June 29, 2022
Leadership. Volunteerism. Mentoring. Philanthropy. For some community leaders, these powerful words are something they embrace with heartfelt passion and extraordinary commitment.
Each year, United Way's Emerging Leaders honors five community leaders in their 20s, 30s, and 40s who give, advocate, and volunteer for change. We do this through our Philanthropic 5 and Philanthropic Youth awards. The Philanthropic Youth award recognizes a youth community leader under 21 years old.
Thank you to our longtime event sponsor, BMO Harris Bank, and our media sponsor, Milwaukee Business Journal!
Meet our 2022 award winners: Katie Cummings, Marquayla Ellison, Rachel Hunter, Angela Pecoraro, Nick Welle, and Philanthropic Youth winner Amira Adams.
Katie Cummings has dedicated over twenty years as a theater artist, educator, and advocate for inclusion and diversity in theater. She recently founded Pink Umbrella Theater Co., the first one of its kind in the city of Milwaukee, which focuses on providing and promoting theater for people who identify with a physical, intellectual, or emotional disability. A Wisconsin native, Katie graduated from Cardinal Stritch University with a BA in Theater and Business. Her resume includes First Stage, Bunny Gumbo, UW-Milwaukee, Chamber Theater, and St. Joseph High School. She attended, and taught, a variety of professional development sessions throughout her career focused on equality, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility. Katie believes that theater has the power to develop empathy, create meaningful connections, and engage communities one story at a time. When she's not in a classroom or rehearsal, you might find her camping in the woods with her husband Brian, and dog Mr. Ruxpin.
Marquayla Ellison is the owner and creative force behind Ellastic Designs, LLC, a small design firm set on creating custom digital and print designs for small businesses, non-profits, and corporations. Since 2011, Ellastic Designs has illustrated a creative vision for many clients including: Traci Braxton, The Milwaukee Health Department, Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin, Medical College of WI, Near West Side Partners, Running Rebels – just to name a few. Previously announced as a 2022 Milwaukee Business Journal 40 Under 40 honoree, she regularly gives back to the community by facilitating paint & sip sessions for the City of Milwaukee Bronzeville Week, The Milwaukee Repertory Theater, and Imagine MKE. She entertains her social side as co-owner and president of Social X MKE, a young professional diversity and inclusion consulting group. Marquayla honed her innate creative skills at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee (UWM) where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Design & Visual Communication from the Peck School of the Arts (PSOA) in 2013. She is also a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., AIGA, and chaired The City of Milwaukee Millennial Task Force.
Rachel Hunter is a design engineer at Husco and the STEM Director of a non-profit organization called STEM to Stern. While pursuing her mechanical engineering degree at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, she co-founded the STEM to Stern program with Will Bott of the Milwaukee Rowing Club. Today, the program has grown outside of Milwaukee into 25 cities across the United States with the goal of removing barriers to entry in the sport of rowing and has partnered with USRowing to create a larger impact. Rachel creates a customized STEM curriculum for every program and works with each program to make sure students are set up for academic success. In addition to her engineering job and non-profit work, Rachel has been an active volunteer for FIRST Robotics in Wisconsin since 2015 and is passionate about creating an inclusive and welcoming environment for all students to explore STEM.
Angela Pecoraro is a lifelong resident of southeastern Wisconsin and Milwaukee Public School graduate. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater and a Master of Business Administration from Alverno College. Angela began her technology career with Zywave and served as CEO of Advicent. Today, Angela is an Operating Managing Director at Vista Equity Partners, a global investment firm.
Angela is most proud of the employee and community engagement that expanded under her leadership. In 2018, Angela began a corporate relationship with Code.org, a nonprofit dedicated to expanding access to computer science in schools and increasing participation by women and underrepresented youth. At Advicent, she initiated a corporate relationship with United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties and a paid time off volunteer program for employees to support the needs of the community. She also sponsored Advicent’s first employee resource group, RAD Women of Advicent, to retain, attract, and develop female talent. In 2020, she was named one of the Top Women in WealthTech Innovation by ThinkAdvisor, highlighting success and opportunities for women in technology. In 2021, Angela joined the WI Parkinson Association in pursuit of the mission to provide hope, community, support, and resources for people with Parkinson’s and their loved ones. She served as a board member and was recently named Vice President of the Executive Committee.
Nick Welle is a partner at Foley & Lardner, an international law firm with its main office in Milwaukee. Nick is the Chair of the Health Benefits Practice, focused on providing legal advice relating to health plans, and the Co-Chair of the Milwaukee Pro Bono Committee, where he helps the firm pursue meaningful opportunities for Foley’s lawyers to provide legal services to those in need. Within the firm and through his community volunteering, Nick dedicates hundreds of hours towards the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee. He manages projects such as winter clothing fundraisers, camp clean-ups, and backpack drives. He also helped to start and still runs the Milwaukee Street Law Legal Diversity Pipeline Program, which is aimed at high school students coming from diverse backgrounds and low-income households to spark their interest in pursuing a legal career. It is a semester-long course followed by an internship program, with the hope that it fosters lifelong mentorships between diverse youth and lawyers in the Milwaukee community. Nick is a “double Badger,” having graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Madison for his undergraduate and law degree.
Amira Adams, also known as AmiraThePoet, is a Thea Bowman Scholar at Alverno College. While majoring in Communications and minoring in Creative Writing, Amira serves as Ombudsperson for Student Government, President of the Black Student Alliance, and a peer leader. Amira’s goal is to not only teach but inspire through the art of poetry. Amira uses poetry as a tool to educate and inspire youth, peers, educators, and executives. She is a change maker and community advocate for social justice and human rights.