate’s Voyage in Myrtle Beach and for a quick stop by the beach — many of these children had never been to the beach. In the fall of 2019, Molly will become the principal of the brand new McDeeds Creek Elementary School in Southern Pines. She is a Fayetteville native, attended NCSU for undergrad, and holds two master’s degrees from UNC-Pembroke and EdD from UNC-Wilmington. Molly sells Rodan and Fields on top of being a mom to three children and being an elementary school principal. Her husband, Nick, is also

ERIC DITMORE, 37 | L

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ric Ditmore initially made his mark in the community as a high school teacher and coach at Pine Forest High School. It was there that he saw what an impact one individual could make to a population of people. After several years in education, Eric, feeling that he could make more of a difference in the lives of at-risk youth began to pursue a career in public service, which led him to the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office.In his tenure with the Sheriff’s Office Detective Division, Eric primarily worked arson and property crimes but also spent 18 months working child sexual abuse cases. Eric left the Sheriff’s Office in 2015. and attended Campbell University School of Law in Raleigh. In May of 2017, he joined Lewis, Deese, Nance and Briggs as an intern. He was able to graduate a semester early in December of 2017, and in the spring of 2018 he became an associate with the firm.

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a Fayetteville native, and together they teach Sunday School at Village Baptist Church. What was your first paying job? In our family, if you weren’t at school you were at our family furniture store working. My Grandmother would give me $1 for polishing all of the tables in the furniture store. If you turned all the lights off and closed up the shop you could get another $1. I was the richest 6-year-old in town! What are people most surprised to learn about you? Although I’m an ’80s baby, I know nothing about the ’80s. My husband loves to make fun of the fact that I never saw the movies he watched and the shows that were popular. Instead, I know more about the ’50s and ’60s. My Dad and I would always watch old movies together— it’s one of the reasons why I played the cello for 10 years— in one of the old James Bond films, “the girl” saved their lives with her cello. Ask me about Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, Marilyn Monroe… I can talk about them all day.

EWIS, DEESE, NANCE AND BRIGGS, LLP

Eric coaches High School and Youth sports at Pine Forest High School, serves as a volunteer firefighter and EMT, and serves on the West area FD Board of Directors. Eric lives on a 100-plus acre farm near Linden with his wife and three sons. What advice would you give your 16-year-old self? I’m blessed and my life has been an adventure. I think I would keep the advice to myself and let 16 year old me enjoy the ride. What is your go-to podcast or favorite Netflix show? I like “Lawsome” and “The Tim Ferris Show” for podcasts. “Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain” has been one of my go-to shows on Netflix.

| THE FAYETTEVILLE OBSERVER’S 40 UNDER 40


CHRISTAIN “CHRISSY” FAIRCLOTH, 38 | A

DVANCED FIBER NETWORK LLC

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hrissy Faircloth holds a general contractors license and an unlimited electrical license, and her business Advanced Fiber Network contracts more than $1 million per year. She was born and raised in Fayetteville and is a member at Stoney Point Baptist Church. Most weeks you’ll find Chrissy with her therapy dog visiting the VA hospital and several other facilities around the area with Love on a Leash. Recently she was volunteering at The Salvation Army and noticed the bathroom lights were not working. She came back the next day to fix the problem so other volunteers could have light in the restrooms. Chrissy’s company is a corporate sponsor for “Feed the Need” and she has sent work trucks to the “Touch

a Truck” event at Snyder Memorial and to assist in removing a cat stuck in a tree. Chrissy cares for her husband who has been battling stage IV renal cell cancer for more than six years. What was your first paying job? Before I was able to drive, I sold SnoBalls at Brower Park. The job was great, though bees were a hazard. What are people most surprised to learn about you? I teach concealed carry classes. I didn’t realize most of the things I do are in male-dominated industries. Hopefully I will encourage young women to see they can do anything they set their minds to.

JOSHUA GRAY-HEIM, 33 | J.C

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fter graduating from the Paul Mitchell School in Gastonia in 2005, Joshua Gray-Heim accepted a job as a "Learning Leader" at a Paul Mitchell School and taught cosmetology students for the next nine years. He served as a regional educator for Paul Mitchell The School, educating students and educators, traveling all over the United States for training and teaching in the Carolinas. In 2015, Joshua and his husband, Adam, opened the doors to their J.Co Salon & Blo’Dry Bar in downtown Fayetteville, which has employed 12 serviceproviders (stylists/nail artists). He writes a Q&Astyle blog called "Just Joshua” at

O SALON & BLO'DRY BAR

finestoffayetteville.com. Joshua co-leads a continual event he likes to call Wigs for Compassion, providing styling, cuts, and customization for medically necessary wigs for cancer patients. In 2018, through his salon, Joshua donated nearly $15,000 in products, services, and money to multiple nonprofit organizations and worthwhile events, such as Connections of Cumberland County, Bright Pink, Temple Baptist Church, Lupus Walk, C.A.R.E. Clinic, Jared Bryan Sparks Foundation, and more. He has served as the head of the Hair & Makeup Department for the Carolina Country Awards Showcase for the last two years. Additionally, Joshua volunteered staff and personal time to CEED's "Dancing with the Fayetteville Stars" event in 2016, providing all dancers with free hair and makeup services before FAYOBSERVER.COM

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the event. The following year, he and his husband competed and raised close to $6,000. He volunteered staff and personal time for two "Be Bold & Beautiful" events at Perruque Boutique in 2018, providing free hairstyles and makeovers for "a day of beauty for cancer survivors," and is already planning another event in 2019. He served as a co-event coordinator for the "Paint Fay Pink" event in September 2018, raising $3,200 for the Bright Pink organization, which educates and helps with early detection of all female cancers. He currently serves as the events coordinator and social media & relations board member for the Cross Creek Chordsmen, with whom he volunteers his time singing at multiple nonprofit events and organizations, such as the Women’s Club, Heritage Place, Carolina Inn, and other nursing homes. Do you have a favorite quote? Make a difference instead of a dollar. What are people most surprised to learn about you? My father raced dirt track cars and I was part of his pit crew.

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MEREDITH GRONSKI, 38 METHODIST UNIVERSITY

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eredith Gronski moved to Fayetteville in 2016 to develop and launch the doctor of occupational therapy program at Methodist University — the first in the state of North Carolina. The program will graduate its first class in 2021. She has served on many national professional committees with the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) and recently with the NCOTA. She has (co) authored eight peerreviewed journal articles and two book chapters. She serves on and has been the chair of several university committees. Additionally, Meredith works two

mornings a week to conduct early childhood eligibility evaluations for Cumberland County Schools Early In program, and she serves on the executive board of the Partnership for Children as secretary. She is the mother of five boys who are 3 to 12 years old. She manages homework, medical appointments, and meal prep while staying involved in parent representative opportunities at The Capital Encore Academy and FTCC Children's Center. What is your go-to podcast or favorite Netflix show? I am a big “Top Chef” fan (technically, Hulu) and we love watching reruns of “The Late Show” because we cannot stay awake late enough to watch it live! When I’m not working I’m…. Doing housework and helping with the kids’ science projects...and going on day trips to find homemade ice cream around North Carolina.

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TYLER HAIR, 25 | O

LD SOUTH APPAREL & COTTON RIVER AND COMPANY

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yler Hair has always been an entrepreneur, launching his first company, Parkwest Productions, while still in middle school, as a videographer for weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, and other events. During high school he launched two other companies, including his first clothing brand, River Boys and River Girls, as well as Redline Designs, producing graphic design and commercial vinyl decals. In 2013, in his college apartment, he launched Old South Apparel, creating and shipping designs all over the world. He quickly outgrew that location and moved to a warehouse on Russell Street where he added Cotton River and Company retail store with both Old South Apparel and other clothing brands for men, women and children. In October 2018, the store moved to downtown Hay Street. Tyler mentors other young professionals to

help them launch and grow their businesses, and he also supports area religious organizations throughout the state with media team support and development and more. When I’m not working I’m… probably still working. Being selfemployed, I never turn off. Who is someone that has influenced your life and how? My grandfather, Leon Hair, has demonstrated determination in all things business and life. Even though an accident in 1973 left him with prosthetic hands, he founded and developed several successful companies. Kelvin Draughon of Draughon Brothers Inc. is one of my business mentors. He took me under his wing and taught me business strategies that I incorporate in my day-to-day operations.

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JAMESHIA JACKSON, 33 | I

NTEGRATION INNOVATION INC.

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ameshia Jackson has been working in the software industry for 10 years. After graduating from East Carolina University with a triple concentration BFA in animation & interactive design, she moved to Raleigh and worked as an interactive designer and programmer for five years. In those years, she acquired a Cisco (DMS) Digital Media Signage Certification and won various Addy Awards. Afterwards, she returned to her native Fayetteville and began designing and programming for military contracts with Camber Corporation and now serves as senior software engineer at Innovation Integration Inc., working on level 4 military training for simulation and serious games. Jameshia also does freelance work building, designing and maintaining websites; videography; and

designing and printing obituaries for families in need. Jameshia is the creator of JOVI Mobile Games. She volunteers and contributes to the following organizations: Faith & Truth Mission for Jesus Ministries, i3 Cares, Fayetteville VA Medical Center, True Vine Hope Center Homeless Shelter, and the Fayetteville Manor Assisted Living Center. How long have you lived in our region and where are you from originally? I’m from central Fayetteville, born and raised. The Cumberland County school system is where I spent most of my days. With the exception of living in Raleigh for about five years, I have lived here in Fayetteville all my life. What is your go-to podcast or favorite Netflix show? Bloomberg Financial on YouTube and “Skip and Shannon: Undisputed.”

KRISTIN KESSAY, 34 | H

OUSEHOLD SIX HOME IMPROVEMENTS, LLC

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s owner of Household Six Home Improvements, Kristin Kessay uses her construction company and experience to serve the community. She devoted countless hours and helped save the historic downtown district of Fayetteville possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars by boarding up and protecting many of the small businesses in preparation for Hurricane Florence. After the storm, she spent the following days cleaning up our streets and houses from fallen trees and debris, helping make our roads passable again. Kristin, Spring Lake Strong and her Household Six crew were able to coordinate with other organizations to bring non-perishable food items to give to those in need in our local area. She serves on the board with Spring Lake Strong — a new nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing resources to those in need and anyone affected by the recent storms last year. Kristin also volunteered

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for the first annual Irreverent Warriors Silkies Hike — a 22 kilometer ruck march focused to bring awareness to the alarming rise in veteran and active-duty suicide. Kristin has also dedicated countless hours to helping the homeless. She helped with Operation Turkey for Fayetteville and Spring Lake to ensure meals were prepped and delivered to those unable to prepare their own due to housing concerns or financial needs. Also you can find her throughout the year giving out jackets and

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personal hygiene items to the ever growing homeless population in this community. Do you have a favorite quote? “Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than in trying to solve them.” — Henry Ford Who is someone that has influenced your life and how? My grandfather. I was very close to him during my childhood, and he taught me and guided me through some tough decisions, helped with financial planning and lots of things that helped to mold me into who I am as ask adult. I will always be thankful for the time I got to spend with him and hope to successfully pass that knowledge to my daughter as well.


TANESHIA KERR, 39 | G

REATER FAYETTEVILLE CHAMBER

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riginally from Jamaica, Taneisha Kerr has lived in Fayetteville since 2016 when she began working for the Greater Fayetteville Chamber as a receptionist. She has since been promoted to marketing, and then director of marketing and events. Taneisha also volunteers to assist small business members with marketing their own businesses. This ranges from helping them do a marketing plan, training them on using businessbuilding resources like Google My Business, and helping them find opportunities to grow in the community. In 2010 she was the first graduate of the masters in ministry program at La Sierra University in California, graduating at the same time with an MBA in marketing. She served as associate director of communication while also pastoring in the Central California Conference until 2015. For the first three years she was the only female pastor on staff on a team serving 30,000 members in 130 churches and 20 schools. One of the highlights of her career was starting a Blue Service at her 550member church. This service was hosted at the mid-point between Thanksgiving and Christmas for persons who are grieving during the holidays. Since moving to Fayetteville, she has organized an annual fundraiser to provide individually sealed toys to the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office.

She also volunteers her time to assist other nonprofits to raise money for a variety of programs like care packs for the children of lower-rank military families through the Fort Bragg YMCA. In addition, Taneisha is a Bronze Leader for Avon. She recruited over 200 people in her two years as a representative, making her team one of the fastest growing teams in the Southeast. Who is someone who has influenced your life and how? My daughter was born premature with an 8 percent chance of survival. She went through four surgical procedures including surgery to close a hole in her heart and open gut surgery to repair her small intestine, all before she was 2 months old. She is a constant reminder to fight for what I want because amazing things are possible no matter how impossible the odds seem. What was your first paying job? Staff reporter at North Coast Times in Jamaica — I was 17.

BRANDON LOCKLEAR, 26 | H

OKE COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL

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randon Locklear is a graduate of UNC Pembroke and is the college and career coordinator and scholarship advisor at Hoke County High School. Approximately 23 percent of Hoke students live below the poverty line, and only 18 percent of the population has any type of college education. Understanding these statistics and generating a solution for helping our youth has been Brandon's strength. More than $27 million was given to the Class of 2018 at Hoke County High for college, and 15 percent of graduates enlisted in the military. Brandon also coaches youth sports and

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supports services for children with disabilities. As a member of the Lumbee Tribe, he serves on the NHASA board and participates with other nonprofits focused on prevention of suicide and child abuse. How long have you lived in our region and where are you from originally? I am from Raeford and still live there. In fact, I currently still live on land that I was raised on. Do you have a favorite quote? “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” — Harry Truman

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DR. VERNON LOWERY, 38 | W

ESTOVER HIGH SCHOOL

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r. Vernon Lowery was named Cumberland County Schools Principal of the Year 2017 and winner of the 2017 Inez Easley Educator Award. She now serves as the principal of Westover High School. Dr. Lowery graduated from Cape Fear High School at the age of 16 from the 11th grade. She moved from foster home to foster home until she eventually was placed with family in the CFHS district. She immediately enrolled at Methodist University and majored in microbiology with a minor in chemistry. She also began teaching at Westover Middle School in

2000 as a eighth-grade science teacher at the age of 19. Due to her life and things she saw as a child, she knew she wanted to become a school administrator and make sure children knew that, “life is only what you make of it.” Dr. Lowery is dedicated to helping build effective educators that will go on to assist students in succeeding in the real world. She works with administrators throughout the state who desire to go to the next level. In addition to working as a high school principal, she is the mother of four children ages 27, 17, 11 and 6. She has been married to Dr. Elmore Lowery, dean of college and career readiness at Fayetteville Technical

Community College, for the past 19 years. What advice would you give your 16-year-old self? Don’t major in the minor things in life, learn to forgive yourself for the missteps you encounter and stop trying to give CPR to the dead things in your life. Who is someone who has influenced your life and how? President Barack Hussein Obama, the 44th president of the United States influenced my life because he broke barriers and walls set by society. Not only was he the first AfricanAmerican president, he was also the first black president of the Harvard Review.

ANGELICA MCDONALD, 31 | M D

C ONALD LAW PLLC

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ngelica McDonald was born and raised in Raeford. She attended the University of North Carolina at Charlotte where she received her bachelor of science in business administration in management and marketing. While attending UNC-Charlotte, she received several awards and recognitions including the Chancellor's Citation of Leadership and Distinguished Leadership Honor. After her undergraduate studies, she attended North Carolina Central University School of Law and received her juris doctor. She also attended Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles, and received her master of laws in entertainment and media law. At NCCU Law, Angelica served as the Vice President of the Student Bar Association and President of the Sports and Entertainment Law Society. She was awarded the Dean's Leadership Award and Pro Bono Certificate. She participated

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in the Small Business Clinic where she advised small business owners regarding legal issues within their businesses. She also volunteered with the Elder Law clinic where she helped prepare wills and power of attorney documents for low-income elderly. Angelica is heavily involved in her church and community organizations, such as the Southside 4-H Club in Hoke County. Her nonprofit, Project Reverso, has hosted community activities such as an annual college prep day event, holiday concert and winter wear clothing drive, and it

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served on a mission trip to Shelby Mission Camp. Angelica is a board member of the Hoke County Alumni Association which hosts fundraisers to give scholarships to graduating seniors at the local high school. She is a member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. What are people most surprised to learn about you? While in college, I auditioned with my hip hop dance group, for a dance competition pilot on MTV and we actually won, but it did not make it through the “green light” stage. The show later became “America’s Best Dance Crew.” What is your favorite Netflix show? “Last Chance U”


ELIZABETH “LIZ” MILESHKO, 28

AIRBORNE & SPECIAL OPERATIONS MUSEUM FOUNDATION

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iz Mileshko is currently the youngest executive director of the Airborne & Special Operations Museum (ASOM) Foundation, where she is responsible for a $8.5 million capital campaign to bring new technology and an upgraded exhibit, highlighting post 9/11 events in the military. She also manages the Board of Directors and the Military Advisory Board for the museum foundation. With her past experience with the American Heart Association as the regional director, Liz hosted three large events a year promoting women’s heart health totaling $300,000 in funds raised. She is a finalist for the Greater Fayetteville Chamber Athena Award 2018, and is a member of the Alpha Omicron Pi Sorority. Her

nonprofit work includes 2018 Dancing with the Fayetteville Stars (raising almost $10,000 for CEED), Chamber Ambassador (2015-2018), member of Networth, volunteer for Walk to End Alzheimer’s, and volunteer for Fayetteville Dogwood Festival. Liz is a military spouse and a mother. What are people most surprised to learn about you? I was filmed for “Say Yes to the Dress-Atlanta”, and yes, that is where I purchased my wedding dress! When I’m not working I’m… enjoying time with my husband, 2-year-old daughter, and two German shepherds and usually enjoying a glass of wine.

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HECTOR MIRAY, 37 | V

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s the location pastor with Vertical Church Lumberton since 2010, Hector Miray participates in preaching, mentoring youth and college-age kids, and even leading worship. He is one of the founders of Camp Grace, which has been faithfully serving children and teenagers in the region since 2003. Additionally, Hector is an accomplished author with seven published books in the Faith and Fandom series, two of which have been Amazon best sellers. He was a primary screenwriter for Clevver Movies/ Screen Junkies, writing more than 130 episodes for various shows. His videos have gained more than 100 million views for the network. He has been a featured guest at dozens of comic book conventions throughout the Southeast. In 2018, he participated in Dancing with the Stars fundraiser for United Way of Robeson County. He put in 100 hours in rehearsals and fundraising. The past three years, Lumberton has been hit by three major hurricanes: Matthew,

ERTICAL CHURCH LUMBERTON

Florence and Michael. Hector served many an hour helping his community rally back. How long have you lived in our region and where are you from originally? I am from St. Pauls, and minus a semester of college and three-month stints at various camp organizations, I’ve chosen to live in Robeson County. Do you have a favorite quote? “Victory is in the preparation.” — Batman Who is someone who has influenced your life and how? My wife has been the biggest influence in my life. She has enabled, equipped, and supported all of my various adventures, passions, and shenanigans.

AYESHA NEAL, 33 | G

ATEWAY COMMUNICATIONS, PLLC

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yesha Neal started her speech therapy company, Gateway Communications, at the age of 29 as a single employee and has grown it to seven employees today. Her goal is to give all kids the power of communication, and her company is the path to better speech. Ayesha is a native of Fayetteville and a Summa Cum Laude graduate of North Carolina Central University for both her bachelor and master’s degrees. Her passion for helping others along with her enthusiasm for increasing effective communication in children as a speech-language pathologist. Ayesha is an active community leader. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and the Junior League of Fayetteville. She is also a board member for the Partnership

for Children, an ambassador for the Greater Fayetteville Chamber, a co-chair of Fayetteville Young Professionals (FYP) and a professional mentor to students studying to become a speech-language pathologist. Ayesha says her most important role is a wife to her loving husband of seven years and a mother to her 5-year-old son. What are people most surprised to learn about you? (In no particular order) • I have known I wanted to be a speech-language pathologist since high school. • I go to the movie theater just to order popcorn (no movie ticket) • I got married on 11/11/11 • I love to eat (especially bread and pasta). It is my dream to travel to Italy so I can eat some of my favorite food. • I am sincerely proud of other people. I will praise a stranger and tell them that I am proud of them. • I plan and overthink everything. But then I go with the flow when things don’t go as planned.

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JUSTIN NOBLES, 37 | C

ITY OF FAYETTEVILLE FIRE DEPARTMENT & STEDMAN VOLUNTEER FIRE

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ustin Nobles the youngest fire chief in Cumberland County, working about 30 hours a week for the Stedman Volunteer Fire Department and full-time for the Fayetteville Fire Department as the special operations captain of the Hazmat Team at Station One. Gov. Roy Cooper and the N.C. Senate have recognized Chief Nobles for his exemplary service to Cumberland County during hurricanes. In preparation for Florence, he initiated new procedures from lessons learned during Matthew. He worked diligently with county officials to create staging for emergency response equipment and personnel east of the Cape Fear River, to prevent those residents from being cut off. He wrote requests for help from California, Idaho and Greensboro, which

increased his base of 40 volunteers at Stedman to 71. Justin was instrumental in setting up the east side command with the Hazmat Team at Cape Fear High School. His preparations helped provide fuel for vehicles and generators at other fire stations east of the river. Cumberland County Schools offers a fire academy program at E.E. Smith High School. Justin facilitates the presentations and instructions regarding Hazmat. In four years, he has impacted about 200 students. He also is involved with the Community Leaders Reading Program for elementary students. He has been a frontrunner of a successful annual fundraising campaign during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. Since the conception of this program

three years ago, other fire stations are now following suit offering thousands of dollars to assist cancer patients at Cape Fear Valley. He also began the Pink Hydrant Program that not only promotes awareness but allows the families who have lost their loved ones to cancer the opportunity to honor them by signing a hydrant with their family member's name. This program has now gone worldwide. What are people most surprised to learn about you? I once was a cowboy. I grew up loving to ride horses and eventually tried my luck at riding bulls. I still enjoy riding horses today and hope to pass this on to my children. What advice would you give your 16-year-old self? Stay focused and learn a trade skill. Your knowledge and skill is something no one can ever take from you. Hard work will pay off. Always leave things in a better way than when you received them. Make a difference everyday.

STEPHANIE OLIVER, 38 | S

OUTHEASTERN HEALTH MEDICAL CLINIC RED SPRINGS

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tephanie Oliver is an adultgerontology primary care nurse practitioner at Southeastern Medical Clinic Red Springs. She is a member of the First Responders Committee of her church, Simon Temple, where her husband Chris serves as youth minister. Stephanie is president of the Fayetteville area chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc. — an organization of mothers, dedicated to nurturing future African American leaders by strengthening children through leadership development, volunteer service, philanthropic giving and civic duty. She also serves on the regional programming committee of Jack and Jill of America, Inc. Her Ask NP Stephanie

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blog (asknpstephanie.com) developed from family and friends coming to her for advice or just needing a reassuring word for what was going on with them. She now takes questions from anyone and posts her responses online regularly. She has been inducted in Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society and Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society. When I’m not working I’m… Listening to music, serving as referee/emcee/commentator for wrestling matches between my

| THE FAYETTEVILLE OBSERVER’S 40 UNDER 40

husband and son, or cooking. Who is someone that has influenced your life and how? My father. He was the first black state trooper in Alabama and later went on to help charter a chapter of an organization that brought together minority law enforcement officers. These were accomplishments he never bragged about, but instead let his work speak to others for their own potential. People truly respected his humble nature, and I hope they see those same characteristics in me.


CH-HARA PEARSON, 33 | SCARS I

NC & NUERA CREDIT SOLUTIONS LLC

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h-Hara Pearson is the founder of SCARS, Inc. (Survivors Connecting And Restoring Self) — a 501(c)3 organization that brings awareness to domestic violence and sexual assault. Additionally, she is President of NuEra Credit Solutions — a credit repair company that helps victims get their credit back on track. She’s a customer service advocate for Blue Cross NC and May 2019 graduating senior at NCCU studying criminal justice. Ch-Hara has volunteered for several nonprofits including EmpowerU, Fayetteville Upward Bound, I Do Care Inc, and highway cleanups. She is also highly involved with ACHI, an organization encouraging women supporting other women. She served as secretary of

the Raleigh Chapter from 2017-2018 and is the current president of the Fayetteville Chapter. She has been honored by ACHI Magazine with the Editors Choice Award 2017, Servant Leader of the Year 2018 and Woman of Strength Honoree 2018. Ch-Hara is a wife and mother of four. What is your go-to podcast or favorite Netflix show? I love “This Is Us.” The dynamic and setup of the realities people face, the traumas seen and unseen is so lifelike. What are people most surprised to learn about you? What most people are surprised to know about me is that I love to sing. But not in public — just in the car or shower.

CORY PERRIS, 34 | C

UMBERLAND COUNTY MAGISTRATE

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ory Perris was recently sworn in as a Cumberland County magistrate where he sets bonds; maintains court calendars; issues search warrants, arrest warrants, and summons; accepts criminal complaints; accepts bond payments and child support payments; and conducts marriage ceremonies. Before that, he spent two years as the Clerk of Court for Small Claims. At age 16, after years in the foster care system and being homeless, he was adopted and attended high school in East Fayetteville, where he still lives. Cory credits his life experiences as one reason why he is so passionate about serving his community and working with youth. He believes FAYOBSERVER.COM

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the youth in our community need to see strong individuals doing great things in their life, regardless of where they came from or how their upbringing was. For the last 13 years, Cory has put his passion into action with the Fayetteville Cumberland Parks & Recreation department — coaching various teams, helping with rec programs, assisting with special events, creating programs, and much more. He also volunteers with the United Way. When I’m not working I’m… watching sports and spending time with my wife, friends and family. Who is someone that has influenced your life and how? I have been influenced by a collaborative effort by the people in my community, including my parents, elementary and high school teachers and my peers. S AT U R D AY, M A R C H 9 , 2 0 1 9

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LUMUMBA QUOW, 39 | B

ARBER KINGS

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umumba Quow is US Navy veteran and former engineer for Honeywell working at Fort Bragg for 15 years. He is now the owner of Barber Kings on Hope Mills Road. He has lived in Fayetteville for the last 17 years and is originally from Trinidad & Tobago in the Caribbean islands. For the last several years, Lumumba and Barber Kings have hosted the Cut My City back to school event, offering free haircuts for community children. He is also co-creator of the I-CUT SHOP TALK podcast on BRONCO-iRADIO. COM where they discuss community issues, plus trends and styles in the barber and cosmetology fields.

When I am not working I am… Drawing or painting, which are very therapeutic to me. And love taking long walks with my dog Selah. My favorite quote is... One I created: “The lion for who I am will leave no one behind, join me and I shall take you to the mountaintop” What are people most surprised to learn about you? I am a creative person that loves to create art, designing, leading, public speaking, and serving my communities.

KRISTEN RALSTON, 34 | C

APE FEAR YOUTH HOCKEY ASSOCIATION

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risten Ralston is a graduate of Weber State University, president of the Cape Fear Youth Hockey Association (CFYHA), military wife, and mom of five. In her role as CFYHA president, Kristen exemplifies what it is to be a professional leader in our community. Her work not only benefits the 119 young people in the club, but it brings together children and parents from both on and off Fort Bragg, a necessary bridge between the civilian and military communities. Her vision for the club also ensures that hockey will be a sport that remains easily accessible and affordable for all interested youth in the Fayetteville area. By establishing relationships within our local Fayetteville community, connecting with the Fayetteville Marksmen and the Carolina Hurricanes, acting as liaison within the military community, and promoting teamwork amongst her board members and parent group, Kristen finds

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innovative, creative ways for the club to grow and thrive. Kristen has also served as Military Family Readiness Group Key Caller, Care Team Coordinator, Company FRG Leader, Battalion FRG secretary, Battalion FRG Steering Committee member, and Battalion FRG fundraiser, and she is active with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. What was your first paying job? At 16, I became a umpire for the Cypress Girls Softball Association. But at 18, I was a waitress the famous Hooters of Long Beach, California. What are people most surprised to learn about you? That I have learning disabilities. My amazing mother fought hard for me to have the same access as other students knowing I was smart but just learned different from other kids. Her persistence and fight made me work hard and gave me the determination to go to college.


MATTHEW RICHARDSON, 35 | T

HE RICHARDSON FIRM, PLLC

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att Richardson attended Campbell University’s Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law after receiving an undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has been a practicing attorney in southeastern North Carolina since his admission to the North Carolina Bar in 2009 and he is currently practicing at The Richardson Firm, PLLC. He began his legal career working as an assistant district attorney for the late Ed Grannis, and later, Billy West. He prosecuted cases on behalf of the State of North Carolina for nearly two years. After going into private practice, Matt has won numerous complicated criminal and civil verdicts. He has worked extensively in the area of pro bono representation of veterans who are disabled and need assistance. His pro bono work on a capital case in Mississippi

won him recognition with The Innocence Project there and has created national attention surrounding the lack of competent representation of capital defendants in that state. Currently, Matt is building a civil litigation practice. Matt's blog, CrossCreekDivide.com, has drawn statewide attention and has covered issues of relevance to our community. Matt is married to Kimberly Richardson and they have two boys, Henry and James. They are very active in their church and community and love calling Fayetteville their home. What advice would you give your 16-year-old self? Get out more and try new things. Much of what matters now won’t in 10 years. Do you have a favorite quote? “To thine own self be true”

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YASMEEN ROBBINS, 36 | T

ERRY SANFORD HIGH SCHOOL

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asmeen Robbins has spent 12 years in public education. She received her bachelor of arts in psychology from North Carolina State University. Yasmeen spent eight years as a classroom teacher in the Cumberland County school district, where she was involved in the Governor’s Teachers Network, and conducted action research for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. She later received a masters in education with a focus in literacy from Methodist University. Yasmeen is the 2015-2016 Cumberland County Schools’ Teacher of the Year and recipient of the 2014 Governor’s Teacher Network Award. She is currently an assistant principal at Terry Sanford High School.

CHAS SAMPSON, 32 | S

Yasmeen is also the founder of the nonprofit Rebrand NC Education, bringing together school leaders from across NC to discuss innovative ideas about public education. Her additional community and civic involvement includes Operation Inasmuch, Habitat for Humanity, First Baptist Church, Falcon Children’s Home, and more. She is also owner of Early Start Child Care and Learning Center in Fayetteville. Who is someone that has influenced your life and how? My mother has been my greatest influence. She has showed me what it means to be strong and brave. She is my earth angel, who has always told me I could do and be anything. What is your go-to podcast? Rise podcast with Rachel Hollis.

EVEN PRINCIPLES CORPORATION AND GREENLEAF FINANCIALS

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has Sampson is a native of Cumberland County and a US Army veteran of five years who served in the Iraq War. In 2017, he ran for mayor of Spring Lake, and he currently is the CEO of two companies — Seven Principles Corporation and GreenLeaf Financials. He is the current Vice-Chair of the Partnership for Children of Cumberland County, Chair of Board Development Committee for the Partnership for Children of Cumberland County, Chair of Soiree Committee for the Partnership for Children of Cumberland County, and Chair of VA Benefits Fair for Spring Lake Military and Veterans Affairs Commission. He is a graduate of the Institute of Community Leadership of 20172018 where he served as class leader and master of ceremonies. Chas

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has volunteered in many capacities at local schools and supports the community in which he lives. You can always count on him to lend his support to a charitable cause, judge a spelling bee, or facilitate an event. He is active with his daughters and cares for his parents. He continues to be active in the Spring Lake community as well as the Democratic Party. When I’m not working I’m… When I’m not spending time with my two daughters, I’m typically traveling out of the country and throughout the country, attending dinners and social meetings, golfing, fishing, and learning new things that enhance my life. What is your go-to podcast or favorite Netflix show? “House of Cards” on Netflix.

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KELSEY SARACCO, 28 | C

APE FEAR VALLEY MEDICAL CENTER

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elsey Saracco is a nurse at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center who has received the Patient Care Experience recognition four times over a one-year period. This requires a patient nomination for receiving top notch care while they are in the hospital. Kelsey’s life also has been heavily influenced by her younger brother Jarred, who was diagnosed with Autism at an early age. Growing up with a brother with special needs fueled her desire to help others in the Fayetteville community with special needs. In 2011, Jarred passed away due to a complication with a treatment he was receiving for Autism. Kelsey has given countless hours of her time volunteering with the Jarred Bryan Sparks Foundation and School of Hope for children with Autism. These two foundations provide direct help and support to families in our community of Fayetteville/Cumberland County who have a child with Autism. Additionally Kelsey was first runner up in the Miss Johnston County Pageant (affiliated with the Miss North Carolina Pageant) in 2015. Her platform was

helping those affected by Autism and bringing awareness to the community in order to provide a better quality of life for those who have it. While in college, she was a member of the Ko Jo Kai Sorority and served as one of four directors of an annual Spring Sing event hosted by Harding University. She is currently working on her bachelors of nursing at Fayetteville State University. Do you have a favorite quote? “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” — Walt Disney. (I’m a Disney fanatic.) What advice would you give your 16-year-old self? Nothing in life comes easy, so you have to work hard for what you want. Strive to be the best “you” every day you are living and never take anything for granted.

DIXON SOFFE, 36 | F

IRST CITIZENS BANK

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ixon Soffe graduated from UNC Chapel Hill's Kenan-Flagler Business School and joined First Citizens Bank in 2008 as a credit analyst in Raleigh. He was promoted to a commercial credit analyst position, then regional credit analyst, and again promoted to field credit analyst, working directly with commercial bankers and their clients. In 2015, Dixon relocated to Fayetteville as a commercial banker and currently holds the title of vice

president with First Citizens Bank at Westwood Shopping Center. In 2018, he was recognized as one of the top 10 Commercial Bankers within First Citizens. Dixon is the grandson of MJ Soffe Company’s founder and a Fayetteville native. He is one of the youngest board chairs in the history of The Salvation Army. The 20-member board oversees a $2.5 million annual budget that includes an emergency shelter (Pathway of Hope), food services (dinner served to the community at 5 p.m.), social services and family store. This year, Dixon worked closely with Major Tim Grider to see that the service area needs were met after Hurricane Florence hit the region. He serves on the Fayetteville Tech Community College Foundation. FAYOBSERVER.COM

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Dixon is married to Vanessa Soffe and they have two children, Ava and Elena. He is a member of Manna Church. What was your first paying job? I worked at MJ Soffe Company on my summer break when I was 15 years old. There were carts used on the sewing floor to transport materials. My job was to take the wheels off these carts and remove the lint from them. Fortunately I was promoted from lint remover and given the opportunity to work in many other positions over my remaining high school summer and winter breaks. What are people most surprised to learn about you? One of my favorite hobbies is landscaping. My mother was very passionate about gardening and was known for being out in her garden many times from dusk to dawn.

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BEN STOUT, 38 | B

EN STOUT CONSTRUCTION

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en Stout founded Ben Stout Construction in 2004, serving both residential and commercial clients. He holds an unlimited general contractor’s license and has assisted the building of numerous small businesses such as The Floating Shanti, QuickMed Pharmacy, J.Co Salon & Blo’ Dry Bar, KidCreate Studio, The Coffee Scene, and more. On the residential side of the business, Ben provides affordable and quality-built homes as both new construction and rebuild. Ben Stout Construction was named 2018 Top Remodel Company by Up & Coming Weekly and was a 2018 Finalist for The Fayetteville Observer’s Readers’ Choice Award for Best Homebuilder. Ben has served on the board of the Fayetteville Home Builders Association for three years and has chaired various committees. He is FHBA’s current vice president. Additionally, he has volunteered with the Downtown Alliance, Victory Junction, Methodist University’s Loyalty Campaign, Greek Festival, Operation Inasmuch, and more. He hosted and assisted

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in organizing “Ri Strong” — a fundraiser for a young mother (Riley Denis) who survived being hit by a car two years ago and then was recently diagnosed with leukemia this year. Through various fundraising activities, Ben helped raise $10,000 to assist in offsetting medical and personal expenses. He also served on the 2016 City of Fayetteville Zoning & Variance Board. Ben’s wife, Victoria, is a Fayetteville native. They have three children. What was your first paying job? When I was in middle school, I planted a garden in my backyard with cucumber, tomatoes, etc. Once they came in, I started going door to door in my neighborhood selling my produce. What are people most surprised to learn about you? I played football at the US Air Force Academy, which I count among one of my biggest accomplishments.

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DR. ROBERT TABER, 35 | F

AYETTEVILLE STATE UNIVERSITY

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r. Robert Taber is a professor at Fayetteville State University where he teaches classes on Latin American, African-American, and early American history. He serves the university as a delegate to the faculty senate, and serves as the co-adviser to the FSU Black History Scholars Association, which was awarded the FSU Student Organization of the Year under his leadership in 2017-2018. Dr. Taber has distinguished himself in the community as a political and community organizer and advocate for progressive causes within the Democratic Party and his LDS (Mormon) community. He also serves as the official historian for Fayetteville PRIDE, and is a board member on the Lafayette Society.

What was your first paying job? Delivering the newspaper when I was 12. Morning deliveries, every morning, in one of the snowiest winters in Delaware history. What are people most surprised to learn about you? I speak Kreyòl (Haitian Creole). Long story.

ADAM VAN TREUREN, 35 | US A

RMY

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s a 15-year veteran, Adam Van Treuren works in documenting the training excellence and operations of the US Armed Forces in their work domestically and internationally. Domestically he's supported hurricane relief efforts in Texas, and internationally two combat tours to Afghanistan among many other overseas missions and deployments. Adam has spent 11 years at Fort Bragg, which has been a blessing because he is a Fayetteville local through and through, having attended Alma Easom Elementary through Terry Sanford High School. In addition to his professional work with the Army at Fort Bragg, Adam co-founded Revolutionary Coworking, a nonprofit, coworking space revitalizing downtown. As the technology coordinator, Adam got the space FAYOBSERVER.COM

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wired up and running so that the almost 150 members could work downtown bringing their individual businesses to communal space. At Beth Israel Congregation, Adam has donated his time and technological expertise to bring the congregation into the digital age. Adam can often be found out and about Fayetteville with his wife Hanah Ehrenreich and their daughters Philadelphia and Sahara. What was your first paying job? My first paying job was at Pets Plus that used to be in the Bicycle Shop space on McPherson Church Road. We didn’t sell cats or dogs, but everything else from salt water fish to hedgehogs and tarantulas. What advice would you give your 16-year-old self? Invest in PayPal, Google, and Amazon when they first came out. S AT U R D AY, M A R C H 9 , 2 0 1 9

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TISHA WADDELL, 39 | F

AYETTEVILLE CITY COUNCIL

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isha Waddell is a graduate of Hardaway High School in Columbus, Georgia, and an alumnus of Morris Brown College in Atlanta. Presently, she uses the skills learned through building her own businesses to assist others in pursuing their dreams. Tisha S. Waddell Coaching and Consultations boasts a wide client list nationally and continues to grow. She is also a published author and most recently launched a conflict resolution resource for blended families titled “Broken to Blended.” She was elected to her first

term with the Fayetteville City Council in 2017. Tisha is an advocate for the students of Cumberland County Schools — not only as a voice on the council, but also as a substitute teacher and mentor. Her nonprofit work also includes Bicycle Man Foundation, Workforce Development Board, Fayetteville Redevelopment Commission, BLEU Foundation of NC, CORAS, Greater Fayetteville United, Salvation Army, Homes Offering Meaningful Educations, Grange Club, and various church and community outreach projects.

When I’m not working I’m… According to my husband, when I’m not working I’m talking about work! Quite honestly, I look at my life as an ongoing project, so I am always doing something (and loving it!). Downtime is usually defined by a period of napping or catching episodes of classic TV shows like Dick Van Dyke and making everyone in my house sit there and watch with me! What are people most surprised to learn about you? People are often surprised to learn that I am a true introvert and get very nervous when I have to be around people and be the focus of their attention. While I love people and enjoy interpersonal connections with groups and individuals, I am always glad to be able to retreat into the solitude of my home and enjoy the peace and quiet! Oh, and that I LOVE mafia movies.

IESHIA WEST, 32 | C

ONNECTIONS OF CUMBERLAND COUNTY

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eshia West is a case manager for women and children who are homeless or at risk for homelessness through Connections of Cumberland County. There she also created a new intake and record-keeping system that has reduced paperwork, eliminates redundancy and provides accessible historical information. She did this while she served as an intern at Connections. Now that she is an employee, she has dual responsibilities. First, managing the online fundraising arm (Connect-2-Enterprise), a social enterprise business model, that includes the For Goodness Sake, SHOP! Ebay store. Second, recruiting and supervising the many volunteers for the agency. Ieshia has been a member of the National Association of Social Workers since 2015 and led the Methodist University Social Work Club to accomplish service projects that benefitted Falcon Children’s

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Home, children served by Cumberland County DSS, and the students at Walker Spivey Elementary School. As student vice-president of MU’s Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society chapter, she spearheaded a book collection project that provided 686 books to four community agencies in Fayetteville targeting youth ages 0-21: Cumberland County Department of Social Services Children’s Services, Partnership for Children, Cape Fear Valley Hospital Pediatric Care, and Cumberland Regional Juvenile Detention Center. To support herself while a student, she worked at World of Beer, where she has enrolled her coworkers in participating in monthly service projects and partnerships with local community groups. After years of

| THE FAYETTEVILLE OBSERVER’S 40 UNDER 40

struggling financially, she made herself return to college so she could fulfill her dream of helping people. She found her place within social work and has been a passionate promoter of the profession. What are people most surprised to learn about you? I love country line dancing and in my wildest dreams I could’ve been a part-time Broadway actor in NY, a part-time riverdancer in Ireland, and a part-time astronaut in outer space. When I’m not working I’m… Trying to catch up on the sleep I’ve missed during the years I’ve been back in school.


KEVIN R. WESTER, 39 | D

ESTINY REAL ESTATE, INC.

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evin Wester is a US Army veteran and served from 1998 to 2002. During that time he earned the rank of sergeant. Kevin completed his bachelor's in business administration in 2005 and his master on business administration with a concentration in project management in 2013 with a GPA of 3.9. Kevin is the broker/owner of Destiny Real Estate, Inc. which has been in business since 2003. He has earned the designations of Certified New Home Specialist and Residential Construction Certified. Kevin was selected to represent the Longleaf Pine association of Realtors as a rising leader to participate in the William C. Bass Leadership Academy. He was one of only 10 Realtors in North Carolina to participate in the Academy in 2017. The project that Kevin participated in has received regional as well as national attention among real estate

professionals. Additionally, Kevin has spent countless hours volunteering and impacting his community through a number of organizations, including Fayetteville Urban Ministry’s Find-aFriend, Cumberland County Schools, Ministry of Kingdom Impact Global Ministries, Parks Chapel FWB Church, Operation In As Much, and more. Kevin served on the board of Naaman House which is a nonprofit organization that advocates for those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and provides support for their caregivers. Kevin has been married for 15 years and is the father of two children. What was your first paying job? Summer job at the Boys and Girls Club What is your go-to podcast? Nightingale Conant Motivational Podcast

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MAKAYLIA RAY, 17

akaylia Ray is a senior at Gray’s Creek High School. Last year she was an officer for the Gray's Creek chapter of the National Honor Society (NHS), and she implemented a project to create the Bear Pantry, the county's first food pantry located within a school. She held a canned food drive and was awarded 500 pounds of food from our local Food Lion. This year, she was selected to serve as vice president of NHS and is continuing to serve families in the district through her pantry, which is now growing to include paper products and cleaning supplies. In addition to being VP of NHS, Makaylia is also the president, district officer and one of eight NC state officers of the FCCLA organization on campus. She is the sales manager on the annual staff for ads and yearbook sales. She is also a member of Girls Expecting More Success (GEMS), a young women's mentoring group for developing leadership in high school girls. Makaylia has a 4.24 GPA, has taken honors classes, AP classes and courses at FTCC, all while working part-time and assisting her mom with a brother who is autistic.

What would you like to be doing when you are 40 years old? I would either like to be an audiologist in the Air Force or have my own practice specifically for pediatric audiology. I would continue my studies in Deaf Culture and American Sign Language, so I am fully capable of being empathetic and understanding of my Deaf and Hard of Hearing patients. If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be and why? Michelle Obama because I’ve always looked up to her as an educated black woman who didn’t let her husband’s position as president prevent her from stepping up and continuing to change children’s lives.

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KENDALL LOWE, 17 30

ADRIAN CARDENAS, 8, MARTIN CARDENAS, 11

| THE FAYETTEVILLE OBSERVER’S 40 UNDER 40

Profile for The Fayetteville Observer

2019 40 Under 40  

2019 40 Under 40  

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