Michael DeLeon is a champion advocate for change in the middle of our nation’s addiction epidemic. Michael, a successful acclimated ex-offender, is now an acclaimed documentary film maker, writer, scholar and public speaker. He uses his unique perspective and one of a kind platform to enlighten others, create awareness and challenge change.
Darla presents the Family perspective – a wife that not only had to deal with her husband’s addiction, raise two children by herself in the absence of that husband for 12 years while he was away in prison, but had to deal with the long-term effects on the family. She shares her personal story as a child of an alcoholic Father and the compelling story of the wife of Steered Straight’s founder, Michael Deleon. A woman held at gunpoint, not once but twice, and the Mother of their two children, Darla impacts students about how their choices and decisions affect those that they love.
Brandon Novak was 16 and a professional skateboarder on the Powell Peralta Team, but lost his spot due to what he says was a long bout with “psychoactive substance abuse.” Brandon is most well-known for his starring roles in the “Jackass Series” and his relationship and appearances with Bam Margera from the same series. Brandon Novak raises awareness and brings hope to those struggling with addiction and the epidemic of addiction across the country.
Colin began abusing drugs and alcohol in high school. After two near-death experiences while using and losing a lacrosse scholarship to college due to his substance abuse, Colin decided to get clean. He has since returned to college, and now dedicates part of his time to helping steer others from a path of personal destruction.
A graduate of William Paterson University with a BA in English Literature, John grew up in Bridgeton in a single parent home with a mother that struggled with a serious drug problem. He is motivated by the failures of numerous family members and friends that lost their lives because of bad choices. He has been a speaker with Steered Straight since 2008. John is a father, husband and community leader that works hard to improve the lives of others.
After years of struggling with a lack of self-worth, which led to drug addiction that ultimately ended in a deadly car accident, Alyson wound up in prison. There, she gained a harsh dose of reality, and she realized she wanted to help others from suffering the same pain and consequences of her actions. During her sentence, she became a part of Project Pride which helped her to finally realize her worth and her mission. Alyson was released with a positive outlook, alongside a deeper appreciation for her own life, and is now dedicated to helping others.
Alyson is a lifelong resident of South Jersey, and she has ever-growing support from her family and closest friends. She has graduated with a BA in English.
After years of inner struggle and despair, Crystal has found passion in utilizing the very pain that bound her. Unfortunately, it took a long battle with drug addiction and personal traumas that culminated in a six-year prison sentence for her to find the way. Today, Crystal has found meaning for her life by choosing to utilize her negative experiences to help others in a positive way.
Desiree Coombs is a graduate of Essex County College with her Associates degree in Human and Social Serviced. She is now a full-time student at Rutgers University studying for her Bachelor’s degree (B.S.W) in Social Work. Desiree is experienced in speaking with the Lifers group and Project PRIDE for the Department of Corrections.
Desiree is committed to making a difference in the lives of those she talks to through her own life experiences, and her passion is to empower and encourage others to prevent the path of drug use or incarceration.
After eight years of battling the disease of addiction face-to-face, Nicky has devoted his life to sharing his story and how he got to that point. Losing his father at age 11 to the disease, as well as friends along the way, he promised to do everything in his will to make a change in the world.
Nicky shows how by applying positive principles in his life he can be the son, brother, uncle, and a part of society that he never imagined he could be. Being so young and conquering his demons he is a Beacon of Hope in today’s world.
Our Elementary Team
From left to right: Steve as “Super Safety Steve”, Monica as “The Bully”, Darla as “Suzy”