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Past Speakers

December 17 6:30pm

Research from the Center of Excellence at MGH
Speakers: Valeria Chambers, Anne Whitman, and Sandra Whitney-Sarles

January 21 6:30pm

Speakers: Sam Botsford and Heidi Lee

Sam Botsford will be talking about his recovery story, including his graduation from law school (it only took him ten years!), and his current role as a student in Social Work school.  He will also talk about his work as a peer specialist at the Boston Resource Center.  In addition, Sam will review his time at NAMI Massachusetts and the experiences of his different roles within the organization. Finally, Sam will discuss his personal life, including being a husband and father with a mental health condition.

​Heidi Lee is an artist, mother, and teacher who lives with the
challenges of PTSD and Bipolar Disorder. She is a Certified Peer
Support Specialist-Housing Navigator for Boston Health Care for the
Homeless Program. She will talking about her experience as a parent
with mental health challenges as well.

February 18 6:30pm

Speaker: Sandra Whitney-Sarles

Sandi will be telling her recovery story and how work has played a major role in that process; see bio.

March 18 6:30pm

Speaker: Karen Gromis

Karen Gromis will talk about her recovery and the Saturday, May 22, 2021  Walk which again will be virtual.

April 15 6:30pm

Speaker: Melissa Talal

Melissa Talal, who is orginally from California and Texas, will tell her recovery story. Melissa will initially talk about the early years of her illness being encapsulated with multiple hospital stays although always doing something. At her sickest, however, she was able to intern at the Mexican Consulate in San Antonio and took graduate classes in Spanish linguistics. At that time she never thought she would get off disability and work full time.

Melissa will talk about her road to recovery. She moved to the Boston area in 2000 after living on Gould Farm for 10 months.Then she got in a long term relationship with her partner and adopted two cats, Lulu and Turbo and they were instrumental in her recovery. She was able to get a job at a movie theatre for many years but really wanted to work as a peer specialist. She has  now been working as a peer bridger and peer specialist for over three years the Northeast Recovery Learning Community. She is currently in graduate school at Northeastern where she is pursuing a master's in global studies/international relations. Dreams achieved!

May 20 6:30pm

Facilitator: Sandi Whitney-Sarles

I will be facilitating a listening group for up to 10 peer participants.  The listening group will focus on taking time to hear the ways an RLC currently meets the needs of peers and how it may improve in the future.  We are hoping to hear how to develop a more vibrant and diverse community.  We would also like to hear how creativity can foster hope, health and expression.


July 15 :

Yuka Gordon

Her first mental health episode hit when she was a college student. She chose not to get any treatments (proper treatments were not available).

Yuka learned it is common to see a psychiatrist in the U.S. and decided to do so. Medications were working to make her feel better for a while, however, she felt she is not quite feeling well enough. When she lost a job and parents for a short period, she hit the bottom. She struggled to find good medications for several years.

When she found BRC this was one of turning points in her life. She became a community member, then, volunteer, per diem peer specialist, quality management and operation director (MBRLC & SERLC), co director (MBRLC) and Director MBRLC.

August, 2021: Julie Anne Entwhistle

Julie Anne Entwistle is a Certified Peer Specialist and Program Coordinator for the Hope Center. Julie Anne is dedicated to creating a trauma-informed space where individuals from all backgrounds can find their own peer support
community. She will be speaking in particular of the power of trauma-informed group peer support to create change within the mental health system and support individuals in finding recovery.

October 21, 2021 

Chris Laureano

Christopher Laureano will be sharing his recovery story and discussing his work as the Director of the Recovery Education and Learning (REAL) Program at Bay Cove Human Services, which offers both in-person trainings at the fifth floor of Center Club, and online trainings through the Zoom app with the purpose of preparing people for the workforce in human services. 

November 18, 2021--Ruthie Poole

Ruthie Poole loves being part of the Mental Health Peer Movement as she believes it’s a liberation movement similar to the Gay Liberation and Civil Rights Movements. She believes it’s important to know our history. Ruthie is excited to present a slide show on the History of the Mental Health Peer Movement in Massachusetts and talk about how we can build on that history to create progressive change in our state.

January 20, 2022--Tanshella Branch


Tanshella: I have lived experience with mental health challenges since I was a child. Throughout my life, I've struggled with these challenges that greatly impacted my friendships, decisions, faith, family and career choices. 


In order to begin healing, I sought help from professionals which led me to working as a Certified Peer Specialist at Boston Medical Center. I started off facilitating groups at various programs and the MBRLC. Additionally, I worked as an operator on the Peer Support Line--where I am now the Coordinator.


I also jumped back into teaching art, on occasion, as a volunteer. Importantly, I rededicated my life to God and prioritized my spiritual lifestyle. 


Now, I stand proud and full of joy into seven years of mental health healing and recovery from trauma I endured throughout the years due to my mental crises. I thoroughly enjoy the work I do at the MBRLC at Boston Medical Center. 


I have supportive friends, strong connection with my family and professional supports. I have an amazing church and ministry which I'm devoted to. Every day I am thankful to God for each step of blessing I take toward renewed healing.

February 17, 2022--Ewa Pytowska

Ewa will share her recovery story and will read from her unpublished memoir, going back over forty years to her first battle with a debilitating depression at the time she had her first child.  She will describe her journey in much detail, ending on her discovery of the Recovery Learning Communities and the role of NAMI Mass in her life today.

March 17, 2022--Cynthia Piltch

Cynthia Piltch, PhD., CPS, is a Peer Consultant at the MGH Center of Excellence and a freelance mind-body therapist in private practice in Lexington, MA.  Cynthia will share her personal recovery story, including a description of how holistic healing tools like massage and Reiki have supported her well-being.

April 21, 2022--Mary Broderick and Denise Clarke

Mary will talk about the importance of the Peer Support Network as a motivator for her recovery and how she was able to move forward in her life as an older adult through connections with peers and wellness tools. She will talk about her self-care, and how showing up for family, friends and work has helped her. She feels it is never too late for anyone to move forward, and that all of us can recover to lead more meaningful lives.

Denise Clarke will be sharing her recovery story and discussing her work as a Certified Peer Specialist for the Peer Support Network, a Boston Recovery Learning Community which offers both in person groups and individual peer support  on the 5th floor of the Center Club and online or in hybrid groups through the Zoom App. Denise has worked as a CPS for 14 years.

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