OUR TEAM

Students With Psychosis puts our students at the decision-making table; 100% of our Executive Board Members are current student leaders or recently graduated alumni from our student leader program. The unconventional approach to our executive board structure helps us reflect the community’s needs better and gives a voice and decision-making power to the historically underrepresented community we serve. Students With Psychosis is what the students decide the nonprofit to be and tackles issues they find the most prevalent. Students With Psychosis is a space where students can be students, meet fellow peers, and not be confined or prefaced by their diagnosis. 

The Executive Board is comprised of three committees and two subcommittees. Committees include the Executive Committee, Governance Committee, and Finance Committee. The Governance Committee includes a Nominations Subcommittee and the Finance Committee includes a Conference Planning Subcommittee. Staff is separate from the Executive Board and includes an Executive Director, Operations Director, Internship Coordinator, and Student Leader Coordinator. The Advisory Council is tasked to advise both the Executive Board and Staff.

To book a guest speaker/interview, please email team@sws.ngo


SHIRA AGAM (CANADA) | Executive Board President, Executive Committee Chair:

Growing up with Psychosis was confusing. I did not know what I was experiencing until it got much more severe. Then, when I was first diagnosed and finally got some clarity, I felt completely alone. There was suddenly all this stigma, and I felt like my life was over. It was finding Students With Psychosis that changed everything for me. I needed to feel understood, and Students With Psychosis did that for me. I needed someone to put my feelings into words, and Students With Psychosis did that for me. I needed someone to be there and listen non-judgmentally, and Students With Psychosis was that for me over and over again, and it still is. I joined Students With Psychosis for the support and community, and it is one of the best decisions I have ever made. Students With Psychosis was a turning point in my recovery. Not only did it help me feel less alone and give me community, but I also learned so much from the other members. I learned new coping strategies, learned more about my symptoms, and learned more about myself. Students With Psychosis also taught me that sharing your story is possible, and it does not have to be some shameful secret. Opening up was such a liberating experience and released pressure I did not even realize I was feeling by keeping everything bottled up. And it opened the door for me to start advocating, which has given my life more meaning. Students with lived experience of psychosis have so much they can teach us. It is still so fresh in their minds what it is like experiencing Psychosis for the first time and how terrifying and lonely it can be. Because of that, I believe they understand what supports can help youth and individuals first experiencing Psychosis better than anyone. Students With Psychosis have already begun reshaping the conversation around Psychosis, especially how it has united students living with Psychosis globally and given us a more powerful voice. The more we learn how to effectively use this voice to advocate, the more significant our impact.

READ BIO

Shira Agam is a mental health advocate, student, teacher, trumpeter, and scientist. She is the President of the Executive Board of Students With Psychosis. Shira has lived with severe mental illness her entire life, with diagnoses of schizoaffective disorder, borderline personality disorder, anorexia, PTSD, anxiety disorders, and a learning difference. This may seem like a lot, but it does not stop her from dreaming big and doing what she loves. Shira teaches grades 1 to university, performs trumpet around the globe, works in research labs, and has recently started to advocate over Instagram (@psychosis_diaries) and YouTube (@Students With Psychosis). She believes that mental health education is a way to break down stigma and help people take better care of their minds.

LUCIANO BONADER (ARGENTINA) | Vice President, Governance Committee Chair:

At first, I was curious about finding people who were going through similar things to what I’ve been experiencing in terms of mental health. I wanted to find a place where I could openly talk about my mental illness. I joined without knowing what to expect, and it just exceeded my expectations. Students With Psychosis has become an essential part of my life. I know that I made friends and that there is a community where I can find support. It has also helped me with being more open about my mental illness. I think lived experience is critical in Students With Psychosis’ present and future work. The perspective of people living with Psychosis gives a unique touch to what Students With Psychosis can offer. The lived experience perspective is how Students With Psychosis creates an environment of understanding and opportunities to generate safe spaces.

READ BIO

Luciano Bonader lives in a small province in the Northwest of Argentina and is currently studying a bachelor’s in Teaching English as a Second/Foreign language. He openly identifies as transgender nonbinary. He’s a poet and writer and has published in magazines and anthologies; he also studied music and singing for years, performed solo and as part of choirs, and has experience teaching from young children to adults. Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder type 2 with psychotic features and generalized anxiety after over a decade looking for answers, he joined Students With Psychosis as a student leader and is part of the Executive Board since 2020, serving as Vice President of the board. A firm believer in having an open mind and the power of art, he thinks that peer support and work are part of mental health advocacy and openly talking about mental illness, when possible, is a tool to create more empathy and acceptance. He shares his story to make it known that some things are better to talk about.

SEAMUS HAWKS (USA) | Treasurer & Finance Committee Chair:

I joined Students With Psychosis because, shortly after getting my diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, I was surprised at how much of a lack of support there was available before the point of crisis, even in a big city. I joined Students With Psychosis because I could give advice and receive advice on coping mechanisms from people who live with the same mental health problems as me. Plus, Students With Psychosis proves that, when given the proper support and early intervention, people with psychosis can achieve quite a lot but often are written off rather than helped. I initially joined mainly for support, but I wanted to give back after a while, so I got more involved, first as an intern, then on the Executive Board, and now as the Operations Director. Students With Psychosis has helped my life as a student by giving me support through talking to other students dealing with the same problems. These discussions have been invaluable since I have struggled to find students to relate to about psychosis elsewhere. Before Students With Psychosis, I would inevitably have a regular breakdown every semester. Since joining Students With Psychosis, my semesters have been much more manageable. Students With Psychosis has also profoundly impacted my personal life by giving me a community and a way to help others. Students With Psychosis has empowered me to do something about psychosis, to help, rather than subjected to its effects. Through SWP, I’ve met so many friends that I would never have otherwise, and I’ve found a sense of purpose to come from all the struggles I’ve had with mental health, turning a bad situation into something useful for both myself and others. I think the perspective of students with lived experience, and people with lived experience in general, is critical and underrepresented. The vast majority of representation for psychosis comes from people who do not know what it’s like to live with it. Of course, allies are also very much needed, but we need people with lived experience to have a voice when it comes to psychosis advocacy. Leadership from the lived experience perspective is where Students With Psychosis can change the public conversation. Students With Psychosis shows that people with psychosis are more than capable of engaging in discussions about their treatment and the stigma coming from the plentiful inaccurate portrayals. More than capable, Students With Psychosis is doing it already.

READ BIO

Seamus Hawks is a 24-year-old mental health advocate living with schizoaffective disorder and a musician studying at the Berklee College of Music. Seamus is also a photographer and artist. He joined the Executive Board in 2020 and shortly afterward started volunteering as Operations Director for Students With Psychosis. After being diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder bipolar type, when looking for support, he found that, even in a big city, not enough help existed for those living with psychosis. While on his search, he came across Students With Psychosis. He joined the community and quickly looked for ways to get more involved and give back to the community that helped him. First interning, then joining the Executive Board, and later becoming the Operations Director.

EMEKA CHIMA (USA) | Secretary:

I decided to join Students with Psychosis because I did not disclose my mental illness as I originally intended. Reasonably, I finally realized that I couldn’t go at my diagnosis alone, nor could those who have not yet found a community to join that is particular to their needs. One step led to another, and I knew that this was a greater and more important problem than myself; this was a community problem, and everyone’s voice should be heard. As a result, Students With Psychosis has created an open space for me to communicate in general about life-related topics and deeper into the realm of mental health. I have become more self-aware about the struggles to be confronted daily and how self-stigma can be one of them. Students With Psychosis taught me that everyone is unique in their shoes, and features or background should not exclude people from receiving the necessary help and resources to perform at their personal best. On an educational level, Students With Psychosis has demonstrated that I can still succeed while advocating for a student like myself, especially with those who have always been by my side in my academic journey. Students With Psychosis has allowed me to become more transparent about addressing stigma in the workplace on a professional level. If it were not for Students With Psychosis, I would not have the motivation to get the help and accommodations I needed at school and work to balance living with psychosis. Truthfully, I would say that the student lived experience is so important because this area is probably the most knowledgeable about mental illness in a subjective, individualized way. That gives us the innate ability to cope and share impactful advice while fostering our resilience in the face of whatever condition we harbor. That said, the more people who have found someone with a similar story but still unique to their own, the more eye-opening the conversation. I see Students With Psychosis reshaping the discussion around psychosis by allowing others to see through the eyes of someone in that domain with the hopes of following them on their journey and forming a whole new perspective.

READ BIO

Emeka Chima is 22 years old and from the state of Maryland. He is an Undergrad studying for his Bachelor’s degree in Information Systems Management at the University of Maryland Global Campus. He is a two-time recipient for being recognized on the Dean’s List. In 2014, during his Junior year of High School, Emeka was diagnosed with mild schizophrenia. Years later, during his mental health journey, he joined Students with Psychosis in April 2020, and later became inducted into the 2020-2021 SWP Executive Board as Secretary. Through Students With Psychosis, he has become a mental health advocate and continues to divulge his story and lived experience with his condition. In his spare time, Emeka immerses himself in free-writing and enjoys playing the piano and cello.

MICHELLE J. (SOUTH KOREA) | Nominations Subcommittee Chair:

I joined Students With Psychosis because I found very little support for students living with psychosis in my country. I felt suffocated because I didn’t have a support group to attend with other people with similar experiences. As a person living with a physical disability as well, attending online meetings through Students With Psychosis helped me to manage my physical disability as well as my mental illness. It helped me feel that I am not alone, and I can get through this with the help of others. Students With Psychosis changed my life in so many ways. Before joining Students With Psychosis, I was wrapped up with self-stigma, and I thought that I was a horrible person because of what the media showed. I did not want to talk to anyone because I thought I was unloveable. However, when I met people living with psychosis, I realized that it is okay to live with psychosis, and I am not unloveable; a happy life was possible. It also inspired me to start a personal advocacy account on Instagram. Although I cannot open my advocacy account as a public account due to stigma, I feel inspired by people at Students With Psychosis daily and their passion for mental health activism. Students and staff at Students With Psychosis helped me immensely when I realized I was in the final stages of getting diagnosed with a genetic disability. It was a difficult moment for me, and Students With Psychosis became more than a support group: they were my extended family. Being an Executive Board member helped me decide on becoming a therapist after graduation. I want to use my musical and language skills as a non-native speaker of English for the greater good of Students With Psychosis and psychosis communities. I think student-lived experience is essential because it helps others to understand what living with psychosis is like. We often hear from people who do not live with psychosis, leading to false information and misunderstanding. There is a lot of misunderstanding and stigma circulating the Internet; stereotypes, such as violence, are not helpful and only fuels stigma about people living with psychosis. Students residing with psychosis sometimes face a lack of support in schools; many schools worldwide do not support students living with psychosis. The platform that Students With Psychosis offers helps individuals living with Psychosis feel less alone and gain more support from like-minded individuals. Students With Psychosis is international; therefore, it can help influence universities and schools to help students living with mental illness. Living with psychosis is not a crime, and no one should feel ostracized for having a mental illness like schizophrenia or psychosis.

READ BIO

Michelle is a South Korean mental health and rare disease advocate who lives with a rare neurodegenerative, genetic disease and a mental health diagnosis. As a patient leader who lives with a physical disability and a mental illness, she started her private advocacy account called A Prudent Willow on Instagram. Although Michelle is privately advocating for disability rights due to personal circumstances, Michelle believes that quietly advocating can help people. She is an English major, and she often uses her English skills to deliver important research news to rare disease communities. Michelle believes that mental health is significantly important in rare disease patients’ well-being, and mental health care must be included in inpatient care to provide optimal support and healing.

ALY STRUBLE (USA) | Executive Board Member:

I joined Students With Psychosis because I saw something of value within a community of peers with similar life experiences. I saw beauty in a growing family, and I wanted to be a part of it. Joining Students With Psychosis has been one of the most significant decisions of my life — we have truly become a family, a group of friends that I look forward to seeing every day. My friends here are indeed the highlight of my day. Students With Psychosis impacted my life tremendously. It has given me hope, for one. It has allowed me to find my voice and encouraged me to be an advocate. It has promoted wellness and taught me to take care of myself better. Through daily meetings and talks with old friends and their beautiful words of advice, I have found a state of wellness that can only be credited to my friends here at Students With Psychosis. Of course, mental health professionals and providers are always crucial in treatment plans, but nothing compares to a group of peers encouraging you in your similar journey. No one else understands the experience of psychosis — except those living with it. How can anyone outside of the occasion get an accurate representation or understanding if those living with a severe mental illness, or someone dealing with psychosis, are not part of the conversation? Students With Psychosis helped me find my voice, and I know I am not the only one. Together, Students With Psychosis has experienced incredible growth. Together, we are raising our voices, proud and strong, growing in numbers. We are better together, stronger together, and always together.

READ BIO

Musician, poet, and dedicated student of mental health counseling, Alyssa Struble started her time with Students With Psychosis as a student leader, intern and now serves as an Executive Board member. Alyssa is graduating from The Pennsylvania State University with a Rehabilitation and Human Services degree in August of 2021. After that, she is jumping right into a Master’s program at The University of Rochester to pursue a degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Her passion for mental health advocacy drives her career goal to work as a licensed mental health counselor specializing in group therapy. Alyssa’s dream is to empower those living with severe mental illnesses all over the globe to use their voices to speak up for themselves and others within the mental health community. Students With Psychosis has allowed Alyssa to find her voice for herself. Alyssa is proud to be a part of Students with Psychosis and looks forward to the future!

LAURA KORDOWSKI (USA) | Executive Board Member:

I joined Students With Psychosis to share my experience with psychosis with other like-minded individuals. It has gone beyond simply being a member of something and has given me purpose and meaning. SWP has impacted me on an educational level by being proud of my accomplishments and recognizing my achievements while living with psychosis. It has affected me professionally by making it easier to disclose my diagnosis with employers and by motivating me to be more open about mental illness through creative works and advocacy. It is important for students living with psychosis to have peers to relate to what they are going through because it is helpful when other people face the same struggles. Starting a conversation around psychosis, whether personal, educational, or professional, can normalize mental health issues. Since Students With Psychosis connects with people around the world, it can reshape psychosis on a global scale.

READ BIO

Laura Kordowski is from New York and has received her A.A. in Liberal Arts, B.A. in History, and M.S. in Library and Information Science while living with psychosis. She has experience working in human services and currently works in a public library. She likes taking photography outdoors because there are many parallels in nature with mental health that she tries to capture in the pictures she shares. She has been an Outreach Intern through Students With Psychosis and is now a member of the Executive Board.

BAILEIGH RENFROW (USA) | Executive Board Member:

I was struggling to find my voice. I had no idea how to communicate the struggles and successes of living with psychosis to my friends, family, and community. After a year of joining Students With Psychosis, I can say it has been one of the best decisions of my life. Monumentally, Students with Psychosis have given me a family that understands me in a way that not many other people do. I can freely express my emotions and be myself around everybody, and I think the world needs more of that. Students With Psychosis has helped me realize that living with mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. Professionally, this organization has given me the confidence to take back my life. Take a look at the movies and media that show schizophrenia. You will find that they portray violence and other completely untrue stereotypes. There’s still a lot of misrepresentation even in the movies that do not paint us in a bad light. Many director interviews say their research consists of talking to psychiatrists and caregivers, but not us. Our lived experience can paint an accurate picture of what it is like living with psychosis.

READ BIO

Freethinker, writing enthusiast, certified storm spotter, and self-proclaimed fitness junkie, Baileigh Renfrow is also a dedicated mental health advocate. Her passion for raising awareness and educating her community stems from a lifelong battle with depression and her more recent diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder. She believes that the simple act of using her voice can help overcome the gross misrepresentations and stigmatization that come with the diagnosis of a psychotic disorder. Baileigh graduated from the University of Memphis magma cum laude with a degree in Earth Sciences and enjoyed all things outdoors. She is honored to be a member of the Students With Psychosis Executive Board and achieve side-by-side with her peers by developing ideas through creative thinking.

CECILIA MCGOUGH (USA) | Founder & Executive Director:

Cecilia McGough is a New York City-based mental health activist, nonprofit executive director, consultant, and former radio astronomer. McGough is autistic who also happens to have schizophrenia but does not let her diagnoses define her. McGough is the founder and executive director of the global nonprofit Students With Psychosis. As a TEDx speaker, twice Special Books By Special Kids interviewee, Anthony Padilla interviewee, CBS This Morning national news feature, and PBS Documentary “Mysteries of Mental Illness” feature, McGough’s story has been viewed over 26+ million times across multiple platforms. McGough has been featured in Glamour UK, Women’s Health Magazine, twice in Forbes, USA Today College, Healthline, Daily Mail, The Indian Express, MTV University, WGBH, Mental Health America, and more! McGough currently serves as a curator and social committee member for the Global Shapers Brooklyn Hub through the World Economic Forum. McGough finds it important to connect with health advocates across a wide range of diagnoses and currently is a Lightbulb ambassador and severed as a 2020 conference advisor for Healthevoices. McGough collaborates with industry leads and mental health researchers and clinicians; for example, McGough was a 2020-2021 think tank participant organized by One Mind to focus on early screening for psychosis in youth. McGough is an UNLEASH talent who traveled to Denmark in August of 2017 to be an active voice to attain the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and make sure people with psychosis are represented. Also, McGough has been selected as the keynote speaker for the 2022 Congress of the Schizophrenia International Research Society to take place in Florence, Italy. At the age of 17, McGough co-discovered PSR J1930-1852 leading to opportunities such as helping represent the United States in the International Space Olympics in Russia and being a Virginia Aerospace Science And Technology Scholar through the NASA Langley Research Center. McGough’s story as a radio astronomer through the Pulsar Search Collaboratory can be seen in the documentary Little Green Men.

SEAMUS HAWKS (USA) | Operations Director:

Seamus Hawks is a 24-year-old mental health advocate living with schizoaffective disorder and a musician studying at the Berklee College of Music. Seamus is also a photographer and artist. He joined the Executive Board in 2020 and shortly afterward started volunteering as Operations Director for Students With Psychosis. After being diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder bipolar type, when looking for support, he found that, even in a big city, not enough help existed for those living with psychosis. While on his search, he came across Students With Psychosis. He joined the community and quickly looked for ways to get more involved and give back to the community that helped him. First interning, then joining the Executive Board, and later becoming the Operations Director.

DOMINIQUE (USA) | Internship Coordinator:

My name is Dominique, and I am from the Philadelphia area. I grew up in New Jersey and have lived in the outskirts of Philadelphia for ten years. I am a Pennsylvania State University grad and obtained my master’s from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania in Health Services Administration. I wholeheartedly believe in embracing yourself and discovering or unmasking different parts of yourself that negative influencers have buried—sort of like relearning. I have two sisters, and in my free time, I enjoy spirituality, reading, traveling, dancing, listening to music, and living with complete freedom of thought and action (sometimes in my own world). I enjoy art and its many expressions. Psychosis is often underrepresented in the mental health community. I want to take action and help others have a platform to amplify their voices and break the stigma.

ALLISON ANTCLIFF (USA) | Student Leader Coordinator:

I’m Alice, and I go by they/she pronouns. I am Students With Psychosis’ new Student Leader Coordinator, but I have previously worked with the organization as a Media Outreach and Resource Development intern. About a week before COVID closed down my old university, I had a mental break and was hospitalized, leading to me dropping from classes and taking time off school and work. Since then, I have developed new coping skills, expanded my support system, and moving out of the house and into an apartment with my partner and cat in Salem, New Hampshire! In the fall, I began studying Psychology with a focus on mental health. My passions are writing, art, music, video games, and mental health. I am empathetic (sometimes to a fault), and I love going on adventures.

MAYE JEPSON (USA) | Advisory Council Chair:

Maye Jepson lives in Virginia, and along with her husband Phil, is the caregiver and parent of Jason Jepson who has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder.  She will not rest until mental health is treated equally with physical health.  Remembering the uncertain days when her family first learned of her son’s mental illness, Maye formed a Facebook support group for Parenting Recently Diagnosed Schizophrenics hoping to give and share resources for those who are newly entering the world of mental illness. In the past, Maye has volunteered with several international boards including Stonecroft Ministries,  Imago Dei Arts, and Global Partners in Hope. In addition to a Bachelor of Science degree, Maye has a Masters degree in Counseling from Marshall University.  She has taught hundreds of women to write their personal stories as a legacy to their families and friends. Like her son, Maye volunteers with the Share Network where she shares her perspective on mental health as a parent wanting desperately to help a young adult child maneuver the challenges of schizophrenia. Maye has served on the Students With Psychosis Advocacy Board, Executive Board, and now as the Advisory Council Chair because she believes in the importance of shedding light on mental health issues from the youngest to the oldest consumer. 

ALEJANDRO FERNANDEZ (USA) | Advisory Council Member:

Alejandro Fernandez is an entrepreneur who believes everyone should have access to the best and most comprehensive therapy available. He was inspired to create a new model for a therapy group through Seek Atlas when he realized individuals weren’t receiving the help they deserve, the extra level of support traditional therapy groups can’t offer. Moreover, Alejandro has personal experience working with friends and family in getting them help they need and understands what the industry is missing. Alejandro is a leader in the nonprofit world and has worked in various industries as an innovator. Alejandro has served as a Students With Psychosis Advocacy Board Member, Executive Board Member, and now an Advisory Council Member, an organization ending the stigma of psychosis and mental health. Alejandro has worked in engagement and operations for one of the biggest nonprofits in New York City, in marketing and business development for a top 5 retailer, and in the mental health care sector. He is a volunteer for NAMI, MHA, and other mental health care organizations.

ROSE PARKER (USA) | Advisory Council Member:

Rose Parker is a writer, speaker, and advocate for the Psychosis Community. Having had Schizophrenia since a young age, she has experienced the many facets of Psychosis stigma and seeks to change the way people with Psychotic illnesses are perceived and treated. She has a Bachelor’s in Psychology with Cum Laude honors and a background in neuroscience and psychological research. Her scientific background leads into her belief that education is a powerful force for improving the lives of Psychotic people. By working with Psychotic people, their loved ones, and clinicians, she believes we can change the way the world sees and treats Psychosis.

JASON JEPSON (USA) | Advisory Council Member:

Jason Jepson grew up in Virginia.  He was diagnosed with schizoaffective Disorder while he was enlisted in the United States Army.   Jason lives in Richmond, Virginia where he is Chair of the Veterans Council at the McGuire Veterans Hospital.   Jason began his mental health advocacy with NAMI and has since gone on to volunteer with the Share Network, an arm of Janssen Pharmaceuticals.  His story of recovery has been published in numerous online and print publications such as Yahoo News, The Mighty, Psych Central, and OC87 Recovery Diaries.  Having obtained an Associate Degree from Sergeant Reynolds Community  College in Richmond, Jason’s true love is writing.  He has written two books, When We Were Young, a fictionalized memoir of his late teens, and a book of poetry called Misfires of a Lyrical Mind.  Jason is proudest, however, of his first person accounts that are published several times a year in Schizophrenia Bulletin, an academic journal published by Oxford Press.  He is honored to be part of Students With Psychosis, and he is happy to share his life experiences in hopes of helping others. Jason has served as a Students With Psychosis Advocacy Board Member, Executive Board Member, and currently as an Advisory Council Member.