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
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 4.5 years at Be Strong, she has educated over 4M 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.
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.
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
Strategic Partnerships & Communications Coordinator
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 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, influencer and now Director at Be Strong.
Matt is the heart of Be Strong’s relationships with schools, education leaders, and our student leadership program, as well as the point person for Be Strong’s programs and community management – keeping staff and community informed and supported, in order to mobilize.
Prior to joining Be Strong, Matt grew up in rural Kentucky where the biggest claim to fame was “drive your tractor to school day.” After a decade of data management in Louisville, Kentucky he spread his wings and landed in South Florida where you can now find him gardening year-round.
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. He can also be found running around Be Strong events, supporting every effort, smiling from ear to ear.
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.
Aliana was born in Kingston, Jamaica. She realized the importance of a healthy school community because she did not have that, herself, in Jamaica. Following graduation, Aliana found herself volunteering more and more with young people. She is currently enrolled at Palm Beach State College, pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree of Social Work, with the belief that this education will help her thrive and grow at Be Strong.
Aliana is a food lover and pursuing a sponsorship from Chipotle, so she can eat Mexican everyday. Though they haven’t answered her requests, she remains hopeful.
Derrick, a South Florida native, has experienced his share of trials and tribulations growing up, always the shortest person in the room. Knowing he would encounter adversity, his father instilled in him the mantra, “heart over height.” This resonated strongly with Derrick, who despite his small stature, went on to win several medals in the Sunshine State Games for his skills and technique in Judo.
Like countless other students, Derrick experienced social isolation in high school. Through his love of poetry and song, he found both inner peace and like-minded peers, which effectively opened the door to quality friendships. Derrick now uses his personal experience and light-hearted, caring demeanor to connect today’s students with the social and emotional tools that will help them to understand their emotions lead to fulfilling lives.
Derrick loves to connect with others through short films, poetry, gaming, and helping around the community.
Acting Learning Officer
Robin is an ethnographic researcher and former humanitarian aid worker. Her research revolves around understanding contextualized and dynamic meanings of value, and effectiveness in morally-accountable work. As a humanitarian practitioner, she has worked extensively within systems designed to serve vulnerable communities. As a researcher, she explores the human and contextual factors of complex organizational systems that lead to bringing effective social outcomes. Her contributions include revealing a comprehensive framework that positions trust, social-agency and adaptation at the center of successful practice in building resilient communities.
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.
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.
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 a Potterhead in every way. To this day, this Gryffindor is still waiting for her Hogwart’s acceptance letter.