Cenla’s 20-Somethings

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Cenla's 20-SomethingsA new generation of business leaders in Cenla.

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Cenla's 20-SomethingsMegan Harrison Lord, 28
Director, Alexandria Historic Preservation Commission

A native of Alexandria, Megan recently returned to Central Louisiana after a decade of living, traveling, and studying throughout the Southeastern U.S. and internationally. Megan studied art history and French at The University of Alabama and went on to attend graduate school at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia. Internships with the non-profit Historic Savannah Foundation as well as the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training provided insight into the practical and technical aspects of historic preservation. As the new director of the Alexandria Historic Preservation Commission, Megan hopes to use her knowledge and field experience to show the citizens of Alexandria how preservation can improve quality of life. Megan and her husband, Adam, have a 2-year-old son who keeps them on the go! 

“We never intended to move back to Alexandria, but last year when my husband and I re-assessed our family, personal, and professional goals, we were surprised to learn that a move back home allowed us a greater opportunity to realize our dreams. Alexandria is a great place to raise a family and the cost of living is affordable. Professionally, the move back is a bit of a challenge in that preservation isn’t as widely supported here as in other cities in which I’ve worked. Many of our historic structures have been demolished and the ones that remain aren’t always valued as they should be, so I often feel that I’m starting out on the defensive. But, challenges are good in that they allow for growth – both for me as a professional and for the community’s view of preservation. I believe that there’s great potential to enhance our quality of life by restoring our downtown and protecting and investing in our historic neighborhoods. It’s an exciting challenge to be the one who has a hand in unlocking that potential.”
    

Cenla's 20-SomethingsDr. Adam Hebert, 29
Chiropractic Physician 

 Dr. Adam Hebert has practiced chiropractic in Cenla since 2007.  He was born and raised in New Iberia but is now proud to be a resident of Pineville.  He has a B.S. in Health and Exercise Science from Northwestern State University and a Doctorate of Chiropractic from Parker Chiropractic College.  He is married to Melissa Hebert and has one son Eli who was born this past June. Healthcare has been a part of his life for some time.  He has a father that is a registered nurse and two sisters that are nurses as well.  Dr. Hebert chose his career path because of his lifelong interest in natural health.  As a chiropractor, he is able to enhance health and mobility without the use of drugs or surgery.  Hundreds of Cenla Chiropractic & Wellness patients with spinal problems have received relief from the unique, non-invasive chiropractic treatments his practice offers. 

“The people of Central Louisiana have strong family values, a solid work ethic, and are people of faith.   My wife and I feel we can raise our children here and be part of a caring, progressive community.  Here at Cenla Chiropractic & Wellness we offer a natural, non-invasive, drug-free alternative to those with spinal difficulties and other health needs.  It’s our goal to bring people to wellness, one spine at a time.”
 
   
Cenla's 20-SomethingsKatie A. Dollar, 29
Nurse Practitioner 

A graduate of the Northwestern State University of Nursing, Katie Dollar has worked in healthcare since 2000 at Rapides Regional Medical Center.  Katie’s career has taken her from Unit Secretary to Emergency Room Technician; and Surgical ICU Charge Nurse to Family Nurse Practitioner over the years.  As a Nurse Practitioner, Katie has completed graduate-level education and training in the diagnosis and management of common as well as complex medical conditions.  She currently practices as part of the Rapides Regional Physicians Group in Alexandria.  Katie is a member of the Louisiana State Nurses Association and the Louisiana Nurse Practitioners Association.  A member of First United Methodist Church in Pineville, Katie is actively involved in church missions.  She had the opportunity to combine her passions when she participated in medical mission trips to patients in underserved areas of Mexico.  Through all her studies and travels, Cenla has always held a special place in Katie’s heart. 

“I always knew I wanted to stay close to home. My family is here and I always told them I would be here to take care of them. I wouldn’t be where I am today without their love and support. This way, I’m here to return the favor.”
    

Cenla's 20-SomethingsRoss Schexnayder, 26 & Karen Burns-Schexnayder, 28
Owners, Lagniappe Theatre Company 

Ross and Karen Schexnayder met while earning their degrees at Northwestern State University.  Ross, a native of Baton Rouge, holds a degree in Theatre, and has put it to good use over the years, appearing in productions across the U. S., including with the acclaimed Cumberland County Playhouse in Tennessee.  His one-act play The Trouble with Timing was selected as a finalist in the 2008 Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival One-Act Play Contest.  He is a former co-anchor of the Eatel 4 News program in Ascension and Livingston Parishes, and he is currently the Technical Director for Theatre Louisiana College in Pineville.  

Karen, an Alexandria native, holds a double degree in Theatre and Psychology.  An accomplished vocalist in addition to her nationwide theater credits, Karen spent several years in Nashville working for Capitol Records and as a demo singer and voice-over artist.  Karen currently works as a morning and afternoon DJ with the legendary Hollywood Harrison on 100.3 FM KRRV at Cenla Broadcasting in Alexandria. 

Ross and Karen always dreamed of owning their own theater company.  Those dreams became reality when they established the Lagniappe Theatre Company, which is dedicated to the revitalization of theatre in Central Louisiana.  Under the Lagniappe heading Ross and Karen stage various productions throughout the year, including acclaimed musical Smoke On The Mountain and the popular holiday production Cenla Christmas Spectacular.  In addition to their stage productions, Ross and Karen also teach a full range of acting and technical theater classes throughout the year, including several summer camp programs for all ages! 

“Not many people realize that as an actor or a theatre person, you have to leave the state of Louisiana to find work.  There is really nothing here.  We wanted to change that.  We wanted to start a theatre company that would be built into the community, where we could mix professional actors from across the country with local actors.  We learned while working at Cumberland County Playhouse in Crossville, TN that by mixing both of these groups together, it becomes beneficial for both. All together it creates a once in a life time experience for everyone involved. Cenla has embraced us as if we were part of their own family. It is almost like being on tour again, where people are so excited to know you are here and are just falling over themselves to find out what you are doing next.  So in a nut shell that is why we picked Cenla—but we are far happier that Cenla has chosen us.”
 
Cenla's 20-SomethingsDustin Matthews, 29
Business Banker, Capital One Bank

A native of Alexandria, Dustin Matthews has worked in the banking/ finance industry for over six years.  After graduating from Northwestern State University, he spent 4 years in residential mortgage lending.  In late 2007 Dustin decided he wanted to expand beyond residential lending and began looking for opportunities in the commercial banking arena.  He ultimately landed a job with Capital One Bank in Alexandria.  Dustin is currently a Business Banker servicing the Central Louisiana market including Rapides and Avoyelles Parishes.  Dustin is very active in his community serving as a board member of the Friendship House and participating in many community activities including The United Way ‘Wild Cook Off’, the River Oaks Art Center ‘Van Gogh Gala,’ and judge for the regional FFA Convention.  Dustin has been married to his wife, Kelly for 5 years and they have one son, Brennan who turned 2 in May.  Dustin enjoys playing golf, hunting, and spending time with his wife and son.

“I was born and raised here and always liked Alexandria.  I’ve always been a small town guy.  For college, I chose Northwestern because I loved Natchitoches; a small community and not too far from home.  Before graduating college, I thought about moving to a big city like Austin or Dallas but when it came down to it, this is where I wanted to be.  Alexandria is a good mix between a small town and an emerging city.  It’s a great place to raise a family with plenty of good opportunities and a lot of great people.  My family is here, my wife’s family is here, and for those two reasons alone I can’t think of any place else I’d rather be.” 

   

Cenla's 20-SomethingsElissa Constance, 29
Business Development Coordinator, La Capitol FCU

Elissa Constance is a native of Dry Prong, Louisiana where she graduated from Grant High School. She continued her education at the University of Louisiana at Monroe and graduated with a Bachelor Degree in Business Administration. Elissa joined the team at La Capitol Federal Credit Union in Monroe as a Member Service Specialist, not knowing that she would still be working with the company after 7 years. Elissa plays a unique role by being a voice for the membership. In her role as Business Development Coordinator, Elissa helps develop new products and implement strategic direction for the Business Development team statewide. Outside work, Elissa currently serves on the Volunteers of America Advisory board and is the Cherish the Children Table Captain partner, Chamber of Commerce Red Coat and a member of the Downtown Rotary Club. Elissa is married to husband Clint, and they have 4-year old son Bradley and are patiently awaiting the arrival of a baby boy in November. Together, they attend St. Edwards Catholic Church in Pollock.

“Central Louisiana has always been a place to call home and holds great potential for young professionals. I transferred to the Alexandria office after working in Monroe for a year, and have been growing with La Cap ever since. Cenla has always been home to me. It was always my goal to come back after college start our family.”

Cenla's 20-SomethingsJonathan Knoll, 29
Owner, Fresh Catch Bistreaux

Jonathan Knoll was born and raised in Marksville.  A 2003 graduate of LSU, Jonathan is currently working towards his MBA.  After working with the Shaw Group in Baton Rouge, Jonathan moved back to Marksville to open Fresh Catch Seafood in 2006.  By 2008, the business had made the transition to full service restaurant, and was renamed Fresh Catch Bistreaux.  At Fresh Catch, Jonathan offers a variety of different Louisiana seafood favorites, complimented by a great drink selection and a regular schedule of live music entertainment.  Jonathan is a member of the Avoyelles Parish Arts Council, Louisiana Restaurant Association, Entrepreneurial League System and was named the 2009 Small Business Person-of–the-year by the Marksville Chamber of Commerce.  Jonathan is an avid world traveler, and enjoys scuba diving, sailing and anything else that gets him in the water.

“I was born and raised here, I love the unique culture and strong sense of community that we have here in central Louisiana!  I always wanted my own restaurant, so I thought I’d take what I learned throughout college and elsewhere in my travels and bring something special to our area.”
 

Cenla's 20-SomethingsJonathan Goins, 29
Attorney/City Council Member, City of Alexandria

A native of Alexandria, Jonathan Goins is a graduate of Peabody Magnet High School, Southern University and the Southern University College of Law.  Jonathan returned to Alexandria following law school and established the Goins Law Group, LLC.  In his legal practice, Jonathan represents clients in both civil and criminal matters.  In addition to his law practice, Jonathan also serves as the representative of the 3rd district on the Alexandria City Council.  First elected in 2008, he is currently chairman of the Public Safety/Transportation Committee and serves on the Public Works/Zoning, Utility, Legal, Personnel/Insurance, and A&E Review Committees.

“We have an obligation to leave our communities in a better condition than we found them.  I came back to Alexandria to make a difference in the community that nurtured me.  I want young children that grow up in the Lower Third, South Alexandria and Samtown/Woodside areas to know that their circumstances should not dictate their outcomes in life.  Many people helped me to get where I am today and I’d like to ‘pay it forward’ by helping others.”
 

Cenla's 20-SomethingsJessica Haynes, 22
Hotel Administrator

Jessica Haynes spent many childhood weekends, vacations and holidays in and around hotels. Her grandparents, H.L. and Helen Haynes, own and operate several hotel chains and convention centers throughout Louisiana. After high school, Jessica spent many summers interning at her grandparent’s hotels, learning every aspect of the business from front desk, sales and even construction. She attended college at Southern Arkansas University, where she earned her degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Management. She is currently working on her Masters of Business Administration with plans to graduate in August of 2011. Jessica is very involved with the family business, learning firsthand the financial side of the business from her mother and corporate manager, Susan Haynes. She also trains employees at each of the properties on topics such as customer service, teamwork, communication, professional image and problem resolution. Jessica enjoys designing marketing and promotional materials for the hotels as well.

“It has always been my dream to contribute to the company that had built such a great life for my family. I believe that in some way I’ll always be tied to the family business, whether working full time or just offering advice over Thanksgiving dinner. One thing is for sure; this three-generation family business takes great pride in offering each guest with superior customer service and top-quality amenities all for a great price. I couldn’t do that anywhere else but here.”
 

Cenla's 20-SomethingsLamar White, Jr., 28
Special Mayoral Assistant, City of Alexandria

Lamar White, Jr. was born and raised in Alexandria.  A graduate of Alexandria Senior High, Lamar attended Rice University, where he double majored in English and Religious Studies.  Upon his return to Central Louisiana, Lamar became actively involved with local politics and city programs.  He joined the team of then-candidate Jacques Roy as part of his successful first campaign for Mayor.  Following his election, Lamar joined the Roy administration as a Special Assistant to the Mayor.  In his role with the city, Lamar works on a wide variety of city issues, in particular urban planning.  In his spare time, Lamar operates the popular political blog, Cenlamar.com, which was recognized by Cenla Focus readers with a 2010 ‘Best of Cenla’ award.  It’s a creative avenue that allows him to combine his passions for politics and civic responsibility.

“When I graduated high school, I swore I would never come back to Alexandria. I wanted to live in a big city. But after my father passed away, I began to understand why he loved Alexandria and the people of Alexandria. We are dynamic; we are compassionate; and we are a richly diverse community. I know it sounds cheesy: I may have moved back to Alexandria because of my family, but I’ve stayed in Alexandria because I want to make a difference in my hometown. I’ve spent the last four years working for one of the best leaders in the State of Louisiana and alongside a team of incredible, civic-minded people, and I’ve loved every single second of it. I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to be a part of building the future of Alexandria; it was a passion of my father, and now, it’s a passion of mine. It may be true that ‘Wherever you go, there you are,’ but for me, Alexandria will always be home.”
 
 
Cenla's 20-SomethingsBelle Bindursky, 24
Teacher

Belle Bindursky is a native of Alexandria and graduate of Alexandria Senior High School.  Belle attended Louisiana State University and, after spending a summer studying in Paris, graduated in 2008.  Belle returned to Central Louisiana from Baton Rouge to pursue her teaching certificate as part of LSU-A’s Alternative Certificate Program, which she currently puts to great use as an English teacher at her alma mater.  In addition to her role as teacher, Belle is also actively involved in the community.  She serves on the Board of Directors for City Park Players, as a youth soccer coach with the Crossroads Soccer Club and as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children in need.  

“After graduating from college, there was no question as to where I would go next. I knew I wanted to start my teaching career where I had the most support through my family and all of my former teachers. I am thankful to live in a place where a young person can really get involved. There are many opportunities here for younger adults to participate in the community and have there ideas make an impact.”
 
   

Cenla's 20-SomethingsDaniel T. Smith, 27
Grant Writer/Program Manager

Daniel Smith grew up in Alexandria and attended Alexandria Senior High School before graduating in 2001 from the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts in Natchitoches, Louisiana. While attending Rice University in Houston, Daniel studied abroad at the Beijing Foreign Language University, and in 2005 he graduated cum laude with majors in Psychology and Asian Studies. Daniel lived in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and spent a year teaching English to high school Tibetans in western Sichuan Province before coming home to Alexandria in 2007. In his current role as a grant writer and program manager, successfully assisting clients such as the City of Alexandria and Central Louisiana Aids Support Services.

“While I was teaching for the non-profit in China, I used online newspapers and blogs to keep connected with what was happening back home. My interest in public policy and development deepened as I noticed parallels between international development for rural Tibetans and the efforts being made to reinvigorate Louisiana. Many of my students spoke often of ‘developing their hometowns,’ not fully knowing the meaning of the phrase; ironically, I found myself returning home to pursue that very goal in summer 2007. I could see that Alexandria was becoming more progressive, but I saw a need for more young Alexandrians to contribute to local civic life. I felt that my ideas and efforts would be better heard and could make more of an impact in Alexandria at this early stage of my career. I have learned a great deal and achieved more than I had expected since returning to Central Louisiana, and regardless of where I end up, I am happy to call it home.”

 
Cenla's 20-Somethings
Allison Ravare-Augustine, 28
Recruiting Manager, StarTek

Allison Ravare-Augustine is a native of Avoyelles parish and resides in Marksville with her husband Johnathan. They are parishioners of Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Marksville. She is a 2004 graduate from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette where she obtained a degree in Hospitality Management and a minor in Business Management. Allison has a background in Recruiting, Business Management, Sales, Marketing, Public Relations and Food & Beverage Management.  Allison is actively involved in the community.  Her community involvements include Avoyelles Rotary Club, Marksville Chamber of Commerce board member, Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, Avoyelles Parish Relay for Life chairperson, President of the Avoyelles Arts Council, and member of the Avoyelles Children Coalition. Allison is the founder and director of the Miss Louisiana Queen of Hope Foundation and Pageant that was started in 2005. She was awarded the 2009 Woman Volunteer of the Year by the Marksville Chamber of Commerce and Rookie Rotarian of the year by the Avoyelles Rotary Club and the 2009 Creole Woman from the NSU chapter in Natchitoches.

“I am excited to have such a great opportunity to work for a company that is ranked #1 by both the clients and customer service right here at home.”
 

Cenla's 20-SomethingsWill Harp, Jr., 28
Editor/Chief of Staff, Cenla Focus Magazine

Will Harp, Jr. is a native of Alexandria, and graduate of Bolton High School.  Will graduated from Tulane University in 2004, where he became actively involved with Emergency Medicine.  Following his time at Tulane, Will spent a year working for the City of New Orleans as an Emergency Medical Technician.  He returned to Central Louisiana in 2005 to rejoin the staff at Cenla Focus magazine as its Chief of Staff.  Since that time, Will has overseen the transition to monthly publication and the magazine’s continued growth both in print and online.  In addition to his work with the magazine, Will also serves as an administrator for A Perfect Fit Foundation, an organization founded by his father in honor of his grandfather, which provides shoes to underprivileged school children in Central Louisiana.  He and his partner of 5 years, Jonathan Rushing, love to travel and most recently, new members of St. James Episcopal Church in Alexandria.

“I have to admit, I was one of Cenla’s ‘I’ll never move back’ sons, but, as they say, with age comes wisdom, and here I am.  I had a great time living and learning in the big city and enjoying all the things it had to offer, but in the end, home fires burn strong.  I believe that Alexandria offers me, and all young professionals, a unique opportunity to be involved at a high level in every aspect of the community, while enjoying the extra perks like early homeownership that a smaller community offers.  In the end, the challenge of helping to grow and develop our family business combined with the great opportunity to work with and be close to family have made my return to Cenla a great choice for me.  There really is no place like home!”

 
Cenla's 20-SomethingsAmanda Martinez, 27
State Wide Pre-Access Manager, CHRISTUS Health LA

Amanda Martinez moved to Alexandria from San Antonio, Texas in January of 2008 for a one year administrative residency at Cabrini Hospital.  A native of Brownsville, Texas, Amanda earned a Master of Science in Health Care Administration from Trinity University in San Antonio.  Outside her role with the hospital, Amanda, who is fluent in English and Spanish, volunteers with the Mexican Consulate of New Orleans.  As a consular volunteer, Amanda assists in bringing necessary services to the Mexican population of Central Louisiana.

“I love the people and the culture of this area, from day one they made me feel like family. I truly enjoy my career; my time at Cabrini Hospital has taught me the importance of providing compassionate care to all that cross our path. Three years ago, I never would have imagined myself living and working in Central Louisiana; looking back on it now, I wouldn’t have changed a thing.”

 Cenla's 20-SomethingsSherman Desselle, 26
Anchor/Producer/Reporter/Videographer, KALB-TV

 

A Cenla native and graduate of Peabody Magnet High School, Sherman Desselle earned his degree from Northwestern State University in Vocal Performance.  After working at a service deli in Natchitoches through college, Sherman returned home seeking a similar position in Cenla.  While working in a local grocery store, Sherman developed a relationship with one of his regular customers.  This customer, it turned out, was the content manager for KALB at the time.  The chance friendship resulted in Sherman’s application to work as a part-time videographer for the station.  Then News Director Michelle Godard knew a great opportunity when she saw it.  From his first days behind the camera, Sherman has enjoyed learning and growing in the news business.  Through hard work and determination, Sherman earned the opportunity to move in front of the camera. He now serves not only as a one-man-band reporter (he writes, produces and shoots his own stories), but Sherman also mans the anchor desk for the weekend newscast. 

“Many of my friends and people from here always promised to never return, claiming that there are ‘no opportunities here’.  I disagree. I’m happy where I am right now. I love the opportunity, the growth of the station, and the viewers who tune in to both of our channels. I feel like I’m more than an anchor for an NBC or CBS affiliate. I feel like a personal affiliate to this community. I represent Alexandria. That’s why I give my best on and off the air.  While we’re not Chicago or New Orleans, we’re growing, and there’s nothing wrong with starting at home.”

Cenla's 20-SomethingsLevi DeLeon, 25
Manager, Patton’s Jewelry

A native of Corpus Christi, Texas, Levi DeLeon has lived in Pineville/Alexandria for the past seven years where he how calls home. He is married to the former Taryn Chappell of Pineville, daughter of Les and Renee Chappell, and will be celebrating their 1yr anniversary this month. Levi graduated from Louisiana College where he played football for 4 years.  Since his arrival in Cenla, he has become familiar with the community and all it has to offer. Levi is currently the manager of Pattons Fine Jewelry and is a board member of Jewelers of Louisiana. He has a great passion for finding that perfect gift or engagement ring for your significant other.

“I originally came to Alexandria/Pineville area to play football for Louisiana College. I came to realize that Cenla is a place for great opportunities and the area had good potential for growth and development. Not to mention the beautiful girl I met at LC, who is now my wife, has family and friends here and this as allowed me to make my decision of staying here easier. The area is a great atmosphere and community to raise a family. Pattons Fine Jewelry has provided me with a lot of those opportunities and has allowed me to become a part of their family business to make sure Cenla is getting the customer service they deserve.”

Cenla's 20-SomethingsJustin Dekeyzer, 26
Farmer

Born into a Central Louisiana farming family, Justin Dekeyzer has grown up on the farm every day of his life.  Justin got his first cow at age 11, a gift from his grandfather Jack.  After graduating from Holy Savior Menard Central High School, Justin attended Northwestern State University, where he earned his degree in Business Administration.  By his senior year of high school, Justin was already farming 225 acres of soybeans.  Today, Justin farms over 875 acres of cotton, corn, soybeans and 40 head of cattle.  In addition to his farm responsibilities, Justin is also a real estate investor, owning multiple rental units.  He is married to the former Julie Thiels.

“The reason I’m here is because this is home.  This is what I have done my whole life.  I am a 5th generation farmer and it means a lot to do what my family has done for the last 200 years.  I’m from here, and my wife is from here and this is the only place we want to be.”