Faces of Long Island celebrates the uniqueness of everyday Long Islanders. In their own words, they tell us about their life experiences, challenges and triumphs. Newsday launched this social media journey into the human experience to shine a light on the diverse people of this wonderful place we call home.

‘I want to help make people’s lives better because every day is a gift.’

Bay Shore

“I grew up in a home that was very scary and unstable, but one positive outlet for me was the theater. My mother loved taking me to shows at local community centers, and I fell in love with the art of acting. I was part of the theater crowd in high school.

“I initially went to college to major in communications, but I quickly switched to theater. After I earned my undergraduate degree, I moved to New York City and obtained a certificate in musical theater. While acting and doing voiceover work, I also got a job working as a teacher at Girlspace, an organization in East Harlem that catered to underserved youths.

I broke the cycle of abuse and others can, too.

“The kids I was working with came from very troubled home lives, and their teachers described them as disruptive. These girls had tough veneers and didn’t trust people. However, in the theater classes I taught, these kids were open and engaged.

“I brought in authors and poets to talk to them, and I inspired them to write and share their own work. It helped them build a sense of confidence and community, which put them at ease. I am a survivor of sexual abuse, and I understand what it’s like to live in an unsafe environment.

“I was so inspired by my experiences with these young ladies that I decided to earn a master’s degree in social work and made engagement with the arts part of my practice.

“While I was in graduate school, I wrote and performed in my own one-woman show and produced poetry which was later published. Many people don’t survive the kind of trauma that I experienced, but the arts allowed me to heal — the arts saved me. I did not merely survive, I thrived, and I believe that my purpose in life is to help others do the same.

“I am honored to be a keynote speaker at mental health conferences, and I tell my audiences that they can overcome troubles and find peace and happiness. I have two sons who flourished in a loving home that my husband and I created for them full of art and kindness. I broke the cycle of abuse and others can, too. I don’t want anyone to feel alone. We all have a voice that deserves to be heard. I want to help make people’s lives better because every day is a gift.”

Interviewed by Meagan Meehan