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Next Generation Class of 2015

Talented students from 24 NRF member schools were nominated to represent the next generation of retail leaders. The nominees below received a travel scholarship to attend Retail’s BIG Show, Student Program and the inaugural NRF Foundation Gala in New York City.

Retail executives from nearly 20 companies selected five finalists to receive scholarships. The top recipient received a $25,000 scholarship and four finalists  each received $10,000 scholarships. Meet the finalists and see more scenes from the NRF Foundation's inaugural Gala.

Related press releases:
NRF Foundation announces finalists of 2015 Next Generation Scholarship.

Top recipient

Sarah Kendzior
Sarah Kendzior

University of Minnesota

In her own words, “No great success is ever achieved without some form of failure along the way.” After struggling to find an internship her sophomore year, Sarah Kendzior landed two consecutive internships and eventually a full-time job offer from Kohl’s. She now knows that retail “is always changing. It is revolutionary. It is innovative. It is filled with opportunity.” But most importantly, it is precisely where she wants to be in the future.

Runner Up

Biancha Felix

LIM College

Independent and self-reliant at 16, Biancha Felix discovered her love for retail when she started working part-time at Charlotte Russe to pay her college tuition. “It fascinated me. It distracted me. It became a place that felt like home … It consumed me.” Her drive is evident as she is a full-time student and intern with a part-time job. In retail, she has “found not only her true career aspiration, but also her life’s calling.”

Biancha Felix


Courtney Hunter
Courtney Hunter

Philadelphia University

Courtney Hunter has learned that in order to be a strong leader you must first be an effective communicator. She believes that success is impossible without passion, persistent determination, confidence in your instincts and the courage to pursue innovation. Her undeniable drive and ability to grasp concepts quickly has led to recognition by retailers: She’ll be interning at QVC during the Spring 2015 semester, and Burlington Stores has offered her a second summer internship.

Garrett Ledbetter

Indiana University

For two years, Garrett Ledbetter has balanced a full course load while working full-time at Macy’s — no easy task. Through these experiences he has realized that teamwork is not only necessary, but also the best way to achieve goals. “Each individual brings a unique set of skills to the table and combining everyone’s strengths helps the group to succeed.” IU Senior Lecturer Janis Shaffer notes that Garrett is ‘the most curious and well-read student I’ve ever had in my 22 years of teaching. He is passionate about the industry and always wants to learn more.”

Garrett Ledbetter
Ashley Nudge
Ashley Nudge

University of North Texas

Through her work at the Banana Republic Factory Store for the past two years, Ashley Nudge has learned the best way to lead is by example. UNT Senior Lecturer Marissa Zorola writes, “Her enthusiasm to expand her experiences is refreshing and her desire to succeed makes her a role model for her fellow classmates.” Ashley aspires to be a creative director and believes having great communication skills to inspire and lead those around her is key to bringing any vision to life.


A headshot of Deema Aridi, a Next Generation 2015 semi-finalist
Deema Aridi
Texas Woman's University
A headshot of Evelin Castillo Chang, a Next Generation 2015 semi-finalist
Evelin Castillo Chang
Drexel University
A headshot of Haelee Catchpole, a Next Generation 2015 semi-finalist
Haelee Catchpole
University of North Carolina - Greensboro
A headshot of Kayla Cline, a Next Generation 2015 semi-finalist
Kayla Cline
University of Houston
A headshot of Christen Finkbeiner, a Next Generation 2015 semi-finalist
Christen Finkbeiner
University of Florida
A headshot of Kasia Gibbs, a Next Generation 2015 semi-finalist
Kasia Gibbs
Kent State University
A headshot of Jenna Gorman, a Next Generation 2015 semi-finalist
Jenna Gorman
Florida State University
A headshot of Samantha Hale, a Next Generation 2015 semi-finalist
Samantha Hale
Auburn University
A headshot of Michelle Herlihy, a Next Generation 2015 semi-finalist
Michelle Herlihy
Ohio University
A headshot of Morgan Jones, a Next Generation 2015 semi-finalist
Morgan Jones
Johnson & Wales University - Providence
A headshot of Samantha Lockhart, a Next Generation 2015 semi-finalist
Samantha Lockhart
Lasell College
A headshot of Dylan Mack, a Next Generation 2015 semi-finalist
Dylan Mack
University of Wisconsin - Madison
A headshot of Karla Maldonado, a Next Generation 2015 semi-finalist
Karla Maldonado
FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising
A headshot of Lucille Reynolds, a Next Generation 2015 semi-finalist
Lucille Reynolds
University of Georgia
A headshot of Kaila Richardson, a Next Generation 2015 semi-finalist
Kaila Richardson
Santa Clara University
A headshot of Katie Thornton, a Next Generation 2015 semi-finalist
Katie Thornton
Mississippi State University
A headshot of Cody Villanueva, a Next Generation 2015 semi-finalist
Cody Villanueva
The University of Arizona
A headshot of Anna Watson, a Next Generation 2015 semi-finalist
Anna Watson
Georgia Southern University
A headshot of Courtney Whitaker, a Next Generation 2015 semi-finalist
Courtney Whitaker
University of South Carolina