Our speakers don’t just tell a stories. We teach lessons in negativity resistance.
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.
Alexis Johnson is a 35 year female who currently resides in Harrisburg, Pa. July 13th, 2018, Alexis celebrated 3 years clean and sober. She has suffered everything imaginable, from 7 overdoses, 2 flatlines, 3 DUI’s, 7 trips to prison including state prison, burying 16 of her friends- including her ex fiancé, and giving her addiction 15 years of her life. Today, she is an international fitness model, making 2 magazine covers and getting published in one of the most prestigious magazines in America. She is a published Author. Her memoir, Beautiful Nightmare will be released this year. She is one of our most powerful and most engaging motivational speaker.
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.
For Cindy Keefe, the personal desperation and pain of addiction has transformed into a burning passion; a passion to help others that are struggling with addiction and to support those who have found a journey of recovery stay the course and continue to transform their lives. Now in her second decade of recovery, her passion has grown into a new mission: to bring more awareness, education and prevention to our youth, our communities and our faith based organizations.
Cindy was born in Beverly, MA to “normal” parents. Mom was teacher and Dad an engineer. Life changed drastically for her, when at the age of 7, her father passed away after a 4 year battle with MS. Cindy’s mom never remarried, and as an only child, Cindy often felt alone, different and struggled to find her “place” or to find self acceptance. Always a good student, active in school activities, Young Life and her church, Cindy went on to college with the goals of completing a pre med program, continuing to medical school and working in the field of pathology, hoping to aid in a cure for MS.
Once away at college, all of the temptations and ‘solutions’ that Cindy had been kept away from in high school were readily available. Like most kids/young adults, she began with experimentation, which led to regularly drinking, using drugs and trying more risky behaviors and lifestyles. In those vices, she thought she had found the answer to her dis-ease of feeling lost, not fitting in and needing validation. What she had really opened the door to was the disease of addiction which slowly and cunningly took over her life.
In 1998, now living in Ocean City, MD, and after 15 years of living a disposable lifestyle, running from herself, pushing away family and friends, getting 3 DWIs, losing jobs, failed attempts at returning to school, feeling suicidal, living homeless and having a miscarriage—Cindy finally hit a spiritual, emotional, physical and mental bottom. She returned home to Rochester, NY, starting an outpatient rehabilitation program, getting involved in 12 Step Programs and finding her way back to her faith and a relationship with God. In 2001, Cindy returned to Maryland for a new career and fresh start. In 2003, Cindy experienced the sudden life changing event of her mothers’ death– but did not allow that to ‘take her back out’ or as an excuse for relapse. If anything, that difficult experience and season helped solidify Cindy’s faith, commitment to recovery and service to others.
Now in her 20th year of long term recovery, Cindy has spent the last 10 years actively serving both secular 12 Step fellowships and faith based recovery programs. She mentors women, providing guidance and support in recovery and life skills and challenges. She has shared her story freely and transparently to both those in recovery and to faith based audiences not in recovery—the families and the communities that are all affected by this epidemic of addiction. In sharing the real experiences from the heart, Cindy’s story shows the hope for the hopeless, that recovery is indeed possible, and that God offers indescribable and immeasurable grace and mercy to anyone who needs it and seeks it.
For the last 10 years, Cindy has had a successful career in distribution sales. In 2015, Cindy attended the Fed Up with Addiction Rally in Washington, DC, and felt a weight placed on her heart to do more, get more involved beyond the 12 Step groups and home church recovery groups. More and more signs began to show themselves in her life as the Holy Spirit began to move. Cindy was often asked when she was going to answer the ‘call’ that many have sensed she had been given. And the answer was always, “As soon as I…..” Yet, when God moves, He moves; when He wants us to answer the phone, He lets it keep ringing until we pick it up.
Cindy finally decided to answer that “phone” while driving across the Bay Bridge one sunny, early fall day in September 2017, deciding to leave a secure career and joining both Steered Straight as Outreach Coordinator for MD/DE and the Recovery Army as Director of Faith Based Programs. What comes next for Cindy and Recovery Army, is up to God and how our faith based communities support and help us grow and share our much needed new mission, ministries and spirit led projects, such as CURE: Christians Uplifting Recovery Everywhere
Joseph ‘Joey’ Sarno was born and raised in central New Jersey. He is a product of a family that struggled with substance abuse. Joey turned to the streets and began living a life of crime and drug addiction. After hitting bottom after bottom, he decided he could no longer live this way and sought help through a 12 step program. He has devoted his life to faith and recovery. He is a huge advocate for helping people and finding new ways to live improved lifestyles.
Philip O’Hara is a former student athlete who had a promising future ahead of him. A simple trip to the dentist sent his life into a direction no one had suspected. A college wrestling career took a backseat to his opiate addiction. Doing whatever he needed to feed his addiction, Philip completly abanded his moral compass. Doing whatever he needed to do to find the next one. After a 7 year battle with opiates finding himself completly broken and alone, he finally made the call for help and hasn’t looked back. Since finding recovery Philip has been certified as a recovery coach, certified peer recovery specialist, and Has trained with world renowned Motivational speaker Les Brown. Earning his certificate as a certified motivational speaker and coach through the Les Brown institute. It’s been Phil’s mission to share his story with young people and attempt to educate them on the dangers of drug abuse.
Charlene and Monica Maycott
– Mom and Daughter Team
An addiction and Recovery story of how Charlene brought her daughter Monica back from a fatal overdose after attending an Narcan training. A wife and Mother that has lived with addiction for 30 years, and a daughter given a second chance at life, this Mother and Daughter team not only educate audiences, but inspire people to become change agents in this national fight against addiction.
Joe grew up in Philadelphia and then Wildwood Crest, NJ. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in Social Studies. Joe worked in corporate sales for many years until his addiction to drugs and alcohol took him, helpless and hopeless, to a crack hotel with a $1000/day habit. His life was transformed when he went to the Colony of Mercy in 2010, where he surrendered his life to Jesus Christ. Joe studied for his Master’s Degree in Biblical Counseling at Luther Rice University. His passion is to see others set free from bondage to addiction through the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross.
He and his wife Cheri are in full-time ministry with Love Them To Life (lovethemtolife.com), bringing help and hope to mothers of addicts. They are both certified Exchanged Life Counselors through Grace Fellowship International. They present Set Free seminars at churches, teaching about the problem of addiction and the only solution, which is Jesus Christ.
A heroin addict in recovery, Nick Morgan has been clean since June 2, 2015. Originally from Marion, IL, Nick began using drugs and alcohol as a teenager and continued for over 10 years. His addiction steadily increased until it took over his life, taking everything from him. His friends and family encouraged him to get help but after ignoring their many pleas, Nick found himself excluded from his own family. Not long after, Nick lost his best friend to a heroin overdose. It was at this point when he literally had nothing that Nick decided he needed to change his life, he needed treatment.
After several attempts at rehab and treatment Nick found success. Relapse was part of his journey, but it also motivated him to finally change his life. Nick found that reaching out to other addicts in recovery helped. By putting his faith in their knowledge and experiences he was able to learn what he needed to do to stay sober. He has worked at rehab facilities as a behavioral health technician, housing director and community relations coordinator.
Nick has made it his goal to help other addicts change their lives just as others have helped him. After founding his online social community “Crush The Epidemic” in 2016, Nick has helped countless addicts and families in their fight against addiction. Drawing from his own personal and sometimes painful experiences to show that long-term sobriety is possible, he aims to be a source of knowledge and comfort for those struggling with addiction. He now travels the country spreading his experience and triumph over addiction.
Nick currently works at Comprehensive Wellness Centers in Lantana, FL as a Community Outreach Coordinator. The facility provides dual-diagnosis at PHP and IOP levels.
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.
My name is Melvin Negrón. I was born and raised in Vineland NJ. I can honestly say I was raised by the streets & prisons. More then 2/3 of my life was spent in prisons. I started hustling by age 11 & by the time I was 14 I joined the Almighty Latin King Queen Nation but b/c this area wasn’t familiar with national gangs like that back then my affiliation was limited to when I was locked up.
However at the age of 18 I was recrowned by the Lion Tribe Chapter out of the Bronx NY. I quickly rose in the ranks to 1st crown. So for the next 20 plus years I lead the Latin Kings in this state as well as Ohio, Illinois, NY, Connecticut, & Pennsylvania. Not to mention I was also incarcerated in each one of these states! It wasn’t until my baby brother died from an overdose that I started to question my life. Up until then I glorified the life, even though I still chose to keep doing the same! Nothing truly started to change until July 8th, 2016; the day I was sentenced to the least amount of time I was ever given. I knew I’d be home within 3 months. Or so I thought. God had different plans and he need me to not just see but believe! On October 27, 2016 while sitting in Trenton State Prison I was faced with the fact that I was either going to spend the rest of my life in prison or die the very next day! Either way, I was done! So that night while sitting on the edge of my bunk, something hit me.
For the 1st time in my entire life, I dropped to my knees and told God that I couldn’t do this anymore! I finally surrendered to Him. Whatever my life’s purpose was (to live or die) I was ready for him to take over! It’s easy to say this from behind the wall b/c that what a lot of guys do when locked up but for me I knew this was real. Now I just had follow thru once I came home! Now 2 years have passed since dropping to my knees and God has shown me that miracles can happen! He uses me as a vessel to help others see that everyone & anyone can make it! Now I go back to the same prison I was released from and speak to men in there about my road to redemption. I also speak at several different rehabilitation facilities. I do outreach with the youth in Delsea Gardens. I recently teamed up with Wrektified Inc. out of Houston Tx. & several organizations from this are to put on an event in Delsea Gardens called “Bless The Block” which was to offer employment, help with drug addiction, resources for different programs to help empower our community. Now I’m currently doing an event called “Celebration Of Life” on November 3rd. It’s for anyone who has lost a loved one or family member to the streets either through addiction or violence. Myself and 2 other former gang members who at one time were my rivals an now today are a Pastor (my Pastor) & a Christian music artist along with other artist have put this event together for the people. This is just the tip of the iceberg! A lot has happened since I started this journey but a lot has yet to be revealed! Whatever he has planned though; I’m ready!
After years of inner struggle and despair, Crystal Vallee found passion in utilizing the very pain that bound her. After a long battle with drug addiction and related personal trauma, and spending 6 years incarcerated for a drug-related car accident, she found deep purpose within her life to educate and motivate youth and families. She teaches how running from pain, burying emotions and using drugs only further creates more problems. Her message to youth is about their intrinsic value and Self- Worth! “You Are WORTH IT!” is her powerful message and student audiences are literally captivated by her presentation and motivated to make a difference once they hear it.
Victor Manuel Jimenez Jr
(Street Name: Nugget)
I was born and raised in Vineland NJ at a very young age of 3. I was introduced to violence by my stepfather. I was, for lack of better terms, in a constant battle for my life. The child abuse was extremely real and heavy from my shoulders being pulled out of socket at the tender age of 3 & 5 to black eyes and being thrown through walls.
By the age of 9 years old, I was completely violent and intrigued with guns, drugs & sex. I held no fear of death. Drugs and crime where a daily in my house and family. My stepfather was a paid hit man who had strong beliefs in the gang/ mafia life. At the age of 11, I began my life of crime and spent the next 20 plus year of life in and out of programs and correctional facilities. At the age of 15, I join the prison gang NETA. I built strong ties with other cities across the state of NJ and the mother land Puerto Rico. NY as well as Florida, Philadelphia, Connecticut & Boston.
As I continued my life of crime & affiliation, I rose through the ranks and became leader of Vineland, and then the entire state of NJ. In 2011, I was caught up in a high-stake raid lead by the NJ Attorney General & federal joint task force for manufacturing &distribution of weapons both in and out of the state. I was ultimately charged & convicted with distribution & manufacturing weapons, 50 caliber semi-automatic rifle with modifications, and Distribution of CDS heroin/ cocaine. While incarcerated, I began to build relationships with Jesus Christ but never was serious once released. On April 11 ,2016, I went back to my old ways until one day, I realized I was completely tired of living like a savage. I had become a slave to my sin and bound by my choices.
Towards the end of 2016, I gave my life completely over to Christ and never looked back. What God has done in my life is nothing short of a daily miracle and now I have a heart and passion to go back to the areas I once terrorized and bring life & love, change, and hope. Today, I stand as a pastor for the Lord Jesus Christ. I choose to make the right choices and decisions to build up and not tear down. I want to help set the captives free and see the power & the love of Christ raise others from the dead just as he did for me.
Our Elementary Team
From left to right: Steve as “Super Safety Steve”, Monica as “The Bully”, Darla as “Suzy”