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Meet the 2019 ‘Top 40 Rising Croatian American Stars Under 40′

National Federation of Croatian Americans (NFCA) ’40 Under 40′ winners (Photo: NFCA)

This year’s list of 40 movers and shakers under the age of 40 in the Croatian community in America has been announced by the National Federation of Croatian Americans (NFCA) in Washington, D.C.

Meet the 2019 ‘Top 40 Rising Croatian American Stars Under 40 Years Old’ recipients below. 

Marija Krpan Kuren
Steelton, Pennsylvania
Assistant Counsel for Pennsylvania’s Governor’s Office
Family from Lika

Marija Krpan Kuren

Marija Kuren, from Steelton, Pa was the 2018 Guest Conductor for the Croatian Fraternal Union’s (CFU) 52nd Annual Junior Tamburitzan festival held last summer.  This 2018 tour and festival in Zagreb brought over 450 Croatian American children to Croatia for a wonderful experience and a chance to perform. Marija describes her experience as Guest Conductor in Lisinski Hall as ‘neopisivo’ (indescribable) and unforgettable just as it was fro Croatia to make it to the finals in the World Cup.  Marija actually shared the stage on Saturday, June 30th at the prestigious Lisinski Hall with her son Ante, who is a member of the Sv. Lovro Junior Tamburitzans.  

Her parents, from an early age, fostered her love for Croatian folk music and dance.  Marija is proudly a “Hrvatica” and a “licanka” and all the family is proud to originate from the Lika Area from Croatia.  Marija stays quite busy, with husband Scott, raising four children:  Ante, Illija, Alojz and Magdalena!  However, she still finds time for her love for teaching Croatian music and dance which is a great tribute for Marija who professionally is an active lawyer.

She continues to be an active member and a teacher with the St. Lawrence CFU Lodge 13 in Steelton, PA sharing her love for her Croatian heritage with the next generation.  Marija’s long term commitment with St. Lovro Junior Tamburitzans and the kolo club “Marian” has allowed her to travel the USA as she was embracing her Croatian heritage over the years.

Marija was the class valedictorian of Steelton-Highspire High School in 1997.  She chose to attend college nearby at Penn State University of Harrisburg and then she went on to graduate from the Widener University of School of Law earning a J.D. cum laude degree.  Marija  currently serves as Assistant Counsel in the Pennsylvania Governor’s Office of Chief Counsel.

Ben Anderson
Los Angeles, California
Executive Vice President Phoenix Pictures
Family is from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Ben Anderson

Benjamin Anderson is a multi-award winning writer and producer for television and feature films. He was most recently the Executive Vice President of Phoenix Pictures where he oversaw the development of Black Swan, Shutter Island, The Promise and Absolutely Anything. Benjamin co-produced the Warner Bros. Feature film The 33 with Antonio Banderas and Juliette Binoche as well as the global event-series for National Geographic The Long Road Home starring Michael Kelly and Kate Bosworth. 

Dr. Matthew Anderson
West Lebanon, NH
Physician
Family is from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dr. Matthew Anderson

Dr. Matthew Anderson is a physician in New Hampshire working for Dartmouth-Hitchcock medical center. He received his B.S from Portland State University and his M.D. from Loma Linda University. He completed his training in anesthesiology at Loma Linda University medical center and his critical care fellowship at Dartmouth before beginning his career as an associate professor of anesthesiology and critical care at Dartmouth in 2015. He is particularly interested in regional anesthesia and alternative modalities for treating postoperative pain. When he is not working, he spends his time doing endurance races and is training for his second half iron man in 2019. In addition, to exercise he is an amateur baker and enjoys travel. He was nominated to be recognized by his grandfather Richard Rajcic who immigrated to the United States from Dubrovnik when he was a child and has been a role model for much of Matt’s life.

Davor Anic
New York, NY 
Owner — small business — Davor Anic Brand
Specialized in concept, fashion and digital design
Active Association of Croatian American Professionals-NY City
Family is from Osijek, Croatia

Davor Anic

Davor was born and raised is Osijek in a blue-collar family of 4. His parents raised him in an open spirit give him the ability to explore his interests and develop my skills that will later become my profession. After finishing Art School in his hometown, he boarded the train and went to Zagreb to start his college education at the University of Zagreb College for Textile and technology. As a top student, he was awarded a state scholarship. During his college years Davor started working for RTL Croatia on a first reality show in Croatia and slowly by the age of 27 he became the  youngest Executive Producer in the region producing the top reality shops such as Masterchef Croatia, Big Brother Croatia, Croatia’s Got Talent and many more. Along the way, he graduated and received his master’s degree in Fashion design and technology. 

Next, with big ideas and need for new challenges,  Davor came to New York City where he set up a new home base and started to work on his venture: men’s neckwear under his own fashion brand: DAVOR ANIC. Today, he successfully owns a small business with concept design collaboration, working with big New York City company’s such as Kenneth Cole and plans to expand his services to digital and UX design. 

Davor believes that the best way to promote and preserve Croatia is to keep Croatian organizations alive. That’s a big reason why he’s so involved as a board member with the Association of Croatian American Professionals – NYC chapter. Davor has a real skill in organizing and networking events, supporting member’s activities as an essential step to spread the word about Croatia with serious digital visibility. Davor created an ACAP NYC website, and visual identity that reflects best Croatia and America combining well know typography font Helvetica with Glagoljica. Davor serves as a mentor to other young Croatian and Croatian-American artists in their cause to express creativity, as well. 

Barbara Bijelic
Paris, France
Legal Expert
Family is from Zagreb, Croatia

Barbara Bijelic

Barbara is a Legal Expert within the Responsible Business Conduct Unit (RBC) of the Organization For Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and works on promoting and implementing the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. Within this role she contributes to developing sector specific guidance on issues around responsible business conduct.

Prior to joining the OECD Barbara worked as a fellow and consultant with the Carter Center’s Mining Governance Program in  the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) researching governance challenges within the mining industry of DRC.   

Barbara has also worked as a researcher for the Natural Resource Governance Institute and the Columbia Law Human Rights Institute and as a business development officer with the Canadian International Development Agency.  In addition to the DRC Barbara has field experience working on governance and private sector growth initiatives in Cambodia, Croatia, Ethiopia and India.

Barbara holds a JD from Columbia Law School and a BA in International Development from McGill University. She speaks English, French and Croatian.

Dragana Boras
San Francisco, California 
Senior Product Marketing Manager at Atlassian
Family is from Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Dragana Boras

Dragana was born in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina and moved to Trogir, Croatia during the war. In 1999, her family moved to San Francisco, California where she did most of her schooling. She received a BS in International Business with a minor in Economics from the University of San Francisco along with a MBA from Saint Mary’s College of California.Dragana’s passion for strategy and analytics, having worked as an analyst early in her career, as well as technology as a result of growing up in Silicon Valley, outlined a clear path of what she wanted to do. 

Dragana is now the Sr. Product Marketing Manager at Atlassian where she focuses on Confluence and spreading the word on how teams can collaborate and work together more efficiently, a topic she sees as the key to any organization’s long-term success. With previous experience working for a developer tools company, she is extremely passionate about agile methodologies and applying those to every aspect of the organization. When she’s not working, Dragana is mostly likely watching a ball game, planning or going on a trip.  Dragana is an active member in the San Jose Croatian Community and Vice President of the Association of Croatian American Professional, Silicon Valley Chapter.

Annie Bosko 
Nashville, Tennessee  
Country Western Singer
Grandfather’s family is from Crnici in Hercegovina. Grandmother’s family is from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Annie Bosko

Vocal powerhouse and songstress, Annie Bosko, is a Croatian American California native paving her own road in the music industry. She has shared the stage with Adele, Andrea Bocelli, Oliver Dragojevic, Darius Rucker, Josh Groban, Celine Dion and more. Bosko has written songs for Willie Nelson, Jessica Simpson, Marie Osmond, Rita Wilson and more. Rolling Stone listed her as the #2 country artist to watch and she has played The Grand Ole Opry, The Troubadour, Ryman Auditorium, Staples Center etc. She is proud of her Croatian roots and plans on releasing her song “Fighter” in Croatian this year. Annie was so inspired by Croatia’s soccer team in the World Cup and wanted to dedicate her song to them. They rose up as the underdogs exemplifying determination, tenacity and grit. She thought “Fighter” could be a banner for them because Croatians are indeed fighters!

Annie is starting a blog on wellness, fitness and health. Having a grasp on her health keeps her sane in the music industry. Lastly, Annie is in the infancy stages of developing a documentary that speaks to singers and vocal cord trauma. Personally, she’s challenged herself to make this her most “honest” year yet. 

Tena Bugarin
New York City 
Real Estate Broker
Croatian American Activist
Family is from Pula, Croatia

Tena Bugarin Watt

Tena’s European flair and sophistication, her passion for New York City real estate, culture, food and art, together with her unflagging commitment to getting the job done no matter what it takes, make her the ideal real estate broker and the ideal advocate. Hailing from the beautiful Adriatic Coast in Pula, Croatia, Tena fell in love with New York City on her first visit and Manhattan has been her home for nearly ten years. Fluent in English, Italian and, of course, Croatian, and possessed of a sparkling personality and unflappable nature, she is charming and engaging. 

Tena earned a Masters in Journalism from the University of Zagreb with a concentration in public relations and television media, and this background has been instrumental to her effective marketing skills. She has an exceptional ability to communicate in both the spoken and written word; her Certification as a Negotiation Expert insures outstanding client representation.

When not selling real estate, Tena is actively involved as an ambassador for all things Croatian as she is enormously proud of her heritage. She is a founding member of the Association of Croatian American Professionals in New York (ACAP), a member-driven, non-profit. ACAP is committed to fostering knowledge-sharing and networking among Croatian-American professionals and Croatian professionals around the world. 

ACAP events encourage Croatian-American commerce and camaraderie and support amongst its members. ACAP values of leadership, cooperation and integrity are a fine reflection of Croatians both in the United States and globally. In addition to her work with ACAP, Tena created and continually manages on Facebook “Croatian Events in New York City/Hrvatski Eventi u New Yorku” the purpose of which is to promote and unify all New York City Croatian events on one page, facilitating access and information for the Croatian community. Tena loves animals and enjoys her work as a volunteer for animal rescue shelters. 

Melina Butuči  
San Francisco, California     
Scientist, Allakos 
Family is from Zagreb, Croatia      

Melina Butuci

Melina Butuči, Ph.D. is a Croatian scientist and she’s currently working at a biotech start-up in the Bay Area as a researcher in the immuno-oncology field. Melina was born and raised in Zagreb, Croatia where she got her bachelor’s and master’s degree at Prirodoslovno-Matematički Fakultet (PMF) in Biology, and after graduation she moved to Los Angeles to pursue her Ph.D. at University of Southern California (USC) in Molecular Biology. She relocated to San Francisco to further her career in leukemia research as a postdoc at UCSF which led her to her current position as a scientist at Allakos. Melina has been an active ACAP member for the past year and was heavily involved in planning the #ACAP2018 conference in Silicon Valley last fall. She has been involved in the Medical Tourism Task Force, as she is also interested in bringing more biotech related projects to the table.  Melina is passionate about contributing to cancer research and pushing the field forward in hope to have an impact in people’s lives. When she’s not pipetting in the lab, you can find her running a marathon or a Spartan Race, rock climbing, scuba diving or climbing the aerial silks.  

Andrew Ciacci  
New Rochelle, New York   
Student at Claremont McKenna College 
Family is from Poljica near Zadar, the small island Ilovik, Croatia

Andrew Ciacci

Andrew Ciacci is from New Rochelle, New York. He is a junior at Claremont McKenna College dual majoring in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics and Government. Andrew spent his freshman summer interning for Senator Charles E. Schumer in New York, and his sophomore summer as a Political Studies Fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington D.C. Andrew hopes to work abroad for a few years after graduation before attending law school and pursuing a career in law and public policy. In his free time, Andrew is a member of his college’s Model United Nations team, law and public policy journal, and club lacrosse team.  Andrew showed his leadership skills during Croatia’s phenomenal World Cup run. During his internship at the Hudson Institute, he rallied his whole cohort and staff to support Croatia against England and France, to the dismay of his two French peers.

Katarina Crnogorac
New York City
Designer and Teaching and Choreographer for Croatian Folklore group, Hvatski Ruza
Mother is from Milovic on the island of Krk. Father is from Posusje, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Katarina Crnogorac

Katarina Crnogorac is a creator. As a child she could be found updating her Barbie’s furniture collection or sewing new clothing for her dolls. After studying Interior design in college, Katarina worked for Kimberly Hall Creative, where her eye for design and skills in hands on applications excelled. Katarina currently works as a Purchasing/Contract Coordinator for high end textile company, Cowtan & Tout, who  sell textiles for home furnishings. Here her primary focus is to work with textile mills around the world to translate these designer fabrics into qualities more suitable for a contract and/or hospitality application. On the side, Katarina is working on her own artistic endeavor, studioNARONA, which is a platform for everything related to and inspired by the Croatian culture.

In the past Katarina has made authentic reproductions of traditional folk jewelry, such as the Samoborski kraluš, Mljetski kolarin, and djerdans found in Bosnia & Herzegovina, to be worn by folk dancers on stage. These traditional pieces have also inspired her to design more modern versions of these patterns to be worn by the everyday woman. She has created several necklaces and bracelets in this style for friends in addition to donating them to several organizations for fundraising.

Since 2007, Katarina has been a member of Croatian folk dance group Gemist, which is a mix of dancers from New York, New Jersey,  and Pennsylvania. The director of Gemist is Rick Vukmanic, based out of Steelton, Pennsylvania. All of the dancers are members of the Croatian Fraternal Union of America (CFU), where they usually perform at their annual Adult Tamburitza Festival held the first weekend of November every year. Back in 2012, Petar and Katarina formed Folklorni Ansambl Okret.  Since 2016, Petar and Katarina have been teaching and choreographing for the Croatian Folklore group , Hrvatska Ruza, in Astoria New York. On January 11th, 2019 their group had the honor of performing on the basketball court at Madison Square Garden during halftime at the NY Knicks first ever Croatian Heritage Night in honor of Mario Hezonja.

Petar Crnogorac
Boonton, New Jersey
Hospitality Industry
Family is from Malinska, Croatia and Posusje, Herzegovina 

Petar Crnogorac

Petar is a graduate from the Skola Folkora program administered through Matica Isleljenika in Croatia.  Petar is currently working in the hospitality industry managing the front desk for Sonesta International. The tourism industry is very interesting to him, because it is also the primary driver of Croatia’s economy.  He wants to be able to contribute to Croatia’s economy.  In his early twenties he started working with Starbucks coffee. Within a couple years with the company he had secured a management position in a prime location.  He also worked at Narona Woodcraft, his family’s millwork firm, as a project manager.  Customer service has always been one of his strengths and a logical career path was one that embraced that strength.

Petar is working to create an online repository of traditional Croatian folk music as tool for groups around the world to utilize.The vision is to create a repository of music from across Croatia and the diaspora that can be used to teach both dancers and musicians. He spent a good portion of his life working with Cardinal Stepinac Kolo Group at St. Cyril and Methodius Parish in Manhattan. His father was one of its founders and long time president, which is how Petar became associated with this group. As a teen he joined the group as a dancer and eventually took on the role of choreographer and artistic director. His time as a dancer inspired him to attend Matica Iseljenicka Skola Folklora for 10 seasons. There he grew even more inspired to be a leader in his community and be an inspiration to future  generations. 

His love of folklore and understanding of the positive effects it has on the lives of the dancers  grew exponentially there. He worked with the Voice of Free Croatia radio & currently he is working with his sister (directors) of Hrvatska Ruza Folklore Ensamble in Asoria, Queens.He also started KUD Okret, and adult ensemble that primarily performs specials requests from smaller organizations. Peter can honestly say he doesn’t know how to not be involved in the Croatian community in New York. 

Dominik Cvitanovic
New Orleans, Louisiana
Associate Attorney
Family is from Duba and Igrane, Croatia

Dominik Cvitanovic

Dominik J. Cvitanovic joined the Carver Darden  law firm in 2014 as an associate in the New Orleans office. He has represented individuals and companies in a variety of practice areas, including banking, commercial litigation, labor and employment issues, tax law and oil and gas. Dominik’s practice includes experience in UCC regulations concerning items, negotiable instruments and funds transfers. Dominik has experience in labor and employment obligations under the Service Contract Act, the National Labor Relations Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act. He has provided legal services to companies on issues related to breaches of joint operating agreements and enforcement and termination of mineral leases. 

Dominik  graduated from Vanderbilt University with a Bachelor of Arts in Classical Studies and Economics in 2010. He earned his J.D. from Louisiana State University’s Paul M. Hebert Law Center in 2013, where he graduated magna cum laude in the top 5% of his class and was inducted into the Order of the Coif. While he was in law school, Dominik was accepted onto the Louisiana Law Review and received the Henri Capitant Award for Outstanding Civil Law Comment.

He externed for the Honorable Jeffrey P. Victory at the Louisiana Supreme Court,as well as in the Criminal Division of the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office. 

This past year,  Dominik served as a Project Leader of Youth Leadership Council (YLC’s) Leadership Development Series. The Young Leadership Council’s Leadership Development Series teaches members the basics of running a non-profit organization or project. 

Johnny Cvjetkovic
Los Angeles, California
Senior Business Analyst, Marketing Production Technology at NBC Universal Media LLC
Mother’s family is from Ljubuski, Herzegovina and father’s family is from Molunat, Croatia

Johnny Cvjetkovic

Johnny is a technology professional working in the entertainment industry for major Hollywood studios. He holds a Bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering with a minor in Business Law, from California State Polytechnic  University in Pomona. Johnny has been vital in organizing but most importantly bringing  youth to events. He was a long time member of the Kolo Group from St. Anthony’s and dedicates much of his free time to assisting in sound/video for various other Croatian events. He  started the Croatian Radio Program which is streamed online and also the founder of LA Vatreni.  

From  the time he was 5 to 25 years old, Johnny was a member of the St. Anthony’s Croatian Children’s School and the St. Anthony’s Croatian Kolo Club and Tamburica. This group travelled across North America performing at various folklore festivals and was the first Los Angeles Kolo group to travel to Croatia and perform.  Johnny was also a member of the St. Anthony’s Parish Council and the Croatian Fraternal Union.  He spearheaded the creation of the Los Angeles Vatreni, a fan club dedicated to promoting Croatian sports through hosting watch parties, events, and social gatherings in Los Angeles.

Johnny’s Croatian pride and heritage has inspired him to take on various projects in his community such as organizing a fundraising drive to upgrade the audio/visual equipment in the Croatian Parish Center to coordinating the building of bocce courts for our annual Parish Festival and Hercegovacki picnic.  His biggest achievement was organizing the Los Angeles Vatreni Croatia soccer watch parties at St. Anthony’s, especially the 2018 World Cup in which they hosted 7 watch parties, culminating with the Croatia vs France World Cup Final where over 3000 fans in attendance which made it the largest gathering at St. Anthony’s Croatian Catholic Church in their 108 year history. (St. Anthony’s was established in 1910). 

Over 10 media outlets covered this Final watch party including Fox Sports who designated this event as the official Croatia World Cup Watch Party for the United States. Fox showcased this event during their World Cup Half-Time Show which was seen by millions of viewers across the world. We were proud to represent Croatians in the United States.

Ariana Kosta
Chicago, Illinois
College Associate Management Position 
Family is from Zagreb and Preko, Croatia

Ariana Kosta

Ariana  was born in Cleveland to Croatian immigrant parents. From a young age, they showed her how important her Croatian culture was to her family. Croatian was her first language and as a result,  she often struggled in school to interact with other students. She was always the girl kicking the soccer ball around with the guys until one day her parents decided to put her in the American Zagreb Jr. Tamburitzans. After that day, she fell in love with music and dancing. She picked up her tambura for the first time and didn’t want to put it down. At the age of sixteen, she was accepted into the adult group, Zelena Polja and at the age of twenty, joined Zumbercani Orchestra and Nova Nada from Detroit. Touring Croatia with her folklore group was one of the most amazing experiences for her. Over the years, Ariana helped her mother on the New Years Eve committee to get ideas of which bands should play and pricing. She also helped her when it came to different fundraisers for her folklore group,  and helped raise money in Cleveland for Vukovar and sick children in Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina. She attended Cleveland State University and was involved with many organizations that let the students’ voices be heard. Upon graduation from college she knew she wanted move away from Cleveland to start a life in Chicago. 

In August of 2018, Ariana was offered a job at an amazing company  she knew it was a good fit.  She began in a sales position and within two months, was promoted to manager because of her hard work ethic.  Knowing many people in Chicago, she  knew that she had to join a folklore group.She joined Kud Bastina as a musician  and has been involved with helping the group raise money for the church and helping with fundraisers for their  future trips. 

Maja Keres
Hollywood, California
Professional Dancer
Family is from Rijeka, Croatia

Maja Keres

Maja started dancing when she was about 5 years old in Rijeka, Croatia but committed to it seriously only at the age of 16. Her education was  informal, until she learned jazz dance, ballet and contemporary just by being part of a local dance troupe. However, she wanted to learn more about dance and different styles of it, she started attending numerous workshops and classes not only in Croatia, but throughout Europe, learning more about hip hop and other urban styles of dance that she showed a lot of interest in. Maja started working professionally in Croatia (danced with Severina, Lana Jurcevic, Maja Suput, E.T., Vanna, Marko Tolja, Topstars etc.) but her curiosity finally took her to the States where in 2011 she enrolled in a foreign student dance program in Broadway Dance Center in New York.

After some time, Maja received her artist visa and in 2014 she moved to the US in order to pursue my professional career in dance. Some of the highlights in her career include: Justin Timberlake “Man of the Woods” world tour, Superbowl XLII with Justin Timberlake, Aluna George at Coachella 2016, Global Citizen India with Ananya Birla, Mumbai,Brit Awards 2018 with Justin Timberlake, America’s Got Talent season 12, Grammy Awards 2017 with ATCQ, Busta Rhymes, Jimmy Fallon show with Justin Timberlake, commercials for Bloomingdale’s, BHLDN / Anthropologie, Aeropostale Seriously Stretchy Jeans, music videos: Justin Timberlake “Filthy”, Fergie – “M.I.L.F. $”, Keith Urban – “Wasted Time”….

Andy Kvesic
Phoenix, Arizona
Chief Counsel Arizona
Corporation Commission
Family is from Siroki Brijeg, Herzegovina 

Andy Kvesic

Andy is an attorney and business leader in Arizona who throughout his career has held a variety of leadership roles in private practice and government service. Andy initially practiced commercial litigation. After becoming partner, Andy transitioned to public service and became a prosecutor at the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, focusing on organized crime, public corruption, and financial fraud matters.  The Arizona Corporation Commission later recruited Andy to be Chief Counsel. In 2018, he was awarded Counsel of the Year for his contributions to public service by the Association of Corporate Counsel.  Andy recently returned to the private sector, where he now serves as General Counsel for The Quantum Group, a national consulting firm in the financial services industry. He thinks about the recent economic development in Croatia, and whether there were opportunities to assist in the development of energy policies or utility infrastructure there. The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) is a  national association that sponsors projects all over the world, and many of his colleagues hold leadership positions with that agency. While there, Andy has recently attended a NARUC conferences in the BiH region.

Alan Latkovic
New York, NY
Vice President, Ticket Services Madison Square Garden, Sports Ticket Executive with MSG & NY Knicks-Rangers 
Father is from Zadar, and Mother is from Losinj, Croatia

Alan Latkovic

Alan Latkovic is currently serving as Vice President, Service and Retention for the Madison Square Garden Company. Specifically, he’s in charge of all customer service initiatives and season ticket retention for the NY York Rangers and NY Knicks.  Alan developed and executed first ever Croatian Heritage Night for the New York Knicks on January 11th, 2019. Over 600 Croatian Americans came to the game which saw the National Anthem performed by a Croatian American singing group, had special Croatian- Knicks branded merchandise and a post game meet and greet session with NY Knick Player Mario Hezonja. 

Growing up in Queens, NY, Alan takes great pride in a being a first generation Croatian American. His parents instilled a great sense of work ethic into their children and they continue to be proud of heritage to this day and the family have visits Croatia. He pursued a Sports Management Degree at St John’s University. Upon graduation he moved to Phoenix, AZ  where he began work as a Sales Consultant for the Phoenix Suns. After that experience, he  moved to Dallas to work for FC Dallas for two years, then to Houston, TX to work for the Astros for six successful years as a senior director of ticket services before he returned home to NY City to work for Madison Square Garden. 

Michelle Lucic
Cleveland, OH
Student and Author of Anti-Bullying book 
Family is from Dubrovnik and Zenica

Michelle Lucic

Michelle is an 18 year old woman who works with several international organizations to promote importance of culture. Michelle believes culture is a very important part of life and that it is the foundation of people and their character. Michelle shares her Croatian pride and heritage with others through cultural programs, and has been inspired by her Croatian background to be a part of the American Field Service, Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange, National Student Leadership Conference, and other organizations. Michelle uses these organizations as a way to be an ambassador for the importance of an educated future generation in regards to international awareness. Michelle has published her first book at 14 years old inspired by bullying as well, and has done public speeches at universities and charter schools in Cleveland on the importance of accepting and respecting others. Michelle is also a second degree black belt in Kajukenpo, and plans to passionately study Foreign Affairs and National Security when she graduates high school.

Nikola Matic
Thompson, Ohio 
Owner – Matic Farms, the largest Hop Farm in Ohio 
Family is from Zagreb, Croatia & Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Nikola Matic

 Nikola originally had the idea of starting a commercial hop farm in Northeast Ohio after spending some time working at the vineyards a short drive away in Madison, Ohio. While watching many tourists come in and out of the vineyards, drinking wine and taking pictures he thought it was strange that there was no agriculture involved in the booming craft beer industry. After doing some research on hop farms he was struck by the beauty and thought it was something Ohioans should be exposed to and brewers had the right to experience. His brother Luka and him drove to the state of Washington, and stayed there for a month examining different hop farms, taking notes on trellis structure, soil, irrigation, harvesting, and other processes. They learned that 77% of the nation’s hops are grown in the Yakima Valley of Washington. This is because after alcohol prohibition there where only 4 breweries allowed to produce beer so they all purchased their hops from the same source. However with the birth of Craft Beer there is now over 6,000 breweries and a consumer willing to buy high quality local hops for their beer. So they thought why not us? After the trip, Luka and  Nikola took a big leap and started Matić Farms in Thompson, Ohio in 2017. Matić Farms is currently the largest Hop Farm in the State of Ohio and one of the larger farms east of Idaho. Their goal is to give brewers the chance to bring their beer closer to the farm.

Alexander McArthy
St Louis, Missouri
Owner Rising Sails, a Digital Marketing and Web Design Company
Family is from Ploce, Croatia 

Alexander McArthy

Alexander founded a Digital Marketing & Web Design company in St. Louis Missouri. He has a team consisting of five employees, all millennials who specialize in connecting brands with their generation. Though still a start-up, RaisingSails has been recognized as a top contender for branding agencies in St. Louis. Alexander has attended and recruited for Mladifest, an annual event for Croatian Catholic Youth. He is a member of the Croatian Fraternal Union, and has donated his marketing company’s services to the local Croatian Church. Currently he is focused on an ambitious project- ‘Pođi Doma’ which is an organization to help second, third, and even fourth-generation Croats connect with their roots. The project will promote travel, dual citizenship, talent, and investment into Croatia. It will start as an online video blog series, documenting other youth as they visit & trek across Croatia, many for the first time. With increased awareness and exposure their goal is to create a ‘Work Abroad’ program, allowing Croatian Young Adults a chance to work and live in the country of their ancestors for a period of three, six, or twelve month durations. In addition to his youth-centered Croatian involvement, Alexander was the youngest person in Missouri State history to run for State Representative. Though he fell short of winning the seat, he continued to be involved in local politics as an elected official for his county’s Central Committee, driving youth engagement and social media in the area.

Nikola Metes
Chicago, IL
Marketing Professional, ACAP officer and Croatian Teacher
Family is from Slavonija (Cerna) and Lika (Rudopolje),and Dalmacija, Croatia 

Nikola Metes

Nikola is a strategic and proven marketing professional with a passionate B2C/B2B focus in European and North American markets. Currently, he is an ISMS & Campaign Solutions Manager at the prestigious Foote, Cone and Belding (FCB Chicago) marketing agency providing best-in-class work for Fortune 500 clients. He has also been accepted to 1871, Chicago’s Center & Incubator for Technology and Entrepreneurship, to work with other select business school students from the Chicagoland area to concept and develop  entrepreneurial business solutions.

He founded, managed and franchised one of Croatia’s most famous music festivals – The KnockOut Snow Festival, in addition to working on a portfolio of ten other international musical events. Together with his team, they successfully franchise, the  KnockOut Snow Festival business model into four other European markets. Together with his colleagues in  the Association of Croatian American Professionals (ACAP), he has helped promote and enlarge the  organization’s membership and chapter count, as well as organize the annual national conference.

Nikola currently holds the position of the National Secretary for ACAP and the Vice President of the Silicon Valley chapter. He is an instructor at the Chicago Kardinal Stepinac Croatian School 6th grade teacher and Kud Bastina Croatian Folklore Group.

Anna Nejasmic 
New York, NY 
Executive, Four Seasons Hotel, New York City
Croatian American Activist in New York City
Family is from Split/Dalmatinska Zagora

Anna Nejasmic

Anna Nejasmic has been singing since age 6 since watching Celine Dion belt out the song, “Power of Love”. Thus, while discovering her passion for music at a very young age, she was classically trained in voice since the age of 10 and began her singing career at the Croatian Children’s Festival in New York City. This festival has become a yearly, exciting tradition where she would express her own creativity and passion through song and share it with the audience. Anna was 12 years old when she won the festival in NY and thus was able to perform later at the famous Lisinski concert hall in Zagreb. Her song that year was so special to her because the author of the text, Robert Pilepic, was also the same author who wrote the famous song,“Morski Vuk”, for Oliver Dragojevic. This achievement instilled a drive to audition for Anna and she was one of the youngest to be accepted to the prestigious Boston University’s Summer Tangelwood Institute Program and the Manhattan School of Music.

Anna went on to record an American CD demo at the age of 15, and audition for American Idol in Chicago and did win the Croatian Idol contest in New York City and then competed in Toronto, Canada. Anna also then sang at many Croatian events in the community, with the Croatian band “More”, followed by alongside the Croatian music star, Drazen Zecic and even has sung at an event for Madam President Krabar-Kitarovic too.

Anna was also involved in the business world at a very young age by creating proposals and invoices for a contracting company. This passion for business took her to study the field at the University of Rhode Island. During this time, she won the audition to sing the anthem for the school, was awarded a scholarship in finance and has repeatedly been on the Dean’s List. After graduating with a business degree and a high GPA, Anna began her career in the hotel industry. During this time, Anna organized events in hotels for and with well-known celebrities. Her dedication to work led her to win a few major Employee awards. Anna’s ambition combined with that powerful “Croatian” spirit, took her from charming boutique hotels recently to the exclusive Four Seasons Hotel in New York. She strives to be well-rounded both professionally and personally, as this enhances her knowledge and growth as a proud, Croatian American individual. Additionally, Anna recently has joined the choir at the Manhattan Croatian Catholic church and the Association of Croatian American Professionals Group in New York City.

Dr. Mara Oblak
Seattle, Washington
Owner of Behavior Analysis Consulting and Therapy
Family is from Drugi Otak and Vivodina, Croatia

Dr. Mara Oblak

Mara graduated from Gonzaga University with a BA in Special Education as well as teaching certifications in general and special education. She went on to receive her MA (2007) and PhD (2010) in Applied Behavior Analysis from Columbia University in New York where she conducted research, trained graduate students and served as a special education preschool teacher. She worked in Louisiana for 2 years to help facilitate a new University graduate program in public school collaboration. Mara has 4 published papers in journals related to research in Behavior Analysis and she frequently presents research at national conferences. Mara is a Board Certified Analyst (BCBA) and in 2013 opened a company in Seattle that uses Behavior Analysis to teach children with Autism and behavior disorders. She is currently working with professors in New York and Louisiana to disseminate research on methods of effective supervision and organization behavior management. For the past five years, Mara has been the secretary on the Executive Board of the CroatiaFest committee in Seattle.

Ottessa Moshfegh
American Author and Novelist
Boston, Massachusett
Family is from Zagreb, Croatia

Ottessa Moshfegh (Photo: Larry D. Moore/CC)

Ottessa Moshfegh (born May 20, 1981) is an American author and novelist. Her debut novel, Eileen, won the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and was a fiction finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Moshfegh was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Her mother was born in Croatia and her father, was born in Iran. Her parents were both musicians and taught at the New England Conservatory of Music. As a child, Moshfegh learned to play piano and clarinet. Moshfegh received her BA from Barnard College in 2002. She then moved to China, where she taught English and opened a music venue. In her mid-twenties, Moshfegh moved to New York City. She worked for Overlook Press in book production, and then as an assistant for Jean Stein, the oral historian. In 2009, she left the city and earned an MFA from Brown University. Fence Books published her novella, McGlue, in 2014. Her novel Eileen was published by Penguin Press in August 2015, and received positive reviews.The book was shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker Prize. Homesick for Another World, a collection of short stories, was published in January 2017. Her latest novel, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, was published on July 10, 2018 by Penguin Press. A new book, Death in Her Hands, comes out in 2020. She’s currently at work on a historical novel about a Chinese immigrant in Victorian San Francisco.

Marino Ilija Patrk
Greenwich, Connecticut
Financial Advisor and Partner at The O’Rourke Group
Father is from Zaton (near Zadar) and Mother is from Bugojno, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Marino Patrk

Marino is a Financial Advisor and Partner of The O’Rourke Group at Oppenheimer & Co. Inc. where he manages both Private and Institutional wealth.  Marino and his partner have a successful discretionary strategy named the Four Pillars which focuses on dividend growth, growth in a low growth world, income generation, and tactical and strategic considerations. 

Marino has been an active member of New York’s Croatian community since a very young age.  He grew up attending Mass and Croatian School at Sts. Cyril & Methodius & St. Raphael, and continues to participate in many religious and cultural events.  Marino danced Kolo for Grupa Cardinal Stepinac and also played the Brac in their Tamburica band.  Marino is proud to play soccer for Connecticut Croatia and will be competing in the Croatian National Soccer Tournament of Canada & USA (The oldest soccer tournament in The United States).  

Marino is quick to point out that his Croatian roots and upbringing has influenced his character in many ways.  As a Catholic and Croatian, he has been able to live by a set of core values and cultural practices that have helped me be of added value to society.  

On a more personal level, it was a motivational factor growing up as a soccer player and intellectual.  Marino graduated from Connecticut College with a degree in Economics, and a self-designed minor in Leadership at the United States Coast Guard Academy.

Bernarda Pera
New York City, New York
Professional Tennis Player
Family is from Zadar, Croatia

Bernarda Pera

Bernarda started playing tennis when she was 5 years old. From the beginning she knew she was doing very well and started to compete in the local tournaments for kids. At 14, Bernarda won a national championship and that’s when she realized she might be able to do this for a living. After she completed elementary school she switched to home schooling program so she could train and travel to international tournaments. Now at 24, she is still traveling and competing professionally.  Bernarda made her WTA Tour debut at the 2014 US Open, having received a wildcard with Tornado Alicia Black in the doubles tournament.  She made her Grand Slam singles main-draw debut at the 2018 Australian Open, where she received entry as a lucky loser after Margarita Gasparyan withdrew from the tournament.  In the second round of the same tournament, Pera knocked out ninth seed Johanna Konta of Great Britain. In the third round, she was beaten by Barbora Strýcová. Bernarda has won eight singles and eight doubles titles on the ITF Women’s Circuit. On October 8,  2018, she reached her best singles ranking of world No. 67.

Justin Perpich
Duluth, Minnesota
Legislative and Political Organizer
Family is from Lika, Croatia

Justin Perpich

Since December 2015, Justin has worked for the American Federation of Government Employees as a legislative and political organizer. In this role he works with grassroots legislative and political activists to implement the Federation’s legislative and political action programs. His area of coverage includes the states of Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan.  In 2016 he was elected chair of the 8th congressional DFL party in Minnesota.  Prior to this Justin worked in a political position for Congressman Rick Nolan from 2014 where he would focus on campaign activities for the congressman and grow his political relationships in the state of Minnesota. Before that Justin worked in the human services field and had a short stint with the DFL in 2012.  One of the reasons he has been so active in DFL politics was because of Tom Rukavina.  He admired Tom so much, and Tom was also someone who boasted about his Croatian heritage. Having the last name of Perpich has always been a conversation starter in his political circles.  Justin still remembers walking into his first day on the job in Washington, DC and the first thing a coworker asked him was if he was related to the former Minnesota governor. 

Anthony Piplica
Atlanta, Georgia
Chief Executive Office of Hermeus Corporation 
Family is from Malinska, on Krk and and Dobrince near Imotski, Croatia

Anthony Piplica

Anthony Piplica is founder and Chief Executive Officer of Hermeus Corporation where he is focused on connecting the globe through the development of the world’s fastest passenger aircraft. Prior to founding Hermeus, Mr. Piplica served as CEO of Generation Orbit Launch Services, Inc. In this capacity, he was responsible for a wide range of technical systems design and analysis, strategic technical and financial planning, fostering of customer and partner relationships, and securing financing to fund near-term research and development efforts. He has a strong background in aerospace systems design, including spacecraft, launch vehicles, and hypersonic aircraft. Further, his past experience includes work for SpaceWorks Enterprises and Jacobs Engineering at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Anthony holds both Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees from the Georgia Institute of Technology focused in aerodynamics and fluid mechanics, supplemented by a certificate in entrepreneurship. Additionally, he is a member of the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).

Adam Radman
Washington DC
Director of Advocacy at Americans for Tax Reform Network Group-New Media Exchange 
Family is from Zadar and Petrcane, Croatia 

Adam Radman

Adam Radman is the Director of Advocacy at Americans for Tax Reform, where he handles digital advocacy and campaign outreach for the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, ATR’s flagship project.

In 2007, Adam co-founded the New Media Exchange (NME), a networking group of America’s most prominent center-right digital strategists. Through his leadership on NME and ten years of managing digital communications for Americans for Tax Reform, Adam has become a leading voice in center-right American politics on digital strategy, advertising, and effective grassroots advocacy.

Adam has also spoken to conservative activists, domestically and internationally, about the importance of digital advocacy. In 2017, he spoke at the World Taxpayer Association’s Regional Summit in Zagreb, Croatia and later that year spoke with activists at Faith and Freedom’s Road to Majority Conference on the effectiveness of using petitions in digital advocacy efforts. Adam’s writings have appeared in the Washington Times, the Daily Caller, and Townhall.com. Adam makes an annual trip to Croatia and he’s very proud to be a Croatian American and he makes his heritage known to a wide variety of people in his professional networks and personal life. He has been an active member of the Hrvatska Hura in Washington, DC for several years. In 2018, Adam became a board member for the National Federation of Croatian Americans Cultural Foundation. Adam received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Politics from The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.

Joseph Radinovich
Ironton, Minnesota
Minnesota State House of Representatives 
Family is from Lika, Croatia

Joe Radinovich (Photo credit: Lorie Shaull/CC)

Joe began his career as a paraprofessional at elementary and secondary schools right after college. After that, Joe worked as a political organizer and later a union organizer. Later, Joe was a State Legislator, then an Assistant Commissioner at a state agency. In 2012, Joe Radinovich became the youngest member of the Minnesota State House of Representatives, and has developed a career in politics and public service from that point forward.  Joe managed two political campaigns–one for Congressman Rick Nolan in 2016, and then Mayor Jacob Frey’s in 2017.  In 2018, Joe ran for Congress in the 8th District. He still believes that this is the land of opportunity and equality, and he fights for those beliefs wherever he goes.

His great grandfather was Slovenian, and his great-grandmother was Croatian.They moved to America in the early part of the 20th century to find a better life and more opportunities. They worked hard in the mines and around the home, and they built a large family. Where he grew up,  people were referred  to as “Bohunks,” Joe always felt a kindred spirit with all of the other “-viches” and “-iches” in town. There were plenty of them. In fact, when they were kids, their friends who didn’t have Slavic last names would often affectionately joke by adding an “ich” to the end of their name so they could fit in. In his part of Minnesota, these last names gave him a sense of belonging and a sense of history.  He is a supporter of the Lika Garden in Ironton, Minnesota, a Croatian memorial garden for children and grandchildren of immigrants to the Cuyuna Iron Range.

Frane Rusinovic
Washington DC
Professional Pianist
Family is from Split, Croatia

Frane Rusinovic

Frane is a Croatian American pianist.  He started playing piano at the age of 9 and has been pursuing a career as a concert pianist ever since.  At the age of 10 he moved to the U.S. with his family, where he studied piano with Anna Ouspenskaya, at the Levine School of Music in Washington DC, completing with a Certificate of Distinction. He continued his study as a student of Boris Slutsky at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. At the age of 18 he moved to Germany to study at the Hochschule fur Musik und Tanz Koln where he earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in piano performance. There, he studied Florence Millet and graduated in the class of Jacob Leuschner.

Frane has performed at numerous recitals and master classes with renowned world pianists. He took part in and won many local and national piano  competitions, performing at Merkin Hall, Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York, and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

In recent years, he has continued performing all across Europe: Dusseldorf, Hannover, Amsterdam, Berlin, Vienna, Split, and more.  Frane continues to reside in Germany and is actively  performing as a soloist and with chamber music ensembles, while teaching as a docent at the Hochschule fur Musik und Tanz Kol.

Ana Ruzevic
Birmingham, Alabama
Firefighter
Family is from Split, Croatia

Ana Ruzevic

Ana Ruzevic  grew up in Split, Croatia. At a very young age she started participating in different kinds of sports, including karate, soccer, basketball and waterpolo. In 7th grade, she started throwing the javelin at a local track and field club in my hometown, which landed her a track scholarship to Tulane University in New Orleans LA. Ana attended Tulane from 2008-2012 and graduated with a Bachelors in Management and Marketing, while competing in track and becoming and All-American two years in a row and placing 4th at NCAA division I track and field championships. Shortly after she accepted a job with an Insurance company as a Sales training and recruitment manager, when she moved to Birmingham AL.

Ana stayed with the company for about a year and realized it was not the career path she was looking for. Ana started volunteering at a local fire department and absolutely fell in love with it. The fire department sent her through firefighter school, and shortly after she completed  paramedic school in September of 2018.  Now Ana works for two Fire Departments, for Vestavia Hills fire department and Center Point fire district in Birmingham AL. Ana also competes in the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge competitions. Ana was the National champion in 2018 as a rookie and also placed 11th in the World in Sacramento CA. Ana is  very proud of her Croatian background and uses every opportunity to share stories about her home country to my friends and coworkers. They do say that home is where the heart is, and her heart will always be in Croatia among the family and friends she grew up with, regardless of how far she may be.

Tiffany Senkow
Minneapolis, MN
PhD Candidate in Biomedical
Engineering
Family is from Volavje and Domagovic, Croatia

Tiffany Senkow

Tiffany is a current PhD Candidate in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Minnesota (Expected graduation: Summer 2019). The goal of her doctoral thesis is to assess the potential of using skin mechanics or vibrosensing (i.e. how well people can feel vibrations) as biomarkers to complement the existing clinical measurements to diagnose or characterize Dupuytrens disease. Dupuytrens disease is a hand deformity where knots of tissue form in the palm and fingers, eventually creating thick cords that cause affected fingers to bend. She was recently awarded a Diversity Travel Grant to present her research at the World Congress of Biomechanics in Dublin, Ireland. She was the president of “Graduate Women in Biomedical Engineering”,  is the only student member of the College of Science and Engineering’s Graduate Education Committee, and volunteers as a science mentor at middle schools. Tiffany is also currently teaching “Introduction to Programming for Biomedical Engineers” at the University of Minnesota. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Bioengineering with a Chemical Engineering concentration and a minor in Biology from the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State University.

Tiffany is a role model for her Millennial peers and for younger generations who may be interested in careers in science,  particularly young women. She is shaping science education of undergraduate students through her teaching roles, and her research has the potential to improve diagnosis of a condition that can significantly impact people’s lives. She has demonstrated strong organizational and leadership skills, and a commitment to meeting goals, and ambitions to continue to achieve at high levels in the future. All those qualities lend themselves well to helping support a successful future for Croatian organizations that will benefit from strong leadership from Millennial generation Croatians and Croatian-Americans.

Diane Kolanovic Solaja
Howell, New Jersey
Owner of Dee Kay Event
Father is from Privlaka, Zadar, Mother is from the island of Susak, Croatia

Diane Kolanovic Solaja

Diane is the owner of Dee Kay Events, a wedding & event planning firm. This year they expanded services to Croatia.She also looks forward to re-branding her non-profits:1) Croatians of New York & LA (CNYLA), a non-profit organization to promote education and unity among young Croatian American professionals. The CNYLA supported numerous gatherings for thousands of Croatians through the years. 2) The Croatians Cruise was born: the first and only travel event bringing together Croatian-American professionals.  Her Ethnic Blog will also be re-branded. She has been a parishioner of the Croatian Church St Cyril & Methodius in New York City her entire life.

She was a kolo dancer for Cardinal Stepinac for many years. She attended Croatian School through church. At the church they pack boxes of supplies for war torn families. She received letters from these refugees.There tragic stories will sit in her heart forever. She is proud of her family immigrant story.  It has been a part of everything she does. Even through her business, all her clients know about her heritage and background. She is a first generation American. She celebrates her heritage any way she can, through her  writing, her non-profit work or simply posting about the Croatia soccer team. With a background in editing and communication experience in corporate law firms, combined with heading a non-profit, has given Diane business expertise with a unique edge to work in a variety of industries.Her work with Dee Kay Event’s has been featured in top publications. Dee Kay Events has also been the recipient of the Wedding Wire Couples Choice Award for the past six years. Diane also had the privilege of being a speaker for Croatian Club NY (Hrvatski Radio Klub) for some time while she was living in New York.She had some viral success with a few writings, example: Top Ten Reasons You Should Date a Croatian!

Vedran Solaja
Howell, New Jersey
Marketing Consultant Business Owner
Family is from Zagreb, Croatia

Vedran Solaja

Vedran Solaja was born and raised on October 1, 1982 in Zagreb, Croatia. He attended public elementary and high schools in Zagreb and played team handball for the handball club Zagreb until the age of 15 when his family moved to Brazil for his father’s work (Zvonko Solaja is a seasoned Croatian diplomat). Vedran received an American High School diploma from the Escola Americana de Brasilia (EAB) in 2001. Vedran attended Wartburg College in Iowa, where he graduated in 2005 with the degree in International Business and Marketing. Upon graduation, Vedran moved to Los Angeles, California. He was involved with the St. Anthony’s Croatian Church in Los Angeles, the Croatian Cultural Center of Greater Los Angeles and the Croatian-American Club in San Pedro, California. Vedran moved to New Jersey in 2011 to live with his wife Diane Kolanovic-Solaja. He helps small businesses find their niche in marketing to expand and continues to be involved in the Croatian community.

Alexandra Schmidt
Roseville, Minnesota and Dubrovnik, Croatia
Digital Marketing, Blogging and Website creator
Family is from Rijeka and Lika, Croatia

Alexandra Schmidt

Alexandra Schmidt is a Minnesota native that relocated to Dubrovnik, Croatia after one life-changing semester abroad in her country of heritage. She was originally on a pre-law track at Loyola University Chicago but then later changed course and followed her heart back to Croatia. She now is the founder of the award-winning travel blog, The Mindful Mermaid, featured in BBC’s the Travel ShowCroatia Week Magazine, and many more. Alex and her Croatian partner also started a Croatian travel agency called Mindful Travel Croatia.

Angela B. Stepancic
Washington DC
Principal/Educational Activist
Family is from Istria, Croatia

Angela B. Stepancic

As an educational leader in Washington, DC, Angela B. Stepancic opened two schools which targeted under-served and marginalized communities, one an all-girls middle school in Anacostia, the other an alternative school for Opportunity Youth. Engaging these challenging populations requires expertise in empathy and innovation and also demands adaptive and supportive leadership. 

Angela’s vantage point as the child of a Croatian immigrant and black woman placed her at the fulcrum of two polarizing struggles in America – Civil Rights and Immigration. Both of her parents prioritized education and compassion for others and it led her to a career in education, working with communities who are under-resourced and over-looked. For the past sixteen years, she has been a school leader in Washington, DC, working with black and immigrant communities, improving access to education and citizenship.

During her tenure as a principal, Angela retained approximately 93% of my staff each year. Old teachers and new teachers alike remained committed to the school due to her focus on their professional development and growth. This investment in human capital has become a cornerstone of her leadership. Angela is committed to reimagining schools, increasing equity from the inside out. Through this design focus, Angela believes that schools should work from and through the margins to influence the center of education and permanently alter academic norms. Twelve years in leadership and incubation were not easy, but the support of various fellowships, organizations, and partnerships made success much more attainable. Her career was built on relationships, honesty, and feedback. As she moves from executive leadership and into educational design and leadership coaching, this trend continues, cultivating partnerships of introspection and personal growth that lead to innovative schools, a dynamic staff, and engaged students. 

Everyone who knows Angela finds out quick she’s a proud Istrianka who loves to share aspects of Croatian and Istrian culture, heritage and history with all her American friends.The village Stepancic started the line of her my family which continues to thrive in Nedescina, in the township of Sveta Nedelja, near Labin and Pula.

Leon Suvak
Washington DC
Senior Enterprise Architect, US Army
Family is from Osijek, Croatia

Leon Suvak

Leon Suvak grew up in the neighborhood of Retfala in the city of Osijek. Like most children, he never put too much thought into the future, Leon was fortunate enough that his parents did think about the future. In early 2005 they submitted an entry for the green card lottery. By May of the same year they moved to Washington DC. At the time he didn’t have a full understanding of the scope of sacrifice his parents made for him and his brother. They left behind their friends, family, and careers to give them the opportunities they would not have enjoyed back in Osijek. From living in their great-aunt’s basement in the suburbs of Washington DC, they have excelled in high school, graduated from top tier schools, and established ourselves as successful young Croatian-American professionals. Leon attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison and rowed for a Division 1 NCAA team.  Leon studied abroad in Nankai University in China, and was commissioned as an Army officer.  He has since been working  in the Pentagon as a Department of Defense cyber-security consultant.

Anthony Zoric
Los Angeles, California 
Manages Family Catering Company
Father is from Privlaka, Zadar and mother is from Sveta Jana, Jastrebarsko, Croatia

Anthony Zoric

Anthony Zorić was born in Westwood, New Jersey on May 19, 1981. His parents Marijan and Ankica both emigrated from Croatia and met in Los Angeles. In 1982 the Zorić family moved to Los Angeles permanently where they had three girls Marijana, Antoinette and Stefanie. Anthony and his family regularly attend mass at St Anthony’s Croatian church where he also took part in kolo and Croatian school. His father played soccer for Los Angeles Croatia so there was a connection early on with soccer and Croatia. Visiting Croatia nearly every summer consisted of learning the culture and training with Hajduk Split and NK Zadar. After graduating from Saint Francis High School he took a year off to play for youth professional team NK Mosor. After returning Anthony was offered an athletic scholarship from San Diego State. Anthony played soccer and earned a degree in Business Management. 

After university Anthony started to work for his parents family business, Ann & Mario Catering. The company caters for films, tv shows, commercials and private events.  Some of the shows include –  films like Hunger Games, Date Night, X-Men, The Proposal and many more, Anthony has been able to connect his small Croatian roots to big time Hollywood stars. Currently Anthony manages the company which has been successful for over 18 years in the film industry. In its history the company has catered for Croatian events such as Franjo Tudman  welcome dinner, Croatian Consulate Events, Marin Cilic Foundation dinner and many weddings. 

His passion for sports continues as he writes for croatiansports.com and also collects Croatian sports memorabilia. Anthony mainly collects rare gameworn Croatia shirts used by players in matches. He also acts as the President of Društvo Prijatelja Hajduka Los Angeles fan club. He recently attended Croatia’s World Cup semifinal and final in Moscow, Russia. Anthony plans to spend more time in Croatia with his family and is looking into possible investment opportunities. He’s currently exploring plans for a craft brewery in Croatia with a soccer theme.

The mission of the National Federation of Croatian Americans Cultural Foundation is dedicated to promoting the interest of the Croatian people, embodying heritage of culture and language, integrity in human rights, equality in self-determination, advancing economic development and freedom from persecution.

Their mission is to increase the relations between the United States and Croatia through advocacy, public policy, political agreements, trade and associated relations.  They aim to foster unity among Croats so as to move forward on common issues.

They are a national umbrella organization established in 1993 for Croatian Americans, related professional associations, and the many fraternal lodges that collectively represent approximately 130,000 members.

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