The Georgia FirstGen Benefit Gala brings together FirstGen executives, educators, and community leaders for an evening to celebrate the year's accomplishments and recognize members of the FirstGen Under 40 Class of 2023, highlighting FirstGen trailblazers who have made strides to advance the FirstGen movement under 40 years old. It is also a special time to honor the Dr. Bobby Gueh Leadership Award recipient for his or her ongoing inspirational contributions and commitment to improving first-generation students.
Meet the FirstGen Under 40 Class of 2023 Honorees!
Anthony Nguyen is a Double Panther of Georgia State University, earning a B.S. in Biology cum laude and a Juris Doctorate with high pro bono distinction from the College of Law. Anthony's testament to public service is defined in his experiences working across all three branches of state government. From the State Legislature to the Office of the Governor, the Fulton County District Attorney's Office to the Office of the Attorney General, and the superior courts of Georgia to his current post at the Georgia Statewide Business Court, Anthony has found a way to make an impact.
Dr. Christy Finley has served in various Admissions, Educational Opportunity, and Student Success positions at public and private postsecondary institutions across Georgia. Dr. Finley holds an EdD in Student Affairs Leadership from the University of Georgia, an MEd in Higher Education Administration from Georgia Southern University, and a B.A. in Psychology, with a Sociology minor from Georgia State University. Dr. Finley is the Diversity & Inclusion Program Coordinator at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and a Proctor for Applerouth Tutoring Services.
Donald is a leadership coach, consultant, facilitator, scholar, and speaker. His mission is to assist individuals in being the best version of themselves. He has worked with hundreds of first-generation professionals and college students to accelerate their influence and grow into their next level of authentic leadership. His research interests include first-generation professional experiences, using humor in leadership, team dynamics, and workplace readiness. He received his Bachelor's degree in business management from Georgia State University, a master's degree in higher education administration from Loyola University Chicago, and an Ed.D in student affairs leadership from the University of Georgia.
Dr. Velazquez was born in Queretaro, Mexico, and moved to the United States at age two. He obtained his Bachelor's degree at Boise State University in 2012 and his Ph.D. at Virginia Commonwealth University in Health Psychology in 2018. He started working at the University of North Georgia in the fall 2018 semester. His research focuses on how cultural values and parental practices are associated with risk behavior among Latinx adolescents and emerging adults.
Elon Ciriaco is a Senior Global Product Manager at Equifax. She serves on several boards in a leadership capacity. Including Hispanic Young Professional and Entrepreneurs (HYPE) under the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce as the Professional Development Chair, Technology Association of Georgia Young Professionals Society Chair, and EFX corporate partnerships representative for Women in Technology, TechBridge, and TAG. She was a finalist for the WIT's Women of the Year Award, TAG's Emerging DEI Tech Leader of the Year Award Finalist, the 30 Under 30 Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, and the Georgia State University 40 Under 40 class of 2023.
Jennifer Cruz is a highly driven senior Real Estate student at Georgia State University. She has completed internships at NCR Corporation, Porsche Cars North America, & Wells Fargo. This past summer, Jennifer interned in New York City as a Financial Analyst and developed a passion for uplifting communities through affordable housing. She champions DEI, rooted in being a first-generation high school graduate and college student. She lives by being optimistic, looking towards the future, and looking back and uplifting underrepresented communities to advance in society.
Jeremiah de Sesto
Jeremiah de Sesto is a Management Information Systems, International Affairs, and International Business student at the University of Georgia. After graduating Summa Cum Laude in May 2023, Jeremiah will attend Harvard University in a dual Juris-Doctorate and master's in public policy Program. De Sesto is a U.S. Presidential Scholar, Coca-Cola Scholar, and National Merit Scholar who has served as the President of the National Beta Club, the largest educational youth organization in the United States.
From serving as an aid for the Biden administration to being an associate with EY-Parthenon, and a staff assistant with Coca-Cola Bottling Company United and Delta Airlines, his greater mission is to continue using his platforms to advocate and fight for the protection and fortification of the rights of all people, and to fight against the abuse of command and corruption.
Noel Salaices graduated from Georgia State University with a BBA in Marketing in the spring of 2017 and is currently back at Georgia State pursuing an MBA in Marketing and International Business. He has worked for companies such as Disney, Allied Integrated Marketing, and NASCAR and is currently a Sr. Analyst for Warner Bros. Discovery. He is a part of organizations such as Management Leadership for Tomorrow, T. Howard Foundation, Horatio Alger Association, and La Unidad Latina. His goal is to leverage his professional background and assist in telling more stories in television and film about the minority experience.
Nury is a dynamic and forward thinker, intentional community builder, and healing agent; her practice, guided by theory, intersectionality, critical consciousness, and principles, centers around community and social equity. Her unwavering tenacity and ability to center theory to practice have allowed Nury to serve as a university administrator in various roles. Nury is a doctoral student at the University of Dayton and received a Master of Public Administration and a Bachelor of Science from North Carolina State University. Throughout her many roles, Nury's guiding principle is the African humanist philosophy, "Ubuntu: I am because you are."
Yonas Asfaw-Cooper is an Associate at Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale, & Dorr LLP in Washington, DC Yonas is a prominent law associate passionate about indigent criminal defense, anti-discrimination policy, administrative and constitutional law, fantasy novels, running, and soccer. He will serve as an incoming Law Clerk for the Honorable Candace Jackson-Akiwuni of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals for the 2024-25 term.
Georgia FirstGen is thrilled to have this class honored at the 2023 Benefits Gala!