top of page

JFYF Speaker Series

Along with working on their projects during the six week Summer fellowship, the fellows take part in a bi-weekly speaker series which includes professionals in the world of mental health along with individuals with "lived experience".  Listed below are the speakers we have been been fortunate to hear from over the last few years.

Dayna Altman (She/her/hers) is an energetic and dynamic entrepreneur, author, and creator. The full force and sole operator of Bake it Till You Make it LLC; Dayna harvests her passion for mental health advocacy by using food and baking to create an authentic recipe for vulnerable storytelling. A dual graduate of Northeastern University and an active Boston community member, Dayna has experience both working in the mental health field and with youth-based non-profits. Currently, Dayna works at a national non-profit, and in all other hours of the day, she pursues public speaking, writing poetry and cookbooks, documentary filmmaking, and exploring new ways to change the world using her own story. Her activism has been featured by MTV, Aerie, and at the White House alongside the Biden-Harris administration. Living with depression and OCD, as well as being in recovery from an eating disorder and sexual assault, Dayna Altman truly lives her message. -- 


Entrepreneur, William Michael Barbee is the owner of six businesses, has written two books, and –despite never having formally studied film or theater—wrote, directed and produced the movie, “Beyond the Silence” which was screened at the Cannes Film Festival in May of 2019.  His path wasn’t exactly smooth.  Barbee born and raised in Newark, NJ, overcame trauma, violence and profound depression to make his dreams come true. (


Cory Bernstein is a Staff Attorney and the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) grant coordinator at Disability Rights New Jersey. In this role, Cory represents individuals throughout New Jersey with behavioral health diagnoses in community and institutional settings, including psychiatric hospitals, nursing homes, and developmental centers. Additionally, Cory conducts outreach and advocacy with community stakeholders, and helps lead national policy efforts on the corporate structure and tactics of for-profit youth psychiatric residential treatment settings, conducting workshops on this topic for the National Disability Rights Network and National Juvenile Justice Network. Cory is from Montville, NJ, and has lifelong connections with the Montclair community. 


Victoria Canales is a rising junior at the University of Texas at Austin. She is majoring in Psychology and has been a member of the Steve Fund Youth Advisory Board since 2020. She has been featured in a PBS Newshour story about mental health during COVID-19 and has participated in mental health panels and discussions. Because of her own experiences with mental health, she has dedicated her time to helping others find help and resources for taking care of their own mental health. She is also a musician and hopes to attend graduate school for musicology one day. Feel free to reach out to her! Her Instagram is @vic.canaless and her email is

Kenna Chic currently works as a legislative advocate. She previously worked in the U.S. Senate HELP Committee, U.S. House of Representatives Education and Labor Committee, the National Institutes of Health, and a health law firm. She has been a mental health and disability rights advocate at the local, state, and national level for over nine years, dedicating her work towards removing societal barriers that people with mental health struggles and various disabilities encounter. Kenna’s mission is to defend, uphold, and expand the rights of people with disabilities through policy and law.

With her passion for change-making heightened by her professional experiences, Kenna has also served on multiple advisory boards, task forces, and fellowships in various organizations, including the Mental Health Strategic Impact Initiative, Mental Health America, and the Coelho Center for Disability, Law, Policy, and Innovation. As a voting member of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Behavioral Health Integration Task Force, she worked on integrating behavioral health and primary care services, promoted the importance of peer support and expansion of mental health services in underserved populations, and voted to increase COVID-19 congressional relief funding for tele-health grant programs. As the president of Project Lighthouse, Kenna executed an online peer support system to provide users direction in navigating local mental health resources and emotional support for individuals struggling with mental health. Finally, through the Jed Foundation, she worked with Facebook on technology and suicide prevention resources. 

Jessi Davis (she/they) is a certified Peer Supporter from Texas. Jessi has worked in a variety of settings providing peer support and has a passion for ensuring that young people have access to quality, affordable peer supporters. Through their efforts, Jessi has impacted state, regional, and national programming focused on youth and young adult mental health and substance use recovery. They are currently the President of the Board of Directors for the National Association of Peer Supporters, and a Senior Program Coordinator for their region’s Mental Health Technology Transfer Center grant. 

Robert Davison is the Chief Executive Officer of the Mental Health Association of Essex, Morris, Sussex and Passaic. For nearly 70 years, this organization has steadfastly committed to the core tenets that mental illness is real and, more importantly, that recovery is possible.  The Mental Health Association of Essex, Morris, Passaic and Sussex first and foremost… above all and beyond all… is a service provider that is committed to compassionate, dignified and empowering treatment as we guide our society’s most vulnerable citizens along their individual paths to Wellness and Recovery. ( . 

Katie Donohue after dealing with her own difficult upbringing and her own mental health issues, Katie grew a passion to give back to the mental health community. She attended the University of Central Florida where she studied psychology and creative writing and began working for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Greater Orlando. She volunteered as a mental health professional and teacher residing in the third world country of Sri Lanka where she was able to pour into the mental health community overseas working in special needs homes and psychiatric hospitals.

Today she is a public speaker for NAMI Greater Orlando and has spoken on the local, statewide, and national level over the last three years speaking at events, conferences, CIT Trainings for police officers and first responders, as well as elementary, middle, high school, and college students about mental health, mental illness, suicide awareness, warning signs, and coping skills.Katie continues to pursue her passion for mental health through her work as a behavioral health technician at a substance abuse and eating disorder hospital. She is in the process of completing a Master of Science degree in Mental Health Counseling from Palm Beach Atlantic University Orlando Campus.


Dr. Cherie Elfenbein is board certified in adult psychiatry and she also works with clients to attain mental wellnes in all areas of one’s life. Her practice is collaborative and integrates psychopharmacology with her interest/training in nutrition, mindfulness, yoga, exercise, and mind body therapies. Dr Elfenbein’s areas of expertise are in treating anxiety, depression, insomnia, trauma. She searches for the underlying physiologic causes that can contribute to your symptoms or challenges. Supplements, vitamins, and herbs may be recommended along with or instead of medicine. Genetic testing is offered to individualize treatment. Women’s health is another area of expertise.

Mary Giliberti is the Executive Vice President of Policy at Mental Health America.  Mary focuses on federal policy to promote prevention, early intervention, integration, and recovery.

Prior to joining MHA in 2019, she was the Chief Executive Officer of The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). She also has worked in the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Serves and as disability counsel to the United States Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee.  After graduating from Yale Law School, she clerked for Judge Phyllis Kravitch on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals and received a Skadden Fellowship to work at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. 

Mary lives in Arlington, Virginia with her husband and three children.  Her career has been very influenced by Rick Warren’s book, A Purpose Driven Life, and she is so grateful to work at an organization with such a powerful and important purpose.

Carmen Guthrie is honored and grateful to be a part of this program and to be able to speak about mental health on such a great platform. Carmen was born and raised in Montclair, New Jersey, she graduated from Montclair High School in 2018 and she is currently 22 years old. She loves to sing and write music and she also loves fashion. Carmen is very creative and loves putting pieces together to create art. Mental health has always been a big obstacle in her life, which is why she is ecstatic to speak about her experiences and hurdles that she has gone through, with others who are also struggling mentally. Mental health is not something that has always been talked about. She believes it is about time we start leaning on one another and focus on our mental health which has been very hard to stay healthy during these times that we are living in. She is still learning how to deal with her mental health and get better, but she hopes to touch someone and help them through their struggles as well. 

Madeline (Maddie) Guthrie was born in Jersey City and has been a Montclair resident for the past 26 years.. Along with her husband, Maddie also runs her own nonprofit called “Reaching Out Montclair” after they realized that there were many needs not being met for underserved families in their own community. They work with other organizations like Toni’s Kitchen assisting families with furniture, clothing, food, Christmas gifts, backpacks for school, summer camps and other services at no cost to the families. Maddie is also the mom to 3 wonderful kids one of them who is Carmen! 


Caren Howard currently serves as the Advocacy Manager for Mental Health America under the Vice President of Mental Health Systems and Advocacy, and she has 10 years experience in political campaigns and advocacy. 

As Advocacy Manager, Howard builds the MHA Regional Policy Council’s four yearly conference meetings, compiles resources and advises strategy to influence federal and state elected officials on a wide range of health care, education, and criminal justice policy issues, and facilitates relationship-building between MHA affiliates and their state and local elected officials through the Back Home Campaign. You may read some of her blog posts about mental health here: how the ACA repeal would hurt people, additional attempts to repeal the ACA, tips to talk to legislators, and a little bit about the 2018 budget request.

Howard earned a B.A. in Political Science at Spelman College, the nation’s top-ranked Historically Black College and University for ten years. Howard continues leadership in the community as Board Chair of the African American Women on the Hill Network and Founder and Director of the Oakland Mills High School Alumni Program in Columbia, Maryland. It is very important to her that mental health promotion becomes a core foundation of our nation's health and education policy and programs.


Dr. Tom lnsel, M.D., a psychiatrist and neuroscientist, has been a national leader in mental health research, policy, and technology. From 2002-2015, Dr. Insel served as Director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). More recently (2015 – 2017), he led the Mental Health Team at Verily (formerly Google Life Sciences) in South San Francisco, CA. In 2017, he co-founded Mindstrong Health, a Silicon Valley start-up building tools for people with serious mental illness. Dr. Insel co-founded Vanna Health in 2022 and currently serves as Executive Chair. Vanna Health is focused on the needs of people with serious mental illness and works with community partners to provide the 3 Ps (people, place, and purpose) for recovery. In 2020, he co-founded Humanest Care, a therapeutic online community for recovery. Since May of 2019, Dr. Insel has been a special advisor to California Governor Gavin Newsom and Chair of the Board of the Steinberg Institute in Sacramento, California. He is the author of the book Healing: Our Path from Mental Illness to Mental Health, published by Penguin Random House. With journalist co-founders, he recently launched MindSite News (, a non-profit digital publication focused on mental health issues. Dr. Insel is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and has received numerous national and international awards, including honorary degrees in the U.S. and Europe.

Tracy Klingener is the Director of Suicide Prevention Services at the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris. Tracy has been working in the mental health field for the last twenty years and is a Licensed Associate Counselor. She is a certified Mental Health First Aid instructor, in the adult, veteran, law enforcement, older adult and youth modules. She is trained in an evidence-based program that is utilized in schools to educate students on mental illness and suicide prevention. Tracy is also a trained instructor for the Talk Saves Lives Program through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Her clinical experience includes working with sexual assault survivors, at-risk youth and evaluating adolescents for learning disabilities.  

January Levy, owner of the only woman-owned barber shop in Montclair, shares her story of self-medicating with drugs and alcohol in an effort to deal with her mental illness and then recovering from addiction and finding her passion in barbering.  with a family history of mental illness, as a teenager and young adult in her early 20’s, January experienced a downward spiral as a result of using drugs and alcohol to deal with her mental illness.  When she was 24, she went to rehab to get sober for herself and her oldest son. From there she found her passion in the male dominated world of barbering and has since entered barbering competitions and bringing home trophies! January’s story of dealing with her illness and addiction and carving out her place in the barbering world will inspire you to trust yourself and define your own success. (


John MacPhee is the Executive Director for the JED Foundation based in New York City.  JED is a nonprofit that protects emotional health and prevents suicide for our nation’s teens and young adults. Jed partners with high schools and colleges to strengthen their mental health, substance misuse, and suicide prevention programs and systems. JED is equipping teens and young adults with the skills and knowledge to help themselves and each other. It encourages community awareness, understanding and action for young adult mental health. (

Alison Malmon is the Founder and Executive Director of Active Minds, the nation’s premier nonprofit organization supporting mental health awareness and education for students. Alison formed the organization in 2003 when she was 21 years-old, following the suicide of her brother and only sibling Brian. Wanting to end the silence that caused her brother to suffer alone and ultimately take his own life, Alison created a group on her campus at the University of Pennsylvania to promote open dialogue around mental health.
Since then, Active Minds has grown into the country’s foremost mental health organization for students and young adults. At more than 1,000 schools, Active Minds’ award-winning programs include Send Silence Packing suicide prevention exhibit, Active Minds Speakers, and a vibrant network of Chapters at colleges, universities, and high schools nationwide. 
Alison sits on the advisory committees for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Well Being Trust, and has been profiled in Forbes, CNN, New York Times, Glamour Magazine, and more. Alison lives in Boulder, Colorado and is the mother of three young girls, and in her spare time, loves flying 23 feet in the air at the Trapeze School in Washington, DC.


Keris Jän Myrick is a  Co-Director of The Mental Health Strategic Impact Initiative (S2i) which aims to advance the transformation of mental health by catalyzing cross-sectional reforms, strengthening collaborations, and bridging gaps and she serves on the Board of the National Association of Peer Specialists (N.A.P.S.) and is a Certified Personal Medicine Coach. Ms. Myrick previously held positions as the Chief, Peer and Allied Health Professions for the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, the Director of the Office of Consumer Affairs for the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) of the United States Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), President and CEO of Project Return Peer Support Network, a Los Angeles-based, peer-run nonprofit and the Board President of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Ms. Myrick is a leading mental health advocate and executive, known for her innovative and inclusive approach to mental health reform and the public disclosure of her personal story. Ms. Myrick has over 15 years of experience in mental health services innovations, transformation, and peer workforce development. An early adopter, self-identified “geek” and interest in leveraging technology to aid in mental health recovery and wellbeing, Ms. Myrick serves on the American Psychiatric Association’s App Advisor Panel, Is Clinical Advisor to the BIDMC Harvard Medical School’s Digital Psychiatry Program and recently received her certificate in Geek Culture Competency. In June 2021, Ms Myrick was the recipient of Mental Health America’s highest honor the Clifford W. Beers Award.

Ms. Myrick’s personal story was featured in the New York Times series: Lives Restored, which told the personal narratives of several professionals living with mental health issues. Ms. Myrick is an in-demand national trainer and keynote speaker, and authored several peer reviewed journal articles and book chapters. She is known for her collaborative style and innovative “whole person” approach to mental health care and is podcast creator and host of “Unapologetically Black Unicorns”.

Ms. Myrick has a Master of Science degree in organizational psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology of Alliant International University. Her Master of Business Administration degree is from Case Western University’s Weatherhead School of Management.

Ms. Myrick’s social media handles are:

Twitter handle is @KerisWithaK

Gwen Orlowski is the Executive Director for Disability Rights of New Jersey.


Ms. Orlowski was born and raised in New Jersey and graduated from Georgetown University with a BA in Government and from Rutgers School of Law with a JD. A recognized expert on Medicaid, Ms. Orlowski is an attorney who has extensive disability experience in front line individual advocacy as well as policy work and advocacy for systemic change. She has previously held positions as New Jersey’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman and Senior Staff Attorney with Justice in Aging. Her most recent position was as the Senior Staff Attorney for Central Jersey Legal Services where she represented clients in disability and health law matters. Ms. Orlowski is aware of the complicated, and sometimes overwhelming, challenges people face, especially when navigating the legal system. It is her mission to promote and defend the human, civil, and legal rights of people with disabilities."


Bren Pramakin (they/them) is the Managing Attorney of the Institutional Rights Team and Grant Coordinator for the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) grant at Disability Rights New Jersey (DRNJ). In this role, Bren manages a team of attorneys and advocates representing individuals with disabilities throughout New Jersey in institutional settings, including psychiatric hospitals, nursing homes, and developmental centers. Prior to their work at DRNJ, Bren was an Assistant Deputy Public Defender for the Office of the Public Defender in New Jersey. After law school, Bren clerked in the Criminal Division for the Honorable Joseph L. Rea at Middlesex County Superior Court.

Carly Quisenberry is one of the 1000 women leaders in science who is part of the groundbreaking Homeward Bound program to address climate change. Moving to Hawaii at the age of 20, Carly faced many challenges as a young woman in the science world and also battled her own personal issues with marriage, divorce, and serious health related problems. She had four different jobs post graduating and is now on a path to happiness with hopes to work in the park system.  (

Elyn Saks is an Orrin B. Evans Distinguished Professor of Law, Professor of Psychology, and Psychiatry and the Behavioral Sciences at the USC Gould School of Law; Director of the Saks Institute for Mental Health Law, Policy, and Ethics; Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry at the UC San Diego, School of Medicine; and Faculty at the New Center for Psychoanalysis. She served as USC Gould's associate dean for research from 2005-2010 and also teaches at the Keck School of Medicine. Saks received her JD from Yale Law School, and a PhD in Psychoanalytic Science from the New Center for Psychoanalysis. She was also awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree (LLD, Hon) from Pepperdine University.


Andrea Smith-Morgan is an English teacher at MHS.  She is also the founder of the nonprofit Mindful Awareness Academy for Children (MAAC). Andrea will address the topic, What is mindfulness and how can it support and foster resilience in our lives? She will demonstrate simple mindfulness practices that can help improve attention and decision-making skills. Mindfulness will teach you how to handle difficult emotions and help you to combat anxiety and depression. (

Paul Spivey has enjoyed leadership roles in management, administration, program development, and financial stewardship in the philanthropic and broader nonprofit sectors. As a principal at the executive search firm of Phillips Oppenheim, Paul leads the philanthropy and social service practices.  Paul served as President of the Edwin Gould Foundation for Children, supporting education, youth development, career development and financial literacy.  Prior to joining Gould, Paul was Executive Director of Sponsors for Educational Opportunity, committed to the academic and professional achievement of low-income students.  Paul’s time as a human rights worker for the Black Sash in South Africa in the late 1980s inspired him to support underserved youth both abroad and at home.  Immediately following his graduation from college, Paul worked as a financial analyst for Goldman Sachs.  At that time, he joined the board of his alma mater, Wesleyan University. Paul has served on more than 20 educational, social service and cultural boards.  He currently serves on the boards of the TEAK Fellowship and New York City Center. He was formerly a board member of the Ackerman Institute for the Family and continues to support the organization as a consultant.  

Sandra E. Timmons joined the Steve Fund as its Interim Executive Director in March 2020. The Steve Fund is the nation’s only organization focused on supporting the mental health and emotional well-being of young people of color. The Steve Fund works with colleges and universities, nonprofits, researchers, mental health experts, families and young people to promote programs and strategies that build understanding and assistance for the mental and emotional health of the nation’s young people of color. Sandra’s experience and interests are closely aligned with the Steve Fund’s mission and values. She has spent most of her career helping young people, many in underserved communities, gain access to opportunities that increase their educational achievement and success. 

Ken Zimmerman besides having the most important titles of Jackie’s “Husband” and “Father” to Jared, Brianna, and Gabe, Ken has had a long career (and continues to do so!) devoted to justice, equality, and fairness issues. He currently holds the position of Distinguished Fellow at The NYU Furman Center which is one of the preeminent research centers on housing, neighborhoods, and urban policy and also recently has been named as a Visiting Distinguished Fellow for the Jed Foundation.

Ken began his career litigating for the homeless and defending civil rights issues.  Whether it  was a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice or the Founding Executive Director for the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice or Chief Counsel to  the then Governor of New Jersey, Jon Corzine, or part of the 9-person HUD agency transition team for President-Elect Obama, Ken has always been involved in many different kinds of public interest projects including civil rights law suits, assistance for urban high school graduates to enter the trades, affordable housing, racial and immigrant justice, and criminal justice reform to name a few.

Ken’s current position at the Jed Foundation as a Visiting Fellow will allow him to build an initiative to strengthen the multiple strands of efforts to transform our mental health system. Recognizing the fact that critical progressive objectives like criminal justice reform and the remaking of policy are so important during this time that we are living in, Ken hopes to build on his many years of experience of helping others and to emphasize that the remaking of our mental health system is intertwined with so many critical issues, including dismantling mass incarceration and redefining the role of the police.

bottom of page