ROI Influencers: People of Color 2020 (Rising stars, A to Z)

They are the next generation of leaders. They are under 35(ish). They are the names you need to know to be ready for the future.

Alyana Alfaro Post
Press secretary
Office of Gov. Phil Murphy

It’s a thankless job, where you’re in the crossfire from both the media and the administration — the two groups you are trying to serve at the same time. Alfaro handles it all with patience and professionalism. She has earned the respect of Gov. Phil Murphy in the process.

Regina Appolon
Strategic adviser
Princeton Public Affairs Group

The former chief of staff for Assemblywoman Angela McKnight is currently working for Princeton Public Affairs Group. She also serves as the Northern vice president of the New Jersey Young Democrats and a member of the NY/NJ Baykeeper board.

Brittanie Boyd
Vice president, partnerships
Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment 

Well thought of throughout HBSE. Insiders say she’s not an up-and-comer, but someone who has arrived. A former college athlete, she has been with the New Jersey Devils and HBSE for six years and is quickly moving up the ladder in the organization.

Diana Candelejo
Corporate manager of anchor mission
RWJBarnabas Health

She has a master’s in economics from the London School of Economics, speaks three languages (English, French and Spanish), has a background in global social impact/innovation and represents RWJBH nationally on its anchor mission work.

Salma Chand
Executive legal affairs officer
N.J. Department of Education

Chand is a veteran of N.J. government recently working in Murphy’s Counsel Office, before joining the DOE as the executive legal affairs officer. Chand has used her platform to support her local and Muslim communities, and continues to be a force for change in the direction of inclusion.

Alea Couch
Research associate
N.J. Senate

Couch already demonstrates a deep understanding of the Legislature and political process. A former aide to then-Assemblyman Troy Singleton, Couch rose as policy coordinator under the senator, and now continues to work with Singleton as research associate at the Senate Majority Office.

Maya Curry
Director of communications
Newark Regional Business Partnership

She has transformed NRBP’s communications strategy and pioneered innovative new programs that have attracted more businesses. At a time when all chambers are looking for ways to maintain — and grow — their membership, she’s adept at both.

Chisa Egbelu/Kayla Michèle

This all-Jersey team are examples of young entrepreneurs who not only had an idea, but a vision and a drive to get there. Their company helps students find scholarships.

Mahen Gunaratna
Communications director
Office of Gov. Phil Murphy

He’s at the center of the storm in all things communications, but don’t be fooled, Gunaratna has an active voice in policy, too. His hard work and dedication have earned him the respect of peers, the media and — most importantly — the governor.

Amber Hamlett
Founder and CEO
Hamlett Consulting

Based in Atlantic City, she already has lined up work with two of the area’s biggest and most important clients, Orsted and Jingoli. A regional powerhouse now, she’s headed for bigger things, those in the know say.

Amit Jani
National Asian American Pacific Islander director
Biden for President

How this for a trifecta: He’s headed the outreach for AAPIs for Murphy, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez and, now, presidential candidate Joe Biden. One of the original handful of staffers for on the campaign, that loyalty will surely be rewarded should Biden win.

Marlene Kalayilparampil
Manager, government relations
Medical Society of N.J.

Kalayilparampil’s deep knowledge of health care and legislative processes serve her well at MSNJ. As a leading health care advocate in the state, Kalayilparampil successfully navigates the intricacies of Trenton while helping both provider and patient. 

Shennell McCloud
Executive director
Project Ready

Heads an organization that works to close the opportunity gaps and improve life outcomes by powering communities to demand social justice through civic engagement. It works to grow the base of voters to help reshape policies that disenfranchise vulnerable communities.

Kia Presley
Brand manager
Tara Dowdell Group

She already has developed messaging and branding for some of the state’s most influential organizations, businesses and public sector entities. And she co-founded a collective of American Sign Language interpreters of color who are providing services to the various racial equity rallies.

Crystal Pruitt
Chief of staff/Councilwoman
Asm. Andrew Zwicker/Franklin Township

Pruitt brings a dynamic, passionate and unique perspective to her role both as a chief of staff and as a councilwoman in Franklin Township. Pruitt embodies what it means to put advocacy into action. She will be part of New Jersey’s political landscape for years to come.

Ariel Rivera
Communications leader
Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi

One to watch in corporate comms. Rivera has established himself as a trusted resource, a strong writer and a selfless team player who is always focused first and foremost on what is best for the CSG Law firm.

To view the entire list, click here.