OUR TEAM

Learn more about a Team Member by clicking on their name or photo
Ashleigh Cromer

Ashleigh Cromer

Executive Director

Ashleigh is the Executive Director of Be Strong, who left her position as the VP of corporate social responsibility in a marketing agency to save and change children’s lives. In that role, she developed a deep understanding of the need for both corporate and nonprofit partners to bring about transformational and sustainable change. She has leveraged her business expertise to advance the interest of Be Strong for the purpose of having impact in the lives of students across North America. In her 5 years at Be Strong, she has led the team in educating over 5M students, guardians, faculty and school support personnel, connected students facing challenges with a trusted adult, developed a brand that is trusted by students, teachers, administrators, guardians and brands, while advancing a comprehensive program with demonstrated impact.

As one who has personally experienced the effects of childhood trauma, the work of Be Strong is personal for Ashleigh. Her heart is to serve those who, like her when she was a child, are looking for help, hope and purpose, while being in the throes of adversity.

Joshua Apparicio

Joshua Apparicio

President, Student State Representative Program

My Name is Joshua Apparicio, President of Be Strong’s Student Representative Program.

I am a 14-year-old Honor Roll student with a 4.0 GPA, currently attending Santa Monica Community College to exercise my academic curiosity. My passion is empowering my peers, after experiencing several years of bullying in school.
Being bullied while growing up was a difficult road to traverse, but from it, came my desire to speak to young people, encouraging them to persevere. If I didn’t maintain the mental fortitude I had while attending public school, I don’t believe I would have made it this far. I finally feel I belong in a classroom setting.

At the age of five, I was introduced to Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and took it upon myself to make a difference concerning equality for all. My goal is to become a civil rights attorney. I feel that educating myself in this abstract field is the best thing I can do.
I am a Contributing Youth Writer for the Los Angeles Sentinel and have been a published poet since I was seven years old.

“I will continue to invest in myself to ensure a much brighter tomorrow.” – Joshua Apparicio

Please meet Joshua’s fellow student leaders from the United States and Canada.

Keziah Baker

Keziah Baker

Program Support

Keziah was born and raised in South Florida. She’s been developing her life-changing resilience from the age of two, due to a rare skin condition that required her to undergo more than ten surgeries by the time she was thirteen.

Walking to the school bus during her freshman year in high school, Keziah was struck by a car. She sustained a traumatic brain injury and severe bodily damage, resulting in the inability to walk. While in recovery, Keziah experienced bullying and isolation, which led to depression. Determined to be the resilient young woman she was born to be, Keziah transitioned from volunteering with Be Strong to joining the programming team, in order to elevate others’ powerful stories of turning pain into purpose.

Keziah is a lover of dance, music and fashion, and what motivates her most is teaching others that their physical limitations can never stop them from reaching their fullest potential!

Diana Marcela Blanco

Diana Marcela Blanco

Strategic Partnerships

Diana was born in Colombia, now a resident of South Florida, but has spent the majority of her adult-life in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Her vast experiences from living in different cities, countries and cultures has crafted her capacity for adaptability, resilience and her ability to maintain an open mind toward different points of view.

Holding a BA in communications and a Master’s in Organizational Studies, Diana has a passion for creative thinking. She loves designing and implementing new ideas and processes that achieve the best overall experience for consumers and employees alike, as showcased in her years of experience within corporate communications and marketing.  

Diana grew up in a family where supporting others – specifically those in disadvantaged situations – was a must, and is always willing to help, no matter the circumstance. She is constantly challenging herself to “be the change you wish to see in the world,” her favorite quote, by Gandhi.

Denis Estimon

Denis Estimon

Growth Builder

Denis Estimon immigrated to the U.S. from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, when he was in the first grade. Not being able to communicate with his classmates, Denis knows what it feels like to be isolated. Now, Denis makes it his life purpose to make sure no kid has to feel the way he felt. During his senior year in high school, Denis and his friends launched We Dine Together for the sole purpose of combating social isolation. The story reached over 20 Million people after CBS featured the story and the work done by the students.

Estimon is stepping into his new role at Be Strong, while currently enrolled at Everglades University, Majoring in Business. We Dine Together aimed to provide a proactive solution to one of the leading top-five safety, health and social issues. While the program began to grow, Estimon realized the work needed structure and a scalable model with sustainable tools. Enter Be Strong. We Dine Together is now part of the fabric of Be Strong’s comprehensive approach.

Denis aims to promote the message of unity, love and inclusion as a speaker, activist, and influencer at Be Strong.

Matt Hayes

Matt Hayes

Director of Operations

Matt started with Be Strong in August 2016 and assumed the position of Program Director in 2018. There, his 10+ years of data management experience and attention to detail led to the development of custom software systems that prioritize relationships while advancing at scale. The implementation of these solutions enabled a small team to successfully expand Be Strong’s Student State Representative program and global event participation.

Matt is passionate about connecting students and education leaders to the sustainable resources available through Be Strong that he, himself, needed as a young person. Now, as Director of Operations, Matt is responsible not only for Be Strong’s day to day operations, but continues to seek solutions to improve efficiency and consistency, from the intersection of technology and innovation.

Eduardo Hernandez

Eduardo Hernandez

User Experience Designer, Humanisity

Ed is a User Experience Designer, Entrepreneur, Innovator and Active Volunteer.

He is the founder of Humanisity, a software company dedicated to social good. He is also part owner of a positive clothing company called Live for It All with his brother. He has helped design digital experiences for companies like Office Depot & Modernizing Medicine and has worked on projects for AT&T, and BlackBerry. He has also worked for companies like Tesla Motors & Apple Inc.

Joining Be Strong is something he believes was a blessing & a gift. To be able to help the next generation in a way that wasn’t available to him.

Jesula “JJ” Jeannot

Jesula “JJ” Jeannot

Program Support

After a massive earthquake struck her homeland of Haiti, JJ immigrated to the US and began middle school a stranger to both her classmates and the family she came to live with. Her accent, her clothing and her experiences seemed to set her miles apart from her peers, which gave way to teasing and being excluded.

The fire burning inside JJ refused to be put out as she began to use her strengths, voice and presence to help others through service and motivational speaking. She became one of Be Strong’s first Student State Representatives, joining the program in early 2017 as a high school senior.

JJ continued to share the knowledge and resources she acquired at Be Strong throughout her education at Florida State University, while also inspiring others as a speaker on Be Strong’s Speakers Bureau and serving fellow Floridians through an internship at the Congressional Office in Tallahassee.

JJ now brings her enthusiasm for diversity and inclusivity to Be Strong’s programming team, where she continues to be the change this world needs, by equipping the next generation of Be Strong leaders. 

Israel “Izzy” Kalman

Israel “Izzy” Kalman

Resident Resilience Expert

Izzy Kalman, a school psychologist and psychotherapist with over four decades of work experience, is a pioneer of the resilience approach to bullying. He has also been the world’s most prolific critic of the conventional, legalistic approach to bullying, correctly predicting that it will only intensify the bullying problem, while raising a generation of emotionally fragile children.

With a pragmatic, more psychologically sound approach, Kalman specializes in equipping people with the wisdom to deal with aggression on their own, using compassion and humor. His techniques exploit the genius of children to help them transcend victimization and recoup their self-confidence, happiness and excitement for life.

Izzy has taught his simple, yet powerful, approach to tens of thousands of mental health professionals, educators and bullying speakers, has produced numerous books and videos for dealing with bullying, and is the lead author of the Be Strong Bullying Prevention and Resilience Program.

Matthew Moore

Matthew Moore

Program Support

Matthew was born and raised in South Florida. From an early age, he has celebrated the differences in all people and believes in the power of each person’s story. From building relationships at school with special needs students, to traveling the world to volunteer in many different capacities, Matthew’s heart is for humans.

His passion for the efforts and impact of Be Strong originates from his own personal experience during middle school. Matthew encountered severe bullying and cyberbullying, which led him to a journey of overall health and purpose.

Following high school, Matthew enrolled in university pursuing a degree in film. As a storyteller and story-hunter, he’s a valuable member of the programming team, seeking out the next overcomers to become strong leaders on their school campuses – and beyond.

He’s also hilarious, so if you need a laugh, he’s a good place to start.

RonO Polito

RonO Polito

Chief Technology Officer

RonO’s vast experience in technology, production, event management, advertising and digital convergence creates a dynamic combination that has helped him to earn recognition as one of the pioneers of today’s technology revolution.

RonO has advised multimedia production companies on how to incorporate interactive media, future IT strategy, and Dconvergent technology into various media channels, fueling their businesses. Over the years, his creative, technical and management skills have been sought after by countless advertising agencies.

During the 2000 presidential campaign, RonO was entrusted with producing the State of Technology address. Through the use of interactive media, live webcasting and Dconvergent technology, this media event allowed the world to see why the State of Florida had become the leader in utilizing the latest in technology to run state government. Before this, RonO produced a full-scale public relations campaign, along with a national media event, that simultaneously branded and launched MyFlorida.com as the official state portal for Florida’s citizens and state employees to interact with state government.

In addition to serving as Be Strong’s Chief Technology Officer, RonO’s heart and technological expertise also serve America’s first responders, as the co-founder of the Thank You First Responder Organization.

Akiiana Planter

Akiiana Planter

Program Support

Akiiana hails from Florence, South Carolina, where she earned a BA in Political Science, Minor in Criminology, and is currently pursuing her Masters in Advanced Clinical Practice. Her desire to enrich the lives of others is undeniable.

Akiiana’s experience working with youth in a juvenile group home revealed to her, first hand, the lasting effects that social aggression has on young minds, affecting those who are bullied, those who bullied others, and those who experienced aggression as bystanders.

That professional experience, coupled with the shared belief that society can never truly stop bullying, led Akiiana to join the team at Be Strong. Rather than conveying false notions about a world where everything is fair and nice, she now helps to teach young people priceless social and emotional skills that they will be able to apply in challenging situations for the rest of their lives.

Even when she’s out of the office and the classroom, Akiiana still manages to find ways to take something small and make it great, notably as a successful currency exchange investor and converting balls of yarn into actual clothes!

Denise Reed

Denise Reed

Administration & Student Affairs

Denise is a 25-year educational veteran, as well as teacher of the year and an Assistant Principal of the year finalist, during her tenure at Marjory Stoneman Douglas (“MSD”) High School from 2010 to June 2019. While at MSD she developed numerous qualified programs for improving school climate and was an advocate for and change agent in Broward County Schools. Denise earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology with a minor in Criminal Justice and a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership. 

She is the proud wife of a U.S. Marine and mother of two daughters, who have both become teachers to be like their mother.

Rohan Sharma

Rohan Sharma

Program Support

Rohan is an alumnus of Be Strong’s Student State Representative Program and is thrilled to remain a part of the Be Strong community and help new Representatives! In addition to serving as a State Representative for California, Rohan served as Co-President of his high school’s We Dine Together club and is most proud of the Club’s emphasis on fostering empathy and inclusion across campus. He is entering his first year at UCLA and will major in political science. After graduating he plans to attend law school and become a human rights attorney.

Rohan first learned about Be Strong and We Dine Together after watching the CBS News story and is amazed by how far that simple action led him. He encourages all State Representatives to practice taking seemingly small acts of kindness daily and is excited to see how far that will lead them!

Yes, Rohan’s parents saw Lord of the Rings. No, they did not name him after the Kingdom of Rohan!

Alexia Suarez

Alexia Suarez

Program Support

Alexia has a deep passion for helping others succeed. She spent much of her time in high school learning how to better understand and serve her peers through her involvement with the Psychology club and Best Buddies, while also tending to those with four legs and fur, through the Humane Society club and her work at a pet training and supply store.

Highly skilled in interpersonal communication, Alexia recognizes the value of understanding the viewpoints of others and staying cool during moments of heightened stress. Bringing those skills with her to Be Strong, Alexia is committed to making impactful change through spreading love and support, and connecting those we are honored to serve with the social and emotional resources they need to live happily and successfully.

Charity Urbaez

Charity Urbaez

Program Manager

Charity was born and raised in South Florida. Years of seeing her peers – and herself – struggle within their community stirred in her a passion for reaching teens and teaching them how to connect with each other and the world around them in a healthy way. This has led to over 12 years of volunteering with students and working alongside them, as they figure out how to navigate the world and what their place in that world looks like. She believes every person has value and purpose, and believes Be Strong’s mission is the catalyst for change.

Charity loves to read and is an avid Harry Potter fan. To this day, this Gryffindor is still waiting for her Hogwart’s acceptance letter.

Eddie Urbaez

Eddie Urbaez

Program Support

Eddie was born and raised in South Florida. At a young age, he came to the realization that most people didn’t really like what he liked, he questioned why that meant people with differences couldn’t be friends.

Understanding how it felt to be alone, Eddie realized the importance of making sure people always had a number one fan. His love for people has led to over six years of volunteering with middle and high school students. Eddie is focused on making sure young people feel valued, loved and respected, and that they are equipped to be there for one another, even if no one else is.

Joining the Be Strong team has Eddie teeming with excitement, as he’s passionate about helping others learn, grow, and ultimately, reach their potential.

Eddie loves playing video games in his spare time, as well as all things involving super heroes, basketball and food! Just don’t ask him how he feels about the end of Avengers: Infinity War, Dwyane Wade retiring or sour cream!

Ashleigh Cromer

Ashleigh Cromer

Executive Director

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Joshua Apparicio

Joshua Apparicio

President, Student State Representative Program

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Keziah Baker

Keziah Baker

Program Support

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Diana Marcela Blanco

Diana Marcela Blanco

Strategic Partnerships

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Denis Estimon

Denis Estimon

Growth Builder

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Matt Hayes

Matt Hayes

Director of Operations

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Eduardo Hernandez

Eduardo Hernandez

User Experience Designer, Humanisity

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Jesula “JJ” Jeannot

Jesula “JJ” Jeannot

Program Support

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Israel “Izzy” Kalman

Israel “Izzy” Kalman

Resident Resilience Expert

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Matthew Moore

Matthew Moore

Program Support

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RonO Polito

RonO Polito

Chief Technology Officer

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Akiiana Planter

Akiiana Planter

Program Support

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Denise Reed

Denise Reed

Administration & Student Affairs

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Rohan Sharma

Rohan Sharma

Program Support

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Alexia Suarez

Alexia Suarez

Program Support

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Charity Urbaez

Charity Urbaez

Program Manager

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Eddie Urbaez

Eddie Urbaez

Program Support

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