Meet the 20 under 40 Rising Star Award Winners

Yuma is home to a thriving community of young professionals and leaders who make an impact here every single day.

And this year, we’re honoring their accomplishments and contributions with the first 20 Under 40 Rising Star Awards, a partnership between the Yuma Sun’s BIZ Magazine and the NexGen Leadership Council.

The awards, also sponsored by several area businesses and organizations, recognize a group of outstanding professionals between the ages of 18 and 40 who have excelled in their respective industries and who are good citizens of the community.

The honored professionals are those of diverse backgrounds who have exhibited extraordinary leadership skills in their professions and have made positive impacts in the Yuma area. In short, each represents the best of the best in Yuma.

“We want to honor these individuals in a very special way. The 20 Under 40 Rising Stars Awards program is a perfect way to recognize these leaders and their continued contribu...

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April Glass

April Glass is the manager of the Lane Bryant store in Yuma.

“I work to ensure operations are running smoothly while paying close attention to customer interactions in order to maintain a comfortable and fun shopping experience,” she said. “I also manage schedules and employee accountability.”

Apart from working for Lane Bryant for 13 years, she has been a volunteer for the Girl Scouts for five years, the last year of which has been as an area team manager.

“In my volunteer role of area team manager for Girl Scouts, I work closely with Girl Scout staff to help volunteers stay up to date with information and processes. I also create and run programs while partnering with the program manager so that Yuma County Girl Scouts have the best opportunities to learn STEM and leadership skills. I have also been responsible for putting together a training video for all of southern Arizona on how to utilize Google Classroom for meetings with our program manager.”


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Heather Vinci

Heather Vinci strikes a good balance between coffee and the law.

Vinci has her own practice, the Law Office of Heather C. Vinci, PLLC, in which she focuses on juvenile law and criminal defense. And with her husband, she owns the North End Coffeehouse in Yuma.

Vinci has been an attorney for nine years, having joined the Arizona State Bar in November 2011.

“When it comes to being an attorney, I love helping others. Whenever anyone comes into contact with the court system, it can be overwhelming and having someone you can trust to help guide you is what is most important about what I do.”Her juvenile work includes delinquency, adoption, dependency and severance cases. And as a criminal defense attorney, she advocates for her clients, helps them navigate the court systems, and advises them on options they have in their cases.Vinci also has served as a judge pro tem in the Cocopah Tribal Court and serves now as its presiding judge.

“A dear friend trusted me and...

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Daniel Van Voorst

Find a job you’ll love. That’s the advice Daniel Van Voorst would offer a young person trying to decide on a career.

No doubt his patients are thankful Van Voorst chose the profession he did.

As the owner and lead physical therapist at the Institute of Manual Physical Therapy, Van Voorst helps people regain mobility and shed pain.

Van Voorst graduated from A.T. Still University in 2011, earned board certification in orthopedics the following year, then completed a fellowship training in orthopedic manual therapy from Regis University in 2017. He has been a physical therapist for about a decade.

“When people come to see me, they are typically having pain and a loss of function to some degree. I get to interact with them one on one and learn their story. We then work as a team to help them achieve their goals and return to their prior level of function.”

Knowing he has helped people improve the quality of their live is what Van Voorst loves most about ...

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Amber Thornton

Amber Thornton is office manager of Culligan Water of Yuma, but she wears “a lot of hats” besides those implied by the job title.

“My day-to-day tasks include being a first customer service contact for our customers, handling marketing and networking in our community and day-to-day administrative duties.”

In all, she’s worked 18 years for the family business.

“Water is life’s essential liquid,” she said. “Having grown up with my father as ‘The Culligan Man,’ I take pride in being able to solve our customers water issues with a quality Culligan treatment solutions.”

The business recently marked its 25th anniversary, she said.“I look forward to growing Culligan Water of Yuma as the premier water treatment provider in Yuma for the next 25 years. In addition, I will continue working to support other businesswomen and helping the next generation of young woman grow in confidence, leadership, and encourage them to give back to others in the community.”


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Lucine Smith

Lucine Smith is business development manager for the Yuma Southwest Contractors Association.

Her duties include public relations and “shedding light on our mission to be a voice for the local construction industry, provide the highest quality service to our members and to promote our association to the local community.”

She has been in the position for a little more than a year.

“I have been able to really get to know the amazing individuals that make Yuma, such a loving and amazing community,” she said. “I am a socialite and love to be involved in making this community flourish. In my position I have been able to launch a link to help out our community during these trying times due to COVID-19.

“We have received many applicants which we are able to review each month during a committee meeting. This really helps us to do our part during the pandemic. I have always enjoyed going above and beyond to make our community thrive.”

Smith has her professiona...

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Aziza Shuler

For the past several years, Aziza Shuler has been a daily part of the lives of Yuma-area residents as a journalist who brings them the news about the events that affect their lives.

“Every day I strive to find and tell stories that matter to our community,” the multimedia journalist for KYMA/FOX9 said. “That includes seeking accurate, honest and relevant information to the people who live here.”

Shuler received an affirmation of her commitment to her profession in 2019 after having just served as emcee for the City of Yuma’s Back to School Rodeo at the Yuma Civic Center.

“As I was making my way out, a mother approached me with her little daughter and said she watches me every night and admires me. That moment reaffirmed to me that I’m doing something that’s bigger than my own personal goals. I remember watching my role models on the news and feeling inspired. Now, I’m in the position to inspire young girls to believe they can achieve their dreams as well.”

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Veronica Shorr

People often network to help themselves in their careers. Veronica Shorr networks to help Yuma County.

She is regional director of the Arizona Community Foundation of Yuma.

“In my position, I oversee asset development for local community impact in terms of philanthropy. I work with people who love our community. I encourage them to use their financial means to create change for a better Yuma County by giving through the Arizona Community Foundation of Yuma to their favorite charities.”

Shorr has been working in philanthropy for three years and eight months. Her job provides her the means to do what she calls her purpose in life: serving others.

“The world of philanthropy encourages people to put their money where their heart is – which, in my role, means I get to be the messenger of good news to many local organizations and donors,” she said. “Every year, I get to see first hand how people put their values into action by giving to local agencies. The colla...

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Shahrooz Roohparvar

Shahrooz Roohparvar is vice president of finance and administrative services at Arizona Western College.

In that role, he has overall responsibility for fiscal management for the AWC’s district, which comprises not only the main campus in Yuma and satellites around Yuma County but campuses in neighboring La Paz County.

“I make sure the lights stay on, people get paid on time and, most importantly, the students get the best experience so they continue to pursue more education or put their education to use and get a job in their field in our community,” he said.Roohparvar has been a financial executive in higher education more than 11 years. When he joined AWC three years ago, he was the youngest chief financial officer of a college district anywhere in the United States.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a master’s in business administration with double concentration in finance and supply chain management. At present, he is working toward earning a d...

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Erica Rivera

On the one hand, the actions Erica Rivera takes could end up saving someone’s life.

On the other, she helps people fulfill their lives’ dreams: that of owning homes of their own.

Rivera, a lifelong Yuman, is a 911 dispatcher for the city of a Yuma and a licensed real estate agent for The Realty Agency in Yuma.

Rivera, who also has worked as a human resources specialist and contracts coordinator for the city, became an emergency dispatcher about 13 years ago.

“Whether it’s a call for a lost dog or a baby not breathing, you have to let the person on the other end of the call know that you’re there and you’re not letting go until help arrives,” she said. “No two calls are the same and you never know what’s on the other side of that phone ringing. You start each call with a blank mindset. It feels good at the end when you know that person is safe.

“Being a 911 emergency dispatcher can be stressful, it can be heartbreaking, it can suck the life out of you...

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Megan Randolph

In 2019, Megan Randolph rose to a pinnacle of excellence among teachers when she became one of only three recipients of the Apple Distinguished Educator awards in Arizona.

Apple created the honors program in 1995 to recognize educators in grades kindergarten through 12th who use Apple technology to improve teaching and learning.

Randolph said it was her most memorable professional moment.

Today she teaches math and the STEM – Science, Technology Engineering Art and Math – curriculum at the Crane Elementary School District’s Centennial Middle School.

“I incorporate as much of these into my daily classroom while working with our youth to overcome hurdles they may be facing in their daily life,” she said. “When I’m not teaching, I’m coaching sports on our campus, such as softball, basketball (both boys and girls) and even (in) a short stint at soccer.Besides all that, she is the school’s athletic director and technology specialist. The latter role, she said, ...

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Tania Pavlak

Innovative. Adaptable. Calm under pressure. Fearless.

And most notably, irreplaceable.

That’s how her colleagues at the Yuma County Chamber of Commerce describe Tania Pavlak, events and outreach coordinator of that organization.

Having joined the chamber three years ago, Pavlak is responsible for planning and coordinating chamber events, outreach to businesses that are current or soon-to-be members, managing the chamber’s use of social and digital media, and volunteer and community engagement.

Pavlak says she loves her job “for the opportunity to create meaningful relationships with Yuma professionals who share the same values and dedication to making our community a better place to live.”

While she may be a little reticent to sing her own praises, her peers at the chamber of commerce and in the business community are not.

“Tania stepped in to fill a very large need in the team working at the chamber,” says one colleague who nominated her for t...

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Faviola Mayorga

Faviola Mayorga became a part-time banker in 2007 and, she says, she never looked back.

Today she is an assistant manager of a WaFd branch in Yuma.

Her responsibilities include preparing daily, weekly and month-end operations and productivity reports; preparing and processing home loan applications; managing construction project financing; researching the credit applicants’ financial status; training bank staff, and assisting in manage security and safety at the branch.

“As cliché as it sounds, I love everything about my job. I love being a part of these important milestones in people’s lives. From being there when they start a new business or purchasing their first home, to helping them finally be able to build their dream forever home, I love the satisfaction of helping people accomplish their dreams – whatever they may be.”

Mayorga says her most memorable professional moment came when she was picked to oversee the paycheck protection program loan proces...

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Maura Luna

Seeing her parents toil in agricultural fields, Maura Luna understood at an early age the value of an education.

“Both my parents come from families where going to school was not an option,” she said. “When my parents legally immigrated to the United States, they started working in the fields. They had my brother and me. I, being the oldest, saw how hard it was to work in the fields. At the age of 7, I said to myself, ‘I will make my parents proud and I will do my best in school and graduate.’ Plus, being the oldest sibling, I wanted to be a role model for my brother.”

She and her brother went on to be first-generation university graduates in their family. Her brother is a cartographer at Yuma Proving Ground, while she is a grants and donations accountant for the city of Yuma.

Luna joined the city 4-1/2 years ago after working 11 years for the city of San Luis, Ariz.

Luna performs a variety of accounting duties to ensure the city’s use of its grants comply...

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Miriam Limon

Miriam Limon has worked in the credit union industry and in marketing for more than 15 years.

But the job never gets old.

“There is always something new to learn in marketing, whether it’s a new design program or the latest advertising channel,” said Limon, who is senior director of marketing for AEA Federal Credit Union.

“I am always engaged and feel accomplished with each new campaign or project.”

She is responsible for overall marketing strategy for the credit union, an assignment in which she oversees promotion of the credit union’s brand, its community outreach, social media presence, its use of traditional and digital media, and product development.

Over the course of her career, two professional achievements in particular stand out.

“First, in 2012 I was awarded the World Council of Credit Union’s Young Professional Scholarship. I represented AEA and the Mountain West Credit Union Association at the World Council of Credit Union’s Annual...

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Rebecca Larson

It’s one thing to hold down a job to take home a paycheck.

But in her position, Rebecca Larson also has the satisfaction of knowing she plays a role in improving and maintaining the health and welfare of Yuma-area residents.

As a marketing specialist for Yuma Regional Medical Center, Larson’s duties include creating and carrying out marketing plans and strategies that bring together patients with the hospital’s doctors and medical staff who serve their needs.

“I love working for an organization that makes a difference in our community,” said Larson. “When we promote a new physician or services, we are helping our community members find the health care they may need.

“I also love our (YRMC) Community Relations team. The team is truly an amazing and inspiring group of individuals who bring out the best in each other.”

Working with other Community Relations team members to plan the groundbreaking event and grand opening of the Yuma Regional Cancer Cente...

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Ashley Herrington

In a successful organization, there’s that key person, the essential cog in the machinery, someone who may not have the highest profile but who makes sure the policies set by the decision-makers at the top get carried out, who helps coordinate the activities of everyone within the organization.

At Arizona Western College, that person would be Ashley Herrington.

“I serve students at Arizona Western College,” she said, describing her responsibilities. “Through my role as the chief of staff at the college, my primary responsibility is to serve the students and ensure their success and support resolutions where they have issues.

“Secondarily, I support the president, Dr. Daniel P. Corr, and the publicly elected (AWC) District Governing Board of five individuals, to support the general operation of the college.”

In a nutshell, Herrington’s duties include following up to make sure decisions made by the governing board and college administrators are carried out; ...

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Gabriella Heinz

Five years ago at age 16, Gabriella Heinz decided to join in the fight against sex trafficking.

That mission turned into the social impact project she undertook as part of her candidacy for Miss Yuma County, a title she went on to win for 2020.

“I spent a year networking within the community to gather knowledge and information about igniting change. I competed with the Miss American organization to launch the beginning of advocacy against trafficking in the community.”

In a multi-pronged effort she dubbed The Agape Project, she published “Into the Portal,” a children’s book for use by parents to begin the conversation with their kids about staying safe; took part in fund-raising activities for anti-trafficking organizations, and created a separate training curriculum to help adults prevent trafficking.

“In the same spirit, I wanted to open the opportunity for men, women and children across the county to have access to affordable self-defense trainings and ...

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Stacy Greene-Todd

Stacy Greene-Todd is vice president of Eckard Commercial Construction, a design build construction company in Yuma.

“I work with clients to develop their project, help owners through the construction process, assemble their design team, coordinate and manage projects, as well as buy out and select subcontractors,” she explains. “In addition to commissioning and running projects, I also construct budgets, work on costs analysis, construct owner bills and review subcontractor costs, and I oversee field operations and maintain schedules.”

Juggling all those responsibilities might seem to be too many for one person to reasonably handle. Not for Greene-Todd.“I tell everyone I will give 110% if I enjoy what I am doing. Every day can have its challenges, but at the end of the day, I like having something to show for my hard work, a building.”Greene-Todd has worked in the construction industry for 22 years, 14 of them as a project manager and two as vice president of a constr...

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Maria Duran

As Maria Duran would be quick to point out, taking a genuine interest in the lives of others is key to building relationships.

As one of her responsibilities as a program facilitator for the Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona-Yuma County, she conducts troop meetings for at-risk girls.

“I have a few girls whom I worked very closely with,” she said. “One I had asked where her glasses were and she stated, ‘You remember I wear glasses,’ and that’s when my heart dropped. ‘Of course I remember,’ I told her. I then started to state how I remember this person’s hair was pink or this person’s brother was mad at them last week.

“Their faces lit up and so did mine. I gave them this space where they were given the attention and care that they deserved. After building relationships with them, walking up to their meeting spaces, I am greeted with pearly whites and immediately, ‘What are we going to do today, Ms. Duran?’ That anticipation and engagement is better than any other r...

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Emilia Cortez

To say Emilia Cortez has embraced the mission of Girl Scouts would be an understatement.

She has been affiliated with the organization for 15 years, beginning as a Scout. She has been an employee of Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona-Yuma County for the last 11 of those years and currently is its community development director.

Cortez says she loves “everything” about her job. “I get to play, travel and serve my community’s needs by giving my time.”

She says her most memorable professional moments come not only from working for Girl Scouts but “when I give back to the community in volunteering at (Yuma Community) food bank, (Crossroads) mission, or anything that helps children.”

She has also served on the Yuma County Library District Board of Trustees, as a regional council member for First Things First, and with the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area Corporation.

Her future goals, she said, include “growing to the next level of leadership but also im...

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