Pontiac, Michigan -- Susan Kruger, the president and CEO of a company that teaches students how to succeed in school, was selected by a public online vote as the winner of the Oakland County Executive’s Class of 2014 Elite 40 under 40 winner.
The announcement was made Wednesday night by County Executive L. Brooks Patterson during his State of the County address at the Centerpoint Marriott in Pontiac. As the winner, Kruger was given the honor of introducing Patterson to the crowd of about 500 people.
“I only met him for the first time two weeks ago but I have admired his leadership for years,” Kruger said.
Kruger, 38, is president and CEO of SOAR Learning Inc. For the past 13 years, she has taught hundreds of students how to succeed in school. She began tutoring individual students in study skills. As demand for her expertise grew, she created SOAR® Study Skills Workshops to reach more students. Her book, “SOAR Study Skills: A Simple and Efficient System for Getting Better Grades in Less Time,” is the worldwide best-selling study skills book for more than five years and her curriculum is in more than 2,000 schools nationwide and more than 14 countries.
SOAR Learning now employs five full-time staff, several part-time interns, among others. Kruger has also created an internship program to recruit Oakland University and Oakland Community College students where her program provides training in soft skills and direction in these skills to select future careers.
“She is a dynamic and vibrant young woman who is helping prepare our young people to be successful as they move through life,” Patterson said. “Not bad for a person who by her own admission struggled in school until she used her own techniques to get straight A’s.”
Kruger was among three finalists in the online voting. More than 4,000 votes were cast online in five days for the three finalists. The other finalists were:
- Leila M. Matta, 36, Brand Identity, Design & Art Program manager for Mercedes-Benz Financial Services. Known as the in-house art curator at MBFS, Matta creates annual art exhibitions, including exhibitions from Cranbrook Art Academy graduate students, Detroit Public School children and MBFS employees. She creates printed art catalogues, online galleries and interactive/educational programming using art as a tool for learning and development. As a board member on the Founders Junior Council (FJC) of the Detroit Institute of Arts, Matta helps promote and position the DIA throughout the Detroit area. Using her expertise in brand identity and communication design, her contributions include the design of marketing communications for FJC fundraising events and supporting the redesign of the group’s visual identity system.
- Zack Sklar, 28, Chef/Owner of Cutting Edge Cuisine; Social Kitchen & Bar and Mex. It was a visit back to Michigan that focused Sklar’s interest. He realized his hometown market didn’t have the culinary options he could provide so he built Cutting Edge Cuisine. It is now Michigan’s fastest growing catering company.
He opened two restaurants in Oakland County in the past two years. Social Kitchen & Bar, located in Birmingham, opened in 2012, was an immediate success. A year later, Sklar opened Mex in Bloomfield Township to rave reviews. He plans to open more restaurants in Michigan, and is looking to expand to a nation-wide. Sklar frequently donates his culinary services to nonprofit events, focusing on organizations that support youth cancer patients and animal shelters. He is currently developing a food program for an area church as a way to give back.
More than 500 applications and nominations were reviewed by a panel of judges, looking for the top 40 young professionals and thought leaders who live or work in Oakland County. The 40 honorees have achieved excellence in their field and contributed to the quality of life in their communities.
The remaining members of the 2014 Elite 40 under 40 class are:
- Roland N. Alix, P.E., Partner and VP, Hubbell, Roth and Clark, Inc., 33
- Chris Barnett, Township Supervisor, Charter Township of Orion, 36
- Eric Barritt, VP, Development, Alumni, and Community Engagement, Oakland University, 39
- Tom Berman, Chief Business Development Officer and General Counsel, Reverie, 34
- Dr. Lloyd C. Crews, Dean of Campus Affairs, Oakland Community College, 39
- Christina Del Pizzo, Second Grade Teacher, Detroit Country Day School, 31
- Matthew Farrell, Executive Principal / Partner / Founder, CORE Partners, 37
- Lisa Forzley, Humane Education Manager, Detroit Zoological Society, 35
- Brian Foster, Entrepreneur, Stars & Stripes Kids Activity Center, 38
- Tom Gorman, Club Director, Boys & Girls Club of Troy, 32
- Ryan B. Hertz, MSW, President & CEO, South Oakland Shelter (SOS), 33
- Ingrid Jacques, Deputy Editorial Page Editor, The Detroit News, 34
- Lorron James, VP – Business Affairs, James Group International, 30
- Jeff Jorge, Executive Partner, GDP | Global Development Partners, 39
- Thomas A. Kabel, Shareholder, Butzel Long, P.C., 39
- Bryan K. Kieler, VP Community Development Lending Portfolio Manager Senior, Huntington Bank, 36
- Adam Kochenderfer, Attorney, Wolfson Bolton PLLC, 33
- Josh Kozlowski, English Teacher, International Technology Academy, 28
- Kelley LaFontaine, Dealer Principal/Owner, LaFontaine Automotive Group, 38
- Tom Lanni Jr., VP, Beaumont Health System, 36
- Jennifer Llewellyn, Director, Oakland County Michigan Works Troy, 36
- Michael Ari Mandelbaum, Sr. Analyst, Group Business & Corp. Marketing Health Care Reform Team, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, 31
- Dominic Mirabella, Field Director, Northwestern Mutual, 35
- Matt Mosteiko, Meteorologist Intern, National Weather Service, 32
- Molly Murphy Landis, Art Therapist, Artist, Molly Murphy Landis, ATR, 39
- Stephen Naughton, Campaign Architect, Marketing Impact Inc., 24
- Leah Ohmer, Executive Director, Huron Valley Council for the Arts, 37
- Andrew B. Raupp, Exec. Director, STEM.org & Virtual Education Solutions, 33
- Molly Reeser, Executive Director, Camp Casey, 31
- Dennis Richardson, Owner/Sales Manager, DDR Wealth Advisors/MassMutual SE Michigan, 31
- Layne Sakwa, Associate Attorney, Fried Saperstein Abbatt PC, 35
- Jake Sigal, Founder & CEO, Livio, 32
- Mark Tapper, President, Tapper's Diamonds & Fine Jewelry, 33
- Nancy Tomovska, Co-Founder/Managing Partner, Stance, LLC, 37
- Stephanie Tomovska, Co-Founder/Managing Partner, Stance, LLC, 33
- Jason Vazzano, CEO, President, & Co-Founder, Vectorform, 36
- Tate Truc Vo, Owner, Dentate Smile Design, 37
- Brian D. Wassom, Partner, Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP, 29