“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” 

Margaret Mead

Our Team

  • Sylvia T. Gray
    Sylvia T. GrayPresident & Hero Trainer

    American by birth and Aussie by choice, Sylvia is a Psychology undergraduate at Deakin University. She is inspired by the words of Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who said: “I am driven by two main philosophies: Know more about the world than I knew yesterday, and lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.”

    Sylvia’s current dedication to helping others rose from the hardships she experienced in childhood. From adolescence to adulthood Sylvia has battled continuously with naysayers and adversity. A few years ago she became deeply inspired by Dr. Philip Zimbardo’s work, especially the Heroic Imagination Project, and decided to return to university. She realized that while battling adversity and evil might be noteworthy, prevention is more valuable than a cure. Her own experiences as well as her work on a national crisis support hotline has led her to believe that empowering effective action is crucial to reduce issues of discrimination and stigmatization.

  • Ellie A. Jacques
    Ellie A. JacquesVice President & Hero Trainer

    Ellie is a hero trainer who uses the hero’s journey to navigate her own challenges and opportunities. Her journey began in Flint, Michigan, where she worked with Dr. Philip Zimbardo and the Heroic Imagination Project to train heroes in some of the most underprivileged schools in America. She then traveled to Australia to serve as Vice President and lead hero trainer of Hero Town Geelong, an organization that builds heroes in schools, government, and businesses. In light of the Flint water crisis, she has returned, and is currently using the hero’s journey to teach resilience to high schoolers, service providers, addicts, and felons in the Flint area. The hero’s journey has been a useful tool for Ellie to engage both kids and adults and to provide context for confusing and paradoxical life lessons.

  • Atticus D. Gray
    Atticus D. GrayTreasurer

    Atticus is currently working on his Bachelor of Psychology at Deakin University. He loves games of all sorts, be they video, board, or roleplaying. He married the love of his life at 21 years old. The two traveled the world as newlyweds until settling back in Australia. Atticus is extremely interested in all aspects of science and business and he and his wife have owned several small companies over the course of their life together. In addition to his current studies, he is also the owner of an information technology business. Although he is currently undergoing formal education, his hobby is self-learning in all subjects whether it is watching lectures online from other universities or taking free online courses.

    Through his various experiences as well as his studies of psychology, Atticus recognized that in order to create positive changes in human behavior around the world, a proactive focus and instructive approach would have to be developed. Positive psychology became his main interest, and through that, a deep curiosity of heroism science.

    Today, he is grateful for the opportunity to advance the ideas that he is most passionate about with Hero Town Geelong. He is determined to advance the science of heroism and make it accessible for the general public to benefit and learn from it. He reminds himself daily of words from Atticus Finch of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird: “Before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

  • Tameeka L. York
    Tameeka L. YorkYouth Ambassador

    A rough upbringing and struggles in her teenage years led Tameeka to volunteer for Barwon Child, Youth and Family Services (BCYF) as a live-in volunteer. As a lead tenant, Tameeka mentors homeless young people and aids them in their transition to independent living or reintegrating them back into the family home. Being a bit nerdy, and a lot geeky, Tameeka loves all things animated, playing games (both board and video), as well as a variety of arts and crafts, which is probably why young people feel comfortable working, and living, with her.

    The position at BCYF, coupled with her current studies at Deakin University, play an influential role in shaping the way that Tameeka views the world. Studying psychology introduced her to inspirational people, such as Dr Philip Zimbardo and his work on heroism and the bystander effect. Now, Tameeka endeavours to bring heroism and self-empowerment to the young people of Geelong, and the rest of Australia for that matter.

  • Karli Mynott
    Karli MynottLearning Resource Coordinator

    Karli is currently busy being a step parent, building and facilitating training for Hero Town and searching for the next 90s nostalgic TV show to binge watch. Growing up and moving around Australia and New Zealand, and through studying, Karli has developed her love of helping people and interest in group dynamics. Karli enjoys traveling and exploring different cultures, which has developed her fascination with what motivates people to respond differently in the same situation.

    Karli first fell in love with psychology whilst studying a Bachelor of Arts with Psychology and Asian Studies at the University of Auckland. After finishing her degree she returned to Melbourne to study a Postgraduate Certificate in Counselling Skills before following her passion for teaching by completing a Graduate Diploma of Education (Applied Learning) at Deakin.

    Karli is excited to have joined the Hero Town Geelong team and is looking forward to using her psychology and teaching skills to help inspire people to combat the bystander effect. Karli also hopes to help educate and encourage others to see the benefits of being self-aware and to practice a growth mindset.

  • Simon Dwyer
    Simon DwyerTrainer & Advisor

    Simon has always been interested in the social and group behaviour of himself and others. Driven by this fascination, he educated himself about the stock market, considering the patterns and trends established when people are exposed to similar conditions over different timeframes. This research prepared him for work as a stockbroker, for 3 years, culminating in his promotion to Director of a small stockbroking firm in Melbourne.

    Following the global financial crisis in 2008, Simon moved into the field of counselling. He studied Psychotherapy for 18 months at the Cairnmillar Institute and spent the following 6 years in private practice. Here he learned about meditate and its benefits. He immersed himself in daily practice, became a meditation teacher, and facilitated individual and group meditation and mindfulness sessions. In December 2014, Simon joined a group of whistle-blowers standing up and speaking out against inappropriate treatment of women within a Melbourne organisation. This movement inspired further study of human behaviour, and he enrolled in Psychology at Deakin University in Geelong.

    Seeing the need for greater awareness into the negative effects of high-control groups, Simon continues to educate himself of how these groups establish themselves and how to empower and assist those affected. He is an advisor on disciplinary committees and joined Hero Town Geelong in late 2015. Simon lives in Geelong, meditates daily and enjoys playing guitar in a local band.

  • Stephanie Downing
    Stephanie DowningAwesome Administration Assistant

    Born and raised in Geelong, Australia, Stephanie is a graduate of Deakin University with her Honours degree in Professional and Creative Writing. She adores words of all sorts and is especially infatuated with the medium of poetry and fiction, with publications of her work being featured in magazines such as WORDLY Magazine, Geelong Writer’s Anthology and Cordite Poetry Review.

    Stephanie’s portfolio of work demonstrates a diverse range of writing, from book and film reviews, to poetry, short fiction and critical research. Her creative writing invokes magical realist aesthetics and her creative thesis examined modern reinventions of classical Gothic texts, such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, one of her favourite books.

    Having studied the narrative versions of the Hero’s Journey in her literature major and her recreational reading, Stephanie is grateful for the opportunity to see these theories put into practice in fostering positive human development. Stephanie is inspired by this quote from Lemony Snickett’s A Series of Unfortunate Events:“At times the world may seem an unfriendly and sinister place, but believe that there is much more good in it than bad. All you have to do is look hard enough. and what might seem to be a series of unfortunate events may in fact be the first steps of a journey.”

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