“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

  • Sylvia T. Gray
    Sylvia T. GrayFounder

    American by birth and Australian by choice, Sylvia’s background is in psychology. Her mission is to empower individuals and organisations to create positive change in themselves, their communities and workplaces, so that we all leave a better world than the one into which we were born.

    Sylvia’s passions lie in four spaces: improving workplaces, destigmatising mental health concerns, suicide prevention, and the mental health of young people. She develops, delivers, and evaluates custom interventions and training programs for everyone (general public, schools, government, non-profit, and businesses of all shapes and sizes), including our Everyday Heroism course. She also supports others in having life-changing (and sometimes life-saving) conversations about mental health and delivers Mental Health First Aid courses around the country.

  • 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.

  • Stephanie Downing
    Stephanie DowningSecretary

    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.”

  • Simon Dwyer
    Simon DwyerTrainer

    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.

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