The West Virginia Jaycees recently honored three amazing individuals with the title of Outstanding Young West Virginian.
I had the privilege of getting to meet these individuals, and it’s so inspiring to see three young people doing incredible things in the Mountain State.
Without further ado, I present to you the Class of 2017 Outstanding Young West Virginians.
Alyson Hehr has been on her way to achieving this honor since the day she was born.
Alyson was born nine days late and wasn’t breathing. After six days in neo-natal intensive care, she was finally sent home.
Later in life, at the age of 14, Alyson decided to give back to those suffering a similar fate. She founded the nonprofit organization, Alyson’s Angels, which raises money to send care packages to families with babies in the neo-natal intensive care unit at the hospital in which she was born.
Alyson is currently in her final year of her economic and political science double major at Shepherd University. For her capstone, she is researching the effect of microfinance organizations on the empowerment of women in developing countries.
Alyson volunteers with a number of Catholic Charities, specifically focused on immigration law, and has raised several thousand dollars for Syrian refugees. She is a member of an award-winning Model UN team and was even selected as a collegiate delegate to the Presidential Leadership Summit, designed to empower young leaders as they reach their potential.
Over the years, Wheeling has become a pretty great place to live. That is, in no small part, because of the work accomplished by Joelle Connors.
Joelle originally made her mark as the Marketing Director for the City of Wheeling. With the city experiencing a downturn, Joelle believed she could help turn it around.
She wanted to give people the chance to experience all Wheeling had to offer and make it the vibrant modern city she knew it could be.
Joelle founded and co-founded several initiatives that strived to do just that.
She began the First Fridays program, which has attracted tens of thousands of people downtown to shop at local businesses. She started the Wheeling Wine and Jazz Festival, which raised thousands of dollars for downtown reinvestment.
She organized a group called Reinvent Wheeling, a partnership between Wheeling’s businesses, community groups, educational institutions and other stakeholders to create initiatives and events that inspire social engagement and economic activity. Lastly, Connors raised money for The Wheeling Heritage Biking and Walking Trail, through grant writing.
Connors recently started a job as the Manager of External Affairs at American Electric Power and hopes to continue creating change.
Alex Reneman, a resident of Grafton, is what some may refer to as a serial entrepreneur.
He opened his first business, a lawn care company, as a teenager. Now, as the owner of Mountain Leverage, he and his company are among the world leaders in voice automation software.
Reneman, an Iraq war veteran, founded Mountain Leverage at the age of 26. Mountain Leverage partners with the national company, Vocollect Voice and has worked with companies such as Volkswagen, Nike, eBay and Aveda.
Reneman also works to help those that are struggling in his community. One way he does this is through his involvement in the Coal to Code initiative. This program works in economically stricken communities that are working through the decline in the coal industry. He also helped bring public Wi-Fi to downtown Grafton.
Reneman has also been a volunteer in The Hub’s Turn This Town Around program in Grafton. He developed the Almost Heaven Index, which is a system that prioritizes project ideas and determines and measures levels of impact.
Finally, Reneman noticed that many in his community were voting without knowing about the candidates or the issues affecting them. So he created videos, interviewing local candidates, which he distributed to the town’s local access T.V. station.