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 knew the only way I was going to survive and get out of that situation is if I pushed on to get my education and provide a life for my daughters.’

Brentwood

“I came from a family of educators, specifically teachers, principals and administrators. Because of that influence, the importance of education was instilled within me at a very young age.

“The turning point of my life occurred when I became a victim of domestic violence as a young woman. He was my high school sweetheart. I knew the only way I was going to survive and get out of that situation is if I pushed on to get my education and provide a life for my daughters. That was a defining moment.

“I went on despite the abuse to finish college. Being in that situation motivated me to persevere and to push on through education, no matter what adversity I was facing in my personal life.

I always believed you’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem. So, if you want change, you have to be that change. You have to find that change within yourself.

“Moving from Queens to Long Island, I became involved with a local youth program and held many hats. It led me into running for our local school board, along with the fact that I had an autistic son. This was all new to me and I had no clue how I was going to navigate through this new challenge. I knew I was going to have to be his biggest advocate to ensure he received the proper services to thrive like any other student.

“I always believed you’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem. So, if you want change, you have to be that change. You have to find that change within yourself. While my kids were getting ready for school, I would use that time to impart words of wisdom. I would just always have some kind of one-liner to give them about life and how to survive it.

“One day, I had a principal tell me, ‘You’d be great as a school board member,’ and another person said, ‘I wish I had a mother like you,’ and that resonated. I was approached by some individuals who were willing to support my campaign. I got my clock cleaned. But someone in the community said, ‘Run again and see what happens because this community needs someone like you.’ I ran again and won.

“The hopes and dreams I have for my children are the same ones I have for everyone’s child in the district. It started with my four children and I adopted another 19,000 children.”

‘I wanted to give a platform to people that are missing so that victims gain closure and some comfort.’

Brentwood

“I’ve always had an eye for radio and television. I didn’t know what I wanted to do in school, and I was a little intimidated growing up because nobody was going to school for TV. I had to take a leap of faith. I obtained a degree in radio and television and created a platform called ‘Tee Talk’ on which I became known as Ms. Tee Talk. My goal was to give back to Long Island, so I have interviewed more than 100 people, from chefs, to photographers, to people who have their own businesses. Long Island didn’t have that, and it has been great to see the light on people’s faces when they are made to feel included. People from all over the country have now been on the show. It has been an amazing journey.

It’s a big risk to be in TV because you have to know somebody or you have to do cartwheels, but it’s worth it.

“I also wanted to test my skills a little bit, so I created a show called ‘Missing On Long Island.’ I wanted to give a platform to people that are missing so that victims gain closure and some comfort. The first episode is about Sofia McKenna, which went viral with over 220,000 views on YouTube. The second episode just came out. Their storylines are about what happened before they went missing. Hundreds of thousands of people have gone missing on Long Island in the last 20 years, and there has never been a show created about it. Now I have been working on ‘Tee Talk’ and ‘Missing on Long Island’ for the past 8 years. I edit, shoot, and do everything for them. It hasn’t been the smoothest journey, but when I know that people have smiles on their faces when they come onto ‘Tee Talk,’ or concerned parents and family members on ‘Missing on Long Island’ have that platform, it definitely makes me feel accomplished. I have learned that practice makes permanent.

“It’s important to invest in yourself. It’s always important to pour into yourself and to keep learning. I pride myself on my work ethic and staying connected to my Long Island roots. It’s a big risk to be in TV because you have to know somebody or you have to do cartwheels, but it’s worth it. Those two shows, which are very different, are my entire life. I always put my heart, energy and time into them to really make them boom and people love it.”