NJBIA will honor five standout college students with “Rising Star Awards” when hundreds of business leaders, entrepreneurs and students gather for the 9th Annual New Jersey Women Business Leaders Forum Sept. 27–28 in Newark.
The honorees include: Chavonne Brown, of Irvington; Andrew Clark, of Clifton; Arianna Gehan, of Randolph; Liangy Gomerez, of Leonia; and Tania Mottos, of Wanaque. All five have distinguished themselves by their academic work and continued service to their communities.
The 2023 New Jersey Women Business Leaders Forum, powered by NJBIA, is the state’s largest professional women’s conference. The event will bring together hundreds of women and men for engaging workshops, dynamic TED-style talks and one-on-one coaching opportunities. The Rising Star winners will be recognized during an awards ceremony on the first day of the two-day event.
“NJBIA’s Rising Star Awards honor students who have demonstrated a passion for their career path, academic success, and a commitment to their communities during their undergraduate careers,” NJBIA President & CEO Michele Siekerka said.
“This year, we are proud to recognize the accomplishments of five students who are destined for great professional success,” she said.
The five Rising Star winners are:
Chavonne Brown, Berkeley College
Brown, who lives in Irvington in Essex County, has been a licensed practical nurse for 31 years and worked with patients in drug treatment for 14 years. She is now pursuing a degree in Health Services Administration at Berkeley College because she is committed to shaping policies that will improve patient care and outcomes.
“Drug abuse is on the rise, and I know that I can do more,” she said. “My reason for pursuing a degree is rooted in my relentless ambition to make a difference in the lives of others and in my community.”
Brown is an honors student regularly named to the Berkeley College President’s List for academic achievement. She wants to be an advocate for those who struggle with mental illness and substance abuse disorders, and said she returned to college as a promise to her husband, Damon; her three adult children (Kail, Kali and Reginald); and three grandchildren (Nia, Ryan and Braelyn).
“I think it is important to show my grandchildren an example of what a person can do and achieve – even later in life,” Brown said.
Andrew Clark, Ramapo College of New Jersey
Clark, who lives in Clifton in Passaic County, is a senior majoring in computer science at Ramapo College of New Jersey. He is currently employed as a software engineer at a Manhattan-based startup.
A front-end developer and web designer, Clark fuses his tech talent with community service. Parallel to his professional work, Clark dedicates his time to the New Jersey Small Business Development Center and Fair Lawn Main Street Inc., where he uses his enthusiasm for software development to help businesses and the community. In fact, Clark has been honored by Fair Lawn Mayor Kurt Peluso for his impactful tech contributions that have bolstered local businesses.
After graduating from Ramapo, Clark said he plans to merge his two interests – technological solutions and community service – to better support marginalized and underserved communities and businesses in New Jersey.
Arianna Gehan, Stevens Institute of Technology
Gehan, who is from Randolph in Morris County, is a senior majoring in biomedical engineering at the Stevens Institute of Technology. After being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 11, Gehan discovered a passion for healthcare research that inspired her to develop the Daia app, which allows for smarter real-time sharing of blood sugar values to make living with diabetes safer.
“I have been very active in the diabetic community through advocating to Congress for better legislation and increased funding for research,” Gehan said. “I have also worked in labs researching a potential cure for diabetes through stem cell re-education and have helped organize and present at local educational events for diabetes.”
Gehan, who was honored with the Biomedical Engineering Excellence Award from Stevens Institute of Technology in May, will graduate in 2024. She intends to continue her work with Daia, growing her business to make living with diabetes easier for patients until there is a cure for diabetes.
Liangy Gomerez, Bergen Community College
Gomerez, from Leonia in Bergen County, will earn an associate degree in Business Administration at Bergen Community College in 2004 and plans to transfer to a four-year higher education institution to earn a bachelor’s degree in business. Passionate about entrepreneurship, Gomerez intends to one day establish a business that promotes financial literacy to high school and college students.
Gomerez wants students to receive quality training about the fundamentals of finance, from money management to investing in stocks. Gomerez wants to spread financial awareness not only to future clients, but also to their family and friends to strengthen financial literacy in the community as a whole.
Gomerez has held a number of leadership positions on campus, including serving on the Phi Theta Kappa board of student leaders in 2022-2023 as director of recruitment. In the 2023-2024 school year, Gomerez will serve as the PTK board’s general vice president and be responsible for leading meetings and events as well as representing PTK at regional and international conferences.
A student athlete and member of the BCC soccer team, Gomerez was the vice president of the BCC PRIDE club in 2021, promoting community services through events such as the Out of the Darkness Suicide Prevention and AIDS Walks. In 2022, Gomerez was elected president of PRIDE, club, leading meetings of over 60 students, and collaborating closely with club advisers and other faculty.
Tania M. Mottos, Berkeley College
Mottos, of Wanaque in Passaic County, is working toward a bachelor’s degree in Health Services Management at Berkeley College, after previously earning an associate degree in Surgical Technology. A labor and delivery-certified surgical technologist working at Chilton Medical Center in Pompton Plains, Mottos said she “feels the joy every day of getting to bring babies into the world.”
After graduation in 2025, Mottos hopes to expand her expertise on the administrative side of healthcare. “Something that excites me about my field is all of the possibilities that will allow me to do more for these babies and their families,” she said.
Mottos is one of the most visible student leaders on campus. She was selected as student speaker for Berkeley College’s annual Women’s Entrepreneurship Week and was recently honored as part of the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, recognizing students who advance nonpartisan student voter engagement. As an ambassador to both the Student Government Association and the Berkeley College board of trustees, Mottos is a strong advocate for her fellow students, ensuring that student concerns are at the forefront of discussions with administration and government leaders.
Mottos emigrated from El Salvador to the United States at the age of 19 with only a suitcase of clothes and a few hundred dollars. After finding work, she enrolled in college full-time, sleeping only a few hours a day between her night shift at work and daytime college classes.
Mottos said that it’s important not to give up on your dreams. “Has it taken me a lot longer than others to get where I am? Sure. But I wouldn’t be who I am today if it wasn’t for the journey,” she said.