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 keep training. If I stop, it’s like an old car — you put in the garage and forget about it; when you try to start it, it won’t.’


“I grew up in a situation that was kind of abusive. And now something that I’m passionate about is making sure other kids don’t have to go through that, and that women and men don’t stay in unhealthy relationships.

“I was also bullied as a kid, and I’m very passionate about helping stop that. Now with everything going on in the world today, social media has it made it easy to broadcast hurtful things. I’m working on with Sachem North High School right now on an anti-bullying program. We’ll do a free seminar there. We also need to talk to the bullies, to help change their way of thought and understanding why they do this. I take pride in making sure we correct some of those things so they don’t happen to anyone else.

“I’m 63 and I just retired from 20 years as an engineer. I own Lockdown Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and still compete full time. I love it. I keep training. If I stop, it’s like an old car — you put in the garage and forget about it; when you try to start it, it won’t.

I’ve learned that I need to trust that I’m good enough. It’s me who is holding myself back from doing my best.

“Brazilian jujitsu, I think, is huge on working with you to control anxiety. It’s called the gentle art. It’s the basis for the UFC, and it’s made for the smaller opponent to beat the bigger opponent. But aside from all that, it teaches you about yourself and what you can accomplish when pushed. If I can take the pressure of a 300-pound person on top of me and trying to choke me out, I can deal with anything life can throw at me.

“These kids aren’t learning the fight to get into fights. They’re learning the fight to walk away from a fight. They’re learning to defend themselves that way. If anything, God forbid it ever happens to them, they can defend themselves and get away from the situation and go to people that can help de-escalate the situation.

“Right now, we’re working with the Suffolk County PD on our seminar around domestic violence. The moves in that seminar will all be around self-defense and protecting yourself in that kind of a situation.

“I want the kids who come here to all to be teammates, to take care of each other and, when they’re in school, to look out for each other. It’s important they learn to stick up for one another. We’re a family here, and I treat it like we’re a real family.”

Interviewed by Maggie Melito

‘Theater makes me feel like I’m one of the stars on Broadway.’


“I’m a person with autism who loves to do theater. I do so many shows, it’s really entertaining for me. I like to make new friends and spend time with my buddies. My favorite show is ‘Beauty and the Beast’ as Lumiere. Lumiere was my dream role that I’ve played on stage.

“My sister was interested in theater. When we saw ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘Phantom’ on Broadway, she became obsessed with theater. She became an actress, and I decided I had to become involved in theater as well. I’ve been doing this a long time. My first show was Disney’s ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ the junior version. I was a playing card called the Ace of Spades; I was a sixth-grader.

Playing a nasty character is a lot more fun than being the good character.

“Theater makes me feel like I’m one of the stars on Broadway. Every time I stand in front of an audience, I have so much fun dancing and singing and interacting with the audience. Every time I say something funny, I make the audience laugh. I love playing characters that can tell jokes. Also playing a villain, I played Scar in the junior version of ‘The Lion King.’ Playing a nasty character is a lot more fun than being the good character. And I would be excited to play Willy Wonka. Playing a funny character is more fun than playing a serious character.

“I want to make sure everything is perfect, that I don’t mess anything up with my lines. It makes me feel really proud and happy; it makes me more passionate. I write my own songs with the help of my voice teacher, some for my YouTube show, ‘The Thomas the Tank Engine Show.’ It’s my own version of ‘Thomas the Tank Engine.’ It’s actually half for kids and half for adults. I made it more of a musical comedy style. I do my own drawings. Drawing is another passion for me.

“I’m becoming a playwright. My first play is ‘The Holiday Dude.’ It’s about all types of holidays. It’s about a young boy named David who meets a girl named Megan, and they fall in love with each other. I’m hoping to have the play produced. I also have a job: I work at ShopRite in Port Jeff; I work in the bakery. The customers are kind, but sometimes they can be annoying. But I want to keep myself busy. I want to be busy all the time.”

Interviewed by Barbara Schuler