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Event Recap: Top 40 Under 40 Nonprofit Spotlight 2015


On Wednesday, November 18th 2015 ConnectVA’s Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN RVA) hosted a fantastic event – the Top 40 Under 40 Nonprofit Spotlight, that celebrated the nonprofit leaders and professionals selected for Style Weekly’s Annual Top 40 Under 40 List and recognized these extraordinary young people who are changing the community through their work in the nonprofit sector. 

The evening’s presentation focused on professional development, career growth, overcoming challenges, and community engagement in the nonprofit sector.  Over 150 nonprofit professionals, business leaders, and civic-minded individuals enjoyed an evening of inspiration, great food, drinks and the beautiful and historic atmosphere of the Hippodrome Theater.


Dr. Jamelle Wilson, Dean of the University of Richmond School of Professional and Continuing Studies, opened up the evening talking about the many ways that adult learners, particularly those in the nonprofit sector can take advantage of continuing education, like their Nonprofit Studies program which combines theories of nonprofit management with practical, real-world applications!

Beth Panailitis, Executive Director, ROSMY

Our Featured Speaker, Beth Panilaitis, Executive Director of ROSMY and 2012 Top 40 Under 40 Recipient, inspired everyone in the room with words about defining moments in her life and career.  She expressed that the most impactful career milestones have occurred organically by building genuine relationships.   She challenged all of the nonprofit professionals in the room to use the opportunity to get to know one another, but coming from a place of true interest and authenticity. Beth announced that she will soon be transitioning into a new role as the Diversity and Inclusions Specialist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond!


Local media personality and Top 40 honoree Kelli Lemon, kept the inspiring conversation going with the selected Panelists from this years’ Top 40 Under 40 in the Nonprofit Sector.  The panelists, representing diverse backgrounds, organizations and focal areas gave incredible advice to the audience, talking about what drives and motivates them, how they’ve found role models and mentors, and what their organization needs, as far as support, grants and awareness are concerned.


The panelists shared many personal stories, like Evandra Catherine, Director of Community Engagement at VCU’s Department of African American Studies, detailing growing up homeless from age of nine to 18 before joining the Air Force to escape an abusive relationship.

“My life was the single greatest contributor to my success,” Catherine said. “Being abandoned and homeless as a kid is really hard to do. I realized that I didn’t fit in with the rest of the world. I never got to experience genuine love. After experiencing that type of life, I realized that my ultimate goal is to make sure that no one else goes through what I had to go through.”

top 40 collage 1

After the program officially concluded, the celebration continued with networking and a silent auction.

ConnectVA wants to thank our Signature Sponsor – The University of Richmond School of Professional and Continuing Studies, our Venue Sponsor – The Hippodrome, our Networking Sponsor Capstone Financial Services for making this evening possible.


We would also like to thank the many organizations and individuals who donated silent auction items, our fantastic photographer Kim Lee Schmidt of Kim Lee Photography, as well as our fantastic ConnectVA/YNPN RVA community for showing an outpouring of support and love for our young nonprofit professionals! Thank you, thank you!

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