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.

‘You can be anybody and you can accomplish anything, and we are our only limit.’

Valley Stream

“When I was 6 years old, I started to limp. My mother’s friend’s son had Legg-Calve-Perthes disease and pointed us in the right direction to a specialist, where I was diagnosed with the disease, where the blood supply to the hip bone stops, so it starts to die. Every day for five-and-a-half years, three times a day, my mother and I would sit together and do physical therapy exercises to shape my hip bone. From first to sixth grade, I was on crutches. My school didn’t know what to do with me; for a while I wasn’t allowed out at recess. I was sedentary, so I learned guitar, the arts. That was definitely an outlet for me.

“Thankfully, I’m one of the success stories. I experience stiffness or soreness but I’m totally fine. It gave me a new perspective. I think I can empathize with children. I think that’s something that would have helped me; to talk to somebody. Empathy and social skills are really important for kids, so I want to impart that on students.

I started training youth teams at night while I worked at an accounting firm. I looked forward to the night much more than the day, so I got my master’s in elementary education.

“Later, I was able to play soccer and played at St. John’s University, which at the time was number four in the nation. Then my athletic career fell apart. I had injuries that caught up to me, so in my sophomore year, I walked away. I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I started training youth teams at night while I worked at an accounting firm. I looked forward to the night much more than the day, so I got my master’s in elementary education. I really liked helping the little ones, and I got my first job in a high-needs charter school in Brooklyn teaching sixth grade. That was eye-opening, and I saw I was able to make a difference.

“I then came to teach sixth grade in Valley Stream, and now I’m an assistant principal there, and I’m studying for a doctorate in educational leadership. I hope to be a principal one day.

“While we were virtual during the pandemic, I made a YouTube channel about “Mindset Moments” for teachers to focus with their kids; hold them accountable with a weekly goal. A publisher approached me, and we turned it into a book. You can be anybody and you can accomplish anything, and we are our only limit. If you believe in yourself and you put in the work, you can achieve things far beyond your imagination.”