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The Class of 2012

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Director of Public Relations, Yankee Candle Co.

Woods-KarenMarieIn her nine years at Yankee Candle, Karen Woods has worked in a number of capacities, from human resources to wholesale to public relations. It’s that current role, she said, that most lights her fire.
“I have the opportunity to share the company’s history and products, and create campaigns that resonate with consumers,” Woods said, adding that she also oversees Yankee Candle’s charitable and philanthropic efforts.
“I truly believe I represent a product that evokes memories; it’s an emotional product that makes people feel good. Candles bring light and fragrance, and so many consumers say Yankee Candle fragrances hold real meaning for them. It’s not just a product on the shelf, but it actually brings happiness to people.”
Woods brings that same spirit to her civic involvement, particularly in her extensive work for the American Heart Assoc., including leadership in the annual Go Red for Women luncheon.
“Although I sit on the executive leadership team, I’m more than just a person sitting there,” she said. “It’s not just something for my résumé; it certainly has meaning to me, and I take pride in it.”
That’s because heart disease runs in her immediate family, and that of her husband. “A lot of people have been touched by heart disease in my family. And, although I can’t change my genetic makeup, I can make changes in myself,” she said, which is why she makes an effort to promote a healthy lifestyle both through the AHA and in her own life. “Most people don’t know that heart disease is the number-one killer of women, and they don’t know their numbers and their risks.”
She’s also involved in Link to Libraries, promoting early literacy, and autism-awareness efforts, among other activities.
“Giving back to the community is who we are as a family,” said Woods, who welcomed her first child with her husband, James, earlier this year. “If I can make a difference in one person’s life, it’s worth all the time and effort. It’s not a job, or just a meeting I have to go to; it’s part of my lifestyle.”
— Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Owner and Principal, RMC Strategies; Marketing Consultant, Get Set Marketing

McCollum-RyanRyan McCollum wants to make the world a better place, and uses much of his time to that end. “It is the driving force behind everything I do,” he said.
He said he’s been inspired by strong leaders since he was a child, which led him to the political arena. “I want to help people get elected who will make our lives better and make our communities a better place to live.”
After working on a number of political campaigns in Boston and serving as legislative director for the state’s Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, he returned to Springfield and established his own full-service consulting and government-relations firm.
However, when he discovered many young professionals were leaving the city, he became a founding member of the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield. “In order to retain and attract young people, you need to have social things for them to do and a place where they can network, whether they’re looking for a job, starting a business, or want to move up the career ladder,” he explained. “Plus, having the society here is a great tool for companies looking to attract and retain young professionals.”
He believes in synergy and collaboration, and his involvement in YPS led to a second job as marketing consultant for Get Set Marketing.
McCollum also serves on the board of the Boston-based Irish International Immigration Center and is on the advisory board for Best Buddies of Western Massachusetts, established to create lifelong partnerships between people with and without intellectual disabilities. “I like to be able to help people at the board level,” he said, adding that his parents always stressed the importance of public service.
That passion extends into his online presence. He has almost 3,000 friends on Facebook and uses the social medium to put forth messages about issues he believes in.
And he spends his days — and nights — working to make a difference behind the scenes. “I want to leave the world I better place than I found it.”
— Kathleen Mitchell

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Executive Director, AIDS Foundation of Western Mass.

Crevier-JessicaWhile working toward her master’s degree in Nonprofit Management and Philanthropy at Bay Path College, Jessica Crevier was asked by a professor — a trustee of the AIDS Foundation of Western Mass. — to assist with one of that organization’s events.
It turned out to be a life-changing experience.
“When I met with people and saw how dedicated and passionate they were, I was completely hooked,” she said. “After less than a year, I was invited onto the board of trustees.” About five years into that role, that board wanted to hire an executive director, and Crevier got the job.
“I wanted to build a career around working with people with that much passion,” said Crevier, who is also an accomplished visual artist. “It was a thrilling prospect.”
And also a challenging one. As the foundation’s only paid staff member, she’s in charge of marketing and development, administering the grant program, co-chairing most events, and overseeing a cadre of volunteers and interns — “everything from vacuuming to major executive roles.”
The AIDS Foundation has three missions: providing financial assistance to about 100 patients a year for expenses like rent, utilities, medications, and other basic needs; educational components, including the training of young peer educators to bring awareness into high schools and colleges; and referral services to help people with the disease access health care and other resources.
Those efforts are making a difference. Greater Springfield has the highest rate of infection in the state, with 1,200 known AIDS patients in the City of Homes alone — many more than that, actually, since typically, only 1 in 5 victims know they’re infected. So Crevier knows that her organization’s initiatives are saving lives.
“Every time I’m able to help a person find the services they need, or they receive a grant from the foundation, it could be life-saving or life-altering. It is just unspeakably gratifying,” she said.
“How many people can get out of bed every day and do something they absolutely love?” she added. “Not only that, I’m able to do something that directly affects quality of life for people in our community. I can’t overstate how grateful I am to have that opportunity.”
— Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Massachusetts State Senator, First Hampden District

Welch-JamesThe tornado that roared through Western Mass. last June passed through several communities and neighborhoods. A common denominator for many of them is the fact that they lie in the First Hampden District.
That’s Sen. James Welch’s district, only he would never call it that. He contends that such positions belong to the people, not those who occupy them for two terms or even 20. And this is the attitude he’s taken with him through a career in public service that has also included stints as West Springfield city councilor, state representative (6th Hampden District), and as aide to former state Sen. Stephen Buoniconti before succeeding him in that role.
And while he’s seen and done a lot in public service, nothing fully prepared Welch for what transpired June 1, 2011 — although every career stop helped make him ready to effectively serve his constituents that were affected. And there were many of them. Indeed, the First Hampden District includes all of West Springfield, a community that was hit hard, as well as Springfield’s South End, Forest Park, and other sections that fell in the tornado’s path.
Welch said the twister and its aftermath provided many indelible images of devastation, but also innumerable — and inspiring — examples of people rising to the occasion and working together to help communities overcome adversity. And while he’s proud of the work he and others in the Legislature have done and continue to do to help people get back on their feet, he says his focus is always on the day-to-day aspects of his job description.
“What probably keeps me going every day is the interaction and constituent service,” he explained, adding that it’s been this way since he was a legislative aide. “And when I first got into public service, I didn’t necessarily understand what constituent service was. I’ve learned that it means being as accessible as possible to people when they do have an issue or a problem.”
Succeeding in that mission has made him an effective leader on Beacon Hill — and a member of the 40 Under Forty.
— George O’Brien

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Vice President of Marketing, Member Services, Pioneer Valley Federal Credit Union

Marchand-Trecia“Empowerment” is the word that best describes the driving force behind Trecia Marchand’s personal and professional accomplishments. Her 12-year-old son, Tremar, is her priority, and she wants to empower him so he knows he can achieve anything he is willing to work for.
Marchand has achieved a great deal herself, and takes pride in helping others succeed. She dispenses knowledge gained in her profession by speaking about financial literacy at venues that have included Bay Path College, Westover Air Reserve Base, and Holy Tabernacle Church in Hartford, where she is a member. Faith is key to Marchand, and she is on the board and organizational development committee there. “The church provides my spiritual compass, and it is very important to me to be able to give back to it,” she said. “I enjoy working with organizations that try to meet the greater good of society and empower people.”
Marchand has worked in credit unions for more than 13 years, and is proud to be employed “at a place that gives so much and helps people put their best financial foot forward.” She graduated from the One Day program at Bay Path College while fulfilling her duties as a full-time employee and single mother. “I think Bay Path is amazing; it changed my life and is such a supportive environment.”
Marchand serves on the college’s Board of Trustees, Audit Committee, Student Life Committee, and Alumni Association Council. In turn, Bay Path has recognized Marchand in various ways; she was selected to represent graduate-student alumni in 2011, was highlighted as a success story, represented One Day and graduate students on the Search Committee for the College Provost in 2010, was selected to represent the One Day alumni via a special address to the board in 2009, and was named an Innovation Award winner in 2008 as well as being recognized for her service excellence.
She believes everyone has a purpose in life, and she has clearly found hers. “Your authenticity comes across to others,” she said, “when they see you truly excited about what you can offer the world.”
— Kathleen Mitchell

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Manager of Public Affairs, Baystate Medical Center

Craft-BenYou won’t find it on his résumé, but Ben Craft lists among many work experiences a short stint as “professional sumo wrestler.”
Make that very short, said Craft, noting that he was paid what amounts to $300 for a few appearances in the ring against college-level sumo wrestlers when he was on a one-year teaching assignment in the Japanese coastal town of Kuchinotsu, just outside Nagasaki.
This would be the first of many intriguing business mailing addresses for Craft. Indeed, other stops have been at the Wall Street Journal, where he served for some time as an assistant preparing the daily competition report and later served as editor, and the United Nations building, where he specialized in environmental issues in human development.
Today, he works in Baystate Health’s corporate offices on Chestnut Street in Springfield, but practically since the day he arrived in 2008, much of his focus has been on the $296 million project that used to be called the Hospital of the Future. Now, it’s the hospital of the present, or, more formally, the MassMutual Wing and Davis Family Heart and Vascular Center.
While that project has certainly dominated his time and energy, Craft said there are intriguing stories being written in the many departments within the Baystate system every day, and it is his informal job description to help relate them.
“I’m very fortunate in my job in that I get to tell the stories, and I get to be around the people who really make these things happen,” he explained. “I like to think of myself as a writer, and working here is a writer’s paradise; you have compelling stories, drama, larger-than-life characters, and emotional intensity.”
While his work keeps him quite busy, Craft has managed to find time for work in the community, especially with Best Buddies, which he serves as chairman of its advisory board; he was named champion of the year for Best Buddies of Western Mass. for his fund-raising and advisory leadership.
He saves most of his non-working time, though, for his wife Erin and daughter Emma — a family that will soon be larger, as the Crafts are expecting their second child in June.
— George O’Brien

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Project Manager, R & R Windows

Tsitso-JasonJason Tsitso has worked on countless projects large and small during his decade-long tenure with R & R Windows, but there was noting quite like the work undertaken at Springfield College last year in the weeks after the June 1 tornado roared through the campus.
Facing tight and extremely challenging deadlines, the Easthampton-based company, with Tsitso acting as project manager, played a critical role in enabling International Hall, a 12-story dormitory damaged extensively by the twister, to reopen on time for the fall semester.
The International Hall project, as well as Tsitso’s ongoing contributions to the company’s recovery from several years of struggle in the wake of the Great Recession, help explain why he is a member of this 40 Under Forty class and now part of several teams of spouses to earn the distinction (his wife, Sarah, was a member of the first class in 2007). But his exploits in business tell only part of the story.
Another intriguing chapter — one still being written — is his extensive work within the community. Perhaps the best example is his work to take his passion for bicycling and shape it into a successful fund-raiser he created and managed for Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity. Called Trails for Nails, the initiative, started in 2009, involves a mountain bike ride through Robinson State Park, with riders securing pledges for the miles they ride.
Through Tsitso’s leadership, the event has grown tremendously in each subsequent year, in terms of both ridership and dollars raised. In 2011, he took it to another level, creating a series of family-friendly activities known as Fitness for Families. These include the Hike for Habitat (to the top of Mount Tom); Trails for Nails, which now includes a 5K run as well as the 20-mile bike ride; and the Tour de Habitat, a 25-, 50-, and 100-mile road bike race. For all of this, Tsitso, now a board member for Habitat, was named the organization’s Volunteer of the Year for 2011.
Given the line of work he’s in, you could call all this a reflection of his strong commitment to the community.
— George O’Brien

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Director of Multicultural Affairs and Executive Assistant to the President, Westfield State University

Lugo-DeJesus-WaleskaThat colorful tree in the painting Waleska Lugo-DeJesus took with her to her photo shoot is called a flamboyan in Puerto Rico, and she joked that it’s “colorful and bold, just like me!”
Many roles have defined her professional career, she said, in both the public and private sector. But it was her grandmother who inspired her on the path she now treads. As the matriarch of her extended family, who moved them from Puerto Rico to Springfield, her grandmother instilled in her children and grandchildren a sense of personal responsibility.
“In my family, some are teachers, some are civil service, some are police officers,” Lugo-DeJesus said. “Every one of us in some type of role is giving back to our community because of what she taught us.” Such inspiration gave her the goals of becoming active in education, civic engagement, and diversity. Fortunately for many, her role at WSU gives her a chance to shine in all three.
“As the director of Multicultural Affairs, I am now lucky enough to use the skills and knowledge that my education provided me to help others have the same opportunities,” she said. “And a community is only as good as the relationships we develop. For me, community is enriched when people move beyond their differences to contribute, help make positive change, and inspire others. In my life and in my career, I have come to understand how a community is enriched when the similarities and differences of others are acknowledged and celebrated.”
The number of boards, committees, and charities to which Lugo-DeJesus devotes her time is so lengthy that she laughed and said, “I need to write things down on a chart, so I can know how to invest my time!”
Responding to her 40 Under Forty award, she called it a mark of great pride. “I’ve been recognized by Latino groups,” she explained, “but this recognition is special to me because it helps in making me more of a role model to other aspiring leaders.”
— Dan Chase

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
President, TommyCar Auto Group

Consenzi-CarlaAs she talked with BusinessWest upon receipt of notification that she was not only a member of the 40 Under Forty Class of 2012, but the highest scorer, Carla Consenzi was making final preparations for a trip to Wolfsburg, Germany and the headquarters of Volkswagen.
This was to be a fast-paced, three-day visit that would include a tour of the company’s manufacturing facilities and several meetings with VW hierarchy about 2012 and 2013 models and the sales year ahead. The trip puts an exclamation point on the continued growth and expansion of the TommyCar Auto Group, which Cosenzi serves as president and main spokesperson, and, more specifically, the opening of Northampton Volkswagen earlier this year.
“We had been looking for opportunities to expand and to challenge ourselves,” said Cosenzi. “The timing was right, and the circumstances were right; it was too good to pass up.”
This addition to the lineup now gives TommyCar four dealerships in Western Mass. — the others being Country Nissan in Hadley, Country Hyundai in Greenfield, and Patriot Buick GMC in Charlton — and it adds another chapter to the compelling story being written by Cosenzi and her brother, Thomas, as they continue the legacy of their father, Thomas E. Cosenzi. He created TommyCar, and was grooming his children for the business when he was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2007, a battle he fought bravely, but would ultimately lose two years later.
Sharing responsibilities with her brother, Carla Cosenzi has played a lead role in promoting and expanding the TommyCar brand — she is the face and voice of the company in radio and TV commercials — and making the company one of the leaders in the local automotive market. Meanwhile, she remains active in the community, continuing the Thomas E. Cosenzi Driving for the Cure charity golf tournament, which has to date raised more than $200,000 in support of brain-cancer research.
She also lends her time and energy as a volunteer at Baystate Children’s Hospital’s cancer center, and supports a number of organizations and causes ranging from the Food Bank to Toys for Tots to the Ronald McDonald House.
— George O’Brien

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Director of Public Relations and Social Media, Winstanley Partners

Stevenson-JacklynJaclyn Stevenson knew she would be a writer when she grew up.
“As soon as I was old enough to put sentences together, that’s what I wanted to do,” she said. “I had a little typewriter, and I was always making storybooks and newsletters. I had my mom take me to the store to make copies so I could deliver them to all my relatives.”
Indeed, the press passes she has collected over her career testify to one adventure in writing after another, whether covering Lebowskifest in Kentucky, chronicling Boston College’s first Frozen Four hockey title since 1952, or interviewing the likes of chef Anthony Bourdain or legendary hoops coach C. Vivian Stringer. Last year, the Mass. Council on Compulsive Gambling tapped Stevenson as a blogger for the National Conference on Problem Gambling, held in Boston at the peak of the casino debate.
As an English major, she heard all the warnings that writing wasn’t the best path to a secure career. “But it’s completely different now,” she said. “People with communication skills are in higher demand than ever before. I was able to become a writer, and even though my current position title isn’t specifically writer anymore, it’s still a huge part of what I do.”
A frequent speaker on blogging, social media, and other topics, Stevenson calls herself an early adopter of social-networking tools like blogging, Twitter, and Flickr, and they’re a big part of her work for Winstanley Partners, where she increased public-relations business for the firm by 117% from 2009 to 2010.
She also co-founded and organizes PodCamp Western Mass., a yearly conference that attracts the brightest lights on the new-media scene, and hosts Social Media Circuit, a biweekly Web broadcast on the Businews Channel.
In short, Stevenson — whose creative journey also included a stint as vocalist, violinist, and songwriter for the Cape Cod band Singer Bad Dancer — continues to find plenty of outlets for her boundless energy.
“As a kid,” she said, “I was a dreamer. I daydreamed and imagined things, and whatever was in my brain, I’d put on paper. And I still do that.”
— Joseph Bednar