Torchbearers Selects Its Class For 2022

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Adds 40 new young leaders to its membership serving the Greater Akron area 

Akron, OH – (November 22, 2021) – After a competitive application and interview process, 40 young leaders have been selected to join Torchbearers in 2022.

The process to select the Class of 2022 began in July 2021 and involved numerous applications followed by a competitive round of interviews. Torchbearers’ Board of Directors approved the new class for 2022 on October 12, 2021. The 40 new members come from a diverse mix of professions and aspire to serve the Greater Akron area by volunteering and striving to find ways to better the community they live and work in. In the process, the Class of 2022 will get opportunities to improve their leadership and communication skills and network with other professionals in the Greater Akron area.

“I am excited for the future of Akron, and more specifically, I am excited for the future of Torchbearers. As always, we are able to draw in the best and brightest emerging leaders in Greater Akron, this class is no exception!” said Torchbearers president, Willie Cook. “The incoming board is incredibly strong, and full of newer Torchbearers with fresh ideas and fresh eyes. I fully expect this group to jump in and get their hands dirty, in a good way, in 2022.”

“This year’s application and interview process was really tough! Greater Akron is blessed with incredibly strong emerging leaders and we received so many great candidates for the Class of 2022!” said Aaron Engelhart, co-chair of the Membership Committee. “The Membership Committee and interview teams worked hard to ensure that this next class reflects the mission and vision of our organization and I couldn’t be more proud.  Being Membership Committee co-chairs, Sierra Oden and I have a unique experience being able to watch interviews unfold and watch the next class take form. We feel that the Class of 2022 reflects our community and will do great things to contribute to the growth of this city. We’re all so excited to welcome the new Class of 2022 and even more excited to work alongside them!”

The following leaders will come together to form the Torchbearers Class of 2022:

Leigh Ann Andreani, Production Manager, Akron Civic Theatre

Sara Baldwin, Senior Data Analyst, OnQ Solutions

Alexis Becker, Assistant Vice President, Carleton McKenna & Company

Bessette Bland, Supervisor of Investigation Fraud at Job and Family Services

Avis Brown, Director, Office of Academic Support and Retention, The University of Akron

Julie Caruso, Director of Development, Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens

Ashley Cosher, Marketing Automation Specialist, Crum and Forster Pet Insurance

Abby Darin, Staff Development Specialist, Oriana House, Inc.

Ryan Dyke, Patient Service Representative II, Akron Children’s Hospital

Katelyn Freil, Marketing & Public Relations, Freelance

Ryan Friess, Supervisor, Transmission Project Outage Planning, First Energy

Nathan Fulmer, Associate Attorney, Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs, LLC

Spencer Gilgenbach, Senior Content Marketer, Sikich, LLC

Brendan Haggerty, Executive Director, Legacies of Success CDC

Alexandria Harris, Relationship Banker, JP Morgan Chase

Megan Harvey, Administrative Assistant and Producer’s Representative, Millennial Theater Project and Say It Loud, The Akron Civic Theater

Steven Hooten, Associate Attorney, Jones, Funk & Associates, LPA

ShaQeria Hunter, Coordinator, Family Resource Center, United Way of Summit and Medina

Daena Johnson, Office Manager, Countryside

Alexis King, Digital Media and Communications Coordinator, Akron Area YMCA

Tajha Laflore, Manager, Corporate Engagement, United Way of Summit and Medina

Andrew Leask, Associate Vice President, Marketing & Brand Management, United Way of Summit and Medina

Rachel Loza, City Councilperson, Ward 1, City of Cuyahoga Falls

Brian Merklin, Associate Attorney, Brouse McDowell, LPA

Mario Micale, Founder & Principal, Narrative Digital Media LLC

Lindsey Molnar, Judicial Attorney, Ninth District Court of Appeals

Crystal Murphy, Housing Supervisor, United Way of Summit and Medina

Natalie Peacock, Corporate Relations Specialist, Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank

Alexandra Potter, Director of Access to Care, Cleveland Rape Crisis Center

Austen Rau, Senior Design Engineer, Hubbell Power Systems

Monique Rice, Social Program Supervisor, Summit County Department of Job and Family Services

Robyn Robertson, Building Manager: Quirk Cultural Center, City of Cuyahoga Falls

Christine Rose, Associate Director, Office of Academic and Retention Support, The University of Akron

Courtney Ruggaber, Administrative Assistant, Project Outrun

Parinita Singh, Vehicle Dynamics Engineer, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company

Margaret Spangler, Owner, Warehouse Eight

LaDarius Steele, Assistant Director Upward Bound Classic, Kent State University

Dean Stevens, Channel Manager, Donwil Company

Fran Wilson, Senior PR Account Executive, Chatham Strategies

Rachelle Yarbrough, Data Analytics, Visualization and Custom App Specialist, Nestle USA

The new class will meet for a social event early in December and commence their year-long program for leadership and development in January 2022. Applications for the Class of 2023 will be available in the spring at

Torchbearers is an organization of emerging leaders focused on enhancing the Greater Akron community through leadership development, talent attraction and retention, and community service.  Founded in 2003, Torchbearers work to enrich the community by connecting, developing, and engaging leaders in our community and leaders of the future.

In 2009, Leadership Akron and Torchbearers signed an agreement to work more closely together to foster leadership across generations. Today, the membership is over 100 strong and reflects the diversity found across the community. To learn more about Torchbearers, please visit