Inwood native and Lawrence High School alumna Nicole Russell has held a good job at Madison Square Garden, established a not-for-profit organization and is a published author since her 2004 graduation.
Roughly a year ago, Russell was working for the Madison Square Garden company as a manager for VIP Services at what is called “The World’s Most Famous Arena.” “My days consisted of working with the foundation during the day and rubbing elbows with celebrities at MSG such as Spike Lee,” she said. “It was getting to the point where I had to choose one job or the other.”
In April of last year when Russell decided to leave MSG after working there for nearly seven years to devote all of her attention to the Precious Dreams Foundation she and her mother, Angie, founded in 2012. The nonprofit organization focuses on “providing foster and homeless children by using a special technique focused on using bedtime necessities and positive reinforcement to empower children to recognize and focus on their dreams,” according to a statement on the foundation’s website.
Also in 2018, she tried her hand at writing, and published “Everything a Band-Aid Can’t Fix: A Teen’s Guide to Healing and Dealing with Life.” The book focuses on helping teenagers navigate their way through their teen years.
The idea for the book started with Russell jotting down notes that turned into a 300-page journal. “Every publishing company that I pitched this book passed on it until I signed on with an independent publishing company,” Russell said.
Russell didn’t think that the book would be as successful as it is, but she pointed to timing as a reason for its success. “This past summer New York state recently approved a mental health curriculum for every elementary, middle and high school in the state. Now all of the schools are looking for certain reading material to use for their curriculum,” she said.
Because of her professional and philanthropic successes, Lawrence High English teacher Dave Yaker thought that the former student would be the perfect person to speak to current freshmen and sophomores at Lawrence. For the first time since she graduated, Russell visited her old high school on Jan. 15.
“It was a fantastic learning experience for the ninth-and 10th-graders at Lawrence High School to listen to Nicole Russell speak, not only about her book, but about her life,” Yaker said. “Not too long ago, Nicole walked these halls, sat in these seats, and experience many of the things our children are going through.”
Russell spoke with the students on that Tuesday, in what she described as an open conversation about mental health. Russell said she felt that she related well to the students since she was once where they sit now. “I feel like I can understand some of the mental health challenges they face since I was once in their exact shoes,” Russell said.
Yaker has noticed that in the six weeks since Russell’s visit her words and actions have had a visible impact on the students. “I have witnessed, first hand, many students walking around with Nicole’s book since she came, writing in it and using it as a guide,” he said. “Nicole Russell represents Lawrence’s finest and I am so happy she was able to share her story and her book with our students.”