COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – During Thursday’s eighth annual Mayor’s Young Leader Awards, Mayor John Suthers recognized six individuals for their extraordinary efforts as part of the Colorado Springs community.
Started in 2015 to celebrate young professionals age 40 and under, the 2021 winners were selected from 27 finalists across five categories, including the “Military Young Leader Community Impact Award.”
“The quality of work presented by this year’s Mayor’s Young Leader Award finalists was exceptional,” said Mayor Suthers. “I am consistently pleased with the young professionals who are serving Colorado Springs across all industries and am grateful for their contributions to strengthening our community.”
The 2021 winners are as follows:
Military Young Leader Community Impact Award: Cpt. Ethan Heckmann | UCCS
Captain Heckmann, a U.S. Military Academy at West Point and Ranger School graduate, is the assistant professor of military science at the University of Colorado – Colorado Springs in support of their Reserve Officer Training Corps program, where he serves as primary instructor for junior cadets. Cpt. Heckmann has contributed to the successful graduation of 31 cadets into the U.S. Army and acts as the UCCS ROTC Mountain Ranger Battalion S3 Operations Officer. He also volunteers at the Colorado Springs Pregnancy Center on a weekly basis, is a cellist in the UCCS Symphony Orchestra volunteer musical group and supports The Success Collective, a professional group of women small business owners.
Community & Economic Impact: AJ Frasca IV | Panino’s Restaurants
Frasca is a third-generation restaurant operator for Panino’s Restaurants, continuing the 47-year legacy of his grandparents who started making the one-of-a-kind panino on North Tejon Street in the 1970s. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Frasca has led the local food industry in pivoting business models to gift baskets, to-go menu items and giveaways. He has received recognition and funding from BarStool Sports National Fund for these efforts and volunteers for several western heritage organizations and events.
Creative Industry: Brother Luck | Four by Brother Luck and Lucky Dumpling
As an award-winning chef and owner at Four by Brother Luck and Lucky Dumpling, Luck is one of the premier chefs in the Colorado Springs culinary scene. His knowledge of global cuisine has led to several awards and television appearances, including appearances on Food Network’s “Chopped” and winning his episode of “Beat Bobby Flay.” Luck advocates for mental health awareness through his social media campaign #NoLucksGiven and launched his “No Lucks Given Podcast” which discusses entrepreneurship and self-improvement. He also mentors military cooks.
Education: Corey Williams | Harrison School District 2
As president of the Harrison School District 2 Board of Education, Williams works with the board to ensure equitable outcomes and access to learning for all in southeast Colorado Springs’ school district. Under Williams’ leadership during the pandemic, he ensured food distribution continued, implemented free before and after school care, initiated adult learning programs and helped provide laptops and internet access for remote learning. He regularly volunteers in food distribution and back-to-school events, advocates for community members in southeast Colorado Springs through legislation and has helped to promote and implement the district’s “Dakota Promise”.
Sports, Health & Wellness: Dayton Romero | Silver Key Senior Services
Romero is the director of senior health and wellness services at Silver Key Senior Services, where he leads the organization’s efforts to care for seniors in El Paso County through case management, senior housing, mental and behavioral health and nutrition. He has helped launch new programs related to companionship and guardianship and has helped lead the Comprehensive Senior Assistance Program. Romero serves as board president for the Innovations in Aging Collaborative, chairs the Colorado Coalition for Elder Rights and Abuse Prevention and Pikes Peak Elder Abuse Coalition, and is a member of the El Paso County Adult Protection Team, Community Ethics Advisory Committee, Age-Friendly Colorado Springs Committee, Elder Abuse Research Team and Community Advisory Committee for Single Entry Point.
Technology & Sustainability: Natasha Main | Exponential Impact
As executive director of Exponential Impact, Main helps develop tech startups in Colorado Springs, providing them with the needed resources and expertise to succeed. As part of her work, she launched the Survive and Thrive program within weeks of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. This program has provided over $2.3 million in direct emergency support to struggling businesses and has helped save more than 1,000 jobs and $156 million in economic impact in its first year. She is also a member of the Economic Development Advisory Committee for the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC and provides volunteer mentorship to small business owners.
More information about the Mayor’s Young Leader Awards, including a list of all 2021 finalists and past award recipients, is available at ColoradoSprings.gov/MYLA.