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October 1, 2019

United Way Announces Winners of ELA’s Rock Star Awards

White Plains, N.Y, (September 27, 2019) – United Way’s Emerging Leaders Alliance has announced the winners of its United We Rock Awards, which honors community-minded and philanthropic young professionals and college students who are making a difference.

Five young professionals from Westchester and Putnam counties were selected by a panel of judges. The honorees are: Gina Avila of Yorktown Heights, Brendan Klein of Pleasantville, Michelle A. Nicholas of Mount Vernon, Sherry Saturno of Tarrytown and Meghan Tooley of Brewster.

United Way of Westchester and Putnam is also honoring the chief analytics department of IBM for its use of machine learning techniques to identify key social service gaps to evaluate enhanced service delivery to specific populations. The members of IBM’s Chief Analytics Department are Amit Banik, Tian Bao, Wyatt Clarke, Sampoorna Dasgupta, Mike Donnelly, Louis Monteagudo, Naveen Senthilkumar,  Liyang Song, Howard Zhang, and Peter Zhu.

“It was a very tough decision as we had so many wonderful candidates,” said Alana Sweeny, President and CEO of United Way of Westchester and Putnam.  “This year’s honorees are an extraordinary group of young professionals who are an inspiration to us all.”

The awards ceremony will be held on Thursday, Oct. 24 at Reid Castle, Manhattanville College in Harrison from 6 to 8 p.m. Tickets are $65 and can be purchased at Sponsorships are also available.

For more information on United We Rock, visit or contact Faith Ann Butcher, Acting Chief Impact Officer at (914) 997-6700, ext. 753, or

Bios on the 2019 Rock Star Honorees:


Gina Avila, Yorktown Heights, NY – Ms. Avila currently serves as Assistant Director of Admissions of the Bronx Campus of Mercy College.  She was previously Director of Community and Partner Relations at Forme Medical Center, Director of Alumni Affairs at Grace Institute, Alumni Manager at Young Women’s Leadership Network- College Bound Initiative Alumni and Partnerships, and Admissions Counselor at Monroe College.  Ms. Avila earned a bachelor’s degree in of business administration from Monroe College and a master’s degree in business administration from Mercy College.  She has earned certifications in job and program retention intervention from the Workforce Professionals Training Institute, career coach training from the Grace Institute and college access counseling from Goddard Riverside Options Institute.  Ms. Avila is President and Founder of Westchester Women’s Personal/Professional Empowerment Group, and has contributed her time to El Centro Hispano, the American Heart Association, Family Services of Westchester, the Guidance Center of Westchester, and Yorktown High School.


Brendan Klein, Pleasantville, NY – Brendan Klein is a young adult with developmental disabilities.  He is employed at the Westchester Institute of Human Development (WIHD) through a grant from the Taft Foundation.  Brendan graduated from Pace University’s Lab school program in Pleasantville.  He started a private Facebook group called TicTacGo , a safe social space for young people with disabilities to connect and organize social activities every weekend. Through his position at WIHD, Brendan coordinates meetups such as bowling, movies, online games, Fantasy Football leagues and team building scavenger hunts at places like the Bronx Zoo and the Museum of Natural History. He has been a volunteer in the Pleasantville Ambulance Corps for several years and recently helped to organize an emergency awareness class with Westchester County for self-advocates at WIHD. Brendan and his friends are actively involved in multiple community service projects: they collect coats for the homeless, toys and gym equipment for a school in Harlem, participate in the 914Cares Empty Bowls project and work with several community gardens to grow fresh produce for food-insecure members of our local community.  He also volunteers at the Pleasantville Community Garden.  Brendan was inspired to revive a garden in collaboration with WIHD’s Child Welfare program with the help of his partners at the Pleasantville Community Garden and St. John’s Episcopal Church. The result was the opening of “Adam’s Garden” on July 15.


Michelle A. Nicholas, Mount Vernon, NY – Ms. Nicholas currently serves as the Executive Director of Girls Inc. Westchester, a mission-driven organization focused on inspiring all girls to be strong, smart, and bold. She is the Founder and CEO of The Nico Consulting Inc. (TNC) and President of Sexual Assault and Family Education (S.A.F.E.) Guyana, Inc., an organization focused on raising awareness of sexual assault, abuse, and mental health in Guyana, South America. Nicholas also co-created the “25 Influential Women Leaders Award,” which recognizes the successes of regional and national women leaders throughout Guyana. She is a graduate of the University of Guyana with degrees in Economics and Social Work. Nicholas is also a graduate of the Rio Blanco Institute in Brazil and the 2018 graduating class of Leadership Westchester. Ms. Nicholas has contributed her time to numerous organizations including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)’s Citizens’ Academy, Association of Development Officers and Rotary Club of Wall Street.


Sherry Saturno, Tarrytown, NY – Ms. Saturno is currently the Executive Director of Gramatan Village in Bronxville.  She served as Nursing Home Assistant Administrator and Director of Social Services at Sprain Brook Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, where she previously served as Director of Social Services.  Ms. Saturno has also served as Executive Director of Hudson Valley Care Coalition and Clinical Director of Westchester Medical Center.  She wrote and produced a national award-winning documentary short film titled “Human Investment” that explores what drives individuals to invest themselves in the humanity of care. Ms. Saturno earned a bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at New Paltz, and a master’s degree in social work from the Columbia University School of Social Work, and a master’s degree from Long Island University School of Management and Public Service, as well as a certificate in aging and disabilities from Boston University Center for Aging & Disability Education & Research and an advanced project management program certification from Stanford University.  She is also certified as a New York State Licensed Nursing Home Administrator, a New York State Licensed Clinical Social Worker, a New York State Office of Mental Health Special Investigator, a NASW Diplomate in Clinical Social Work Member, a NASW Qualified Clinical Social Worker Member, a NASW Academy of Certified Social Workers Member, a NASW Clinical Social Worker specializing in Gerontology, a NASW Certified Social Worker Specializing in Health Care, an Eden Alternative Certified Associate, and a Department of Motor Vehicles DWI/DUI treatment/evaluation provider.


Meghan Tooley, Brewster, NY – Ms. Tooley currently serves as a physician recruiting coordinator for Caremount Health Solutions, LLC.  She previously served as a legal recruiting coordinator, litigation paralegal, and legal assistant for Boies Schiller Flexner, LLP.  Ms. Tooley earned a bachelor’s degree with concentrations in criminal justice and psychology from Elizabethtown College.  She is also a Certified Professional of the Society of Human Resources Management, of which she is a member.  She also belongs to the Association of Advancement Physician and Provider Recruitment and the Northeast Physician Recruitment Association.  For more than a decade, Ms. Tooley volunteers with the SPCA of Westchester as a canine companion and adoption counselor.


United Way volunteers from IBM’s Chief Analytics Department


IBM Chief Analytics Department, Armonk, NY – Members of IBM’s Chief Analytics Department Amit Banik, Tian Bao, Wyatt Clarke, Sampoorna Dasgupta, Mike Donnelly, Louis Monteagudo, Naveen Senthilkumar,  Liyang Song, Howard Zhang, Peter Zhu, are working with the United Way of Westchester and Putnam on the use of machine learning techniques to identify key social service gaps to evaluate enhanced service delivery to specific populations.  This model uses factors that were never considered before and could help UWWP achieve 35% greater impact and potentially reach 9,000 more families in need of assistance.  The team was recognized by IBM for its efforts with earned a 2018 IBM Volunteer Excellence Award.