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Human Library

The Human Library is returning for Spring 2018

Spring 2018 Human Library Books

South Campus Catalog of

Human Books

Full Book Descriptions

A Career Servicing the Incarcerated ~ George Alexander

George B. Alexander began his career in 1983 as a Corrections Officer at the Erie County Correctional Facility. In 1984, he was hired by the NYS Division of Parole as a Parole Officer at the Attica Correctional Facility.  Early in his career he served in numerous capacities within the NYS Division of Parole, such as, Field Parole Officer for the Buffalo area, Revocation Specialist,  Senior Parole Officer, and, Deputy Director in the Parole Violation Unit. Later he served as the Commissioner of Erie County Department of Probation and Youth Detention Services and was eventually appointed Chairman of the NYS Board of Parole and Chief Executive Officer of the NYS Division of Parole. In each of these roles, Mr. Alexander focused on designing and implementing improved processes that supported municipalities as well as enhanced programs that improved outcomes for incarcerated men and women.

Mr. Alexander holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Government from Medaille College in Buffalo, NY and a Masters of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He now serves as adjunct faculty at SUNY Erie, and hosts a local radio talk show called, “The Community Hour,” on WUFO in Buffalo.

From Reckless to Dean’s List ~ Maggie Benjamin

My dad went to prison when I was very young, leaving our family homeless. Once he was incarcerated everything began to spiral downward for my Mom, my brother, and I. My brother and I were separated when he moved to Florida with our Grandma and I stayed in New York with my mom.  By the time I turned fourteen, I was running the streets recklessly and when I entered high school I found out I was pregnant. After miscarrying, I started getting into even more trouble, and eventually got kicked out of school. I briefly attended another high school, but was suspended almost immediately. I was sent to a hearing with the Buffalo Board of Education and they decided to permanently drop me out of high school. I was only fifteen. Soon after, my brother moved back to Buffalo forcing me to learn how to provide for both of us. With a mom who had been addicted to drugs since I was five, I was used to finding ways to eat and sleep safely. Now I had to take care of another person and our life became cut-throat. The things I’ve done to make sure we were taken care of are unthinkable.

Today, through the grace of God, I am a changed person. I will gladly share my story and some of the things I’ve experienced. I will even share how I made it on the Dean’s List in college with no high school education!


Evergreen Health is a community organization that provides medical, supportive, and behavioral health services to individuals and families in Western New York. They are participating in our Human Library event to provide general health education to students and especially to speak to them about the prevention of HIV. They will discuss PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) – a new way to prevent HIV, which is a medication taken every day to greatly reduce the risk of exposure by blocking the virus. They will also discuss Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), which is a way to prevent infection after a recent possible exposure to the HIV virus. Additionally, they will conduct private HIV testing for anyone who wants to be tested and provide additional support as needed.

A Story of Service ~ William Francis

Originally from Queens, NY, William enlisted in the military when he was just 18 years old and served across the country and around the world for a commendable 16 years. Serving as a Sergeant and a Radio and Teletypewriter Operator, William’s experiences and sacrifices have provided him with valuable life lessons. He has emerged with an inspiring story to tell and a message of staying focused, doing what you know is right, and aiming to be strong and humble.

The Tattooed Professional ~ Dan Lewandowski

Unlike many of my friends, I never wanted a tattoo. It wasn't until I turned 21 that I went for my first tattoo and experienced the indescribable feeling afterwards. ​I quickly went for more and more tattoos, all while I was working hard to further my career. While I wouldn't say that having tattoos has affected my success, it can certainly have a negative impact on how the public both perceive and interact with you. If you have ever wondered what the process of getting tattooed is like, how people choose their tattoos, and the good and bad of having tattoos and a successful career, come check me out!

Finding Confidence through Exotic Dancing ~ Michelle Morales

At the age of 19, I began to exotic dance to help find myself. I had just gotten out of a bad relationship and decided to do something spontaneous. I knew I was attractive but never felt comfortable in my skin. Exotic dancing taught me so much about myself. I blossomed into a beautiful flower loving and exploring every inch of my body. I find a confidence in myself I never knew existed. My attitude became fierce and my energy powerful.

I had my daughter at the age of 22 and decided that it was no longer for me. Instead, I decided to go back to school. This new self-confidence helped me land a job in property managing. I love myself and continue to grow every day.  I believe it is important to never judge a book by its cover, you don’t know what storms it has endured.

Breaking Barriers and Enforcing the Law  ~ Randi Murphy

Randi is a mother, daughter, friend, and sister. She lives a relatively normal life, except for the fact that every day she risks it to protect our community. Trooper Randi’s 15 years of experience as a New York State Police Officer has taught her a lot. Currently, she is the only African American female Trooper serving in the Buffalo area. She is committed to law enforcement and is currently taking promotional exams to further her career of law enforcement service.

Trooper Randi will share her insight on what makes the NYS Police different from other law enforcement organizations and how she has navigated her way through more than a decade on the New York State Police force.

The Road to Redemption ~ Rashaun Smith

Every person is born with the natural urge to learn and absorb the most complex diagram of life skills. For some, obstacles continuously threaten this ability and distract them from their true purpose. As a result people die without having a chance to live a fulfilling life and missing out on opportunities and experiences along the way. This is the story of one man’s journey down that road to redemption and the trials he survived as he worked to achieve his goals.

Living Transgender ~ Denise Sweet

My name is Denise Sweet and I am a 44 year old African American Transgender person.  I was born a female, but I now live my life in a masculine manner. I work as a Lead Coding Specialist at Kaleida Health and have been employed with Kaleida for 28 years. In my leisure time, I lead an organization called Black Intelligent Ladies Alliance (BILA), which I founded in 2009.  It is a women’s empowerment organization that focus on leadership, higher learning, socialization, health awareness, and events in the regional communities of Buffalo, New York. As great as this introduction sounds, there have been many obstacles that I have gone through. Overall, the obstacles were defeated with a will to fight, achieve, and survive.

Seeing the Light ~ Amal Thabit 

Raised in a culture-based Muslim household in Yemen, Amal is now beginning to see the light.  She says there is a vast difference between the oppressed culture of being a Muslim and the religion of Islam itself.  Islam is a loving peaceful religion that is against the oppression of women.  “Check-out” Amal and learn about culture vs. religion.

I may have HIV, but it is NOT me ~ Dawn Trotter

Dawn Trotter has been living with HIV since 2007 when she was diagnosed after a routine screening and soon after learned that she also had a heart condition. At this time she was given the prognosis that she would likely live for less than one year. Her uncertainty about her health mobilized her to learn as much about HIV as possible. This experience also inspired her to educate others with what she has learned even though she was feeling overwhelmed by her own health struggles.

Currently, Dawn works full time at Evergreen Health Medical Group as a Patient Adherence Specialist applying her passion to support HIV positive people’s healthcare and promote their adherence toward viral suppression. Dawn is able to relate to patients and engages them with her own life experiences while overall helping to improve patient’s experiences and health outcomes. Dawn has HIV, but HIV is not her!

Although I was born a male, I always had the feeling I was transgender.  I liked things normally aimed at girls but had no idea why. I simply knew I had a greater connection to a womanly side but found few resources on this subject to help me learn about myself.

Becoming My True Self ~ Kimberly Tyner

As I grew up I struggled to hide my feminine nature in public while embracing it when I was alone. I started to isolate myself and live on the internet where I could be more like my true self. Slowly this balancing act began to fail as my need to be myself became stronger and stronger. I tried to resist and keep my feminine side hidden. It became harder and harder until I was left with the choice to either become Kimberly or kill myself.  I became Kimberly nearly full time at that point and I hope that my story and experiences can help people who are struggling through the same difficult situations.


North Campus Catalog of Human Books



"All The Ways You Shouldn't Start A Brewery" - Ethan Cox & Christopher Smith, Community Beer Works

"Advocating for Artists" - Stephanie (Cole) Adams**

Note: Stephanie (Cole) Adams will be talking about her experiences as a lawyer; she will not be able to provide legal advice to "readers" during her visit.

"Four Legged Therapists" - Paws for Love (Amy & Willow, Marsha & Lucy)

"A Hack in New York" - Randolph Chojecki

"Peace Corps Adventures and How to Get Kicked Out of Africa" - Elizabeth Coffey

"A Pot of Gumbo" - Nicola Medley Ballard


Book Biographies:

Stephanie Adams

Stephanie (Cole) Adams

Stephanie (Cole) Adams is the founder of registered woman-owned business on the west side of Buffalo, The Law Office of Stephanie Adams, PLLC. The Office focuses on representation for creative professionals and business owners, including archivists, librarians, artists, and skilled trades. You can find her at


Amy & Willow

Amy grew up in Orchard Park, but moved to Florida back in 2005. She returned to Buffalo almost three years ago when her mother became very ill and needed an organ transplant. Adjusting to the move and seeing how difficult things were for her family, Amy decided to look for a canine companion to help bring some relief to everyone. Due to some unfortunate circumstances of her own, Willow was put up for adoption by her previous owners who were no longer able to care for her.  Amy adopted Willow and the rest was history. They started training right away and Willow proved to be so kind, loving and gentle she was recommended for therapy work. Three classes and two certification tests later, Willow became a Therapy dog and a member of the SPCA Paw’s For Love Program. Since then, Willow now works with seniors during her weekly trips to Autumn View Health Care Facility, she does stress relief visits for the Department of Social Services and volunteers at miscellaneous schools and events around Buffalo. Not to mention, she has brought so much love and joy into the lives of her new family members, Willow really is the best therapy!

Willow is a Springer Spaniel/Poodle mix and has her own Facebook page: Where's Willow?

Nicola Ballard

Nicola Medley Ballard

Nicola is a consultant and media expert operating a woman-owned, minority-owned business in the City of Buffalo.  As recently featured in the Buffalo News, Ms. Ballard is an entrepreneur who trains and encourages women and under-represented minorities to start and grow businesses of their own.  By necessity, her work requires the graceful but insistent challenge to discrimination in the workplace.  The owner of Rudeboyz Artworks, her business in located in a place where many cultures grow and gather: Buffalo's emerging "5 Points" zone.

Randolph Chojecki

Randolph Chojecki

A native of Buffalo, Randy attended Canisius High School, Cornell University, and Heidelberg University. He worked at NASA and Harvard Medical School.  One of his specialties is Natural and Health Science Librarianship. At Daemen College, he works as a Technical Services Librarian where he selects and manages the ordering and cataloging of books and magazines.

In his spare time, he studies voice with a voice teacher and sings in a choir. He also enjoys art and wrestling.

Ethan Cox

Ethan Cox

Ethan Cox is the Authorized Person and co-founder of Community Beer Works in Buffalo, NY. He is also a Certified Beer Judge (BJCP Program), Certified Cicerone (, and Board Member of the NYS Brewer's Association. Ethan has been involved in home beer brewing and the Beer industry for over 20 years prior to starting a brewery. He regularly conducts structured tastings, beer-pairing dinners, server education and draft system maintenance as one of the co-owners of BeerPros, Inc, a beer-service and education consulting company. In 2015, he also co-authored a book, Buffalo Beer: The History Of Brewing In The Nickel City. He lives in Buffalo, NY.

Liz Coffee

Elizabeth Coffey

In 2013, at the age of 34, Elizabeth Coffey pursued her dream of serving her country as a Peace Corps volunteer. She served in Ghana as a health, water and sanitation volunteer, helped to build a medical clinic, taught ESL, offered health education to young mothers, and ran a health-based youth organization within her village.

During her time as a Peace Corps volunteer, Elizabeth experienced a series of events that led to an emotional and traumatic year of service. Three months into her service, a fellow Peace Corps volunteer and friend died from malaria. In addition, one of the women she befriended from her village died from malnutrition.  Four months later Elizabeth became very ill and was medically evacuated back to the United States to receive treatment. She returned to Ghana a month later, only to become sick again. At that time the Peace Corps decided to medically separate her and sent her home for good.

When she returned to the United States, she continued to serve by joining Americorps as a Teach for America volunteer. She taught biology and anatomy and physiology in a rural public school in St. Stephen, South Carolina. When her service ended she returned to her hometown of Buffalo.

Despite the challenges she endured, Elizabeth misses her village and the friends she made there immensely. A year after her service with the Peace Corp ended, she returned to Ghana to be reunited with them, and is planning another visit in the near future.


Marsha & Lucy

Lucy is a four-year-old Whoodle meaning she is a soft coated Wheaten Terrier and poodle mix she was rescued from a hoarding situation at the age of 6 months she is now 4 years old.

She has been a Paws for Love dog for about 2 years.She absolutely loves this job. Any situation she's been put in she has done extremely well besides she's big and cuddly kids love her old folks really love her

Marsha is a retired senior Recreation therapist from the WNY Developmental Center. She spent 38 years working on social skills and many other things with developmentally disabled adults. She has a BS degree in Health and Recreation and has been involved with therapy dogs for many years.

Chris Smith

Christopher Smith

Christopher Smith is the co-founder and Vice President of Community Beer Works (CBW), a Buffalo brewery in operation since 2011. CBW is well-known for great beer served with a side of community building. Previously, Christopher was a lead engineer and project manager for Oracle Corporation and served as a local columnist for Artvoice, which at the time was Buffalo's only weekly alternative newspaper. He has a long history of activating communities using social and new media as the co-founder of Buffalo Home Week and is the creator of "Cash Mobs", an international effort designed to encourage people to shop local and support small businesses.

In 2005, he was the co-founder of Convergence Media Network and, the region's first citizen journalism outlet. WNYMedia provided raw, unedited news coverage for the web and served as a portal for hundreds of local bloggers and citizen journalists. Using emerging social media channels, podcasts, and streaming video, WNYMedia was at the forefront of local political coverage and set a new standard for digital media production and distribution in the region.

Christopher is a veteran of the US Air Force in which he served as an intelligence analyst with a focus on Russian political culture and military capabilities. He studied Political Science and International Affairs at SUNY Fredonia with a focus on Comparative Politics and Statistics. Chris is also a proud Dad of three wonderful kids and coaches little league softball and football in his spare time.




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City Campus Catalog of

Human Books

Selected Book Descriptions


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