Six individuals recognized at Mayor’s Young Leader Awards

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – During Thursday’s eighth annual Mayor’s Young Leader Awards, Mayor John Suthers recognized six individuals for making extraordinary efforts in their field while having a positive impact in the Colorado Springs community. Launched in 2015 to celebrate the outstanding achievements of young professionals age 40 and under, the 2021 winners were selected from 27 finalists across five categories, as well as a special “Military Young Leader Community Impact Award.”

“The quality of work presented by this year’s Mayor’s Young Leader Award finalists was exceptional,” said Mayor Suthers. “I am consistently pleased with the young professionals who are serving Colorado Springs across all industries and am grateful for their contributions to strengthening our community. The 2021 winners are fantastic representatives of Olympic City USA, and I look forward to following their future success.”

The 2021 winners are as follows:

Military Young Leader Community Impact Award: Cpt. Ethan Heckmann | UCCS

Cpt. Heckmann, a U.S. Military Academy at West Point and Ranger School graduate, serves as the assistant professor of military science at the University of Colorado - Colorado Springs (UCCS) in support of their Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program, where he is the primary instructor for junior cadets. In his role, Cpt. Heckmann has contributed to the successful graduation of 31 cadets into the U.S. Army, and functions as the UCCS ROTC Mountain Ranger Battalion S3 Operations Officer, ensuring all operations, training events and missions are carried through effectively and efficiently. Cpt. Heckmann volunteers at the Colorado Springs Pregnancy Center on a weekly basis, is a cellist in the UCCS Symphony Orchestra volunteer musical group, and supports The Success Collective, which is a professional group of women small business owners who are focused on empowering other women and giving back to the community through service events.

Community & Economic Impact: AJ Frasca IV | Panino’s Restaurants

Frasca is a third-generation restaurant operator for Panino’s Restaurants, continuing the 47-year legacy of his grandparents who started making the one-of-a-kind panino on North Tejon Street in the 1970s. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Frasca has led the way for the local food industry in pivoting business models to gift baskets, to-go menu items, and giveaways. He has received recognition and funding from BarStool Sports National Fund for these efforts, and volunteers for several western heritage organizations and events, including the Latigo Equestrian Center, Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo and Ride for the Brand Rodeo.

Creative Industry: Brother Luck | Four by Brother Luck and Lucky Dumpling

As an award-winning chef and owner at Four by Brother Luck and Lucky Dumpling, Luck is one of the premiere chefs in the Colorado Springs culinary scene. His understanding of global cuisine has led to local and national awards, as well as several television appearances, including appearances on Food Network’s “Chopped” and winning his episode of “Beat Bobby Flay.” In addition to his cooking, Luck advocates for mental health awareness through his social media campaign #NoLucksGiven and launched his “No Lucks Given Podcast” which discusses entrepreneurship and self-improvement. Luck also mentors military cooks in all parts of the restaurant business, helping them to ‘see’ themselves as future leaders in the industry.

Education: Corey Williams | Harrison School District 2

As president of the Harrison School District 2 Board of Education, Williams works with the board to ensure equitable outcomes and access to learning for all in southeast Colorado Springs’ school district. Under Williams’ leadership during the pandemic, he ensured food distribution continued, implemented free before and after school care, initiated adult learning programs, and was influential in providing laptops and internet access to every family for remote learning. He regularly volunteers in food distribution and back-to-school events, advocates for community members in southeast Colorado Springs through legislation measures, and has helped to promote and implement the district’s “Dakota Promise,” which provides two years of free college at Pikes Peak Community College.

Sports, Health & Wellness: Dayton Romero | Silver Key Senior Services

Romero is the director of senior health and wellness services at Silver Key Senior Services, where he leads the organization's efforts to care for seniors in El Paso County through case management, senior housing, mental and behavioral health, and nutrition. He has helped launch new, innovative programs related to companionship and guardianship, and has helped lead the Comprehensive Senior Assistance Program, a four-partner collaborative advocating for seniors. Romero serves as board president for the Innovations in Aging Collaborative, chairs the Colorado Coalition for Elder Rights and Abuse Prevention and Pikes Peak Elder Abuse Coalition, and is a member of the El Paso County Adult Protection Team, Community Ethics Advisory Committee, Age Friendly Colorado Springs Committee, Elder Abuse Research Team and Community Advisory Committee for Single Entry Point.

Technology & Sustainability: Natasha Main | Exponential Impact

As executive director of Exponential Impact, Main helps develop tech startups in Colorado Springs, providing them with the needed resources and expertise to succeed. As part of her work, she also launched the Survive and Thrive program within weeks of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. This program has provided more than $2.3 million in direct emergency support to struggling businesses and has helped save more than 1,000 jobs and $156 million in economic impact in its first year. She is also a member of the Economic Development Advisory Committee for the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC and provides volunteer mentorship to small business owners and entrepreneurs.
More information about the Mayor’s Young Leader Awards, including a list of all 2021 finalists and past award recipients, is available at

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