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SPARK Boston 2018 Impact Award finalists

The award shines a spotlight on young adults aged 20-34 doing outstanding work to improve the City.

A selection committee comprised of SPARK Boston Council members reviewed more than a hundred nominations in order to select these finalists. A round of online voting will determine the winners in each category.

  • Last updated:
  • Spark Boston

    We want to empower 20- to 34-year-olds to play a greater role in planning for the City’s future.


  • Activism and issue advocacy

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    My name is Kelly Dennehy. I am an MBA candidate at Babson College, class of 2019, with concentrations in Entrepreneurship and Finance. I am a neuroscientist by trade, having spent 10 years at the bench. My recent work has been focused on innovating strategy to drive scientific discovery with a primary emphasis on patient experience. Even though I'm a native New Yorker, I've made Boston my home and have worked at Partners Healthcare, MIT, Harvard, Broad Institute, and PatientsLikeMe. I feel deeply committed to the community in which I live and work, and I am proud to Chair the Advisory Board for the Friends of Lovin' Spoonfuls. Additionally, I’ve been a member of Junior League of Boston since 2013 and have chaired community committees: Arts and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) with my most recent involvement focused in Finance Council.

    My professional experience has always centered on the human experience – whether it be working on the scientific underpinnings of addiction and mental health, research and clinical operations, and most recently – developing strategic initiatives for the startup Biotech community. With this work comes an inherent responsibility to understand the conditions and landscapes, which require these solutions. I feel particularly drawn to organizations that focus on social justice. I've been working with Junior League of Boston for five years, because as a woman in science - I've seen first hand the barriers to entry, and lack of resources designed to escalate female visibility and opportunity in the space. I developed the STEM program for JLB, and worked to implement the curriculum in public schools throughout the city. I also worked on the Arts committee as I feel strongly that everyone should have access and be exposed to a well-rounded childhood experience, and the Arts is a space that we're in danger of losing - it's so important to preserve the tradition of expression for young people.

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    My name is Alvin Tran. I am a trainee and researcher for the Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders, also known as STRIPED. In addition to preventing eating disorders, STRIPED aims to create “a society where girls, boys, and people of all genders can grow up at home in their own bodies.”

    Through STRIPED, I promote body acceptance and advocate for legislation that would protect young children from unhealthy weight control behaviors, including disordered eating. I personally have met men and women across the Commonwealth who are recovering from eating disorders. 

    Their stories of recovery have inspired me and continue to fuel my efforts to advocate for policies and programs that promote body acceptance and increase access to treatment for mental health disorders. From meeting with lawmakers in Beacon Hill to Capitol Hill, I remain dedicated to ensuring that mental health, including eating disorders, continues to be a public health priority. 

    ​Last year, here in Boston, I worked alongside researchers and advocates to inform Massachusetts lawmakers about the dangers of loosely regulated dietary supplements for weight-loss that can be abused by children. I hope to see Boston and the state of Massachusetts, once again, be the nation’s leaders in taking action to protect and promote the health and well-being of our youth.

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    Leah Moschella founded Girls’ Leadership, Organized Women (Boston GLOW) 8 years ago with a mission of providing a supportive place for women and girls to share resources, build community, and increase their skills. Since its founding, GLOW has provided 54 high school-aged Girl Leaders in Boston with financial scholarships and hundreds of young women with leadership training.

    In an effort to foster community dialogue and skill-sharing, GLOW has hosted 120 community events including an annual Career and Empowerment Conference. As a 100% volunteer-led organization, Leah provides strategic vision and implementation for a team of women and girls that contribute nearly 10,000 hours of volunteer work to the Boston community each year.

    Arts and Culture

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    As Executive Director/Producer of The Crystal Lens, Crystal Chandler produced the "Dear Little Project," a video series and photo exhibition designed to flood Greater Boston's black community with positive messages to “empower the little black boys and girls in our lives and the ones that live inside of us.” 

    This popular project is now the basis for a workshop Crystal runs in schools and youth groups. She is the co-host of Boston Come Through, a live podcast that explores "all things black Boston," from business to music to social justice and events, and previously the host of The Somerville Line, which took on social justice issues in Boston and beyond.

    ​Crystal is also an active member of the Board of Directors for Everyday Boston, which uses the power of storytelling to increase curiosity and connection across a divided city.

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    Eva Rosenberg is an arts administrator, cultural producer, and lifelong resident of the Greater Boston area. She works full-time as the founding Arts Program Manager at the Harvard Ed Portal, where she designs, develops, and delivers community-serving arts programs and works to support the creative economy of Allston-Brighton.

    In addition to that role, she serves as Strategic Program Consultant for The Boston Foundation’s Live Arts Boston, an initiative that awards over $750,000 in funding annually to individual performing artists and grassroots organizations. 

    ​When not at work, she enjoys traveling,eating, and traveling to eat.

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    As longtime residents of Boston and the Greater Boston area, Iliana Panameño and Mu-Chieh Yun recognized a need for diverse representations of women of color as well as inclusive spaces for their communities.

    In finding validation in sharing their own experiences with each other, they created We, Ceremony to empower and celebrate women of color through storytelling.

    ​Today, We, Ceremony is a network of women of color who take pride in their lived experiences and are redefining what it means to be both a woman and a person of color.

    Community building

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    Justin Mott. Justin's career has been heavily focused around development of coworking spaces and larger corporate buildings. He is also heavily involved with supporting student entrepreneurship (BUILD mentor, helpful with InnovateEDU)

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    Jill Valdes Horwood is Director of Policy for Boston Harbor Now. In her role, she serves as lead waterfront policy expert and works closely with city and state agencies and local environmental nonprofits to create a Boston Harbor that is resilient, welcoming, and accessible to all. 

    Before joining Boston Harbor Now, Jill represented low-income clients in court-ordered foreclosure mediations and helped secure orders of protection for victims of domestic violence in Cook County, IL. 

    When she's not working on the waterfront, Jill serves as co-chair for both the Women's Bar Association Gala Committee and the Women's Bar Foundation Comedy Night, and is a recurring volunteer for the American Diabetes Association's Tour de Cure. 

    Jill resides in the beautiful State of Rhode Island with her husband, her cat Pepper, and puppy Selous.

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    ​Jeffrey Lopes is a Boston Police Officer assigned to the School Police Unit where he supports the Boston Public Schools, charter schools, private schools, and religious schools. 

    Lopes’ function within the School Police Unit is to interact positively with the youth population to ensure that the BPD is working effectively to understand the challenges faced by the young people in the City of Boston as well as being a resource to students, parents, teachers, and school administrators. Lopes' main objective is to keep the adolescent population out of the criminal justice system and enrolled in school, creating a successful pathway for these individuals. 

    Most recently, Lopes founded a youth leadership program called “We Belong: Empowering Youth Through Leadership,” where for-profit, non-profit and civic leaders, met with youth on a weekly basis to discuss topics such as community policing, civic engagement, race in society, goal planning, careers, education, dinner etiquette and individual branding. 

    ​In April of this year, Lopes brought fifteen young men to Washington D.C. providing them with opportunities to meet congressional staff and senate staff, and visit the U.S. Capitol, National Museum of African American History and Culture and other landmarks in the nation’s capital.

    Entrepreneurship and innovation

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    Tuan Ho is a first generation Vietnamese-American immigrant from Dorchester. During his teenage years, he was awarded the Young Leader in Recognition Award from Harvard Institute of Politics for serving the community of Boston through multiple civic engagement projects and teaching thousands of immigrant children in Dorchester.

    Because of his experience in funding his college education at Northeastern University, he founded his company, ScholarJet, to help students earn scholarships based on their skills set instead of writing essays.

    ​At the age of 23, Tuan is committed to his vision of making an impact on the world and was named a Priscilla Chan Stride Fellow from the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative (co-founded by Mark Zuckerberg).

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    Scott Everton is a 4th generation Dorchester resident who worked in the Optical field for 13 years. After paying for most of his own tuition and books he began the application process for optometry school only to realize he would be nowhere close to affording the application fees, never mind tuition for medical school, he kept at his sales job with Luxottica the largest eyewear retailer in the world. 

    After riding his bike to work everyday pondering how to get his own business of the ground, Scott had the idea to create the first mobile Pop Up Optical Shop and Solar Flair was born. 

    He has a commitment to supporting/hiring employees from the Dorchester/Roxbury neighborhood and couldn’t have made it without the the help of his family and friends.

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    Yulkendy Valdez is a master educator and expert in developing experiential programs focused on diversity and inclusion. She has received numerous fellowships from the Harvard Kennedy School, Opportunity Nation, Young People For, Resolution Project among others. 

    Before co-founding Project 99, she spent her time traveling to 20+ countries in which she led educational initiatives focused on training the next generation of leaders. 

    Public service

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    Max Alderman is currently the Diabetes Program Coordinator in the Division of Prevention and Wellness at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. His primary responsibilities involve leading the efforts to scale and sustain the Diabetes Prevention Program throughout the state, as well as providing subject matter expertise and technical assistance to health care and community-based organizations regarding clinical-community linkages. 

    Max has a Masters in Public Health in Social/Behavioral Sciences and Health Policy/Management from Boston University School of Public Health and a Bachelor of Science from Trinity College, Connecticut. 

    ​Max currently resides in Boston and is an avid cyclist, hiker, and Boston sports fan.

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    Natalia Urtubey has engaged with countless community partners to drive collaborative action. After more than five years working with youth-serving nonprofits in Boston, Natalia joined Mayor Martin J. Walsh's administration to help develop and execute the city’s first citywide plan in more than 50 years. Natalia is committed to life as a public servant and an agent of change, with a “get stuff done” mentality.

    Natalia graduated from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Political Science. She earned a Master in Public Administration from Suffolk University. Natalia serves on the board of advisors for the Dorchester YMCA, Future Chefs, and the Emerging Leaders Program at UMass Boston.

    ​She is proud Dorchester homeowner and member of the Greater Ashmont Neighborhood Association and the St. Mark’s Civic Association.

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    Reilly Zlab is the Director of Product Management for the City of Boston’s Department of Innovation and Technology, where she develops user focused technology solutions for City services.

    She also serves on the board of Rebuilding Together Boston and is an advisory board member for Influence(her), a program of the Massachusetts Innovation and Technology Exchange (MITX).

    ​In her spare time, Reilly enjoys exploring the City via biking and jogging (particularly in her home neighborhood of Fenway) and hanging out with her “Little Sister”, Guell.

    Unsung heroes

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    My name is Rick Aggeler. I began my time with Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston as a volunteer teaching drum lessons. In 2006, there was no focused music programming at any of the BGCB clubs. With a friend, we began a small part-time program where we gave small group lessons to about 15 kids. 

    Under the support of an incredible Executive Director at the time, and with some amazing program partners, I was able to put together a full-time music program at the Blue Hill Boys & Girls Club. Since its inception in 2007, we've replicated our program at five other Clubs in Boston, and I oversaw all of them. Specifically, helping kids find success via music is my passion. 

    At the age of seven, I had brain surgery, and was unable to play any sports. Drums became my creative getaway, and it helped me build my confidence and self-esteem. Through Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston I've been able to help kids by the way of making music, to amazing places such as: Gillette Stadium, TD Garden, Colgate University, Berklee Performance Center, and at many private events. One of our Members even went to the Grammys in 2014! 

    ​Currently I am the Director of Operations at the Blue Hill Club in Dorchester, where I oversee all of our staff and 300 kids a day. I feel very lucky to serve our families and to be a small part of an incredible after-school program like the Blue Hill Club.

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    Sandra Hinderliter. Wife. Dog-mom. Dorchester Community Member. Educator. Advocate. Queer. Latina. Jewish. Born in Brazil to a Mexican mother and American father, Sandra grew up across the three countries.

    She has masters degrees in Public Administration and Education & Social Change. During her day job, she works to impact over a million students in Massachusetts through the Department of Ed by ensuring new teachers receive the training they need to be ready to be effective educators for all students on day one.

    Sandra entered the education field as a Kindergarten teacher through Teach For America where she also worked on staff in Miami and led initiatives to increase the focus on issues of diversity, inclusiveness, and values-based leadership.

    Outside of work, Sandra is proud to serve on the board of New Leaders Council where she is co-chair of the flagship six-month institute where progressives develop their leadership. She also spends time volunteering at a Dorchester homeless shelter and engaging with formerly incarcerated young men who are working towards becoming Personal Trainers.

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    Tena Reynolds works at The Merchant Kitchen and Drinks where she has been the General Manager since it's opening in 2014. She has worked in the food and beverage industry since 2004 getting her start at the Chart House and then moving over to Boston Harbor Cruises in 2009. 

    Tena graduated from UMass Amherst in 2005 with a degree in sociology and education. She is committed to making sure that everyone who walks in the doors of The Merchant — kitchen staff, support staff, servers, bartenders, patrons, or Bostonians in need of a warm place to sit for a while — are treated like family. 

    Tena actively works with the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District to ensure the neighborhood is at its best and encourages staff at all levels to get involved in the community. She attributes her success in the industry to her current and former employers and staff. 

    ​When she is not at work she enjoys spending time with family and friends including her 2 1/2 year old daughter Bella.

    • Last updated:
  • Spark Boston

    We want to empower 20- to 34-year-olds to play a greater role in planning for the City’s future.


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