I was born in Pottsville, a distressed coal mining town in upstate Pennsylvania, before my family moved to Bucks County, a Philadelphia suburb, for economic opportunity at age five. My father was a draftsman at General Motors and my mother was a homemaker — both second generation immigrants whose parents sought a better life in America.
In fifth grade, I was selected to represent my school at a United Nations human rights event in New York City. This early profound exposure to discussions on racial inequality and global rights issues, instilled an unyielding commitment to social impact, equity and inclusion that are deeply embedded in my personal life and career.
With money always tight and an absent father, my brother and I were left to find odd jobs to earn extra money. I started scooping ice cream at the age of thirteen at a local restaurant followed by a stint packaging ground meat at a small local business. At fifteen, I was hired as an apprentice by the owner of an electrical contracting company where I learned first-hand through his mentorship how to run a business and manage finances.
I was a strong student, athlete and musician in high school, graduating in the top one percent of my class. It was during this stage in my life that I solidified my interest in wellness. My commitment was galvanized after reading on a box of Fruit Loops that was as nutritious as an apple. That moment awakened in me a deep interest in empowering people to improve their well being.
With a single divorced mother, there was no money available for college and the more elite schools my counselors recommended. I wisely chose Rutgers University. Through a framework of loans and academic scholarships, supported by countless part-time jobs and work-study programs, I was able to scrape together the funds to pay for tuition and living expenses. Although it was exhausting juggling the intense demands of academics and work, nearby New York City was my reward for arts and culture.