2023 Young Professional of the Year Nominees

Nominations were put forward by community members based on the young professionals’ contributions to the community through civic engagement, entrepreneurship, and leadership.

All nominees will be recognized at FLEX Presents on Friday, April 21, at Wildcat Mansion in Franklin.

Learn more about FLEX Presents

The 2023 nominees are:

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Ashleigh Bennet is an inspiring performer, teacher and member of the local arts community. She’s a private music instructor at Lessons with Ashleigh as well as a performer in The Band Hannah, Emo Night Project, and her own musical projects. When she isn’t teaching lessons or performing – you can find her working behind the barista line at Iron Furnace Coffee! She is a Leadership Venango alumni, helps plan/implement volunteer training program for middle schoolers while also preparing to open up shop on January 2023: Her own dedicated business providing instruction and performance opportunities that help invest into Venango’s growing talent pool!

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Brandon Boocks is the Executive Director of the Venango Museum of Art, Science, and Industry in Oil City. With his involvement in multiple organizations such as Heritage Advisory Council and Tourism Promotion Advisory Council through Oil Region Alliance, Oil City Heritage Society and Take Pride In Oil City – he also saw success with many design projects for The Oil Region National heritage Area driving tour & Emlenton walking tour; not stopping there – Brandon is also proud to be an alumnus from Leadership Venango!

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Kelly Daugherty works for Amos E. Rudolph Architecture in Seneca as an Intern Architect. She holds a 2020 Bachelor of Science in Architecture from Kent State University College of Architecture & Environmental Design, Minor in Nonprofit Studies with honors awards – including a team award for her design work at Harbin Institute of Technology, China; AIA Cleveland Honor Award (Makers Category). She further received her Masters Degree from KSUCAD this year and served as fabrication lab assistant while there. Additionally, she participated pro bono to help advance architecture knowledge and skills development and is working to become licensed through American Institute Architects (AIA) Pennsylvania chapter. In addition to Architectural pursuits, Kelly also takes part actively serving on the Audio/Visual Team ministry for the Oil City Vineyard Church where she also serves as a board member.

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Mike Dulaney is a Venango County Commissioner with many accomplishments. He formerly worked for the Franklin Area Chamber of Commerce and has been involved with the CORE Committee to help plan Applefest. He is serving as co-chair of the event this October. He is a member of the Kiwanis Club of Franklin, has served on their board in the past as President of the Club. He helped the club initiate the sale of “Kamp Kiwanis” and establish a Community Foundation with the goal of helping the children in our communities. Mike is a member of the Venango Rotary After Hours. Last year, Mike was appointed to the Keystone Community Education Council as Vice-Chair. He is a board member for the Venango Museum of Art, Science, and Industry where he has donated his time to various fundraisers like the Golf Shootout and the Annual Gala Dinner. He also belongs to numerous fraternal and service organizations. Some of the other Boards he is active on as Commissioner include: Venango County Land Bank, Court Security Committee, and The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania Governance Committee.

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Born and raised on a third generation dairy farm, Brad Deeter has had quite the life of hard work as well as community service. He earned Very Good to Excellent scores for breeding numerous cows while also being instrumental in producing quality hay and other feed commodities. Since 1998, Brad has been a Fireman at Utica Volunteer Fire Department, and has been awarded a Lifetime Membership due to 25 years of service to the community. He became President of UVFD over 5 years ago before going on to become an 8 year long Pa Department Of Forestry Fire Warden alongside EMT-certification leading him onto becoming an Assistant Ambulance Captain role. Brad has also volunteered as a board member of the Venango County Fairgrounds since 2002 and has been President of the board since 2015. He is a Penn State 4-H leader and member of Sugarcreek United Methodist Church.

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Katie Ferricks the passionate owner of Katie’s Pet Service in Reno. She has gained experience through various educational programs such as Veterinary Assistant Training Program at Laurel Technical Institute in Meadville and Canine Trainer Certification from Catch Canine Trainers Academy. Additionally, she is an active volunteer who participates with the Wagner Portable Pressure Washing team plus past Precious Paws Animal Rescue activities. Katie is currently a board member of the Venango County Humane Society and has been involved with PetFest and Shear Haven’s Ice Cream Social. Katie is passionate about building professional relationships for the continued betterment of the lives of pets and people in our community.

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Matt Gustafson is a teacher from the Franklin Area School District. He’s dedicated to helping his students grow in confidence and knowledge through several activities, such as serving as Student Council Advisor, Future Business Leaders of America Advisor and Diversity Club Co-Advisor. Additionally he serves as the Building representative for AREA Education Association (local union) and is a former Vice President. Matt also is an Oil City YMCA board member.

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Nick Howard is a staff accountant for First United National Bank in Fryburg. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from Clarion University of Pennsylvania with dual bachelor’s degrees in accounting and management as well as a minor in marketing. During his university days, he was deeply devoted to research-based problem solving through the True North Initiative at which time he also became the founding member of The Clarion Consulting Association. He was inducted into the Beta Gamma Sigma business honor society and currently serves multiple roles within local government such as Judge of Elections for Pinegrove Township and Treasurer for Venango County Democrats; additionally Nick is a volunteer for the Oil City Main Street Economic Vitality committee.

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Bridey Keller is an accomplished professional in Human Resources from Venango County. She started as the HR Recordkeeper and was promoted to Employee Relations Advisor. She currently serves as Assistant Director for Human Resources where she’s helped develop a new pay structure to reward Human Services employees with long term incentivized career growth, and successfully advising and assisting in developing incentives for employees in departments throughout the County. Bridey volunteers with elections and has worked on enhancing advertising for county careers. She volunteers with Girl Scout Troop #26493 and will be serving next season as official troop leader. Bridey is currently enrolled in Leadership Venango.

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Kyle Peasley has been with the Venango County District Attorney’s office for almost eight years. His commitment to community goes beyond just legal matters – serving on boards such as the United Way, VARHA (Venango Area Riding for Handicapped Association) and Franklin Rotary – plus being Adjunct Professor at Northern Pennsylvania Regional College teaching courses related Cybercrime & Terrorism investigations. Kyle has also been a voluntary Advisor/Coach for Cranberry’s Mock Trial Program.

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Will Price is the Director of the United Way of Venango County, and has worked as a manager at his family’s business Deets’ Sugar House for over 20 years. He serves as a committee member for the Venango Chamber’s Education Committee and the Children Task Force for Venango County, and serves on the board for the Venango County Fair, NWPA Job Connect, Venango County Human Services Advisory Board, and United Way of Pennsylvania. He is also a member of the Franklin Rotary Club.


Amariliz Sanchez is the Program Secretary for Medical Imaging Sciences, Allied Health and Respiratory Care at PennWest University – Venango. At the campus, she serves as the point person for the Venango Campus Viability Focus Group, is a Presidential Diversity member, Celebrate Venango member, Secretary for Venango Forums and the Campus Advisory Council along side several other advisory panels. She is currently working on her Master’s degree in conflict resolutions with a 4.0 GPA. Amariliz is a Leadership Venango class of 2022 graduate. She has been a Diverse Thinking speaker at this year’s Leadership program and for a FLEX Speaker Series on Diversity Equity and Inclusion. She received the FLEX 2021 Volunteer of the Year award and volunteers throughout the year for various local events. She serves on several boards including Together We Can, Youth Connection, Acceptance Now 365, and is a Be Here Ambassador.


Jennifer Stevenson is a Cranberry Area School District Fourth grade teacher. She earned her Bachelor of Science: Early Childhood and Special Education at Edinboro University, Summa Cum Laude, plus achieved a minor in Psychology. Currently she’s working on a Masters of Education from Slippery Rock University for K-8 Math & Science studies. Jennifer coaches JV Girls Basketball for Oil City High School as well as recently coaching both the Oil City and Cranberry school programs. She organized and designed a free little library for Cranberry Elementary School and has collaborated with the Oil Region Alliance as a photographer for pictures in their magazine.

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