Choose Love Team
The Hearts Behind The Movement
Scarlett Lewis founded the nonprofit Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement in honor of her son, Jesse, who was murdered during the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in December 2012. Shortly after his death, Scarlett decided to be part of the solution to the issues that we’re seeing in our society — that also caused the tragedy — and turned it into an opportunity to build a culture of love, resilience, forgiveness, and connection in our communities at a time when it is needed the most.
Scarlett became a Character Social-Emotional Development Advocate to help children manage their emotions, feel connected, and have healthy, meaningful relationships. She created the Choose Love For Schools program, a no cost, comprehensive, lifespan, next generation character and social emotional development (CSED) program that teaches children how to thoughtfully respond with love in any situation by using the Choose Love Formula (Courage + Gratitude + Forgiveness + Compassion-in-Action), and offer ways for children to handle adversity, have courageous conversations, and to respond with love. Choose Love extends beyond the classroom through additional no-cost programs, including programs for the home, communities, athletics, and the workplace, as well as multiple extension programs. The Choose Love programs have been accessed in all 50 states and in 120 countries, reaching 3 million children.
Email:scarlett at jesselewischooselove.org
Born and raised in Connecticut, Patrick taught in three different Massachusetts school systems before returning to his home state to work for the Choose Love Movement. He graduated from College of the Holy Cross with a B.A. in psychology and philosophy. While teaching at his first school, he completed his M.B.A. at Assumption College.
Patrick fell in love with teaching and wanted to leave an impact on as many students as possible before utilizing his business degree. He taught math, science, religion, and health at the Nativity School in Worcester, Massachusetts. On top of coaching basketball and soccer, he helped the fundraising team to cover the school budget and outreach needs. After his fellowship, he transitioned to KIPP Academy in Mattapan where he also worked at the program’s extended school day and summer classes.
Patrick’s final teaching stint was in Dedham, Massachusetts at the Rashi School. While teaching math and science, he helped create and develop the schools first makerspace, and coordinated the end-of-year capstone projects. He continued to coach basketball and soccer and ran the schools first a capella and chess clubs. He was able to draw on his experience from planning the eighth grade D.C. field trip at his first school during his three visits to Israel with the graduating class.
Inspired by the message and the incredible work already being done at Choose Love, Patrick knew this was the perfect opportunity. Regardless of what the future holds, emotional growth and well-being will always be essential skills we need to develop. This work will allow all of us to lead more happy, successful lives that are full of love.
Kim Harrison is one of the curriculum writers for the Choose Love for Schools Program. Kim was a twenty year resident of Newtown, CT before moving to San Diego in 2015. Kim has a BA in Communication Studies, a MA in Elementary Education, and a MS in School Counseling, and has taught at the Elementary and Middle School levels.
Kim had regional and statewide responsibilities for exploring new educational approaches to advance curriculum and was the recipient of several awards and grants including “Outstanding Prospective Teacher” from a pool of over 200 applicants.
Kim is also a volunteer and Board Member of Words Alive, a local literacy based organization helping students to become lifelong learners through literature.
Email:kim at jesselewischooselove.org
Lisa MacKenzie is one of the curriculum writers for the Choose Love for School Program. While piloting the original Choose Love Enrichment Program several years ago, Lisa developed a Social Emotional Learning/Trauma Sensitive program to serve students with extreme social-emotional and behavioral needs, which earned the Distinguished Schools Award for her school.
Lisa has spent her entire career, of over 30 years, helping struggling students become successful in school and life. She is a special education teacher, author, speaker, and nationally recognized educator. Lisa has her Master’s Degree in Special Education. She holds her Mild/Moderate and Multiple Subject credentials, a supplementary autism credential and single-subject science credential. In addition, she is a certified behavior specialist & mindfulness instructor.
Email:lisa at jesselewischooselove.org
Shannon’s journey is an example of when one’s passion and purpose come together. At her core is the desire to help others. Shannon’s expertise in brain-based trauma therapy is what first introduced her to the Choose Love Movement, as she has provided therapy to the Newtown/Sandy Hook CT community for the last 10 years. She has been an instructor of this specialized therapy (MNRI), teaching and providing therapy worldwide. With a strong desire to work to bring the Choose Love Movement to her son’s school in NH, she became a Choose Love Ambassador, but things didn’t stop there.
Shannon was appointed by and has worked directly out of the office of Governor Chris Sununu since August of 2018 Since this time, she has led the nation through the efforts and example being set by the state of NH, utilizing this Character Social Emotional Development lifespan program. She is a pivotal member of the School Safety Preparedness Taskforce, working directly with Homeland Security. Further, under her direction, New Hampshire has become the first in the nation to launch Choose Love for Caregivers (designed for foster parents and workers in the field), as well as Choose Love for Corrections. She provides workshops for every division within the Department of Safety and various other state departments.
Shannon is a published author for STRIVE magazine, sharing what NH has made happen with the Choose Love Movement. Shannon also leads the Choose Love Youth and College level Ambassadors. In addition, she serves as the Choose Love liaison for governmental departments nationwide.
Her heart shines when bringing the Choose Love Movement forward, and she is fueled to bring this to all!
Email:shannon.m.desilets at nh.gov
Email:betsy at jesselewischooselove.org
Email:jan at jesselewischooselove.org
Jean Rossi Wergeles
Jean received her B.A.. in journalism from the University of Rhode Island. She started her career in advertising and then worked for nonprofit organizations in corporate communications and cause-related marketing. She is able to combine all of that experience in our communications department at the Choose Love Movement spreading awareness of our programs and promoting events on social media as well as sharing inspiration in our Daily Dose newsletter. Jean also serves on the board of the National Charity League volunteering for philanthropies in Fairfield County, CT.
Email:jean at jesselewischooselove.org
Board of Directors
Craig Della Penna
Ty is an owner and partner is his family’s insurance / financial firm in Meriden, CT. He holds a license in several states for health, accident and life insurance as well as securities licenses Series 7 and Series 65. He has also been certified as an Investment Advisor Representative and Chartered Tax Professional.
Ty is also very active in his community having been the President of the Meriden Rotary club as well as serving on the boards of the local United Way, Rotary club, chamber of commerce and several other organizations. He currently lives in Rocky Hill with his wife Andrea, daughter Mia and son Jack.
Dr. Chris Kuuk
Dr. Kukk is the HarperCollins author of The Compassionate Achiever, co-host of The Compassionate Achiever Podcast, member of the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement’s Board of Directors, founding Director of the Center for Compassion, Creativity and Innovation, and previous Professor of Political Science/Social Science at Western Connecticut State University. He currently serves as the Dean of the Cormier Honors College for Citizen Scholars at Longwood University. He received his Ph.D. in political science from Boston College and his B.A. in political science from Boston University. He was also an international security fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. His research and publications combine neuroscience with the social sciences and focus on education issues, the political economy of natural resources, and the creation and sustainability of civil society.
Dr. Kukk was also a counter-intelligence agent for the United States Army, a research associate for Cambridge Energy Research Associates, and has provided the Associated Press, National Public Radio, The Economist magazine, NBC-TV, CBS-TV, and other media outlets with analysis on a wide range of topics and issues. His forthcoming books are based on the idea of weaving values such as compassion into our learning, civic, and business communities.
Dr. Maria Ortner served as a school psychologist in Danbury, CT for 27 years prior to beginning her work with The Tapping Solution Foundation. Dr. Ortner is committed to promoting Tapping as an effective technique for teachers and students to deal with anxiety, stress and trauma in the school setting and beyond.
Dr. Ortner holds degrees in Clinical and School Psychology, as well as a Doctorate of Education. She has extensive experience in education in the United States and abroad. Dr. Ortner is the Director of the Tapping Solution Foundation and travels the world to bring EFT/Tapping to people of all ages.
Chin has been working as a personal assistant to a Portland philanthropist and her family for the last 15 years. Chin and Scarlett connected after both experienced the most profound loss from opposite ends of their tragedies – both working to bring character and social emotional development to children and adults in schools, workplace, and communities – to choose love and kindness over fear, anger, and hate. Chin has also collaborated and supported organizations and individuals working on threat assessment and prevention. She is continuing to focus her effort on understanding the pathway to targeted violence and the path forward for assessment, prevention, and intervention.
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