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 most recently received the 2019 Advocate of the Year Award from the Association of Recovery in Higher Education.
Thomas now works as a therapist at South Miami Recovery, a local substance abuse treatment center. Thomas divides his time between South Miami Recovery and FIU, helping to lead the transition of Panthers for Recovery into a Collegiate Recovery Program. Thomas’ favorite job, though, is being a father to his kids, Anthony, 4 years old, and Anabella, 7 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
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.
Justin Volpe, CRPSS
Justin is a Certified Recovery Peer Support Specialist working with the 11th Judicial Circuit Criminal Mental Health Project, Jail Diversion Program since 2008. As a successful graduate of the program, Justin has firsthand knowledge of the importance of ensuring the availability of timely, high quality behavioral health treatment services in the community. After experiencing a series of psychiatric health care crises several years ago - which lead to a period of unstable living conditions, disruption of family and social supports, and brief involvement in the justice system - Justin became engaged in treatment and support services in the community. Today, he enjoys a full and productive life in recovery, serving as an inspiration and role model for others. Justin has also served as a National Consultant since 2011, and has travelled the country sharing his message of hope and inspiration. Justin has helped train over 2500 CIT Officers in Miami Dade County since 2008 and assisted in getting over 1000 people out of jail. His experiences make him uniquely qualified to speak to the importance of ensuing people have access to care when and where they need it, as well as the unfortunate consequences that can result when they do not. Having overcome significant challenges, Justin is now married with a son and a homeowner.
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.
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.