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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Nafeesah A. Goldsmith
Nafeesah is a graduate student at Monmouth University pursuing a Masters in Criminal Justice. She holds a BA in Sociology and is an alumna of Passaic County Community College, Rutgers (New Brunswick) & Douglas Residential College. She began her college career while serving a 15yr prison sentence at EMCFW (Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women).
It was via Clinton College Bound/ NJ-STEP that Nafeesah began to change her life. She soon became a proud member of MVC (Mountainview Community) where she was afforded the opportunity to attend Rutgers. Nafeesah spends her free time traveling to speak on topics such as; Incarceration, Re-entry, the School to Prison Pipeline, and the effects of incarceration on families and communities. Her goal is to reach out to the youth and global community by educating them about the social structures that are in place that lead to social deviance.
The 30-year owner of a construction company, Mike Palombi has been building foundations—both for houses and for young lives. In 2008, Mike was able to accomplish what even the law said he’d never be able to accomplish; he received a Standard Certification for Teacher of Carpentry allowing him to teach in any school in the State of New Jersey. Since his release from prison, Mike has used his trade skills and experience of overcoming the entanglements of addiction and incarceration to teach at-risk youth the importance of building foundations for life.
In January 2014 Mike released his award-winning memoir, How’s It Feel, Tough Guy? From Prisoner of Pride to Prisoner of Hope. His memoir, received 1st Place recognition in The Christian Writers Awards, in the category of Counseling/Recovery and is currently in hundreds of prisons and county jails nationwide. Together with his wife Heidi, they use the book as a vehicle to bring a message of hope to those most others deem to be hopeless.
In September of 2014, under the supervision of Pastor Ray Tate, Lead Pastor of Life Chapel, Point Pleasant, N.J., Mike and Heidi began leading a Christ-centered 12 Step Recovery Ministry internationally known as Celebrate Recovery. In May of 2016, Celebrate Recovery Life Chapel officially opened its doors to members of the surrounding communities and is now able to help provide support for those in their area struggling with Hurts, Habits, and Hang–ups.
Most recently, Mike became enrolled in the Brooklyn Teen Challenge School of Ministry and is pursuing his ministerial credential to help position himself to have access to the prison populations he desires most to minister to. Mike regularly speaks at men’s groups, churches, recovery events, drug treatment facilities and jails. He and Heidi are active members of Life Chapel and reside at the Jersey Shore.
Our Elementary Team
From left to right: Steve as “Super Safety Steve”, Monica as “The Bully”, Darla as “Suzy”