Thomas Guerra, MS
He, Him, His
Thomas graduated from Florida International University (FIU) with a Master’s degree in mental health counseling in 2018. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in psychology from FIU in 2015. During his time as a student, he founded Panthers for Recovery, a student organization dedicated to helping students in recovery. For his efforts with Panthers for Recovery, he received a Shining Star award from FIU Student Affairs and was recognized as a Worlds Ahead Graduate during his graduation. He received the 2019 Advocate of the Year Award from the Association of Recovery in Higher Education.
Thomas founded Miami Recovery Project in 2020 and now serves as its Executive Director. Thomas’ favorite job is being a father to his kids, Anthony, 5 years old, and Anabella, 8 years old. His personal recovery has allowed him to be present for his family and help others do the same.
Michelle Fernandez, RCP
Peer Recovery Specialist
Michelle Fernandez, RCP is a certified recovery coach. As a person in long term recovery having battled with Alcoholism has experienced that recovery is absolutley possible for everyone. Her passion and drive is to help others to acheive the same, a fulfilling life free from substance use. “I strongly believe in the recovery community. I did not do it alone and many have helped me along the way. I’d like to do my part.”
Data Entry Analyst/Recovery Peer Specialist
He, Him, His
David is the Data Entry Analyst at Miami Recovery Project. He received his bachelor’s degree from Florida International University in 2014. David is passionate about supporting all pathways to recovery and reducing the stigma associated with recovery. He enjoys making jokes and helping others laugh. David was born and raised in Miami and appreciates serving the local community. The highlight of his life is being a father to his son William and he enjoys spending all his free time with him. David is a person in long-term recovery from alcohol and substance use.
Recovery Peer Specialist
She. Her, Hers
Natascia is a person who is in recovery from alcohol and substances. Her goal is to assist and support others in their path to recovery. Seeing her home town ravaged by addiction, it has become very personal to her. She believes that with proper support and faith, anyone can reach their full potential. She insists that if not for her own support system, recovery wouldn't be possible. “I thank God for the people that support me on a daily basis. It fills me with hope and joy to see people recover and regain their lives. They are loved and they do matter.”
Justin Volpe, CRPSS
Justin is an international consultant, advocate, and peer specialist based out of Miami, FL. He has presented and trained mental health facilities and other organizations on trauma informed practices and used his life experiences to discuss treatment and how to avoid seclusion and restraints over the last decade. Most recently Justin worked as a Jail Diversion Peer Liaison for the 11th Judicial Criminal Mental Health Project. He has worked as a Certified Recovery Peer Specialist in Florida since 2008 and has local and national experience. Justin has extensive work experience in the community, and has supervised and coordinated thousands of engagements with participants with serious mental health and co-occurring issues in the criminal justice system. He has assisted in training over 2,500 Miami Dade Law Enforcement Officers in Crisis Intervention Team Training. His passion for this work is based on bringing systems together locally and nationally while reducing stigma and advocating for the persons served. He is recently the recipient of the 2021 Fred Frese Award from CIT International and has many other awards and achievements; including multiple articles and film (Definition of Insanity, PBS 2020) with his experience with the Jail Diversion Program.
Sherri Ahern, MA
Treasurer, founding member
Sherri is a Higher Education doctoral student who is studying substance use and recovery. She received her Master's degree in English Literature from Florida International University in 2019. She is a member of the Association of Recovery in Higher Education and has presented with them nationally on topics surrounding substance use. Sherri is the recipient of several university awards and continues to do service and advocacy work for the Miami-Dade community. She serves as the current president of Panthers for Recovery at Florida International University. Sherri is a person in long-term recovery from substance use.
Julie Cristello, MS
Julie Cristello is a doctoral student in the Clinical Science Program in Child and Adolescent Psychology. Under the mentorship of Dr. Elisa Trucco, she is working to develop a better understanding of the role that environmental contexts and social networks (both online and face-to-face) have on adolescent substance use. Her program of research will focus on how normative youth behavior (e.g. social media, pop culture, extracurricular activities) influences alcohol and drug use as well as other risky behaviors. She has numerous publications and presentations on substance use and recovery. She has previously worked with John Kelly, PhD at the Recovery Research Institute, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School. Julie is an ally of recovery and has the long-term goal to inform community-based prevention programs that will improve substance use outcomes and promote positive youth development.
Secretary, Founding Member
Anthony is a Juris Doctorate candidate at Florida International University. He is passionate about criminal justice reform and resolving substance use disorder in civil society through community based recovery. He is a former Stop the Addiction Fatality Epidemic (SAFE) Project scholarship recipient. He is a current member of Panthers for Recovery at Florida International University. He is currently serves the role of outreach coordinator for the Marijuana Law Education Society and and Vice- President for the Environmental Law Society at FIU.
. Anthony is a person in long term recovery from substance use.