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 work with people with autism and I think that’s helped me to identify with them and identify that if they’re having an issue, why it’s an issue.’

Levittown

“I have an auditory processing disorder. It was a challenge socially and academically and also because I couldn’t hear in my right ear, I’m deaf in that ear. It was very hard as a child to make friends. I didn’t know how to connect with people because I wasn’t able to talk to people in a group. It would become overwhelming very quickly. In college when I realized this was an issue, I started to find better ways to cope. I would sit in certain areas; I would make sure it was quieter.

“I’m still not comfortable with large groups of people because it becomes very overwhelming. I can’t have a one-on-one conversation with someone if it’s loud in a room. There’s this level of processing that doesn’t happen when there’s a lot of people in the room. I’m an over communicator. I want things to be clear on my end so I ask a lot of questions. It’s only because I want to understand the whole picture.

Why else are we on this earth if you’re not connecting with people? It appears harder in this season but it’s so powerful to remember a piece of somebody, that could be life changing.

“I work with people with autism and I think that’s helped me to identify with them and identify that if they’re having an issue, why it’s an issue. How can I better communicate with them? I really look for people’s strengths and pay attention to what they say. Because I don’t have the ability to hear like everyone else, it’s forced me to pay attention to what other people are saying. I really pay attention to what people say and it really matters to me. Especially, if you have someone with a disability, it can be trial and error to figure out what’s best for them. And that’s really fun for me. It’s not only that you’re getting to know the person, but you’re also finding out their strengths and weaknesses and helping them achieve their goals by really paying attention and delving into what works for them.

“Seeing people as who they are is extremely powerful and meaningful. When you actually see that person as who they are, it can be life changing to someone. Why else are we on this earth if you’re not connecting with people? It appears harder in this season but it’s so powerful to remember a piece of somebody, that could be life changing. And you only remember that if you listen.”

‘At first it didn’t occur to me that I was impacting lives. I wasn’t looking to be a mentor, but I was doing it without realizing it.’

Levittown

“I suddenly found myself trying to figure out how to teach. When I was 16, I gave drum lessons to third graders over the summer to prepare them for the fourth-grade band. I would teach my experience and exposure to things and say to the kids, ‘You tell me what you want to learn and I will teach it to you; in exchange, you have to be willing to learn what I want to teach you because you know what you want, and I know what you need.’ I wanted them to feel like young adults and that their opinion counted. Ever since then, I taught privately.

“My father used to drive me to local gigs with wedding bands, top 40 bands and bar bands. I chose not to go to college and work professionally. At 27, I got a call from my old chorus teacher, now the district’s director of music and fine arts, asking for help with the 27 drummers in the high school band. It was supposed to be for two months, and it turned into years of me being the percussion advisor. Five years later, I got another call from Long Island High School for the Arts (LIHSA). They were looking for a percussion teacher. I started at LIHSA for a few hours each week.

I may never be a millionaire, but I’m very blessed because I get to share my passion for performing and teaching.

“My connection to teaching got stronger and it became a lot of fun. When students said they loved my class, at first it didn’t occur to me that I was impacting lives. I wasn’t looking to be a mentor, but I was doing it without realizing it. The turning point for me was when a former student sent me a note: ‘I’m going to be an education major because one day I want to be somebody else’s Jerry.’ I had the wind taken from me.

“Now, I am the production coordinator at LIHSA. I stage and direct the performances and do a lot of behind-the-scenes work. Students tell me that when they were uncomfortable, I made them feel comfortable. The first time a kid is going to go on stage, I ask if they are nervous. They say, ‘Yeah,’ and I say, ‘If it makes you feel better, I’m not in the least bit nervous.’ They laugh and it breaks the tension. They never forget that. It’s so valuable.

“I wake up every day so grateful that I get to do what I love to do. I may never be a millionaire, but I’m very blessed because I get to share my passion for performing and teaching.”

‘It’s been a goal for me to connect people because it’s a been a year where people felt so disconnected.’

Levittown

“I got into magic because I was terrible at sports as a kid. I remember playing with cards and coins and reading books about the history of magic. I was one of those kids who didn’t want to be fooled, I needed to know how it was done. It was a hobby that I parlayed into income. It really started developing when I transitioned into mentalism, which is my specialty. People are intrigued when I can get inside of their head and create some magical moments from some thoughts and random ideas and psychological experiments and that is what people were drawn to.

“Magic is sleight of hand and mentalism is more psychological experiments. Everyone loves a good card trick but feeling like you’re experiencing mind control or what seems like mind reading is a whole new experience for most people. It’s been over 15 years that I’ve been doing this, and I have been busier the last year doing Zoom shows than I was before the pandemic with live shows. It’s been a goal for me to connect people because it’s a been a year where people felt so disconnected. It’s great that people can connect, feed off of each other’s energy and enjoy this unique and entertaining setting. Seeing friends, family and coworkers clapping for each other has been the best. It’s actually enhanced my own appreciation in cherishing these connections.

It doesn’t make a difference if it’s for a Fortune 500 company or a small family, we just all want to do more than stare at each other through screens, we want to have a shared experience that we can talk about for months to come.

“There’s so much Zoom fatigue out there and this is the perfect way to get around that. I just booked in-person gigs right after I get my second vaccine shot. I expect Zoom shows to last just as much as in-person shows, as long as people are working remotely or families are not living near each other. They found this new way to connect in a safe and fun and affordable way that they never knew existed before. It doesn’t make a difference if it’s for a Fortune 500 company or a small family, we just all want to do more than stare at each other through screens, we want to have a shared experience that we can talk about for months to come.”

‘It’s important to acknowledge that animals have a profound impact on the well-being of people. It should be recognized more often.’

Levittown

“I was working at a vaccine clinic upstate when a woman brought Tucker in and mentioned that he was going to wind up in the shelter that night. She said that she found him 2 miles off of her backyard tied to a tree barking. I immediately knew that he was mine because he literally fell in my lap and gave me his belly. He became my best friend. He has always been so sweet and kind in nature. We started going to dog parks and I found other things to do with him on Long Island, so we grew close. He has always been attached to my hip. He’s a big cuddler!

“Now, Tucker is an emotional support animal. I had diagnosed anxiety, and I didn’t like the medication I was being prescribed. I felt like it would dull my happy even though it tamed my anxiety. My therapist and I felt that Tucker and his presence calmed my anxiety as a whole. My doctor doesn’t really believe in emotional support animals, but my therapist does, and she could see the difference in my body language when I would bring him with me to meetings. She would have me bring him and then sometimes I was told not to bring him. I would glow when I would talk about him. She thought it would be beneficial for me to have him with me at work for when things get stressful. I work at a school, and when I bring him to work he brightens everyone’s day.

He greets everyone as individuals—each person gets a different greeting. Tucker is so receptive of when people are not in a good mood or they’re sad.

“It puts a smile on my face when I’m walking into the school and everybody says Tucker’s name as he rolls over on his belly. He greets everyone as individuals—each person gets a different greeting. Tucker is so receptive of when people are not in a good mood or they’re sad. When students come into the main office seeking medical help or they’re upset and want someone to speak to, Tucker greets them at the door and you just see a sigh of relief come over them.

“To see the true impact that he’s having on a child is so overwhelming to witness. It’s just so warming and beautiful to see how much he affects people on a daily basis, myself included. It’s important to acknowledge that animals have a profound impact on the well-being of people. It should be recognized more often. People are generally happier. I certainly am.”

‘I got divorced, and I knew I had to get into this industry so I could help people never go through what I had to go through with someone narcissistic.’

Levittown

“After college, I was first a pharmaceutical rep. We learned about the human brain and narcissism. I was married at that time, with two young children. My mother had just died, and I came home that night, and I was praying, saying, ‘Mom, I know you didn’t believe in divorce, but my husband is narcissistic.’

“Then this dating service opened on Long Island. Once I saw it, it was like a sign from my mother in heaven. I got divorced, and I knew I had to get into this industry so I could help people never go through what I had to go through with someone narcissistic.

“Fifteen years ago, I opened up my own matchmaking services, and we’ve been growing strong ever since. Being positive is the most important key to success in finding love. I can’t teach that. I cannot make a negative person successful and I can’t make them positive. If that person is positive, I can work around any other nitty-gritty things to help them improve.

It means everything to me that Long Island singles entrust the most important thing in their lives to me. I truly fell in love with finding love for people. If you have love, you have everything.

“The best part is when they tell me they’re getting married. I have over 1,000 success stories. This one particular couple two years ago was always our favorite and they asked me if I would officiate their wedding. It means everything to me that Long Island singles entrust the most important thing in their lives to me. I truly fell in love with finding love for people. If you have love, you have everything.

“I’m seeing the greatest single men all the time. Many times, they’ll ask me if I’m single, but I’ll say I’m not ready yet. My life has always been my two children and my business. I never tried to be great at 10 different things, or even three different things. On my tombstone, I want it to say: great mother, great matchmaker. That’s all I want to be great at.”