40 Under 40 – Something good happened in Erie, 8/28/2020

Without further ado, your Idiotville feel-good story of the week:

Erie’s 40 Under 40, Class of 2020, as decided by the Erie Reader. | Photo by the Erie Reader’s Jessica Hunter.


To be alive in the world today is to hear constantly that America’s younger generation is no good, is too soft, doesn’t work hard, and never walked uphill to school both ways in those perpetual blinding snowstorms, didn’t have fancy cell phones, etc.

Don’t ever believe that. Such words provide comfort to those who feel the world has passed them by, but they aren’t true. The kids are alright. The Erie Reader’s 40 for 40 list is proof that our city is not only producing real talent but also retaining it to inject the kind of energy and creativity and enthusiasm that I haven’t seen here in my lifetime.

You really should take the time to flip through all of these, but let me highlight a few examples here just to give you a taste:

  • Nicole Himmelwright, a 30 year old mechanical engineer at Wabtec who’s team recently won her company’s Subsystem Design of the Year and Outstanding Product Launch awards, also volunteers as a mentor for a robotics team and works to promote STEM fields for women and girls. She plays multiple musical instruments (though I don’t think at the same time) and volunteers for Make-a-Wish, the Boys and Girls Club, and Bids for Kids.
  • Ejay Fyke, a 38 year old field organizer for the Democratic Party and an early organizer for Kristy Gnibus’ congressional campaign to defeat incumbent Republican Mike Kelly (please, please let’s get that done). Ejay also volunteers for the Police Athletic League, worked hard to get Erie’s community college application over the finish line, and grew the Energize Erie program for at-risk Erie teens. He’s also a dad of two who’s in Mercyhurst’s master’s program for organizational leadership, and serves on the board of a local nonprofit to help kids in the Philippines.
  • Jacob Bartko, the 33 year old executive director of Community Access Media (CAM), which just happens to be the production site of Idiotville – Erie’s Favorite Podcast. Jake serves on the board of directors of Junior Achievement of NWPA, is a member of Young Erie Professionals, and the Association of Fundraising Professionals. He’s volunteered with Erie City Mission, too. Selfishly, I am so grateful that Jake provides CAM’s audio platform that allows Idiots like me to exercise the creative part of our brains that would otherwise atrophy.

Those are the tip of the iceberg. There is real good going on in our city, every single day. Young, energetic, smart people are working creatively and tirelessly to determine what this place needs and to go get it. As they make progress, we all make progress. I hope you’ll join me in cheering them on, and while you’re at it, support the Erie Reader and their team of great writers who produced this fantastic annual feature.

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