From: Poughkeepsie, NY
What do you do for a living?
I’m a High School ELA Teacher in the Wappingers School District (NY). This year, I was fortunate to have Chris Herren speak to my students. His testimony was very powerful, very real and very life-changing. I watched the pain of struggle melt away on my students’ faces as they connected with Chris’s story on a level only they could understand. I was so moved that I’m in the process of implementing the Herren Project Club in our building and cannot wait to get it up and running!!!
How did you first connect with Herren Project?
To be honest, my random google search in 2016 for a NYC Marathon bib turned out to be life changing. I knew I wanted to fundraise for an organization that was meaningful to me and that I could connect to. I was very hesitant to commit to a large mainstream organization unsure of where the funds I raised actually went. The mission of Herren Project was one that I could relate to, having a mother who battles daily with substance abuse. My email inquiry was returned within minutes from Pam, and I felt a instant connection and sense of comfort. She shared with me briefly her own story for which I am eternally grateful. I did not know that “addiction” was something people talked about. All along I had suffered in silence, embarrassed, having had a difficult time processing my mother’s disease, and instead blaming it on a lack of will power. Herren Project and Chris Herren have truly been a blessing in my life, as well as that of my family—a beacon of hope in a time of despair, a supportive community reassuring me that I’m not alone. We all have struggles that are not often visible from the outside. A daily reminder that we must always practice kindness, fostering a message of openness, acceptance and empathy.
Who’s one of your running or athletic “heroes”?
My mom. She’s resilient. She was a runner her whole life (until hip replacements) and still continues to walk through the pain. If it wasn’t for her, my siblings (Colin, Kiersten & Caitlin) and I would have never become involved in the sport of running. Running brings us together, most races we can be found running with one another, if not, then we are on the sidelines supporting each other (along with my husband, TJ and our parents).
What are you most proud of?
Every time I cross a finish line I am proud for having completed a mental and physical challenge that I put my mind to, continuously pushing myself to the next level throughout the process. Of all the finish lines I’ve crossed, running the 2016 New York City marathon with Herren Project has been the most meaningful. This was an accomplishment because not only did I exceeded my fundraising goal, but I was able to share my story and raise awareness in an effort to break the stigma around mental health making every step of the race more rewarding.
In addition, my career as a teacher is something that I take pride in. It can be extremely challenging, but I persevere daily, playing an important role in my student’s lives. I am much more than a classroom teacher, instead, I’m a confidant when my students need someone to talk to, a cheerleader for their achievements, a mentor when their parents aren’t available. Every day, I break barriers to motivate my students, encouraging confidence in them to focus on academics and follow their dreams. I truly love what I do and always want to do more. Although some days are overwhelming and discouraging, each day I offer my students a fresh start, knowing that they value me as a caring, strong, and positive role model. These students need me, just like I need them, and for this, my career has proven to be both fulfilling and meaningful, something that I’m very proud of.