One of my favorite TED Talks warns about the danger of “a single story,” of harboring a single conception of what a country or a culture is. As a child raised in Kazakhstan, I was regularly exposed to the notion that the United States is to blame for historical and ongoing conflicts in the former Soviet Union, an idea I naively accepted. Upon moving to the United States at thirteen years old, I observed how the mutual misconceptions, or “single stories,” from each of these countries has fueled the antagonism between them over the years. I hope my personal perspective will promote understanding and affinity between countries and cultures.
As the daughter of Indian immigrants I believe in the power of becoming a “global citizen.” Extensive family travel and exposure to a variety of cultures and communities allows me to witness first-hand how conversation and interaction can forge connections between various groups of people. I’ve made it my goal to see and experience as much of the world as I possibly can, there’s too much out there to confine myself to just one corner of it.
High school junior Austin Silano is not only a talented musician on the piano and violin, but his fingers are also on the pulse of social media and its stronghold on teen infrastructure. Perhaps it is his background in martial arts or maybe the influence of his musical idols like The Beatles or Imagine Dragons, but Austin’s meditation on the power of perception has led him to discover new ways to navigate our social networking world.
In her thirteen years as an educator in Bellmore-Merrick, Christine Stevens has taught almost every art course offered to students including Sculpture, Photography, Creative Suite, Architecture, Advanced Placement Studio in Art and others. Though she enjoys working with a variety of artistic forms she is most passionate about drawing. Christine has found that drawing provides her with a pathway to connect to specific memories and create a time capsule of moments and events in her life. Through this artistic visual documentation of her life she can essentially travel through time to experience and reflect upon important moments again and again.
David Kuelz is a freelance writer and narrative designer, as well as the founder of Awkward Pegasus Studios. He's worked on over a dozen different games and interactive stories, including Dataprint, Starship Commander, and Into The Dark: Nakaran. He teaches video game writing for the Gotham Writers Workshop and Playcrafting NYC, and has spoken on the subject of narrative design at the Montalvo Arts Center and the Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology.
High School Student
Co-founder of a TEDed club at Calhoun High School in New York, sophomore Emma Bhansingh helps other students amplify their voices while building her own passion for activism and social justice. Emma holds an officership position in student council, writes for Hoofbeats, the school newspaper, and runs for the cross country track team. Emma is a firm believer in the power of communication and its ability to educate and provide advocacy for those in need of support. She aims to make her societal impact by unraveling systems of oppression little by little, and has become increasingly intrigued by anthropology and its potential to help us find meaning in our modern condition.
Seventeen-year-old Hafsa Ikram moved from Pakistan to New York in 2015 and currently attends Mepham High School. Her strong interest and ability in science and biology has led to her active membership in the science club and her induction into the National Science Honor Society. From a young age, Hafsa has always wanted to help others and become a medical professional. In an effort to realize her dream she currently volunteers at Nassau University Medical Center and plans to pursue a pre-med program in the future.
ennifer Sapir has been teaching English at John F. Kennedy High School for the past thirteen years. Her students can attest to her love of language; her children can attest to her belief that early bedtimes make everyone happier. In her free time, she enjoys reading thrillers, completing crossword puzzles, and engaging in other such activities that make her popular at parties. She used to know everything there was to know about everything, and then she had her three children: she is now secure in the knowledge that she knows almost nothing.
Professionally, Lee has been a Human Resources professional with Fortune 500 companies across a variety of industries for nearly 15 years. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Speech Communications, with a minor in Business from Penn State University. His role as captain of the Penn State football team provided him with a deep understanding of the winning strategies and principles needed for success both on and off the field.
I come from a family of teachers; both of my children are teachers, and my mom taught in the elementary school I attended. We moved when I was 12, as “the neighborhood was changing.” Further down the road, I would find myself teaching teenagers who were taking two subways and a bus while my own teenagers were being driven to school in their friends’ BMW’s.The juxtaposed images of my home life and school life, made it difficult to ignore the many disparities. We know there is an achievement gap, we don’t know what to do about it. Glenn Singleton believes in order to achieve racial equity, we need to have difficult conversations about race.If we hope to achieve equity, we need to be willing to be uncomfortable and have difficult conversations, to examine implicit bias, and listen to the lived experience of people of color. We need to understand that saying we “don’t see color” actually perpetuates inequity. I hope to begin those conversations here.
Recent College Grad
Meghan Corless is a 22-year-old recent graduate of Emerson College, and alumna of Mepham High School ('14). During her time in college and beyond, Meghan has been a fierce mental health and LGBT+ advocate, and plans to work with or start a nonprofit organization in either of those realms in the future. She currently resides in Boston, and in her free time Meghan is most likely drafting a funny tweet or complaining about the inferior bagel quality in New England.
Nicole Farina served as Mepham’s 2018-2019 Poet Laureate; this entails performing original pieces at a variety of school events and promoting the art form community-wide. Nicole has previously written for Newsday and has had her poetry published in several anthologies. She will attend Harvard University as a freshman in the fall of 2019
Robert Schulman is a native Long Islander who graduated from the University of Buffalo in 1994 with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology. Robert began working in the field of Prosthetics directly after college as a technician, and then returned to school to be able to become a Certified Prosthetist. Robert has worked in the NY metropolitan area for Allied Orthopedics for his entire career and has provided thousands of prostheses for people with limb loss. In 2018, Robert followed his dream and founded the Out on a Limb Foundation, a nonprofit organization helping children with limb loss both domestic and internationally.
Professional photographer Scott Joshua Dere has had a camera in his hand since the age of five and began learning about photography with 120mm film. At just thirteen years old, Scott landed his first photography job as an assistant for a local studio. For the next 17 years, Scott worked with several professional studios, discovered various techniques of lighting and visualizing subjects, and earned his BFA in the Fine Arts of Photography from the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. Scott is now the owner of Art Photographers, a Long Island based studio that serves the community, and he is the host and educator for photography expeditions in which developing photographers can travel with Scott to various locations around the country to photograph wildlife in The Elements of Nature.
business owner, entrepreneur, holistic wellness teacher
Vanessa Cafiero is a business owner, entrepreneur, teacher, and practitioner in the holistic wellness industry. She holds a B.S. in Exercise Science, as well as advanced certifications in Massage Therapy, Yoga Instruction, and Health Coaching. She experienced first-hand how harnessing the power of the mind has the capacity to heal the body and felt inspired to share this discovery with others. In 2012, Vanessa opened Emerge Yoga & Wellness, whose mission is to create a safe space for individuals to take a proactive role in their own health and healing process. Her expertise lies in directing yoga training and working with clients to break through trauma and chronic pain.