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  • Brattleboro Reformer

Fourteen area young professionals honored for making a difference

In a celebration of young professionals who have shown commitment to bettering the region, 14 Trendsetters were honored at an awards ceremony at the Keene Country Club Thursday evening.

Since 2014, the Trendsetters’ Awards have recognized at least 10 people in the region each year, all under 40. The nominees represent a variety of backgrounds and community involvement, including public service, entrepreneurship and volunteerism.

The awards are staged by The Keene Sentinel and the Business Journal of Greater Keene, Brattleboro and Peterborough. The Keene Young Professionals Network also partners with The Sentinel for the event and benefits from some of the proceeds.

Markem-Imaje and Filtrine Manufacturing Co. were the lead sponsors of the program, which also featured craft brewers and distillers offering tastings.

During his opening remarks, Terrence Williams, The Sentinel’s president and CEO, joked that the Trendsetters sometimes make him wish for a “redo” of his earlier years.

“I’m reminded that while this region and the state struggle to find and retain young professionals, we are blessed to have this group among us — young people who have made this region their home and who have committed to making it a better place,” Williams said. “… These are not people who sit on the sidelines.”

Keene Mayor Kendall W. Lane echoed those sentiments, emphasizing the need for such awards to highlight young people making a difference locally.

“As people in my generation pass the torch to those who will follow us, it is important … that we recognize their worth, that we recognize how valuable they are in this community,” Lane said.

The evening’s keynote speaker was Caleigh MacPherson, a self-proclaimed “space nerd.” She has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of New Hampshire, as well as a master’s degree in engineering management from Duke University.

MacPherson, 28, lives in Lee and works as a program manager for Wilcox Industries of Portsmouth.

“It’s a heck of a lot easier for me to talk about a robot, or what went in it, than it is to talk to a room of all of you,” she quipped to the audience.

In 2017, the N.H. Tech Alliance — formerly the N.H. High Tech Council — named MacPherson its TechWoman of the Year. She was also named a 10 to Watch winner by Seacoast Media Group and one of the N.H. Union Leader’s 40 under Forty last year.

From “playing with lunar robots” 9,000 feet up a volcano in Hawaii to watching a rocket launch at Kennedy Space Center, MacPherson said she’s enjoyed variety so far in her young career.

“And I try my best to bring those experiences back to kids to show that science and engineering can be fun,” she said. “It’s not necessarily paperwork or computer work.”

As a woman in engineering, MacPherson said she knows the struggles of feeling like an outsider in a room. She is a member of NASA’s Solar System Ambassadors program and also volunteers in middle schools to encourage girls to work in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — fields in which women are historically underrepresented.

MacPherson left the audience with a few takeaways, the first of which was to not give up or accept “no” for an answer.

At an event praising people under 40, she cautioned that “age is only a number” and is only a limiting factor if one allows it to be. She said that applies to both young and seasoned professionals.

Lastly, she told this year’s Trendsetters to continue to pay it forward, whether through mentoring, public service or volunteerism.

This year’s judges were Kendra Carter from Savings Bank of Walpole, Keene City Councilor and Filtrine co-owner George S. Hansel, Danya Landis from Machina Arts, Shannon Hundley from the Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship, Susan B. Newcomer and Keene City Councilor Margaret M. “Maggie” Rice.

The 14 Trendsetters will be featured in the most recent issue of the Business Journal, appearing in today’s edition of The Sentinel. Michael Giacomo of the Keene Young Professionals Network presented the awards to the winners:

Martha Barnard of Keene, Cheshire County Drug Court

Georgia Cassimatis of Gilsum, W.S. Badger Co. Inc. and 17Rox

Gretchen Hardy of Chesterfield, The Porch Café by Hardy Foard Catering

Caitlin Elizabeth Ward of Surry, Bob’s Fuel Co.

Emily Lavigne of Keene, Prime Roast Coffee Co.

Jeff Murphy of Keene, Brewbakers Café and Terra Nova Organic Coffee Roasters

Sara Pelkey of Keene, Keene SwampBats and Cheshire Medical Center

Danielle Ruffo of Swanzey, Savings Bank of Walpole

Renee Sangermano of Jaffrey, Town of Jaffrey

Elizabeth Slack of Keene, Betsy & Barrette’s Style Salon

Peter Starkey of Keene, Monadnock Area Peer Support Agency

Ely Thayer of Keene, Edward Jones

Robert Waters of Surry, Southwestern Community Services

Serenity Wolf of Brattleboro, Stevens & Associates P.C.

This article has been changed to add Danya Landis as one of the judges. Her name was omitted at the event. The Sentinel regrets the error.

Sierra Hubbard can be reached at 355-8546 or at Follow her on Twitter at @SierraHubbardKS.

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