Sawyer Garrity

Sawyer is a 2019 graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and was a proud member of Douglas Drama Troupe 4879.  Along with MSD drama Garrity has been a part of various outside theater companies such as, Barclay Performing Arts and Broadway Bound.

She has attended French Woods Festival of The Performing Arts since she was eight years old. Music and musical theater have always been a strong constant in Garrity’s life.

Garrity found her voice with music at a young age and has been deeply connected to it ever since. She uses music to help cope with problems in the world; it’s an outlet when she needs to express anything and everything.

After the mass shooting at her high school, while writing the song “Shine” with close friend Andrea Pena, Garrity discovered the power music can have on people. What began as their own way of healing turned into a musical anthem for the anti-gun violence movement, which Garrity and Pena performed on February 21st at CNN’s Town Hall and then again at the “March for Our Lives” student-led demonstration in Washington D.C.  On March 16, 2018, “Shine” was released on iTunes followed by the music video two months later.

In March 2018, Garrity and Pena launched ShineMSD, a non-profit foundation whose mission is to help unite communities through powerful creative arts therapy.   Shine MSD’s goal is to create and implement self-sustaining programs for both students and adults that bring a community together after a traumatic event while serving as a blueprint for future endeavors.   Their most popular program is CAMP SHINE –a free, two-week, summer camp for students aimed at healing through the storytelling, graffiti, photography, film/television, improv, music, songwriting, anime, graphic design, dance, slam poetry, book illustration, painting, etc.  Through the ShineMSD Foundation, Garrity hopes people from her community will find ways to express themselves and start the healing process.

Garrity’s goal is to help her community come together to heal during trying times.  She also wants to make sure that the seventeen students lost on February 14, 2018 will be remembered forever.

Her efforts in raising the issue of trauma associated with gun violence and founding a non-profit to provide healing through art therapy have been recognized by several organizations.

In July 2018, Sawyer and Andrea were awarded the fourth annual “DLDF Defender Award.” Dramatists Guild of America created the Dramatists Legal Defense Fund.  The Defender Award is given in recognition of an individual, group, or organization’s efforts in support of free expression in the dramatic arts and was given for the writing and performance of Shine.

In September 2018, Sawyer and Andrea were award the Television Industry Advocacy Award.  The Television Industry Advocacy Awards honor and support television talent and industry leaders who effectively use their voices for social cause.  Sawyer and Andrea were recognized for using their various television performances to call awareness to the trauma associated with gun violence and the power of the arts to help heal trauma.

In November 2018, Sawyer and Andrea’s non-profit started the Instrument of Hope initiative. The Instrument of Hope is a trumpet made from discarded AR-15 bullet casings. The trumpet symbolizes turning a weapon of destruction into something that makes beautiful music, like beating swords into plowshares.  Sawyer and Andrea, encourage bands to play the Instrument of Hope and further spread the message of hope.  The first band to play the Instrument of Hope was Panic! At The Disco.  Currently a version of Shine featuring approximately 80 of the worlds best trumpet players is being recorded for release in September.

In January 2019, Sawyer and Andrea’s non-profit Shine MSD, Inc., joined forces with Level Forward to launch an initiative called Gun Neutral calling on media companies to commit to destroying 10 guns for every gun shown in television, movies and theatrical works.

In May 2019, Sawyer received the Silver Knight Honorable Mention award.  The annual award ceremony honors outstanding high school students in Miami-Dade and Broward counties for their academic excellence and extraordinary passion for community service.

In June of 2019, Sawyer and Andrea’s non-profit Shine MSD, Inc., was announced as nominees for the Billion Acts of Kindness Hero Award in the category of Best Up and Coming Peacemaker and they will be attending the September award ceremony at the 17th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Merida Mexico.

Along with songwriting and singing, Garrity enjoys reading books, spending time with friends, discussing Harry Potter, and spreading love and kindness to others. She truly believes that art has the power to transform us all and wants to remind everyone to be kind to those they meet.

Sawyer will be attending the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami, class  of 2023.  She will be studying song writing and music therapy.

To learn more about Sawyer’s non-profit, please visit www.shinemsd.com

Arshay Cooper

Arshay Cooper is a Benjamin Franklin Award-Winning Author, USRowing Golden Oars winner, and Motivational Speaker. Arshay has spent his life cultivating a unique set of experiences that make him a much sought-after speaker to audiences ranging from professional athletes to high school students.

In 1997, Arshay joined the first all-black high school rowing team in the U.S. After College, Arshay spent is life giving back and changing the world through the sport of rowing. His memoir Suga Water is now being made into Documentary that will release February 2020 and is produced by Dwayne Wade and Grant Hill.

Caitlin V Neal

Caitlin V Neal is a sex and relationship coach and nationally-recognized expert on sexual assault at music festivals. In her day job, she helps people discover the joys of sexuality. On weekends, she helps festivals prevent assaults through the provision of dedicated “safe spaces”.

And at night, she helps assault survivors to reclaim their sense of wholeness and safety in the midst of a uniquely challenging environment. You can find her on YouTube.com/CaitlinV, in her organization Lights On, or at Shambhala Music Festival in BC.

Connor O’Keefe

Born in Minneapolis and currently located in Chicago, Connor O’Keefe (he/him) is a documentary filmmaker invested in telling stories revolving around identity, social justice, and life on the margins.

Learning about his own identity as a transman at a young age, he quickly began to explore gender and the world around him through filmmaking. He graduated from DePaul University with a BFA in Documentary in 2019. His most recent film, OUR TRANSITION, tells his own coming out story through the perspective of his parents and provides a message of hope for other families going through similar journeys.

Joe Martin

Joe Martin is a Chicago-based designer with a love for making things simple. As the CEO of Martin Creative, he has spent the last 18 years gaining experience in business, marketing, and leadership. A seasoned entrepreneur, all of Joe’s projects are rooted in his passion for building real-world communities.

His book, 6-Week Cycles, pushes for a better work environment which allows employees to work for six weeks and take off for two weeks. An international speaker, his thoughts on culture, productivity, and design have been a part of Fox News, WCIU, and WGN Radio.

Christopher Mallette

Christopher Mallette is the Director of Community Relations and Engagement, the Athletic Director and the Head Football Coach at Chicago Hope Academy. He is also a management consultant and strategic advisor.

He is the former Executive Director of the Chicago Violence Reduction Strategy and the former City of Chicago Director of Community Safety Initiatives where he worked to dramatically reduce group and gang violence in the City of Chicago.

Mr. Mallette’s career has focused upon youth violence prevention and intervention, juvenile justice, gang intervention and prevention and ex-offender reentry initiatives. Before his appointment to the Mayor’s Office, Mr. Mallette served as the Executive Director of Chicago’s Juvenile Intervention Support Center.

Christopher Mallette has devoted his life to public service, advocating for social justice and serving residents and children in urban communities. He has coached for more than twenty-five years and has also served the City of Chicago as an Assistant Corporation Counsel; the Faith Community of St. Sabina as General Counsel and Executive Director of the youth center, and the Chicago Public Schools, as a Magnet Schools Cluster Coordinator. He has been a featured guest on “60 Minutes,” A&E Network, ABC’s “Nightline,” “20/20,” the CBS Evening News, “Fox in the Morning” news broadcast, CNN, and Fox News “Hannity and Colmes.” Mallette is a Princeton University graduate and received his Law Degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law. Christopher and his wife Kendall have four children.

Joel Braunold

Joel Braunold serves as the Executive Director of the Alliance for Middle East Peace, a coalition of over 100 different organizations working in every sector of society building relationships between Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians.

A contributor for Ha’aretz and the Jerusalem Post, his work has been published in numerous national and international publications including the New York Daily News, the Guardian, the Huffington Post, the Hill and the Daily Beast. He has been a guest lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, National Defense University in Washington DC, Loyola Marymount University, University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and at Bar Ilan University.

He works regularly with the US State Department, USAID, the National Security Council and Congress on the needs of the peace building community. Outside the US, Joel works with national governments and multilateral institutions.

Joel is an alumnus of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and holds a BA(Hons) in philosophy from Bristol University. He is a board member of the Alliance for Peacebuildng, is the recipient of the Avi Schaefer Peace Innovation Prize, is a senior fellow for the Alliance for Youth Movements and holds Honorary Life Membership to the National Union of Students (UK). He was selected as an Emerging Leader by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs for their class of 2018.

Judy Torres

Judy Torres has graced the airways on NY’s WKTU  for 20 years, performed her hits nationwide at famous arenas, and recently wrote & starred in her sold out One Woman Off Broadway show, No Reason to Cry.

Now a certified master life coach, Judy continues to encourage, empower and inspire.  In her TEDx talk, she explains that you are valuable, and reminds you that you are NOT on clearance!

Stuart Kruse

CFA, Numbers-Cruncher & Positive Expected Value Seeker

After a getting a Chem E degree from Northwestern and working for Goodyear out of school, Stuart Kruse got his MBA from Kellogg in Finance and Game Theory.

He cut his teeth in the investment industry with Lehmann Brothers in New York and Chicago and then Bear Stearns (1999-2007) where he became a CFA charterholder in 2005.

He then founded Kruse Asset Management in 2007 in the desperate attempt to hold the investment industry to a higher standard. Instead of purely relying on relationships or marketing to drive business, his audacious goal was to let the numbers lead the way (and not the commissions) so the clients reaped the rewards… In other words, he tried to “Moneyball” finance.

His first book, License to Steal: Turn Wall Street Greed into your Gain, is about the pitfall of investing both from the industry and the investor’s standpoints, and how to make the system and people biases work for you instead of against you (Due out at the end of the month).

Non-Financial related activities include more than 100 jumps out of a perfectly good airplane, massive amounts of beach volleyball, motorcycle riding, all-around thrill seeking and travel (with and without his four Munchkins). He and his wife, Shermin Kruse, had a dream wedding in Fiesole, Italy 13 years ago this June.

Jason Patera

Jason Patera is the Head of School at the iconic Chicago Academy for the Arts*, an independent high school for passionate, elite-level filmmakers, musicians, actors, dancers, writers, animators, and visual artists from throughout Chicagoland.

A fierce advocate for the arts and arts education, Patera has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and was named a 2018 Golden Apple Leader of Distinction.

An avid endurance athlete, his recent essay “I Can Do Hard Things, or: How Much It Hurt to Run 100.6 Miles” was featured in Chicago Athlete Magazine.

(*While friends and neighbors, The Chicago Academy for the Arts and ChiArts are different schools.)

Nosa Eguae

First generation Nigerian-American, speaker, philanthropist, and social entrepreneur Nosa Eguae has coupled a life of service, with professional and athletic success. Nosa remains the only athlete in Auburn University history to start in two National Championship games.

After a purpose awakened transition from sport, Nosa began his work to confront the disease of low expectation in athletes and young people. His career at Baxter International has been noteworthy. With his community work in Chicago ongoing—Nosa now works alongside a team of former athletes at newly minted, Prolific Company; an organization he co-founded to bring forth holistic solutions for athletes transitioning from sport.