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2017 Distinguished Alumni

Samantha Paige Davis

Schenley High School, 2006

Samantha Paige Davis is a strong advocate for low income communities and people of color, in particular women and youth. In 2013, she founded The Black Swan Academy (BSA). A non-profit organization dedicated to creating a pipeline of black youth civic leaders, committed to improving themselves, as well as, the communities in which they live.

Under her leadership, BSA is serving over 40 youth in out-of-school time programming and reaching nearly 2,200 DC residents through workshops, community forums and high impact service events. Their youth-led advocacy work focuses on intra-community violence, police violence and education reform.

 

Professionally, Samantha is currently serving as the Field Engagement Manager for YWCA USA. In this capacity she leads the development of state-level advocacy initiatives, as well as, strategically mobilizes their over 220 associations to move federal legislation around issues of racial justice and women’s empowerment. In her leadership positions on a number of city-wide coalitions, her efforts have resulted in legislative and budgetary improvements for SNAP (food stamps), TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), Adult Education, Career Pathways, Senior Services, and Affordable Housing.

 

Within the community, Samantha is an avid volunteer and philanthropist, contributing in time and financially to organizations. She served as the first ever Civic Engagement Chair of Thursday Network- Young Professionals Auxiliary of the Greater Washington Urban League. Her work has been recognized by the Women’s Information Network (WIN), Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington, Brightest Young Things, and the Greater Washington Urban League.

She stands strong in her belief that everyone has the innate ability to succeed in life; all they need is the opportunity to do so. Samantha is committed to ensuring those opportunities are accessible to all.

Dr. Rahmon Hart Sr.

Perry High School, 1990

Dr. Rahmon Hart Sr. is currently the Director of Community Relations at Rivers Casino. In this role, he is responsible for developing and cultivating relationships with community leaders, local business owners, corporate executives, and government officials. 

He is also responsible for implementing and overseeing diversity and community engagement initiatives at Rivers Casino.   

Dr. Hart is a Pittsburgh native (Manchester) and a 1990 graduate of Perry Traditional Academy. He was captain of the Perry football team who won the

State Championship in 1989 and was ranked #9 in the Nation by USA Today. 
 

Dr. Hart attended Slippery Rock University on a football scholarship. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology and a Master of Arts in College Administration—both at Slippery Rock University. After serving in a broad range of leadership roles at Slippery Rock University, Illinois State University, Case Western Reserve University, Carnegie Mellon University and Duquesne University, he earned his Doctorate in Educational Leadership at Duquesne University.

In addition to serving on several non-profit boards/committees throughout the City of Pittsburgh, Dr. Hart recently served three consecutive terms as Basileus/President of the Iota Phi Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. Over the years he has coordinated a long list of community service initiatives including but not limited to youth mentoring programs, Christmas toy drives, Thanksgiving food drives, and college scholarship fundraisers—to name a few. He is proudest of the Omega Dr. Carter G. Woodson Academy, which is a 12-Week Saturday program coordinated by the Iota Phi Chapter that empowers and educates approximately 50 children each session. 

Dr. Hart currently serves on boards with the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, the Ozanam Cultural Center, Northside/North Shore Chamber of Commerce, the Center for Victims, and the Public Relations Society of America. Dr. Hart is happily married to his college sweetheart Nneka and they have four children: Brooke, Rahmon Jr., Nia, and Charles.

Dr. Justin Meyer

Perry Traditional Academy, 1999

Dr. Justin Meyer is a professor in the Division of Biology at the University of California San Diego. There he researches and teaches students about the evolution of infectious diseases. His research program tackles questions on how viruses evolve to switch from one host species to another.

His studies are used, in part, to understand how diseases like the avian flu transition from infecting birds to infecting humans.

Dr. Justin Meyer is a professor in the Division of Biology at the University of California San Diego. There he researches and teaches students about the evolution of infectious diseases. His research program tackles questions on how viruses evolve to switch from one host species to another. His studies are used, in part, to understand how diseases like the avian flu transition from infecting birds to infecting humans.

Justin got his start in the Pittsburgh Public Schools and many city student enrichment activities like Centers for the Musically Talented, nature and science camps, and the Manchester Craftsman’s Guild.

He went on to study biology at Cornell University, the University of Ottawa for his MSc, Michigan State University for his PhD, and Harvard Medical School for postdoctoral training. Justin acknowledges that his success at each step was largely due to great mentors. Knowing this, he is a mentor for many students in San Diego, from young aspiring scientists in elementary school, to PhD student researchers.

While he is engaged in many science outreach activities, his most ambitious goal is to co-found a small community based science center named National City Labs, which is at the earliest stages of development and fundraising.

Billy Porter

Pittsburgh Allderdice/Pittsburgh CAPA, 1987

Billy Porter is a Tony® and Grammy® Award-winning actor, singer, director, composer and playwright from Pittsburgh, PA. As a recording artist, Porter’s solo albums include his first CD, Untitled; his sophomore album, At the Corner of Broadway + Soul – LIVE and his 2014 release, Billy’s Back on Broadway.

 

While Porter attended the Musical Theatre Program at Pittsburgh CAPA, he is a 1997 graduate of Taylor Allderdice High School. On April 17, he released his new album, Billy Porter Presents the Soul of Richard Rodgers.

Porter won the 2013 Tony and Drama Desk Awards for his groundbreaking performance as “Lola” in Kinky Boots. Other Broadway acting credits include Miss Saigon, Five Guys Named Moe, Grease, Smokey Joe’s Café, the 20th Anniversary Broadway concert of Dreamgirls and most recently the highly-acclaimed Shuffle Along.  His one-man show, Ghetto Superstar: The Man That I Am, debuted at The Public Theater in NYC in conjunction with City Theatre of Pittsburgh and was nominated for a 2005 GLAAD Media Award. Porter was also named “Pittsburgh’s Performer of the Year 2003–2004” by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Porter’s film and television credits include Barry Levinson’s The Humbling opposite

Al Pacino, Sundance Film Festival features The Broken Hearts Club and Intern, Noel

(with Susan Sarandon and Robin Williams), Shake Rattle & Roll as Little Richard for CBS Another World, Twisted, Law & Order, Law & Order: SVU, The Big C, The Oprah Winfrey Show, A Very Rosie Christmas, The Tonight Show and multiple appearances on The Rosie O’Donnell Show.

 

As a director, Porter recently helmed the revival of George C. Wolfe’s The Colored Museum at Boston’s Huntington Theater. He also directed a critically acclaimed rethinking of The Wiz in Pittsburgh and conceived a musical revue entitled Signed, Sealed, Delivered: The Music of Stevie Wonder, which starred Chaka Khan and ran at The Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas in 2002.

In 2014, Primary Stages presented the highly successful World Premiere of While I Yet Live, Porter’s autobiographical play at off Broadway’s Duke Theater.

Porter is a graduate of The Professional Program In Screenwriting at UCLA and is an adjunct professor at his alma mater Carnegie Mellon University’s School Of Drama, where he has directed productions of Company and Letters From ‘Nam. He has also received an honorary doctorate from Washington & Jefferson College.

Natalia Rudiak

Carrick High School 1997

Natalia, a two-term City Council member, was born and raised in South Pittsburgh, where she is a proud graduate of Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Carrick High School.

 

She went on to earn her Bachelor’s Degree from George Washington University and the London School of Economics through scholarships awarded from the Pennsylvania and national AFL-CIO before completing her graduate degree at Carnegie Mellon University.

 

Natalia’s professional background is in fiscal management and technology.

She previously worked at Deloitte Consulting, where she implemented a statewide information technology system. On Council, she serves as the Chair of the Committee on Finance and Law, which deals with the Department of Finance, Ethics, the Equal Opportunity Review Commission, the Law Department, the Treasurer, and related matters. Natalia has worked to balance the city’s books in the face of state financial oversight, has improved the city’s credit outlook, and has built best financial practices into the city code. 

 

Natalia has been a trailblazing legislator who advocates tirelessly for quality early childhood education for all children. She is steadfast in her commitment to families, introducing and passing family-friendly legislation for the workplace, and advocating for livable wages. 

 

Natalia was named one of the 40 Under 40 by PUMP and Pittsburgh Magazine in 2009, and was voted Young Democrat of the Year in 2011 by the Young Democrats of Allegheny County. Natalia was a 2010 Women of Achievement Awards Honoree, and won the Pennsylvania Federation of Democratic Women Outstanding Elected Democratic Woman Award in 2012. Additionally, she was a Pittsburgh Business Times Fast Track award winner in 2014, and a graduate of Leadership Pittsburgh Class 28. Natalia was formerly an Executive Board Member of the Pittsburgh Parking Authority of Pittsburgh and is currently a Board Member of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Economic and Industrial Development Corporation. She is also the head of the Pennsylvania Young Elected Officials Network. Councilwoman Rudiak currently resides in Carrick.

Anna Tarka-DiNunzio​

Schenley High School, 1990

Anna Tarka-DiNunzio is a graduate of and a teacher in the Pittsburgh Public Schools. She attended Liberty Elementary School, Dilworth International Studies Academy, and graduated from the Schenley High School Teacher Center in 1990. Anna was in the first class to attend the newly implemented magnet school program at Liberty Elementary School when she was in second grade.

 

At Schenley, she was both a Center for Advanced Studies (CAS) and International Baccalaureate (IB) student. She continued on to Georgetown for her undergraduate studies, graduating in 1994 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Spanish. Anna completed her graduate studies at the University of Pittsburgh and earned a Master of Arts in Teaching in 1998, with a dual Pennsylvania certification in Elementary Education and K–12 Spanish.

At Pittsburgh Phillips, she teaches in a self-contained second grade classroom and

is a dedicated advocate for her students. She works tirelessly with students, parents, colleagues, and administration to ensure that her students are getting the resources, remediation, and enrichment that they need. Anna has been rated as a Distinguished Teacher annually since 2009 when the RISE process was fully implemented. Anna is one of two union representatives in the building. She has been a building representative for the entirety of her career. Additionally, at Phillips, she has served her colleagues as ITL and as a member of the Leadership Team for many years. In 2011, we she was elected to the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers (PFT) Executive Board as a Member-At-Large by the Executive Board and was subsequently elected by the PFT membership as an Elementary Group Representative. 

 

Anna has also served teachers and students as a leader in many other ways. She

has worked as a presenter in the Focus on Results initiative, as a member of the RISE (Research-based Inclusive System of Evaluation) design team, and as a member of several sub-committees through RISE. Anna was a member of the Performance Based Compensation Advisory Committee for STAR, a program designed to reward teachers and para-professionals for their students’ academic growth. She also sits on multiple PPS/PFT committees, such as the K–8 Grassroots Committee. Anna has also represented the PFT and presented to AFT Union leaders in Washington, DC around the PPS/PFT collaborative work with the RISE process.

Anna is happily married to her husband of 13 years, Chad DiNunzio. Together, they share two young sons, Dominic and Matteo, both of whom attend the Pittsburgh Phillips.

Tamara Whiting

Schenley High School, 1999

Tamara Whiting is proud to be a Manchester Elementary, Allegheny Middle and Schenley High School alumni. Upon graduating high school in 1999, Tamara attended Slippery Rock University for her Bachelor degree (2003) and Robert Morris University for her Master degree (2009). 

Tamara entered the hospitality field from the ground floor. Working as a front desk agent at the Westin Convention Center Hotel, she excelled at providing superior customer service and soon became a Front Office Supervisor. Always striving for new experiences, Tamara applied for and secured the position as Sales Reporting Systems Analyst/Customer Relationship Manager. Soon after accepting this role she was tapped by Starwood Hotels to become one of the first Field Marketing Managers in the United States. As a Field Marketing Manager, she was responsible for the digital marketing efforts of over 30 hotels in the Midwest.

 

After spending eight years with Starwood Hotels, Tamara Whiting joined Blattner Brunner, one of the largest advertising agency in the city of Pittsburgh. As an Interactive Account Executive she worked with clients such as Aquafresh and Get Go by Giant Eagle to make their digital marketing strategies a reality.

 

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Tamara decided that she wanted to expand her network and move to Raleigh, North Carolina. Accepting a job with Expion, LCC as an Account Executive working with clients such as Applebee’s. After spending a couple of years enjoying Raleigh’s southern hospitality, she returned to Pittsburgh to accept the position of National Sales Director with VisitPittsburgh, the official marketing and tourism agency for the City of Pittsburgh. In this role Tamara had the pleasure of booking conferences that benefited the economic impact of the city. Currently, Tamara Whiting is a National Sales Manager for Cincinnati USA. Working out of the Pittsburgh office, she is responsible to securing Fraternal, Religious, Social Welfare and Multicultural Conferences for the city of Cincinnati.

 

Tamara is also founder of SisterFriend, Inc. a non-profit organization dedicated to sustaining feminine health by providing feminine care products and education to the Pittsburgh community.

Tamara currently resides on the North Side of Pittsburgh.