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Imagine working on a team with top researchers, scientists and technologists to create cutting edge technology to be used in future space missions. This is exactly what Steve Gaddis, director of Game Changing Development at NASA, does every day. Steve will give TEDxNavesink 2016 attendees a glimpse into the life of an astronaut with a glove box that simulates air pressure in an astronaut’s suit glove as a participant of TEDxNavesink Makers Gallery.

TEDxNavesink Makers and Makers Gallery will be held on Saturday, April 9 at Monmouth University in Long Branch, New Jersey. TEDxNavesink Makers will explore what it means to be a creator and maker. In addition to the inspiring talks, the Makers Gallery will showcase revolutionary inventions and ideas, up close and personal.

Working at NASA wasn’t even a question for Steve. He wanted to work for the space administration since he was a kid. “As a young boy watching the Apollo program go to the moon and the shuttle program go to low earth orbit, I began to look at space as my destiny. I never wanted to work anywhere else.”

And he hasn’t. A graduate from the University of Tennessee and the University of Alabama, he began working with NASA after he got an offer to be a co-op with the Marshall Space Flight Center. Steve has held various positions at NASA ever since.

Today he is the Director for the Level II Game Changing Development Program, investigating ideas for space exploration and developing technologies to advance future space missions. “I love working with new, novel, innovative and revolutionary ideas that may benefit NASA missions, other government agencies, industry, academia and how we live here on Earth,” said Steve.

But the best part of his job? “Working with all the researchers, scientists, and technologists,” said Steve. “They are the ones that come up with the ideas and make them happen. They are an incredible group of people and I am humbled to be working along their side.” One of these novel and unique ideas was the glove box.

In space, astronauts wear an extravehicular activity (EVA) suit glove. EVA suit gloves protect astronauts’ hands from the environment of space and allow astronauts to move their hands to work with objects. But sometimes the pressure makes hand movement difficult and even painful.

“Typically, the suit has about 10 psi internally,” said Steve.  “Strangely, this sounds like a small amount, but once you put your hand inside you marvel at how difficult it is to squeeze or grab anything. This is what the astronauts have to deal with.” The glove box works to help decrease the effects of the air pressure on astronauts’ hands as they perform tasks.

“The Game Changing Development Program wanted to show people why it is important to create a new glove and the best way was to make the glove box,” said Steve.

The glove box isn’t the only cool invention Steve and his team are busy working on. The Game Changing Development program is designing the next humanoid robot, called R5. They are working on spacecraft navigation systems that use pulsars to explore deep space. The team is also manufacturing rocket engine parts for the next heavy lifter and creating specialized materials needed for the Orion crew capsule.

These are just a few of the innovative technologies being developed at NASA. Want to see more of the inventions the Game Changing Development Program is working on? Click here.

Steve is excited to be part of TEDxNavesink Makers Gallery. He and his team love the creative community of Makers and the philosophy of building and testing. “We are hoping the Makers Gallery attendees will see and hear first-hand how serious NASA is about reaching out to others outside of our organization for ideas that we might not have considered,” said Steve.  “We believe Makers are a good source for innovative ideas.”

See the glove box up close and personal by purchasing your TEDxNavesink 2016 Makers tickets today. The day will be filled with inspiring talks and tickets include admission to the Makers Gallery. Click here to get your ticket.

We used to wrinkle our noses when aunts, uncles, and grandparents would come over for the holidays dressed in the most hideous sweaters we’d ever seen. From snowmen made out of pom-poms to Santas featuring fuzzy beards, “ugly sweaters” are something we never saw becoming the trend they are today. Now, we’re calling Aunt Debbie frantically, hoping she’ll lend us those itchy, elf-adorned sweaters.

These days, there’s no need to search high and low for a tacky sweater. While thrift stores have always been full of them, you can now find holiday-themed sweaters at Macy’s, H&M, and Forever 21. You can count on attending at least four ugly Christmas sweater parties during the holiday season. National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day was on December 18, and some of your friends may even participate in events like the Ugly Sweater Run.

For some people, ugly sweaters aren’t just something to throw on before a party. Amanda Gilbert, a senior at West Chester University, has turned ugly sweaters into a month-long holiday celebration. Amanda posts her “25 Sweaters of Christmas” on Facebook in an attempt to “spread holiday cheer and brighten someone’s day.”

The December marathons of Christmas movies on ABC Family inspired Amanda’s ugly sweater obsession. “The holidays can be a sad time for many people and I try, with my sweaters, to make it a little bit brighter,” she said.

Instead of hitting the mall to snag a sweater, Amanda simply opens the boxes of sweaters harbored in her house throughout the year. “We have had some of these sweaters since before I was born, over 22 years ago. I have added a few modern sweaters to my collection, probably five to six over the past three years from regular department stores, but the large majority of the sweaters I wear have been in my family for years,” she said.

Many trends are finding their way back into the spotlight, from crop tops and Converse sneakers, and ugly sweaters now find themselves among those trends. “They fit with the theme ‘the old is new’ and follow the vintage trend of thrift store shopping, both which are very ‘hipster’ these days,” Amanda said. “I also think the focus on ‘ugly’ Christmas sweaters brings out a competitive side to people, who try and add lights and tinsel to make them as gaudy as possible.”

The ugly Christmas sweater trend has grown exponentially since its resurgence in 2001, and will no doubt continue to spread. More and more people continue to add to their sweater collection, and may even begin to rival Amanda’s. “I’m not sure how many souls out there wear Christmas sweaters to spread holiday cheer, but I am definitely one of them!” Amanda said.

Interested in the unique and creative? Then TEDxNavesink is the thing for you! Get your tickets for the April 9, 2016 Makers event at a special discounted price now until January 2. Click here to find out more.

Photo courtesy of TheUglySweaterShop.com

Imagine students creating robotics, 3D printing, video games, and mid-air art suspension before their 18th birthday. This is not the beginning of a sci-fi Harry Potter novel; this is what’s going on in our Jersey Shore classrooms today. During the 2015 Jersey Shore Makers Fest 70 talented local students, teachers, and makers of New Jersey showcased how they’re modern makers.

“We’re proud to have an event with the school district where we can involve as many stakeholders as possible,” says Dr. David Healy, the Superintendent of Schools of Toms River. The Toms River High School North gymnasium hosted 15 schools and 55 local companies who gathered to interact with all the attendees and showcase their innovative creations.

The one of a kind Makers Fest was coordinated by Tiffany Lucey, Supervisor of Educational Technology at Toms River Regional Schools, and Marc Natanagara, Assistant Superintendent of Operations at Toms River Regional Schools. Tiffany has a goal of “making a dream tangible,” and that was accomplished at this year’s event.

“This is a great demonstration of how excited students can be for real world activities and educational content,” said Laurence Cocco, Director of the Office of Educational Technology in the State of New Jersey Department of Education. The maker’s tables created this excitement through workshops, demonstrations, and interactive models for hands-on experience that all ages enjoyed. “I saw many students so engaged and this is what education is really about. It’s all about helping students find their passion, their excitement, their love of learning, and for educators to get out of the way of creativity and let them follow their path of learning,” said Laurence.

Leap Academy University Charter School brings innovation into the classroom with 3D printers that bring students’ designs to life. This is with the help of David Salas-de la Cruz Ph.D, an Assistant Professor at Rutgers University and Director of Leap Stem Fabrication and Innovation Center. “We teach the student to go through the design aspect all the way to the engineering, manufacturing, and product development,” said David. The Fab Lab at the Charter School created a water filter that goes into any bottle and enhances the water’s taste with activation carbon. The students have gotten hands on experience creating many objects, such as an original board game, water filter, and many other original designs that were on display at the Jersey Shore Makers Fest.

Fourteen speakers were invited to the makers fest to discuss their own maker movement. One of them was Neptune High School Principal Richard Allen who explained how creating an educational environment invites innovative students to be makers through mini academies. “What we found is students wanted to expand their educational opportunities and what’s amazing is that we put faith in the students,” said Richard. “We gave them the resources, they continued to learn, and they want to learn.” The New Jersey School Board Association recognized the importance of the Medical Science Academy with rewarding Neptune High School the 2015 School Leader award. “Our success at the high school is believing in our students,” said Richard.

Another innovation in education is Black Rocket, a customizable educational video game. Black Rocket Productions of Freehold allows teachers and students to customize games based on the needs of the lesson. Teachers have been using this platform to enhance their students’ education with success. One of these teachers is Deana Baumart. “Never have I ever seen a kid play on a video game and lose on the first try and say well I’m done, but I can tell you many of my students have done that on a quiz, on a test or on a particular topic on writing,” she said. Black Rocket makes classrooms more inviting and hands on while teaching children valuable life skills. “Video games teach kids that there is more than one way to get to the destination and that’s what’s really important to teach our kids today,” said Deana.

Robotics has made a difference in the Jersey Shore classrooms with many students exploring their creativity through building and engineering for all age levels. New Jersey middle school students start with Vex Robotics and compete with their custom bots several times a year around the state. Vex Robotics allowed New Jersey Shore Makers Fest attendees to test drive their student-built robots.

For the older high school crowd, FRC Team 2590, Nemesis, is an award-winning FIRST Robotics team and non-profit based out of Robbinsville High School in New Jersey. The high school team levels up and competes in robotics competitions across the United States. The 2013 Frisbee-throwing, 2014 ball-shooting competition robots, as well as their NAO Humanoid robot that dances, sits, bows, does pushups, and Tai Chi were on display.


In the center of the Jersey Shore Makers Fest was a circular interactive art piece brought by Indorato Studio of Art in Asbury Park, New Jersey. The artist, Michael Indorato, has a vision to bring art to the next level. “I want to reinvent art,” said Michael. This piece has been used in Times Square as well as the Asbury Park and Atlantic City boardwalks. The suspended art piece allows the artist to flow and feel the movement of the paint as it hits the canvas. “Art, music, anything that can make you think and feel is so essential,” said Michael. Young artists are makers who Michael encourages to “believe in your dream, you work towards it relentlessly then, you’re going to do it, and you’re going to make it.”

The Jersey Shore Makers Fest had many hands on projects available to the attendees. Toms River East High School Senior, Kristin Ramsay said “Here at the fair I realized there are tables with materials for kids to play with and not necessarily instructions on what to do with the materials.”

What innovations would you like to see in New Jersey schools? Tell us in the comment section below!

TEDxNavesink tickets are on sale at a special discounted price until January 2. Make sure you don’t miss out on this great deal! Click here for more information.

By Tom Morford

Nothing transcends art. What you can say through self-expression comes in many forms and is the ultimate form of communication, knocking down barriers and unifying cultures. The connection you can create with others through art is a strong bond. Art always evokes a response, but it doesn’t always have to connect with poignant feelings. Contemporary, Fine, Abstract Expressionism, De Stijl; these are all frames under the microscope from which to look at art. Sometimes aspects of art are just there to make you think ‘what is going on in that artist’s head?’

Let’s step into the head of 21-year-old artist, Mike Brown (also known as The Real Cornelius, but more on that later). Mike said, “I want viewers to see my art and laugh at the ridiculousness of it. My content does not typically speak to the viewers soul [laughs].”

Mike is an artist from Ringoes, New Jersey and he transformed his art from being an entertaining past time into a successful business.

What Makes
Your Style?

Art makes people think about what goes unsaid. An artist’s style can change ever so slightly and the message can be altered into something different. Mike said, “I draw a lot of characters of my own creation and just random objects that either just look cool to me or are fun to draw. I like to always add aspects of humor and irony in my art because I don’t believe all art has to have a super deep emotional meaning.”

One single artist is never restricted to only one form of art either. Mike added, “My style of art varies on what type of phase in my creative cycle I am going through. I like to cycle between illustration, painting, digital art, video and animation.”

Just as people speak different words with different tones and sometimes in a different language, artists assume different styles and use different mediums to express themselves. Their art ultimately comes full circle and speaks to the viewer.

“The overarching characteristics found in my ‘fine’ art would be my use of clean bold lines with vibrant fills. I also have a messier sketchy style that is typically black and white, but the bold lines still remain,” Mike said.

Mike uses Sakura Micron pens for the bold line work when illustrating and Posca paint pens for a brightly colored fill. While working on canvas, Mike uses acrylic paints and outlines with black Posca.

Art can morph into images never thought of before; beyond beauty and beyond enlightenment. “A lot of my work ends up completely different than my original vision. Gotta go with the flow – freestyling is pretty sweet.”

Going with the flow comes easily when your artistry is accompanied by a sense of confidence. Being able to improvise as your work evolves is a staple of any artisanal master.

Artists Who Inspire

 Inspiration can take many forms, but other artists’ work is a prime motivator. “In high school, I was very interested in street art – gaining inspiration from Banksy’s documentary ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop.’ I wanted to get into graffiti but not specifically focus on letters,” Mike said. (For those readers not familiar with Banksy, he is an English-based graffiti artist focusing on political activism through satirical street art.)

Mike drops subtle pop culture references into his work, including his viewers in on the jokes. Mike also draws inspiration from many other artists from the graffiti scene, such as KAWS (a Jersey City native), who in 2013 redesigned MTV’s iconic man on the moon statue for numerous magazine covers.

Mike designed the logo for Reel Bear Media (the production company for the band Twenty One Pilots). He is always looking to try new things when it comes to art and, in a way, that’s what art is all about.

 “I had a solo show at a local art space called Flemington DIY near my town that a bunch of people went to, which was pretty cool. For the most part though, my art career has been online,” Mike added.

So Why ‘The Real Cornelius?’

A lot of artists change their names. Picasso, Balthus, El Greco, KAWS, and Banksy. No one even knows Banksy’s real name, he or she has created an entire persona around this name and works hard to keep it a secret. Some do it to make their pseudonym more memorable than their birth name, while others make the change just because it’s something different.

“I thought Cornelius sounded pretty funny,” Mike said. “‘The Real’ was only added to the name with the advent of my Instagram account. It was me trying to be more official and at the same time, I loved the irony of calling myself ‘The Real Cornelius’ when in reality, my name is not Cornelius.”

Mike’s art went from just a natural way to express himself to a successful business. Mike said,  “I was receiving a bunch of inquiries via Instagram for graphic design work, commissions, and things of that nature. I figured I would appear a lot more professional if I was a legitimate sole proprietor.”

The Art Adventure

Art really is all about the adventure. The adventure of making it, of the emotions you feel, and the radical questions you ask.

Mike describes his art as a journey. His website states it in more eloquent terms, “A young lad set forth on an adventure, armed only with art supplies and a funk-assname. The objective? To art all over the place…to art so much he occasionally falls over and says, ‘ooow I arted too hard,’ and then gets back up and arts some more. He does this, for one reason…he wants to make his punky mark on this rock.”

Connect with TEDxNavesink on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to get more updates on interesting people making their punky mark.


We’re all makers. We make dinner. We make a living, and we’re homemakers. We make war, we make up, we make out, we make love, we make babies. We make choices. And sometimes we choose to make a difference.

TEDxNavesink’s newest campaign, Makers of Monmouth, will explore the vast makers in our own community. Our organizers will be out and about in Monmouth County asking you what makes you a maker. We’ll post your quote, along with a photo of you, on our social media pages. We’ll use the hashtag #MakersofMonmouth so it will be easy for you to find us and follow along. We encourage you and your friends to comment, share and like our very own Monmouth Makers!

Watch for us out in Monmouth County and make your mark!

Are you a maker? Do you tinker and create with technology, bring your ideas to life with new inventions, create beautiful jewelry or furniture by hand, or make a difference in your community with outside the box thinking and programs? If so, then TEDxNavesink wants to showcase you and what you do.

The TEDxNavesink 2016 Makers conference will be held on Saturday, April 9, 2019, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Monmouth University’s Pollak Theatre, 400 Cedar Avenue in West Long Branch, NJ. The conference will feature talks by 30 pioneering makers from New York, New Jersey and around the globe. Talks will be recorded and shared with a global audience.

The event will also feature a Makers Gallery, exhibiting unique creations by society’s makers. The Gallery, free to the public and TEDxNavesink ticket holders, will be held in Monmouth University’s Anacon Hall.

Are you or someone you know involved in making cutting-edge and creative products? Make your mark, apply to the Makers Gallery today. Visit www.tedxnavesink.com today to apply.

“Our selection committee is looking for makers that have the wow factor - people creating products made from unexpected materials and items at the cutting edge of technology that change the way we live,” said Georgine Eberight, Gallery curator. “The Gallery will be the ultimate sensory and tactile experience, truly embodying what it means to be a maker.”

TEDxNavesink defines makers as revolutionaries who only see malleable things to be hacked, deconstructed and reconstructed into better things. They make software that itself learns to make things. They make art, music, novels, and movies. This society is in a revolution of making so vast it goes unnoticed. Manufacturing has moved into garages and living rooms and the do it yourself mentality is now an industry.

TEDxNavesink is offering special tickets for the holiday season. General admission tickets are $55 and $40 for guests under 40 years old. Tickets include admission to the Makers Gallery and the reception. Treat yourself and your friends to the gift of “ideas worth sharing” in this all-day event held Saturday, April 9, at Monmouth University’s Pollak Theater. Click here to purchase your tickets before the special offer is over.

Maxwell Lanfrank is like most 8-year-old boys at the Jersey Shore: he loves the outdoors, he plays Pop Warner football, he goes fishing with his dad, and he’s a bit curious.

But unlike most of his peers, Maxwell spends a portion of his weekends in a lab (well, actually a kitchen posing as a lab) mixing ingredients to make his own line of all-natural hand sanitizer and lip balm.

It’s all part of a business, MoMax Enterprizes, he started a few months ago with the help of his grandmother.

Maxwell’s journey from an average kid in Eatontown to entrepreneur/scientist/boy wonder was sparked by an Aloe plant, fueled by curiosity, and driven by an aversion to germs.

His great-aunt gave him that Aloe plant after the two went horseback riding in the spring. He brought it home to his mother and grandmother and decided to research what he could do with it.

“Maxwell’s always been one of these curious children and I’ve always been willing to feed his curiosity and help him discover things,” said Liz Balogh, Maxwell’s grandmother. “I asked him, ‘What are you passionate about?’ We started talking about hand sanitizer—because he’s a germiphobe—and lip balm. He’s obsessed with them. He’d have at least 20 of them at any given time.”

So they began to research how to make hand sanitizer and lip balm, but with one stipulation from Maxwell: the ingredients had to be natural and organic. Maxwell’s 2-year-old sister would often get a hold of his lip balm and try to eat it, so he wanted to make sure his products would be safe for her strange appetite.

“We did research, we had to learn the ingredients and buy ingredients, and it took a couple of days to figure it out,” said Maxwell, a third-grader at Vetter Elementary School in Eatontown. “It took a lot of tries. We had to keep melting down the stuff for the lip balm. We had to try it, then melt more and try it again.”

After finally figuring out a few formulas for lip balm and hand sanitizer, they were ready to test their products. Taking a page out of the corporate world, they formed a focus group. They gathered people from Maxwell’s neighborhood in Eatontown as well as Liz’s community in Toms River. The test panel tried the products and answered a questionnaire.

After compiling the data, Maxwell and Liz decided on four products: Sun Beam Sanitizer (a blend of lavender, tea tree and mint essential oils), Moon Beam Sanitizer (essential oils of herbs known as Four Thieves Oil), Bee Kind Lip Balm (with beeswax and coconut oil), and Crazy for Cocoa Lip Balm (with cocoa butter).

“The lip balm is my favorite product because we make them from cocoa butter and it’s really good,” Maxwell said.

The initial start-up for the business took place in the summer when he had more time, but now Maxwell has to balance school, sports, and making his products. He and Liz make the products on weekends in her kitchen, making a minimum of 50 of each product.

Maxwell is part of the entire process, helping melt, pour, seal, and cap every product.

“He loves when he can sell them and say these are his products and he physically created that,” Liz said.

Though MoMax has only been in business about three months, the response has been positive. Maxwell’s mother, Kristen Lanfrank, started a Facebook page for the business and she received plenty of orders and excitement for her son’s venture.

“I was just telling my students what he does because I wanted to inspire other kids to do stuff,” said Kristen, who is a high school art teacher in Rumson. “I think it’s cool when kids are creating. They all tried the products and wanted to buy them.”

More than a mad scientist, Maxwell and his team are intent on growing the business. He wants to visit Eatontown businesses to see if they’ll carry his products. Kristen says they are also in the process of starting to sell the products on Amazon.

Like any innovator, Maxwell already has his mind set on more products. He’s hoping to add lipstick and hand cream to his line soon.

And Maxwell’s first goal for his business’ earnings? Paying for the family’s trip to Disney World next year.

“I would love that,” Kristen said. “I also want MoMax to pay for his college.”

Well, Maxwell’s mind isn’t on that long-term goal just yet. He’s focused on Disney. Asked if he thinks he can make enough to foot the bill, he said:

“Yes. They’ve been selling like crazy.”

TEDxNavesink 2016 is focused on makers of all ages, just like Maxwell Lanfrank. If you are curious about creative ideas that captivate your mind, then this event is for you! Get in on a special ticket promotion running now through January 2. This ticket deal is the perfect gift for you and others on your holiday shopping list! Click here to learn more and purchase your tickets today!

Kevin Howell is a freelance writer, editor, and owner of On Point Editing. He loves the Jersey Shore and spending time outdoors, except in the winter. When he’s not writing, he’s running, biking, or reading and relaxing with a glass of wine.

A dog is man’s best friend. Anyone who has ever owned a dog knows the benefits they can provide. Dogs make you smile, laugh, cry, love, and provide you with companionship.

But did you know they can also be therapists?

Therapy dogs provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, schools, retirement or nursing homes, hospices, disaster areas, and to people with disabilities.

A dog becomes a therapy dog through training and certification from one of the many therapy dog organizations. Nick Marinello of Fair Haven certified his dog, Abbie Rose, through Therapy Dog International and helped her bring smiles and comfort to patients for 11 years.

Abbie Rose was a West Highland Terrier, better known as a Westy. While any breed can become a therapy dog, Westies are not typically suited for the role because of their high-strung nature. But Abbie Rose was different. She was very calm, wasn’t easily rattled, and enjoyed being around humans and other dogs.

Abbie Rose was Nick’s fourth Westy and he knew she was special. When she was about one-and-a-half, his wife, Susan, began working with Abbie to make her into a certified therapy dog. Nick took over the training after a time.

Abbie Rose worked at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch for nine years with children who had special needs or were sick with cancer. She was one of the original four service dogs at the hospital. Today there are over 30 therapy dogs at Monmouth Medical Center. Therapy dogs have also become popular in other hospitals on the Jersey Shore.

Therapy dogs bring immense joy and impact the people they work with. There are medical benefits to working with therapy dogs, such as lowered blood pressure, but there are emotional benefits as well.

Abbie Rose formed relationships with the hospital staff and the patients she worked with. The relationships she formed with the patients were unique. Some days a patient’s only interaction was with Abbie Rose. Everyone looked forward to seeing her weekly at the hospital.

Therapy dogs also benefit from the work. Abbie Rose knew every Thursday she needed to take a bath so she could go to the hospital on Friday. Her personality changed the moment she entered the hospital, according to Nick. She would play at home, but calmed down and enjoyed going to the hospital each week.

Sadly, Abbie Rose passed away in the summer. And as a testament to her popularity with the staff and patients, Nick received sympathy cards from many of the people she worked with. The staff at Monmouth Medical plan to dedicate a wall to honor the therapy dogs that have worked at the hospital and passed away, and Abbie Rose will be the first one recognized.

After working with a therapy dog for so long, Nick would advise future therapy dog owners make sure their dog does not run up to patients. He says it is important people are comfortable with the dog before it comes over to them. Also, teaching the dog tricks in another language helps, Nick said. Abbie Rose learned a variety of tricks in Spanish.

Nick is enjoyed his time training and working with Abbie Rose so much, that he wrote a book about the day in the life of a Westy called “Annie’s Rul

Nick made the choice to certify Abbie Rose as a therapy dog, and by doing so made a difference in the lives of many people.

Abbie Rose and other therapy dogs provide affection and comfort to those that need it, providing many emotional and medical benefits. Dogs are a blessing, and through therapy they can share their blessings with those that need it the most.

TEDxNavesink 2016 will be held April 9, 2016, at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, New Jersey. A special ticket promotion will begin November 15 and will run through January 2. This ticket deal is the perfect gift for you and others on your holiday shopping list! Visit www.tedxnavesink.com to learn more and purchase your tickets beginning November 15!

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Meghan Busch is a public relations and marketing coordinator with TEDxNavesink. She has been working in public relations since 2013 and has a Master of Arts degree in corporate and public communication from Monmouth University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication studies from the College of New Jersey.

The FeelGood organization is working to end extreme poverty by the year 2030 by making and selling grilled cheese sandwichesIs it possible that something as simple as a grilled cheese sandwich could work to fight the poverty epidemic? A group of college kids thinks so, and the simple comfort food is the basis of their fight.

Billions of people around the world are living in extreme poverty, with barely enough food to stay alive and no place to call home. While poverty is a vastly complex problem, FeelGood is an organization that plans to eradicate extreme poverty by the year 2030 with grilled cheese sandwiches. That’s right: they are using something as simple as serving up cheesy goodness to end a massive global problem.

FeelGood chapters hold “delis” or “delivery nights” where they make grilled cheese sandwiches, typically with George Forman grills, and sell them to students or deliver them across campus via phone or online orders. FeelGood donates the profits from their pay-what-you-can sandwich sales to the members of the Commitment 2030 Fund, made up of Pachamama Alliance, Choice Humanitarian, Water for People, and the Hunger Project. These organizations work to achieve SDGs – or Sustainable Development Goals – which are set to “achieve zero poverty by the year 2030 by creating a thriving, sustainable world for everyone.”

Part of the global influence stems from right here in the Garden State. Eric Fitzpatrick, a senior at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, helped start a chapter with his friend Nick Guarriello at his school in 2011.

Since the inception of FeelGood at Stevens, Eric has served multiple positions on the board and currently serves as the president of the chapter. He also serves on FeelGood’s board of directors as the Chapter Recruitment Co-Chair. When it comes to the Steven’s chapter, Eric handles a lot of the day-to-day responsibilities that come with keeping the chapter afloat. He leads the weekly meetings, which cover everything from “poverty as the nexus for education” to “deli training and food safety.” He also handles food shopping, phone and online orders for deli operations, and frequently updates the university’s chapter advisor of FeelGood on the status of the club. Eric is a jack-of-all-trades and is the initiator and the driving force behind the Stevens chapter of FeelGood.

Globally, FeelGood has had quite the impact. One hundred percent of the proceeds from all chapters across the country go to the Commitment 2030 Fund. From there, the money is split among the four organizations in the fund. Those groups “are the ones that do the boots-on-the-ground, grassroots work in the developing world,” says Eric. “They are all focused on different Sustainable Development Goals, which were recently ratified by 193 country leaders at the UN General Assembly that took place at the end of September.”

FeelGood and Eric have greatly impacted the local communities they engage with. “Besides building a student organization, I think that I’ve helped to foster a pretty cool community,” said Eric.  “The kids in FeelGood are all smart and funny, and they know that while it will take a lot of work to defeat extreme poverty, it doesn’t mean that you can’t do it in a fun and engaging way. I think it’s really cool when the new kids in FeelGood have it click where they see that the organization is more than making grilled cheese on George Forman grills and running them across campus.”

FeelGood helps college students become more aware of the poverty issue across the world and sparks a discussion on how to make a difference from right in our own community. Reaching out to college students is especially important because they are the makers of the future. Informing students about extreme poverty will help eliminate the problem and create a world where all people can thrive. To learn more about the FeelGood movement and how you can help, visit their website at www.feelgood.org.

TEDxNavesink 2016 is focused on makers just like Eric and FeelGood. If you are interested in learning more about innovative and influential people, then this is an event you can’t afford to miss! A special ticket promotion will begin November 15 and will run through January 2. This ticket deal is the perfect gift for you and others on your holiday shopping list! Visit www.tedxnavesink.com to learn more and purchase your tickets beginning November 15!

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Kelli Galayda is currently a student at Monmouth University majoring in Communication with a concentration in Radio and Television studies. She is from a small town in New Jersey, but has a passion for traveling anywhere she can get to. Between classes, you can find her snapping pictures, ranting about music or politics, and being an ambassador for Monmouth’s study abroad program. She plans to pursue a career in writing or photography.

A creative acting group is rethinking the way theater is presented, and they’re doing it with style and flair. And they’re doing it on the cheap.

rethink Theatrical, a group of Rutgers students who perform plays for New Brunswick, NJ and the surrounding community, has a mission of immersing its audience in mischief and magic while bringing classic plays to life. The group recently performed A Midsummer Night’s Dream, bringing the popular Shakespeare story of four Athenian lovers to Rutgers Garden. And they did it with no money.

rethink Theatrical seeks to create performance art by means of a zero-dollar budget, fostering reinvented production design and accessible theatre for a culturally-hungry community. The group believes a large budget isn’t necessary to create great performances, and that art like the classics should be free to all.

To put this zero-dollar budget into perspective, an Off Broadway production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream usually has a budget of nearly $2.4 million. That’s millions to zero, folks. Impressive.

rethink’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was full of fairies guiding visitors through the woods, royals regaling with their singing, and bumbling players making the audience roar with laughter. It was clear from the performance that these actors are full of passion and want to give their audience a taste of quality in an outdoor setting — all for free. These actors put their heart and soul into their performance, as much as any Broadway actor would.

Since they don’t use money toward set, props, or costumes, reThink Theatrical’s performances are 100 percent free and accessible to the public. This gives college students the chance to hone their acting abilities and the community the opportunity to see and experience quality theatre.

reThink works closely to support local businesses in order to bring visibility to the group in a community that may not have been exposed to them previously. They strive to reinvent ways that places like Rutgers Gardens, a self-sustaining operation that relies entirely on the community for support and where the group performed A Midsummer Night’s Dream, to be experienced in the most appropriate way possible. This group is truly embedded in the community they serve.

reThink is always on the look out for more performances. Have any ideas? Places they could perform for free? Ways to optimize their theatricality without a cost? Comment in the section below and let us know, and check out reThink’s website for upcoming events and ways to support the group.

TEDxNavesink 2016 is all about Makers just like rethink Theatrical. The event on April 9 will explore the essence of creation, those who choose to make a difference, innovate, and create. Interested in learning more about TEDxNavesink? Click here to sign up for our newsletter! We’ll even send you a notification when tickets go on sale!