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Leader Sykes Named a University of Florida 40 Gators Under 40 Awardee

April 9, 2021
Democrat Newsroom

Ohio House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes is one of a select group of University of Florida alumni named to this year’s prestigious “40 Gators Under 40.” The annual awards program was established in 2006 to recognize alumni under the age of 40 whose achievements positively reflect The Gator Nation. Criteria for the competitive award include making a significant impact on the candidate’s industry and having civic or professional accomplishments at the state, national or international level.


“The word outstanding barely describes the alumni in this year’s ’40 Gators Under 40’ class. These young men and women are absolutely remarkable and have already made a significant impact in their professions and communities,” said Brian Danforth, executive director of the UF Alumni Association. “Collectively, they’re a wonderful reflection on The Gator Nation® and its potential to change the world.”


The Outstanding Young Alumni Award recognizes graduates from all UF’s 16 colleges. This year’s honorees range from doctors and pharmacists to entrepreneurs and artists. Past award winners include meteorologist Stephanie Abrams, politician Adam Putnam and sportscaster and television personality Laura Rutledge.

Emilia Strong Sykes was first elected to represent her hometown in 2014. She currently represents Ohio’s 34th House district and serves as Minority Leader in the Ohio House of Representatives.


Born and raised in Akron, Ohio, Leader Sykes attended Kent State University. She later attended the University of Florida, where she earned a law degree and a masters of public health.

“I’m incredibly honored to be recognized in the 2021 class of the University of Florida’s 40 under 40 alumni,” said Leader Sykes. “From House Bill 1 (dating violence protection orders) to my public health expertise, my experience at the University of Florida has shaped my legislative work and I’m grateful I’ve been able to apply my education to my public service.”

In office, Leader Sykes has pushed an aggressive job creation plan, fighting to keep local jobs for local workers and expand opportunities for middle and working-class families in Akron. Leader Sykes understands the importance of quality education and job training for people to get ahead.


Leader Sykes has worked with colleagues to improve public health, increase access to care, and combat Ohio’s high infant mortality rate. Her passion for social justice extends to issues such as voter rights, criminal justice reform, a more efficient social safety net for struggling Ohioans, and an end to domestic violence. Leader Sykes' work on domestic violence issues has earned bipartisan praise and resulted in her legislation to protect people in dating relationships, House Bill 1, becoming law.

Recently, she and her caucus unveiled the Ohio Promise, a legislative framework to strengthen Ohio and restore its promise of better lives and brighter futures for all, and an economy that works for everyone.

Leader Sykes previously served in the Democratic Leadership before being named Minority Leader in January 2019.


The 167-year-old University of Florida has nearly than 450,000 alumni residing in every U.S. state and in more than 150 countries. The university has a long history of established programs in international education, research and service, and is one of only 17 public, land-grant universities in the prestigious Association of American Universities. It is ranked No. 6 in the most recent U.S. News and World Report’s list of public universities. The UF Alumni Association is responsible for a network of nearly 100 Gator Clubs, is actively involved with the recruitment of superior students, and hosts outreach and on-campus programs to connect alumni with their alma mater. To learn more, visit ufalumni.ufl.edu.