How the next greatest generation is making a positive impact.

By Carla Turchetti
Photos by Joe Reale

While it’s tough to perfectly define when a generation begins and ends, millennials are roughly considered to be those born near the beginning of the 1980s through the first years of the 2000s, with a little wiggle room on both sides. Known as both millennials and Generation Y, this is a group that grew up in the digital era, and is completely comfortable with communication and technology. And, contrary to many misconceptions, self-absorbed entitlement is not a pervasive characteristic of this population. Instead, many in this generation have already set out to leave a unique imprint on the world. Here, we introduce four such rising stars in our community:

Keith Willis, 32

Case Manager, Haven House Services

Keith Willis has transitioned from the football field to the nonprofit sector.

Junior Willis-9771-web.jpg

“Getting the opportunity to play football and then return as a graduate assistant coach at N.C. State was an incredible experience as it has opened my eyes to the importance of teamwork,” Willis says. “I had been inspired by many coaches, including my father, and I knew there was a bigger opportunity to inspire individuals and make a difference in our community. Once I transitioned out of coaching, I decided community development was my passion.”

Currently Willis is a case manager on the team at Haven House Services in Raleigh, a program that provides services for at-risk youth in Wake County. Willis helps to determine what young clients need and how to provide them with those services. He is also chair of Haven House’s internal fundraising.

“The Community Alternatives Program, CAP, provides alternatives for teens who have been involved in the justice system. It is meaningful for me to continually make an investment both in young people and in the Wake County community,” he says.

Willis is an avid fisherman, cook, and gardener, and is involved with The Wedge Community Garden. He has been able to share his love of growing things with his young clients. His dream: “I would love to be able to end food deserts around the Triangle and have fresh, locally-grown produce available to all.”

Willis and his wife are the proud parents of baby Emerson Jane, and he says his daughter is what actually keeps him on his toes.

Jennifer Holland, 28

Manager, Immersion Program for Vitality Hires, Sales Transaction Support, Enterprise Services, Transformation and Operations, IBM

photo courtesy of jennifer holland

photo courtesy of jennifer holland

Jennifer Holland’s calendar is filled with projects in the workplace as well as projects in the community, and many times the two areas overlap. For IBM, she runs a new hire rotational program within the company’s supply chain organization. She created a program called T & O Get to Know, which gives new supply chain hires connections to social, educational networking events. She leads the Women’s Diversity Group on IBM’s RTP campus, and she is involved in Pathfinders, a mentor program between IBM and N.C. State University. Holland is a believer in giving back to the community.

“I ask all of the employees on my team to volunteer and I encourage them, as well as my mentees, to be involved in the community and give back in some way they are passionate about,” Holland says.

Holland is a co-organizer of the Triangle Volunteer Fair and Shindig, is involved in Leadership Raleigh–Class 33, is on the Emerging Leaders Board for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Triangle, and is involved with the MS Society Leaders Circle, raising more than $5,000 for MS in 2017. How does she manage a schedule that full?

“Everyone is busy, but it is all about how you prioritize your time and being intentional with each meeting or event you are at,” Holland says. “Try to be all there, wherever that may be.”


Dan DeLeo, 36

Chief Operating Officer, Pool Professionals of the Carolinas

Dan DeLeo turned his love of being on the swim team as a child into his career as COO of Pool Professionals of the Carolinas. In addition to a demanding job, Dan juggles a young family and his commitment to the community.

“I am a firm believer that if you commit to something you need to give it your best effort,” DeLeo says. “And to enthusiastically give your best effort you should be thoughtful to commit only to things that you’re passionate about. I am passionate about our community and about helping children.”

DeLeo is the immediate past president of the Board of Directors and current Board Member of SAFEChild, an organization dedicated to eliminating child abuse in Wake County by helping to create nurturing environments free from harm.

“This is the only organization of its type in our area and, while the work can be sobering, it’s incredibly rewarding to see how passionate the staff is and how much of a difference they truly make in the worlds of the children and families they serve.

In my mind, if there’s an opportunity to help even one child who would otherwise be living in fear, pain, or neglect, then helping in any small way is incredibly worthwhile. Fortunately, SAFEChild helps not one but more than 7,000 children and families per year. It’s easy to be passionate about an incredible cause such as this.”

DeLeo is also a recent past president of the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce’s Young Professionals Network (YPN).

“YPN is the only group that I know of in the area where a company can invest in their young talent for such an outstanding return on investment. And, for the young professionals themselves, it’s the only place where they can find continuing education, community involvement, and collaborative networking so accessible in one forum. For our region to continue to be successful, both now and down the road for our children, I believe it’s a worthwhile endeavor to champion what the Chamber is doing.”

Dan and his wife Sara are parents to Grayson, 5, Quinn, 2, and Emil, 1.

photo courtesy of kacie fore

photo courtesy of kacie fore

Kacie Fore, 34

Government and Community Relations Manager, Duke Energy

Kacie Fore is focused on building strong bridges between Duke Energy and the communities it serves. As government and community relations manager for the utility, she focuses on education as a key area of community support.

“By focusing on a strong educational foundation, our communities will continue growing and producing skilled workers who bring new ideas and innovation to our lives,” Fore says. Educational initiatives include a STEM career event at Shearon Harris Nuclear Plant that reached 3,800 students across North Carolina last year.

Fore has a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems from St. Augustine’s University and an MBA from Meredith College. She’s active in Raleigh’s Junior League, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, SAFEChild, the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals Network, and was a Triangle Business Journal pick for 40 Under 40 in 2016.

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