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Five from Southwest Georgia make '40 Under 40' list

Photo by Carly Farrell

Photo by Carly Farrell

ALBANY, Ga. -- Five Southwest Georgians -- including three from Albany -- were selected to Georgia Trend Magazine's "40 Under 40" Class of 2010, which was announced in the magazine's October edition.

Albany residents Caitlyn Cooper, 25; Lisandra De Jesus, 38, and Nikki Rhodes, 31, along with Jay Price, 39, of Valdosta, and James Nixon, 28, of Tifton, were honored in the magazine's 14th annual showcase of young achievers in business, government, politics education and nonprofits.

From more than 300 nominations submitted by its readers, Georgia Trend's editorial staff selected 40 individuals under the age of 40 "who are making an impact on their professions, their communities or, in some cases, the entire state," magazine officials said on their website.

"It was a tough task, as it is every year, to limit our choices to 40; but we believe we have come up with the cream of the crop,

the individuals you will be hearing about for years to come."

Cooper, chief development officer and forensic investigator for

the Lily Pad Inc., and Rhodes, a special agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, where shocked by their selections.

"It was a big surprise. I was definitely excited," Cooper, at 25, the youngest of the 40, said. "I knew I was nominated, but at my age, I wasn't expecting to get the call."

Rhodes was also taken by surprise.

"Oh, yeah, I was surprised when I heard about it," Rhodes said. "I'd never heard of the '40 Under 40,' but after I read about it, I felt honored. I think the biggest lesson is people really do notice when you take pride in your work."

Cooper told the magazine children were her motivation. In addition to her duties as chief development officer at the nonprofit rape crisis and child advocacy center, she provides direct services to clients as "a trained forensic interviewer of victims of sexual abuse and assault or witnesses to heinous crimes."

"Being able to see the harm done to children right in front of my eyes and hearing their account of it gives me the passion to raise much-needed funds and awareness for the center," Cooper said in the magazine. "The children are my motivation."

In addition to her work at Lily Pad, Cooper helped found Emerge Albany, a group of 350 young professionals who aim to remain in Albany and contribute in the areas of politics, philanthropy and economic development.

Rhodes, 31, the magazine states, investigates everything from "homicides, abuse cases and undercover drug operations to dealing with informants and providing expert testimony on the witness stand."

"I've never lost a case in court," she told Georgia Trend, adding she has specialized training in marijuana investigation and as a methamphetamine lab agent, and is qualified to teach the subjects.

De Jesus, 38, dean of admissions at Albany Technical College, comes from the south Bronx, New York.

"I was never informed or prepared for post-secondary education, college or university, or the availability of financial aid," she told the magazine. "I want others to have the opportunities for education that were so difficult for me."

Georgia Trend editors said her "passion for learning" led on a path to a Ph.D. in higher education administration. In addition to her work on economic development and volunteering her bilingual skills, she was a a member of the Complete Count Committee, a Dougherty County 2010 census effort.

Prince, 39, is vice president of Prince Automotive Group in Valdosta. The third-generation car dealer worked for two firms in the Atlanta area as a CPA before returning to the family business. He manages two of the group's four dealerships.

"We do over $100 million in sales," Prince told Georgia Trend. "The sales tax our sales generate definitely affects local governments." Equally important, he said, Prince hasn't laid off a single employee because of the recession. "Our employees are second to none," Prince told the magazine. "You'll succeed when you surround yourself with good people who take care of the customers."

Nixon, 28, is vice president professional services at Tift Regional Medical Center in Tifton. Nixon serves on several boards in Tifton, including the Chamber of Commerce, Tifton Arts Council and Tift County Foundation for Educational Excellence. He helped start Tift Area Young Professionals.

"We found there really wasn't a catalyst for younger people to establish themselves and get together in the traditional organizations," he told the magazine, adding the group offers personal growth, networking and community service opportunities.

Nixon said his biggest passion is his involvement in Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tifton, where he is president of the corporate board and a member of the local leadership council. "Basically, we're trying to establish a role model structure for younger kids," he told Georgia Trend. "I believe life is all about exposure. We try to show kids a way out."