M-W CARES Presenters (Sp-Z)

  • Speakers for Change – is an agency designed to inspire change. Addiction is now one of the leading causes of death in the United States. We are losing an entire generation of our youth to overdose and the opioid epidemic is one of the most relevant health and human rights issue of our time. Our 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 AssiniAndrew 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 openly speaks on his own personal journey of transformation and discusses the practices that supported him with an honest reality and a touch of humor.
    • Beck Gee-Cohen -Beck traveled a common path of secrecy and shame as a youth, struggled with identity, and turned to alcohol and drug use at an early age of 13.  Substance use continued for Beck to cope through his Catholic high school years and then early twenties. During the last decade of his recovery process, Beck made the decision to come out as transgender. Beck now shares his story with other youth to eliminate stigma against LGBTQ youth and to enlighten others. He recognizes that stigma, which is a prevalent road block for many in seeking help, is even more amplified in this particular population.
    • Brooke Feldman – Brooke candidly 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“- Joe’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, Joe 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. Our 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 – Kayla openly shares her unbelievable story of drug use that started in 8th grade and quickly escalated to heroin addiction at 15. She reveals the many places that addiction took her, including ultimately being homeless and on the streets. Kayla’s candid recollection of her life changing experiences and her travels into dark places definitely impacts others.
    • Tatiana GreenTatiana’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. Tatiana’s life 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 – Jeff’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 Hovitzauthor, 9/11 survivor, PTSD advocate – Helaina Hovitz was 12 years old and in middle school three blocks from the World Trade Center on 9/11. 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 – Diane 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. Cortney cloaked her suffering behind a smile for years as it progressed to heroin addiction and eventually incarceration. At just 19 years old, she began her journey to wellness and discovered her purpose along the way. 
    • Kate Meyeriamnotanonymous.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, unbeknownst 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 Kate’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. Joel believes that more people need to understand that addiction is an illness that needs treatment, rather than a moral failing.
    • Tracy SmithFounder, Speakers for Change – Tracy 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.
  • Richard Specht – Cultivate Kindness – 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. Rich shares his family’s story about how kindness changed their world in the wake of tragedy.
  • Strength to Strength is a 501(c)3 nonprofit 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. We remain committed to each victim through our global network.
    • Brian Branco – September 11, 2001 survivor – Brian 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. Brian believes he has become a better person from my experience, and he doesn’t take things for granted.
    • Tom Canavan – September 11, 2001 survivor – Tom 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. Tom is 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.
    • William Raff – September 11, 2001 survivor – “I was on the 82nd floor of WTC 2 on September 11, 2001 @ 8;46 when flight struck the north tower, and 44th floor skylobby when flight 175 struck the South Tower, then evacuated to safety.”
    • Sarri Singer – Sarri moved to Israel at the end of 2001 and became a victim of terror on June 11, 2003 when a teen-age suicide bomber blew himself up on the Jerusalem bus #14 she had taken to meet a friend for dinner. Sarri was severely injured, but when she recovered, rather than harbor resentment or hopelessness, Sarri 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, Kathi’s 17 year old daughter Taylor wandered away alone in the woods, and drowned in only two feet of water. They found her 3 days later. Passionate about reaching students hearts and minds, Kathi simply shares with students what happened that night, how it could have been prevented and how Taylor’s death has affected her family, Taylor’s friends and the community. Visit taylorsmessage.com.
  • TFAST: Transgender Family Alliance for Support and Teaching – Bob & Julian Barlow – Bob 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 is a Monroe-Woodbury graduate and an elementary school teacher in New York City. He is a transgender man and a fierce advocate for social justice.
  • Tista 4 LifeJudy and Rocco Battista – Residents of Warwick, NY, who lost their 20 year old son, Daniel, to suicide in 2008. As a retired FDNY member who served at Ground Zero, Rocco was familiar with loss and grief. The death 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.
  • Tyler Clementi Foundation – working to end online and offline bullying.
    • Jane Clementi – Tyler Clementi ended his life at the age of 18, a victim of horrendous levels of bullying in college. Through this foundation and her presentations, Tyler’s mother is working to end online and and offline bullying and encourages people to take a stand against bullying through education, advocacy, research and collaboration.
  • 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, Ken overcame a severe stutter to follow his dream and became a police officer.  Ken has had a positive influence on the youth in his hometown. Ken volunteers with the Newton High School basketball team and assists other coaches with different youth sports. He also does public speaking at schools, colleges and events, providing lectures on anti-bullying and overcoming obstacles to achieve your dreams.  During his job as a police officer, he has saved countless lives and received several citations, including many life-saving awards. In addition to his role as a Police Officer, Ken is also the Emergency Management Coordinator for Newton.  These important roles he has today seemed impossible as a young child that never spoke. Ken 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: 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. Through educational and advocacy trainings, survivor story archives and The Stories We Tell – an immersive, two-day testimonial writing workshop for survivors of sexual violence, intimate partner violence, trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation– the Projects seeks to change minds, hearts, and public policies through the power of personal testimony.
    • Sharisse Tracey – 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. Sharisse’s life story is also featured in NOT SOMEONE LIKE ME, a play about five very diverse rape survivors She’s a mother of four, educator, activist and writer living in upstate New York.
  • 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.
    • Michaela Henry – Henry loves supporting educators in the implementation of WE Schools’ programming for many reasons, but mainly because she loves hearing about the amazing work that youth are doing to make the world a better place.
  • Richard Williams – Richard 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, Richard 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. Nearest his heart is his work on the committee which drafted the Mission Statement from which all aspects of the Memorial are patterned. 
  • Wolfman Productions
    • Steven Barton – while on a cross-country bicycle trip three years ago, Stephen 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, Daryl’s impassioned lectures leaves an audience feeling empowered to confront their own prejudices and overcome their fears.
    • Samantha Lawlor – Samantha 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 MichaelisMy 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-nineties 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 Arno’s 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 –  Haider’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 US soldiers caught in the war.
    • Rev. Sharon Risher – Tattered Pieces: A Charleston Daughter Explores Loss, Faith and Forgiveness – Reverend Sharon Washington 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 beloved mother — the church’s sexton — Ethel Lee Lance, was killed along with eight others, including two cousins and a childhood friend. Dr. Risher’s talk covers her personal 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-FoggioFounder, Make Some Noise: Cure Kids Cancer Foundation – At age 11, after enduring a year of cancer treatments, Malcolm 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 $2,000,000 in the years since. He believes that with determination, anyone can make a tangible difference and be a power for good.
    • Johnnie Tuitel – Johnnie 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 –  jeffreyveatchfund.org A Message from Justin – the fund’s founder and father of Justin Veatch, Jeffrey 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 17 from an accidental drug overdose. In addition to being athletically active Justin had been an extremely talented musician-singer-songwriter. 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: WWE is a national coalition of over 100 organizations and individuals committed to creating a world where no person is bought, sold or exploited.
    • Nikki Bell – 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.
    • Lauren Hersh – Hersh is the National Director of World Without Exploitation, a lawyer, and a prominent educator about online safety issues, including cyberbullying, online trafficking and harassment.
  • World Without Genocide: Dr. 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 motivational 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 YoungFormer Monroe-Woodbury student, burn survivor – Julia suffered third degree burns over 75% 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 you need it. Julia believes a healthy future can be achieved by focusing on the beauty that exists in life and celebrating being alive.