Young professionals between the ages of 25 and 35 are changing the landscape — surpassing previous generations in numbers and diversity, these young professionals have taken on a new role of influence, especially in shaping the future of economic growth and labor markets. Placing a high value on entrepreneurship, leadership and social responsibility, studies demonstrate this ambitious and technologically-connected generation is setting the pace for the transforming work environments and social networks.

The Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Augusta Magazine, is pleased to announce 10 of Augusta’s most outstanding young professionals. The young professionals featured entered into a competitive nomination process in March and have emerged as this year’s most promising and rising stars. These outstanding individuals exemplify what can be achieved with passion and vision, and while we congratulate their current achievements, we look forward to watching them reach their dreams.

—Sue Parr, president
Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce

Stacie McBride

Age: 28

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations with a Minor in Non-profit Management (Augusta University)

Employer: STACIE Social, Social Media Strategist/Founder

As social media strategist and founder of STACIE Social, she has grown to have eight full-time management clients, multiple strategic consulting clients, three national clients and one part-time employee. STACIE Social also offers social media strategy sessions, management, event coverage and social videography that align with your organization’s strategic promotional goals.

Professional five and 10-year goals: She hopes to hire a team and continue to grow her services while sharpening her skills. She also would like to earn her graduate degree and have the opportunity to teach Digital Marketing at Augusta University.

Current and Future Impact on Augusta: Currently STACIE Social’s monthly social media management clients are Augusta-based businesses, of which 90% are women-owned. She would like to become a staple social media resource for non-profit organizations in the area.

Volunteer work: She has worked previously with the Georgia Cyber Center Young Advisory Board, was a board member for Augusta Sports Council, as well as a board member for Heart and Sole, Inc. McBride was also a 2019 Ironman 70.3 Augusta finisher as well as a 2021 Paceline finisher.

Rebecca Van Loenen

Age: 34

Education: Bachelor of General Studies with an emphasis in Non-Profit Management and Alternative Education (Southeastern Louisiana University). Citi Group — Group 1: FDA Regulated Research certified; Full-Stack Web Developer; Georgia Master Gardener Certification

Employer: Augusta Locally Grown (ALG), LLC, Executive Director

Her primary responsibility is growing sustainable food partnerships throughout the region by connecting farmers with the community.  Behind the scenes, she oversees the organizational need for Augusta’s region-wide food access effort and Georgia’s oldest Food as Medicine program (a multipronged intervention program to address both chronic disease and food insecurity), and is in charge of creating and implementing ALG’s comprehensive operations and fundraising efforts.

Professional five and 10-year goals: She plans to increase farmers markets and food access by 50% in food desert areas, increase food and medicine programming, mental health and food access in partnership with AU Family Medicine and Golden Harvest Food Bank. ALG has already beta tested the state’s first Food as Medicine program and she wants to expand that program through 2024. In 2026 and beyond, she aims to launch a statewide farmers market food coalition with training at the Hub and put Augusta on the map as a Food as Medicine program partner.

Current and Future Impact on Augusta: ALG has grown to six full-time and 12 part-time positions. She launched new pickup sites, a home delivery program and a new low-income market that doubles SNAP/EBT (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Electronic Benefits Transfer) dollars. With the new Hub, ALG will be a catalyst for community empowerment, food as medicine in the coming years and an authority for farmer services and farmers market food access.

Volunteer work: Previously a volunteer for Southern Methodist Youth Camps, Master Gardener for the Savannah River Region and VP of statewide communications for the Georgia Master Gardener Association. She is currently a volunteer for the Warren Baptist Church Children’s Ministry.

Alicia Fitts

Age: 29

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Communications (Grand Canyon University)

Employer: Peach State Federal Credit Union, Assistant Vice President (Business Development and Community Relations)

She educates on topics in relation to financial literacy, goal setting and developing and implementing community-related initiatives in Augusta. She helps promote the Peach State Federal Credit Union brand, mission and core values in the Augusta and Aiken markets. Currently, she is enrolled in the CUNA (Credit Union National Association) Financial Counseling Certification Program and will become a certified Credit Union Financial Counselor.

Professional five and 10-year goals: She plans to give back and invest time into Richmond County schools by using her knowledge and experience to mentor and guide other aspiring business professionals to reach their highest potential. In the future, she hopes to apply for the Augusta Chamber’s leadership program.

Current and Future Impact on Augusta: After earning her Financial Counselor Certification, she plans on expanding her reach by assisting those who need financial education in the Augusta community. She aims to continue sharing effective methods that she practices.

Volunteer work: Aiken Rotarian Paul Harris Fellow +1, the Salvation Army on behalf of the Rotary Club, the Golden Harvest Food Bank through the Young Women on the Way program, Eagle Corps Services Essentials Board and the House of God COGIC Jurisdictional Scholarship Board for her church. She also participates in the Augusta Chamber of Commerce’s Students 2 Work Soft Skills planning committee and is a financial education instructor with Richmond County Schools and the Reaching Potential Through Manufacturing program.

Dalton Self

Age: 30

Education: Bachelor of Arts in History (Paine College)

Employer: Jani-King of Augusta, Vice President

Jani-King of Augusta is a franchisor that helps local entrepeneurs own and operate their own personal commerical cleaning business and as vice president, he oversees five teams that support local franchises in their respective cities. In Augusta, he acts as the company’s Chief Operations Officer (COO) and oversees executive leadership in sales, service and administrative assistance to those who need help franchising.

Professional five and 10-year goals: While retaining his position as COO of Jani-King, he hopes to secure two additional hires as regional vice presidents in the next several years. He also wants to focus on core company values as well as environmental branding. Lastly, he hopes to promote Jani-King as a top employer in the Savannah River Region by averaging 15% growth each year and adding more employee benefits.

Current and Future Impact on Augusta: Currently Jani-King of Augusta provides 250-300 local jobs working for franchise owners but he will create 100 additional jobs while also helping 16 or more entrepreneurs start their business. By expanding their local brand they will continue to use area franchisees to operate as site superisors for the facilities they manage.

Volunteer work: He has been an ambassador to the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce since 2019 and a membership chair of the Columbia County Rotary Club since 2020. He is also a mentor for Young Men on the Move and a board member of Rise Augusta, which he plans to continue until 2024. Currently, he volunteers for Augusta University’s Camp Rainbow and was a Spirit of the Rainbow Award Winner in 2017. This year, he was part of the 2022 Leadership Augusta Class.

Briana Williams

Age: 34

Education: Bachelor of Business Administration (Florida International University)

Employer: Queensborough National Bank & Trust Co. (QNB&T), Community Relations Officer

She is responsible for allocating the bank’s monetary contributions, orchestrating volunteer efforts and managing events and sponsorships to foster growth between the community and QNB&T.

Professional five and 10-year goals: She would like QNB&T to become synonymous with community service by creating and leveraging partnerships that exist between the bank and the community. She would also like to sharpen her business expertise through involvement with local Chambers of Commerce.

Current and Future Impact on Augusta: In 2021, she was responsible for distributing revenue to local organizations on behalf of Queensborough that were aligned with community initiatives to positively impact residents of the Savannah River Region. Currently, her goal is to enhance her level of understanding in community psychology so programs can be developed to meet the goals of QNB&T’s future outreach.

Volunteer work: Ambassador Committee for Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce and Columbia County Chamber of Commerce as well as a part of the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Council for Georgia Chamber of Commerce. She has also taken on roles of board member, executive board member, campaign manager and a citizens review panelist for the United Way of the CSRA and has been a Community Foundation Grant Panelist.

Charles Jimenez

Age: 30

Education: Studied Business Administration in Management (Augusta University).

Employer: New American Funding, Branch Manager

As a branch manager, it is his responsibility to ensure quality control processes and effective training of his employees. As a loan originator, financial education of clients and preparation for early home ownership are key components of his job.

Professional five and 10-year goals: He wants to help develop a world-class mortgage branch in the Savannah River Region. On a national level he aims to grow his influence within New American Funding and the mortgage industry so he can help advance innovative changes that allow employees and the company to thrive, providing the people they serve the highest quality experience.

Current and Future Impact on Augusta: He recently signed a lease for a new building to be used as the hub for community involvement in the Savannah River Region. Becauase New American Funding currently helps educate families about financial literacy and homeownership, he envisions being a key contributor for financial education, specifically in real estate.

Volunteer work: His volunteer time focuses around developing a national initiative for military veterans. He has partnered with New American Funding, launching the Military Hero Focus Initiative — an initiative for educating military veterans about the benefits of homeownership and the professional opportunities available to them when they exit military service.

Taylor Barbato

Age: 27

Education: Degree in Psychology (Clemson University)

Employer: WJBF NewsChannel 6, Account Executive

Her responsibilities include growing and exceeding revenue goals while developing new and strategic sponsorship initiatives and community projects. A big part of her job also focuses on building relationships with local businesses and developing advertising and marketing campaigns to help grow regional business.

Professional five and 10-year goals: She would like to become the next local sales manager, general sales manager and eventually general manager of NewsChannel 6 while continuing meaningful contributions and connections in the Savannah River Region. As general manager, she’d play a key role in expanding WJBF’s footprint in the market by creating new job opportunities and expanding the economic development of the Augusta-Aiken market.

Current and Future Impact on Augusta: As a member of the Chamber’s Ambassador Program, Leadership Augusta class of 2022 and member of Columbia County’s Young Women on the Way program, she is currently working to develop a Financial Literacy program for students in the area. She plans to continue her involvement with the Chamber organizations while focusing her efforts on youth success and workforce development. She also works directly with local and regional businesses to further develop the Savannah River Region’s workforce, creating campaigns that target Augusta’s economic development.

Volunteer work: Girl Scouts of Georgia, Leadership Augusta Class of 2022, Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce Ambassador, Forces United Warrior Ambassador, Young Professionals of Augusta and Columbia County’s Young Women on the Way, Golden Harvest Food Bank, Salvation Army, United Way of the CSRA.

Alex Griffin

Age: 30

Education: Master of Business Administration (University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School) and Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance and Real Estate (University of Georgia)

Employer: Medical College of Georgia Foundation (MCGF), Executive Director of the Student Foundation

The Student Foundation is a new program that he created from the ground up including board structure, governance documents, selection process and the initial investment portfolio. He is responsible for developing hands-on learning and leadership opportunities for students at Augusta University (AU), including creating investment portfolios, setting return objectives and spend policies, effective board governance and transformational philanthropy.

Professional five and 10-year goals: He seeks to grow the Student Foundation into a top leadership opportunity for AU students, making it a competitive advantage for attracting students along the way. His goal is to become the Chief Operating Officer and eventually Chief Executive Officer. He also aspires to publish a novel in the next five years and run for local office in the next 10 years.

Current and Future Impact on Augusta: Through the Student Foundation at Augusta University, he wants to invest the returns for philanthropic endeavors back into the campus, the Augusta area and throughout the region. He is involved in the foundation’s transformational real estate project on Walton Way and 15th Street which will be a gateway into the Augusta University Health Sciences campus — with a focus on new retail, hospitality, housing and creating amenities for students, faculty, staff and downtown residents. Additionally, he is working with the Hub for Community Innovation and the new Boys and Girls Club building along Chafee Avenue.

Volunteer work: First Baptist Church of Augusta deacon, Vice Chair of the Finance Committee, member of the Merger Committee, Mission Development Council and Minister Advisory Council and the Alzheimer’s Association. He currently serves on the Dancing Stars of Augusta Committee, Construction Board of Columbia County, Gallery Committee for the Masters Tournament and a former officer of the Augusta chapter of the University of Georgia Alumni Association.

Aaliyah Lynn Wylie

Age: 29

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Business Marketing (James M. Hull College of Business, Augusta University).

Employer: Augusta Office Solutions/Modern Business Workplace Solutions, Director of Business Development

Professional five and 10-year goals: She aims to lead a team of account managers and designers that serve as the market-leaders in East Georgia. She hopes to pursue certifications in organizational leadership, project management and strategy execution. She seeks to work with a non-profit that impacts her neighborhood where there is a critical need for fresh food and affordable healthcare. Another one of her goals is to mentor and advise high school and college women and women of color on the soft skills necessary to be successful in their careers. In 10 years, she hopes to create a team of prospects to develop business opportunities across the state.

Current and Future Impact on Augusta: As a member of the Downtown Augusta Rotary Club, she intends to further her knowledge and service in the area’s non-profit organizations. She would like to have a strong impact on job growth, local partnerships and the creation of other non-profit businesses in the area.

Volunteer work: Augusta Sports Council, Greater Augusta Arts Council, Ronald McDonald House of Augusta and Turn Back the Block. A volunteer with Richmond County Schools, she reads and tutors students and has raised funds through her business for the American Heart Association and back-to-school care kits for Richmond County teachers.

Kari Viola-Brooke

Age: 34

Education: Master of Education in Counselor Education (Augusta University) and Bachelor of Arts in Psychology (College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Mass.)

Employer: Child Enrichment, Executive Director

She oversees day-to-day operations of the child advocacy center and court appointed special advocates programs; helps plan, organize and supervise the 24 employees and 150 volunteers that provide free services to victims of abuse. She is a member of the child abuse, sexual assault and domestic violence protocol committees for three judicial circuits and testifies in child abuse civil trials. She trains child forensic interviewers across the state to have the skills for interviewing child abuse allegations.

Professional five and 10-year goals: She would like to complete the Child Enrichment’s capital campaign, increase awareness and education related to child abuse and child trafficking; collaborate with local school districts to implement evidence-based prevention programs in schools and create training protocols so mandated reporters are equipped when protecting children. Lastly, she would like to recruit additional Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteers so that every child in foster care has a dedicated advocate.

Current and Future Impact on Augusta: She seeks to implement comprehensive prevention efforts centered around Stewards of Children and Connections Matters — two evidence-based training programs to prevent childhood trauma and support its victims. She plans to increase the services offered at Child Enrichment so that all children have access to advocacy and therapy.

Volunteer work: Child Advocacy Centers of Georgia, part of the Sexual Assault, Child Abuse and Human Trafficking State Expert Committee for Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, president elect of Kiwanis Club of Thomson and a member of the Child Abuse Protocol Committee for Augusta, Columbia and Toombs Judicial Circuit.

Article appears in the June/July 2021 issue of Augusta Magazine.

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