M-W CARES Day to take place on Oct. 26


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  • “M-W CARES Day” will feature assemblies and workshops presented by more than100 individuals and organizations. It’s an ambitious undertaking designed to promote and reinforce compassion, acceptance, respect, empowerment and success - or CARES - throughout the Monroe-Woodbury community.




  • Providing the keynote address to freshmen and sophomores is former WWE Wrestling Champion Marc Mero, who will speak about bullying, peer pressure, substance abuse and suicide prevention. Mero reached the pinnacle of sports-entertainment success then lost it all. He will talk to students about the importance of their life choices.




  • Former Miss USA Tara Conner is the keynote speakers for juniors and seniors. She will speak about addiction, stigmas and recovery. Conner is an actress, model and advocate who also competed in the Miss Teen USA and Miss Universe pageants. She’s also struggled with drug and alcohol addiction.




Editor’s Note: After over a year of planning, the Monroe-Woodbury School District’s M-W CARES Day will take place next Friday, Oct. 26 with nearly 100 speakers from across the region and nation ready to reinforce the tenets of compassion, acceptance, respect, empowerment and success, or CARES, to high school students.

This event is believed to be the largest character education program hosted by any school district in the Hudson Valley region.

The day will feature assemblies and workshops focusing on personal stories of overcoming obstacles and achieving success will change the lives of all who attend, according to organizers.

Instead of regular classes, students will pre-select workshops to attend, similar in concept to attending a national conference, in addition to hearing from nationally known keynote speakers.

Committee work has focused on planning and organizing the day’s events in addition to fund raising and other logical needs.

In a series of articles which began last February, The Photo News has kept the community informed on the committee’s work. As part of the paper’s ongoing coverage of this important community event, we want readers to see the range of topics to be covered and the speakers’ credentials.

It is an impressive collection of people and organizations. Their topics focus on a wide range of subjects and should command the attention of all of us.

Consider the positive impact this day will have on open-minded students, in addition to the potential it has to help someone in need … or to even safe a life.

If there is a high school child in your life, engage them in a conversation about this day and remind them of its importance.

M-W CARES Day keynote and assembly speakers• Marc Mero, former WWE Wrestling Champion

Keynote Speaker, Grades 9 and 10:

Mero’s message evokes personal reflection, laughter, tears – and personal transformation as he presents the topics of bullying, peer pressure, substance abuse and suicide prevention. Students will be inspired to treat themselves and others with respect, dream big, achieve goals and cherish relationships.

• Tara Conner, former Miss USA

Keynote Speaker, Grades 11 & 12

Conner tells her personal story, which examines the walls she created as a young child, and the development of her strive for perfectionism. She shares her struggles from childhood and how she used perfectionism to protect herself. In Conner’s journey to recovery, she was able to see how this was one of her greatest shortcomings. Conner shares with others the details of her journey to break down those walls that she built as a child, and how to accept herself as being perfectly imperfect.

• Kaila Mullady – Finding Your Voice: Musings from a World Champion Beatboxer

Assembly for all students:

Kaila Mullady is a world champion beatboxer, actress, producer, educator and social entrepreneur. At the heart of each of her performances is the boundary-pushing expression of the human instrument. Mullady’s talk – part lecture and part performance – offers an intimate look at her journey through the often-challenging landscape of the male-dominated beatbox culture, how she made it to the top despite the odds being stacked against her and the vital importance of owning her unique strengths and differences to stand out, thrive and achieve her goals.

Students will also select from the following offerings:

A Vision in Motion – is committed to improving people’s lives by providing presentations that are diverse, educational, motivational and entertaining.

• Cornelius Barker – “The Choice: Lessons From the Street” – A former gang member who became a school administrator for more than 25 years, Barker delivers motivational lectures that help students re-evaluate themselves and their interaction with peers.

• Scott Chesney – “Dream, Believe and Work to Achieve” – His blueprint for helping students journey from where they currently are in their lives to where they want to be creates a strong foundation of self-esteem and reinforces his overall message that “anything is possible when one dreams, believes, and works to achieve.” Students will learn how dreams can even come true for people with disabilities.

• James Fiorentino – “Achieving Your Dreams” – At the age of 15, Fiorentino became the youngest artist to be featured in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum for his likeness of Reggie Jackson. In 1998, he became the youngest artist to be inducted into the New York Society of Illustrators, along with such artists as Norman Rockwell and Andrew Wyeth. His photo-realism in watercolor has helped him become a nationally known wildlife and portrait artist, painting people from everyday life to presidents and Nobel Peace Prize winners.

• Eugenie Mukeshimana – “Story of Survival” – Mukeshimana’s story of surviving the Rwandan genocide provides an insight into a well-organized genocide crime that only few survivors have the courage to recount. She recounts her life from childhood to motherhood, from captivity to liberation, from loss and despair to resiliency and hope, from near-death to life worth living, from injustice to justice for all.

• Dan Occhiogrosso – “Create the Crossover” – He always uses the message, “Live for Something Bigger than Yourself” to help inspire people to overcome specific issues in their lives. “Create the Crossover” emphasizes the fact that people are not able to fully see the potential of their lives, but when they take the step to live for something bigger than themselves, they can come to realize a greater potential than we ever thought possible. Occhiogrosso’s humanitarian work through basketball also demonstrates that achieving one’s dreams may look different from what thought about initially.

• Janet Pfeiffer – “Domestic Abuse” – Pfeiffer is an internationally known speaker and award-winning author who are recognized as a leading authority in the field of anger management and conflict resolution. Her warmth, sincerity, knowledge, and humor flavored with personal stories of trauma to triumph evoke a profound awareness in her audiences.

• Dr. Paul Wichansky – “Taking the ‘Dis” Out of Disability” – “Dr. Paul” is a speaker and author who has triumphed over cerebral palsy and a hearing loss. He emphasizes the critical issues of tolerance and respect and relates to the development of a “yes! I can” attitude. By sharing his life experiences, Wichansky uses himself as an example to help inspire students to learn from their mistakes and failures, and in the process, helps them realize that success is readily available with hard work and determination.

• Anti-Defamation League/A World of Difference Institute – Jess Cooper – As a leading provider of anti-bias education, the institute recognizes that attitudes and beliefs affect actions, and that everyone can have an impact on others, and ultimately, on the world. As assistant education director for ADL Albany, Cooper has implemented “No Place for Hate” throughout upstate New York by providing anti-bias and anti-bullying resources and support to students, parents, teachers and administrators in grades k-12.

• Christa Avampato – College was not assumed in Christa’s situation. “The tuition was more money than my mother made in a year,” she added. “We were on the free lunch program all through my schooling, and very fortunate to have programs like that because sometimes it was my only full meal in a day. But having those supports and having my teachers and Mr. Wherry made me realize that I could move beyond how I was raised. That it didn’t have to define me; it could influence me and it could drive me, and make me want to work harder and achieve more, but just because I didn’t have enough, didn’t mean that I wasn’t enough.”

• Judy and Rocco Battista – Tista 4 Life – Judy and Rocco Battista, residents of Warwick, lost their 20 year old son, Daniel, to suicide in 2008. As a retired FDNY member who served at Ground Zero, Battista was familiar with loss and grief. The loss of their son made them determined to work to fight suicide and the stigma that surrounds it. They established “Tista 4 Life” in memory of Danny which organizes blood drives, music scholarships, art exhibits, support groups, community outreach, and participation in the Out of the Darkness Walks to help fight suicide.

• Believe Elite Athletic Training/Monroe Cares – John Rahn: Rahn, owner/ head coach of Believe Elite Athletic Training, will talk about the importance of setting goals every day and how they can be achieved.

• Wendy Bollenbach – Bollenbach shares her personal stories of dealing with untreated addiction and mental illness…”the before and the after.”

Breaking the Cycle – Convinced that proactive prevention is the best way to stem the rising tide of school violence and in the wake of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, the assembly program called “Breaking the Cycle” was initiated. This award-winning program stresses honest communication and forgiveness as a way of resolving conflicts and easing the tensions that linger afterward. Focusing on real-life experiences, rather than theories, “Breaking the Cycle” assemblies feature several internationally known advocates for peace and reconciliation.

• Ann Marie D’Aliso – D’Aliso and her husband, Patrick D’Aliso,(high school football coach and health teacher, lost their son, Pat, to suicide on May 19, 2004 at 16 years of age. Nobody feels the death of a child more than a mother, but together with her husband, she worked through the terrible trauma that ensued. By sharing her story Ann Marie D’Aliso hopes “others might be saved.”

• Hashim Garrett – At 15 years of age, Garrett was shot six times. This gang-related shooting left him partially paralyzed from the waist down, filled with anger and a desire for revenge. He realized that forgiving the perpetrator was the only power that would free him to move forward positively. Forgiveness is the cornerstone on which his company, “Wisdom & Understanding, LLC” was founded and he remains committed to sharing its power with the world.

• Randi Kelder – Randi’s brother Ryan died after a heroin overdose in 2015 at the age of 24, following a long struggle with addictions. Kelder and her parents now work to raise awareness about the growing epidemic of deaths caused by opioids. Kelder forgave her brother, but wants to prevent anyone else suffering the pain she and her family endured.

• Michael O’Shea – At age 11, O’Shea discovered a solution to his self-doubt in alcohol, the only thing that would make him “feel right inside.” Before long, he was entangled with addictive drugs as well. The turning point came only when O’Shea encountered a man who believed in him despite his problems, someone he could be honest with and trust completely. Now, O’Shea views his recovery as a precious gift. His passion is to work with troubled adolescents and encourage them on their own paths to find purpose and peace.

• Tyler Clementi Foundation – Clementi ended his life at the age of 18, a victim of horrendous levels of bullying in college. Through this foundation and her presentations, Clementi’s mother is working to end online and offline bullying and encourages people to take a stand against bullying through education, advocacy, research and collaboration.



• Tim Collins – a nationally touring solo theater artist, Collins presents his highly acclaimed one-man play, “To Be Honest.” This multi-character performance addresses a range of issues including: cyber bullying, teen depression, bystander intervention and the impact of texting and social media on friendships and intimate relationships.

Cultivate Kindness – Richard Specht – Richard and Samantha Specht lost their 22-month-old son, Rees, in a drowning accident in 2013. Though they could have become immersed in emotional grief, the Long Island couple turned their personal tragedy into something positive by founding the ReesSpecht Life Foundation and Cultivate Kind school programs, which aim to encourage individuals to perform acts of kindness and pass it forward. The movement continues to grow throughout the country. Specht shares his family’s story about how kindness changed their world in the wake of tragedy. His presentation will inspire students/staff to go out and actively change the world themselves.

“Drug Crisis in our Backyard” – Steven and Susan Salomone – The Salamones created “Drug Crisis in our Backyard” when they experienced the death of their son Justin to heroin overdose on May 29, 2012. The goal of the group is to create awareness and reduce the stigma associated with substance use disorders.

“Dylan’s Wings of Change Foundation” – Wingman – Ian Hockley, cofounder – Parents of a first grader killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, Hockley and his wife Nicole created the foundation to support children no matter what their challenges in life. With a group of experts, they created “Wingman,” a program for sports, schools and dance that is youth led “and empowers children to build a supportive community where everyone can be themselves.”

Encore Performing Arts – Rick Adam – A Journey Through Addiction – Adam has been performing, teaching, and inspiring people of all ages for over 20 years. He has combined his extensive theatrical and musical experience to create original theatrical performances that both educate and entertain. Using original music, drama, mime, special effects, and vaudeville, this autobiographical theatre production (complete with scenery, costumes and props) explores alcoholism, drug dependency, eating disorders, teen suicide and self-destructive attitudes.

End Distracted Driving – Joel Feldman, Esq. – Casey Feldman was 21 years old when she was killed by a distracted driver in 2009. Her parents created The Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation and EndDD.org to honor Casey’s life and help stop the crashes and deaths caused by distracted driving.

Eye to Eye – Magic happens when Eye to Eye gets face to face. Eye to Eye diplomats — successful students or adults with learning differences, like Dyslexia and ADHD — inspire audiences with presentations, workshops, and keynote speeches across the country. Eye to Eye diplomats share inspiring stories and practical strategies for success and are professionally trained to speak to groups large and small. Messages from Alyssa Tierney and Christie Spisak encourage different learners to find strength within them to reach their full potential.

Sarah Panzau Evans – In 2003, 21-year old Panzau’s life changed forever. She had partied the night away and made an irrevocable decision to get into her car and drive home. After a harrowing car crash that left her clinging to life, with her left arm severed, toxicology tests revealed that she had a blood-alcohol level nearly four times the legal limit. Panzau now lives in constant pain and has endured more than 30 surgeries in the past five years. She has been given the gift of a second chance at life, and she is using it to educate young people about the hazards of underage drinking, and the risks of making bad decisions. Her story is truly about learning from one’s mistakes and the resilience of the human spirit. Sponsored by Dana Distributors through the Anheuser-Busch Community Speaker’s Program.

• Paul D. Failla – actor, former police officer, educational consultant – in a one-man show that is an emotional roller coaster, Failla teaches life lessons every student should be taught: be accountable for one’s actions; live life through one’s values; go after one’s goals.

Fly Right Ministry

• Jim Harris – uses radio controlled airplanes and helicopters to entertain the students and then brings the excitement and fun to them by giving “flight lessons.” After the demonstrations end, the program begins. Harris uses impactful illustrations from flying to teach students the importance of making wise decisions. His own personal story of drug addiction and how it landed him in prison definitely catches their attention.

• Jack Baker – Baker is a graduate of Auburn University in Alabama where he earned All-SEC Academic and Honorable Mention All-American Honors. After college, he was drafted by the Boston Red Sox and played professional baseball for eight seasons. Baker challenges students with his personal story of faith, commitment and perseverance. His story is encouraging to those who might want to give up.

• Jerrilyn Johnson – Johnson has a very complex career in finance. She did not get here in the normal manner. She was sexually abused as a very young child and was then violently and repeatedly raped in her home at age 12.. She became a drug addict and her life was so horrible that she had a “suicide shot” drawn up and was ready to kill herself. At that point she “cried out to God to save her if He was real. He did and changed the course of her life. He chose an interesting way to get her out of trouble.” She shares these details and more in her presentations

• Paul Wrenn – Wrenn began his unusual career in the early 1970s, using weight lifting and amazing feats of strength. He is a 24 time National Power Lifting Champion, 12 time World Open and Masters Power Lifting Champion and holds several other prestigious Power Lifting titles. He has spoken in hundreds of prisons, jails and schools all over the world. Wrenn encourages students to excel in academics, say no to drugs, and choose their friends carefully.

Given A Second Chance – Robert Aliano, Jerry Figgiani – Given A Second Chance is a personal story about overcoming all odds. This presentation helps people make positive choices in their lives. With the help of his karate instructor Jerry Figgiani, Robert Aliano survived a life-threatening hit and run. Aliano’s road to recovery has now become an inspirational message for many.

Dianne Grossman, Mallory’s Army - On June 14, 2017 - Mallory Rose Grossman 12, of Rockaway N.J. died by suicide after months of bullying at school. Her character at the young age of 12 made her more inspirational than the average adult. Her smile and giggle could light up a room. With this as her mother’s memory, Grossman vowed to do her part to empower children, educate parents and enrich schools, hopefully do her part to “blue out bullying.” Reminding young people to leave behind a legacy worth carrying on is her mission. Be the kind of person you want to meet. With a blue band on her arm, she lives “a bracelet kind” of life.

David Harrell – Harrell is an actor, speaker and disability advocate who has entertained audiences from off-Broadway houses to the Department of the Interior. He uses his hysterical comedic sensibilities, powerful stories and a crazy cast of characters from his life’s journey growing up with a disability to challenge audiences to not let circumstances peel away the core of their humanity.

Hey U.G.L.Y. – Unique Gifted Lovable You (HU) – Devyn Rush – Rush is a singer, entertainer and songwriter who was a featured contestant on 2011 American Idol. She is a bullying prevention spokesperson for the international bullying and suicide prevention nonprofit organization HU, which features Rush in its “I am Enough” self-esteem and empathy-building bullying and suicide prevention school assemblies. Rush is an example of overcoming bullying and not feeling good enough.

Holocaust and Human Rights Education Center (HHREC) – the mission of the HHREC is to enhance the teaching and learning of the lessons of the Holocaust and the right of all people to be treated with dignity and respect. It encourages students to speak up and act against all forms of bigotry and prejudice

• Betty Knoop – Knoop was born in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. She was 8- years- old when the Germans invaded her country. Her whole family was arrested and sent to Camp Westerbork and on to Bergen Belsen concentration camp. She was liberated by the Russians and returned to Amsterdam. Her mother survived the camp, but died three days after she was liberated. Koop was a contemporary of Anne Frank, lived in the same neighborhood and was deported to the same concentration camp. Her presentation covers life in Amsterdam, Westerbork, Bergen Belsen, concentration camp, life after liberation.

Hudson Valley House of Hope – is an emergency shelter for individuals and children who are victims of domestic violence. The shelter provides 24-hour emergency shelter services, crisis intervention, life skills programs and counseling services. Additional services include advocacy, public education, children services, crisis hotline, non-residential support and job skill training. Its mission is to eliminate sexual assault and domestic violence through sensitive prevention, intervention and treatment.

Gabe Hurley – Hurley was given another chance at life. He is an accomplished guitarist and a motivational speaker who strives to encourage others through his music and presentations. That’s despite Hurley’s sudden blindness, months in a brain trauma unit and having undergone 12 surgeries to have his face reconstructed from a horrific car crash, a crash that wasn’t Hurley’s fault.

Jewish Federation of Greater Orange County – Michael Melasky will discuss anti-Semitism to raise awareness of anti-Semitic incidences in Orange County. This presentation is designed to promote discussion and understanding and to help transform school cultures.

Donna Kaz - Kaz is a leading feminist voice in the nation on how to combine activism and art. For the past 20 years she has led the touring activist troupe, “Guerrilla Girls on Tour,” around the world with performances and visual works addressing issues affecting women and artists of color. Early in her life she survived domestic violence at the hands of the Hollywood star, William Hurt. As an artist and early member of the #MeToo movement, she will talk about her transition from silent observer to an unapologetic activist.

Gary Levinson – Levinson will present educational information on HIV/AIDS and give students the opportunity to hear about his experience living with HIV/AIDS. Listening to his testimony will provide participants with a personal perspective about what it was like being diagnosed with an incurable disease during a time when there was not much known about it.

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service – Nyamal “Mal” Tutdeal - The Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) Speakers Bureau consists of individuals with great familiarity and strong connection with LIRS mission that can inspire audiences to walk with migrants and refugees as they seek a new beginning in the United States. A presentation and discussion will be led by Tutdeal, a peace advocate and educator from South Sudan. Her talk illuminates her personal experience as a refugee, touches upon the current worldwide migration crisis, and highlights the importance of rallying as world citizens to understand the refugee experience.

Destiny Mabry, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence - Mabry is a survivor, motivational speaker, actress and advocate to end domestic violence from Bronx, New York. After dealing with her own struggles with abusive relationships and sexual assault, she began sharing her story. She feels it’s important for the youth to know they have the power to be a catalyst for change within their communities, and themselves. She currently works as a community educator for the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence, facilitating workshops to youth throughout the city.

Kerry Magro – Magro became an advocate for the disability community after coming out about having autism for the first time while attending Seton Hall University as a freshman in 2007. Since then he has spoken to break down barriers of hate and intolerance toward those with special needs.

Brittany Maier – Even though she was diagnosed blind, autistic, and mentally disabled, Maier’s musical talent surfaced when she began playing Schubert’s “Ave Maria” on a toy piano at age six. Able to duplicate any song after having just heard it a few times, she is able to memorize music with no limit to style, instrument, or language.

Christopher Memoli – At the age of 17, Memoli was involved in a terrible car accident that altered his life forever. He had to go through many years of rehabilitation to learn to walk again. Since then, he has created a 45-minute, narrated presentation that sends a strong message to “never surrender,” no matter what obstacles people face..

Minding Your Mind – Carl Antisell – At a young age, Antisell began using alcohol as a way to mask the shame and pain he felt as a result of his ongoing battle with anxiety and depression. In his recovery process, he has learned healthy, effective ways to handle his emotions, as well as life’s ups and downs. Antisell believes that the feelings he struggles with are faced by young people everywhere and that the lessons he continues to learn in recovery are valuable not only for those suffering from substance abuse, but to anyone facing life’s challenges.

Alan Moskin – WWII concentration camp liberator – Moskin, age 92, was drafted into the military service at the age of 18 and served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He was a member of the 66th Infantry, 71st Division, part of General George Patton’s 3rd Army. In his l talk, Moskin recounts with vivid detail, the horror of liberating a concentration camp in 1945.

Allison Murphy – This 2016 Monroe-Woodbury graduate will share how overcoming physical limitations has helped her strengthen her resolve to earn her high school diploma and pursue a college education. Murphy has cerebral palsy, is in a wheelchair and is legally blind, but with support from her family and friends, has found the path to success.

Stop DWI of Orange County – Ed Devitt II – Devitt suffered severe brain trauma as the result of a car accident at age 18, overcame years of depression and addiction, and now, at age 36, leads a normal, productive life with virtually no residual cognitive impairment. His ordeal, despite its long-lasting repercussions, gave him a new direction in life as a public speaker and the founder of Talking Brains Initiative (TBI), a nonprofit organization devoted to removing the stigma from brain injuries and offering support to those afflicted with them.

Brian Strommer – his son was killed by a drunk driver – Strommer enjoyed a successful career in the U.S. Navy, traveling the world, receiving dozens of citations and commendations, as well as dozens of medals while serving over 13 years at sea on a variety of combatant ships. He and his wife settled in Washingtonville and have four children, Brandy Leigh, Brian Thomas II, Owen Michael and Keira Ann.

Karen Torres – On March 17, 2006, Karen Torres received a phone call that has changed her life. Her father, Patrick Mapleson, was struck and killed by a distracted driver while working along the highway. Her story will change students’ perspective of driving forever.

Allyson Pereira – Anti-bullying and sexting awareness advocate. When Pereira was 16 and a sophomore in a high school in northern New Jersey, a naked picture of her went viral. Her ex-boyfriend had forwarded it to everyone in his contact list and by the next week it had circulated throughout three local high schools, four middle schools and five elementary schools. For three years, Pereira kept quiet and denied it. After seeing how sexting was changing other teenagers’ lives, she chose to help in any way possible.

“PEACE OUTside” Campus, The Lindsey M. Bonistall Foundation – Advocates for student safety. PEACE OUTside Campus is dedicated to the memory of Lindsey M. Bonistall, who was raped and murdered in her off- campus apartment. The mission is to promote peaceful and safe living environments in college communities. The Foundation celebrates Bonistall’s life by empowering students and families to be proactive in safeguarding themselves against crime through safety awareness and prevention practices.

Prison Fellowship – Robbie Robinson & Sammy Perez - co-presenters --- Prison Fellowship, the nation’s largest Christian nonprofit serving those impacted by crime and incarceration, will discuss advocating for criminal justice reform, family restoration and community mobilization in support of those returning home.

The Purple Thread – Danielle DeZao – DeZao shares her experiences in an abusive relationship and how it led to the formation of The Purple Thread, whose simple purpose is to spread positivity through people and projects that empower and inspire.

William Raff – Sept. 11 survivor – “I was on the 82nd floor of WTC 2 on September 11, 2001 at 8:46 a.m. when the flight struck the north tower, and 44th floor sky lobby when flight 175 struck the South Tower, then evacuated to safety.”

Sandy Rubenstein – Rubenstein is a teacher at the Horace Mann School in New York. She is also the child of Holocaust survivors. In 1996, her father, Joseph Horn, published his memoir, “Mark It With a Stone,” the fulfillment of a life-long dream. In 2008, the book was reprinted in paperback, with an introduction written by Rubenstein from the point of view of a child of survivors.

Ireka Sanders – Public Affairs Specialist, U.S. Army – Abusive relationships can rob you of your self-identity. Sanders is a public relations specialist and a mother of four. Insurmountable circumstances troubled her youth, including mental and physical abuse, held at gunpoint by a family member who she was supposed to trust. How do you turn obstacles that are meant to take you away from your destiny into opportunities to fuel your empowerment and success? Keep your thoughts positive, because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive, because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive, because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive, because your values become your destiny.

Safe & Sound Schools – Lisa Hamp – Hamp shares her personal story during the April 16, 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, as well as her recovery afterwards. She describes her struggle to return to a “normal’ life during the weeks, months and years that followed. She explains what made her eventually seek counseling after eight years and a variety of hard, but powerful lessons she has learned since that tragic day.

Gregory M. Singer – Poeartistry-Bullying Prevention Through Self Definition – The Art of Defining You – Singer delivers the message that ‘Hope in Action’ is the Ultimate Bullying Prevention. Through “Poeartistry,” a performance poetry approach that combines poetry, drama, music, dance, graphic arts and technology, he seeks to convey how students/educators can change the world through their personal relationship with education.

Gary Smiley – Firefighter, Sept. 11 survivor – Trapped in the collapse of the North Tower, Smiley was critically injured. His story of survival and continuing his career in the NYFD reminds students that there is life after tragedy, even one as profound as that day. In spite of continuing to battle Sept. 11- related illness, he has spent his retirement serving as a docent at the Sept. 11 Memorial.

Speakers for Change – is an agency designed to inspire change. Addiction is now one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. The nation is losing an entire generation of youth to overdose and the opioid epidemic is one of the most relevant health and human rights issue of today. Speakers understand the power of their words; they have a desire to educate; and they want to leave their audience transformed for the better .

• Andrew Assini –Assini is a licensed mental health professional, university professor, and person in recovery who enjoys connecting with others and sharing insights and experiences around change and transformation. He speaks on his own personal journey of transformation and discusses the practices that supported him with an honest reality and a touch of humor.

• Brooke Feldman – Feldman shares her unbelievable personal journey and conveys an authentic message of strength and hope to her audiences. Her extensive professional and leadership experience qualifies her to consult on many recovery support topics as well as speak openly on LGBTQ issues.

• Joe Green – A Word Artist – “Unleashing the Power of Your Story“- Green’s story begins with the darkness of drug addiction and the death of a close friend, and it persists with the light of strength built, lessons learned, and a way to pay it forward. He believes in the power of stories and the sharing of lived experiences as tools for connectivity and community building. Once unleashed, Green believes that power can change the world for the better.

• Tom Goris – iamnotanonymous.org – For years, those suffering from addiction have done so in silence as a result of the negative stigma surrounding it. The truth is, people do recover. The group’s mission is to bring the solution into the conversation in hopes of helping the millions of people who remain untreated and help the world understand that addiction is not a moral failing. It is a powerful disease and the stigma associated with it is just as deadly as the disease itself.

• Kayla Grammer – Grammer shares her story of drug use that started in 8th grade and quickly escalated to heroin addiction at age 15. She reveals the many places that addiction took her, including ultimately being homeless and on the streets. Grammer’s candid recollection of her life changing experiences and her travels into dark places impacts others.

• Tatiana Green –Green’s personal triumph over the effects that drugs, alcohol and mental illness had on her life has given her insight in to the mind of the addicted individual and the ability to create a background of relatedness. Her purpose is to use her story as a force to inspire others struggling with addiction, alcoholism and mental illness to positively transform their lives.

• Jeff Hatch – Hatch’s story of sports injuries, pain medication and addiction is critical for young college athletes as well as professional sports players to hear. He draws from years of experience and in-depth understanding of addiction and sports to educate others on a variety of topics.

• Helaina Hovitz – author, Sept. 11 survivor, PTSD advocate – Hovitz was age 12 and in middle school three blocks from the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. Her memoir describes the journey of a girl growing up with post traumatic stress disorder after being stranded in the dust cloud after 9/11.

• Diane Lang – Lang gives students and parents the tools needed to become happy, successful and resilient. She touches upon stress management, cultivating happiness, finding your strength and other relatable topics.

• Cortney Lovell – An out-going, athletic teenager, she silently struggled with self-image and other issues growing up. Lovell cloaked her suffering behind a smile for years as it progressed to heroin addiction and eventually incarceration. At just age 19, she began her journey to wellness and discovered her purpose along the way.

• Kate Meyer – iamnotanonymous.org - is a New York based portrait and wedding photographer and a MSW student at Fordham University. After spending years traveling to third-world countries in search of ways to make a difference, she found herself in a relationship with a man who, unknown to her, was struggling with an addiction to heroin. As she witnessed him struggle to find and sustain recovery, she made a decision to educate herself and soon began seeing addiction and recovery through a new lens. Recovery has transformed Meyer’s life.

• Joel Pomales – He believes in helping others, using the right language, and knows that” stigma has got to go.” He speaks to inspire empowerment in others and hopes his words will encourage conversation without shame. Pomales believes that more people need to understand that addiction is an illness that needs treatment, rather than a moral failing.

• Tracy Smith – Founder, Speakers for Change – Smith speaks to help others better understand the disease of addiction and also to relay the details of what recovery can and does look like for an individual and for family members. She educates audiences and conveys a message of hope, in a day and time where many individuals and families have none.



Strength to Strength – is a non-profit organization established to support victims of terrorism around the world with long-term psychological needs through regular meetings, provision of information and advice, and raising awareness of the unmet needs of victims and their families. Strength to Strength enables victims of terrorism to share experiences and empowers them to live life to their best potential.

• Brian Branco – Sept. 11 survivor – Branco worked on the 78th floor of the south tower and out of five people, he was one of only two who escaped. The second plane hit from his floor, 78 to 84. He has lived with the guilt of this ever since that day. He has lived with the emotions of seeing the attacks over and over, the constant news media and the daily conversations about it. Branco believes he has become a better person from his experience, and he doesn’t take things for granted.

• Tom Canavan – Sept. 11 survivor – Canavan was an employee for First Union Bank on the 47th floor and was in the building when Flight 11 hit at 8:46 a.m. While exiting the building on the concourse level, Tower 2 collapsed burying him and his colleagues. Approximately 20 minutes later he emerged onto the street level plaza, having dug through the rubble. He had a skull fracture and burns, cuts and bruising to his entire body. He exited the plaza via the now called Survivor Staircase. One block away, he was again enveloped by the collapse of Tower 1 and survived. Canavan was one of only 19 people to survive under the collapse. He now works at The National 9/11 Memorial/Museum as the facilities dispatcher and plaza manager.

• Sarri Singer – Singer moved to Israel at the end of 2001 and became a victim of terror on June 11, 2003 when a teenage suicide bomber blew himself up on the Jerusalem Bus 14 she had taken to meet a friend for dinner. Singer was severely injured, but when she recovered, rather than harbor resentment or hopelessness, Singer founded Strength to Strength, a global haven for victims of terror; a network for survivors to heal, become empowered, and move forward to build a culture of peace.

• Shannon Silvestri – dedicated wife, mother, professional, and a survivor of the Boston Marathon Bombings. She and her teenage children were cheering her husband to his third Boston Marathon finish. She sustained hearing loss, tinnitus and mild concussion. Since that time she has shown incredible strength and resiliency and has turned tragedy into helping others to heal.

Taylor’s Message – Kathi Sullivan – After a night of binge drinking and poor choices at a series of underage parties, Sullivan’s 17- year- old daughter Taylor wandered away alone in the woods, and drowned in only two feet of water. She was found her three days later. Passionate about reaching students hearts and minds, Sullivan shares with students what happened that night, how it could have been prevented and how Taylor’s death has affected her family, friends and the community.



TFAST: Transgender Family Alliance for Support and Teaching – Bob & Julian Barlow – Bob Barlow is an award-winning educator and author. He co-facilitates a support group for families and allies of transgender and gender non-conforming people. Julian Barlow is a Monroe-Woodbury graduate and an elementary school teacher in New York City. He is a transgender man and an advocate for social justice.

Ken Teets – Since 2000, Teets has served as a Newton Police officer . He graduated from the New Jersey State Police Academy/201st Municipal Class. With many struggles and obstacles, Teets overcame a severe stutter to follow his dream and became a police officer. He has overcome his stutter to the point he can direct all types of emergency scenes and speak to the media regarding emergency responses and situations.

The Voices and Faces Project: Sharisse Tracey – The Voices and Faces Project is an award-winning, national non-profit storytelling initiative created to bring the names, faces, and testimonies of survivors of gender-based violence and other human rights violations to the attention of the public. Tracey’s work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review and online at The New York Times, Ebony, Babble, Yahoo, Salon, Essence, DAME Magazine, Elle, The Washington Post, The Men’s Journal and elsewhere. Her essay, “Picture Perfect,” was featured in the New York Times bestselling rape anthology, “Not That Bad,” edited by Roxane Gay.

WE Schools – WE Schools is experiential service-learning through educational resources and action-based campaigns, students deepen and enrich their curricular learning and develop essential life skills. Young people are challenged to explore and make an impact on at least one local and one global issue that spark their passion.

Richard Williams – Williams is a survivor of the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995. He was in his office on the first floor of the Murrah Building. Severely injured, he underwent several surgeries and months of physical therapy. After returning to work, Williams became very involved in the memorial process. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation and numerous committees for the building of the memorial.

Wolfman Productions

• Steven Barton – while on a cross-country bicycle trip three years ago, Barton was shot in the face, neck, chest, and arms with a shotgun at a mass shooting in a theater in Aurora, Colo.

• Daryl Davis – A Black Man’s Odyssey into the Ku Klux Klan – Klan-Destine Relationships author and Accidental Courtesy star, Davis’ lectures leave an audience feeling empowered to confront their own prejudices and overcome their fears.

• Samantha Lawlor – Lawlor is now passionate about creating a new narrative which states that deep healing is not only possible, but available through methods such as restorative justice, trauma healing, dialogue processes, and the arts. Her introduction to the criminal justice system not only showed her its ineffectiveness for peace of mind and restoration, but it also revealed the institutionalized racial and economic inequities that impact our nation as a whole.

• Arno Michaelis – My Life After Hate – a founding member of a notorious worldwide racist skinhead organization, a reverend of a self-declared racial holy war, and front man of the hate-metal band Centurion, which sold 20,000 CDs by the mid-1990s and is still popular with racists today. Single parenthood, love for his daughter, and the forgiveness shown by people he once hated all helped to turn Michaelis’ life around, bringing him to embrace diversity and practice gratitude for all life.

• Haider Newmani – Humanizing War: The Experiences of Soldiers and Civilians During Conflict – Newmani’s various capacities as a journalist, a civilian, an activist and a family man have given him a unique perspective about war. He examines the losses of both nations involved in a war. His presentation takes the audience into a journey through every-day-life in a war zone while highlighting the sufferings, challenges, bonds, ironies and human behavior of both; Iraqi civilians and U.S. soldiers caught in the war.

• The Rev. Sharon Risher – Tattered Pieces: A Charleston Daughter Explores Loss, Faith and Forgiveness –Risher was catapulted into the limelight after the Charleston, South Carolina shooting at the Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 17, 2015. Her mother — the church’s sexton — Ethel Lee Lance, was killed along with eight others, including two cousins and a childhood friend. Risher’s talk covers her experience losing loved ones to gun violence, race, racism and hate in America, as well as the path to forgiveness and an offering of hope for tomorrow.

• Malcolm Sutherland-Foggio – Founder, Make Some Noise: Cure Kids Cancer Foundation – At age 11, after enduring a year of cancer treatments, Sutherland-Foggio began seeing young children dying due to lack of research into treatments for pediatric cancers. He created the Make Some Noise: Cure Kids Cancer Foundation, which has raised more than $2 million in the years since. He believes that with determination, anyone can make a tangible difference and be a power for good.

• Johnnie Tuitel – Tuitel is a motivational speaker and social activist with cerebral palsy and a huge personality. He specializes in teaching disability awareness and inclusion to educational and corporate audiences.

• Jeffrey Veatch – A Message from Justin – the fund’s founder and father of Justin Veatch, Veatch shares Justin’s story in a very personal way with the goal of changing attitudes of young people on the dangers of drugs. In September 2008, Veatch’s life took a drastic turn when Justin died at age 7 from an accidental drug overdose. His death resulted in the Veatch family creating the non-profit Justin Veatch Fund which awards scholarships and creates programs for talented teen musicians.

World Without Exploitation: Nikki Bell and Lauren Hersh – WWE is a national coalition of over 100 organizations and individuals committed to creating a world where no person is bought, sold or exploited. Bell is the founder and Director of LIFT (Living in Freedom Together), a survivor-led organization providing resources, advocacy and support to empower individuals to exit and recover from the impacts of commercial sexual exploitation. Hersh is its national, a lawyer, and a prominent educator about online safety issues, including cyber bullying, online trafficking and harassment.

World Without Genocide: Ellen Kennedy – WWG works to protect innocent people around the world; prevents genocide by combating racism and prejudice; advocates for the prosecution of perpetrators; and remembers those whose lives and cultures have been destroyed by violence.

Wounded Warriors Project: Jennifer Mackinday – Warriors Speak is a group of wounded veterans and caregivers who share their stories of service and sacrifice with the public to raise awareness for the needs of this generation’s injured military service members, as well as their families and caregivers.

Julia Young – Monroe-Woodbury student, burn survivor – Young suffered third degree burns over 75 percent of her body in 2009. Her story of overcoming pain and living in a new body with the help of family, friends and medical staff is about learning to love yourself and learning to ask for help when needed. Young believes a healthy future can be achieved by focusing on the beauty that exists in life and celebrating being alive.





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