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The Queens Courier hosted its fourth annual “Rising Stars” awards and networking event on Thursday, January 26 honoring the “40 under 40.”


Devon O’Connor had never been to an awards ceremony — much less been honored at one.

So when the 20 year old was named one of The Queens Courier’s “Rising Stars,” he made sure to bask in the moment before it was gone.

“When I was called up to the stage and given the award, it was such a great feeling. It was amazing. Now I can imagine what it feels like to be honored at the Oscars,” O’Connor said. “It was really cool to be honored for doing something in the community. It makes it feel like everything I’m doing is definitely worth it.”

O’Connor — who was recognized for his work as president and founder of Welcome to Whitestone Commercial & Residential Civic Association — shared the limelight with other young professionals, all who were honored for exemplifying outstanding leadership skills in their chosen fields and communities.

Presented by Metropolitan Hospitality, the fourth annual “40 under 40” awards and networking event drew close to 400 people and raised $1,500 in charity raffle funds collected to benefit Futures in Education and Queens Centers for Progress (QCP).

The January 26 event, which took place at the Caesars Club in Citi Field, saw guest appearances by Borough President Helen Marshall, while event attendees networked with top professionals and mingled with representatives from leading businesses in the area, including this year’s event sponsors Con Edison, Flushing Bank, New York Daily News, Parker Jewish Institute for HealthCare & Rehabilitation, PSCH Inc., TD Bank, CUNY, Queens County Savings Bank, Joseph Addabbo Family Health Center, Print Early, Council for Airport Opportunity and NY1.

The “Star of Stars” Mike Woods — meteorologist for Fox 5’s “Good Day New York” — helped honor fellow award recipients, including “Mentor of the Year” Ed Charles, member of the 1969 World Champion New York Mets, and “Rookie of the Year” Justin Lieu, a senior in Francis Lewis High School who recently initiated a project to clean up the Olde Towne of Flushing Burial Ground.

“It was a great feeling to be honored at the event,” said Lieu. “I’m surprised that my project attracted this much positive attention from The Queens Courier and the Queens community.”

Also honored this year for their community work were Akua Anokye, fund development associate at Jamaica YMCA; Dino Antzoulis, manager and vice president of TD Bank; Sara Banda, public affairs manager at Con Edison; Assemblymember Edward Braunstein of District 26; Marisa Breglio, tournament and fundraising manager at American Golf Corporation; Chaday Brown, consultant at Community Wellness & Benefits Consulting; Adrian Cardona, franchisee and broker at Rapid Realty; John Choe, founding director of One Flushing Community Economic Development; Judy Dular, vice president of Flushing Bank; Mohamad Faroqui, president and CEO of Malak Designs; John J. Glynn, crime prevention officer of the NYPD; Michel Hodge, assistant vice president for enrollment at York College; Jacqueline Herrera, acting director of clinics at PSCH Inc.; Jukay Hsu, founder of Coalition for Queens; Laura E. Imperiale, director of government affairs at Tully Construction Co., Inc.; Irfan Iqbal, president and CEO of Astoria Medical, Dental & Lasik Center; Jorge LaCourt, vice president and branch manager of Sterling National Bank; Greg Lavine, chief of staff for Councilmember Karen Koslowitz; Teresa Lisson, partner at Renaissance Event Hall; Ian Magerkurth, associate at The Driscoll Group; Assemblymember Grace Meng of District 22; Jonathan Morris, president of Quantech Corporation; Assemblymember Francisco P. Moya of District 39; Reena Panchal, consulting manager at Grassi & Co.; Tommy Petridis, owner of Maria’s Greek Fusion Restaurant; Vincent Renda, chair of Sunnyside/Woodside Boys & Girls Club; Rafael Reyes, senior mortgage banker at Advisors Mortgage Group; Nick Roberts, project manager of Flushing-Willets Point Corona LDC; Jennifer N. Santaniello, partner at Abrams, Fensterman, Fensterman, Eisman, Greenberg, Formato & Einiger, LLP; Michael Serao, vice president of Quontic Bank; Dmitriy Shpuntov, private mortgage banker at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage; Matthew Silverstein, democratic state committee person and project analyst of District 26 and America Works of NY Inc.; Michelle Kawka, photographer; Kafui Kouakou, chair of the University Student Senate Trustee CUNY Board of Trustees; Erin Liberti, director of operations at LakeVille Ambulette, Parker Jewish Institute for Health Care and Rehabilitation; Ross Wallenstein, political consultant and blogger; Tanya Whittmore, Medicare site developer at Healthfirst; Angelica Huynh, chief human resources officer at Queens Library; Jinpin Ying, CIO of the Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center; and Robert Fliegel, CFO of the Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center.

“I was there until the end. I came early, and I stayed late,” said event attendee Jon Landers of Creative Group, LLC — a graphic design and marketing organization. “It was a good crowd of people and a good venue.”

Delta gave two round trip tickets and Creative Group provided the raffled-off Cancun trip, which went to lucky recipient Sal Bacarella.

Meanwhile, raffle winner Dan James of Tully Construction took home the TD Bank gift certificate, while Erin Liberti won “Broadway Rox at Queens Theatre” tickets and Henry Negron received JetBlue airline tickets.


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