Our Team

justin-rivers-headshotJustin Rivers

Justin is the program visionary of The Character Connection Initiative. He has synthesized nearly two decades of experience working with students, teachers, principals and parents into a fresh and impactful perspective on character education.

After seven years as an English Language Arts teacher at a New York Archdiocesan grade school, Justin spent ten years as Lead Educator at Friends of Nick, a character education organization. He developed program materials, trained teachers and instituted intentional character language into the classroom culture. He also co-developed and delivered a series of training modules to instruct partner educators in implementing the foundation’s groundbreaking “character exercises.”

Justin received a BA from Fordham University, with a double major in English and Communications. He is co-creator of “The Wonder City,” a graphic novel that re-imagines New York City’s entire history. He is the playwright and producer of “The Eternal Space,” an off-Broadway play that centers on the demolition of New York City’s Pennsylvania Station.

sarah-beth-lardie-headshotSarah Beth Lardie
Executive Director

With more than a decade of experience in advancing the mission, vision, and goals of non-profit and socially responsible for-profit companies, Sarah Beth is thrilled to be part of The Character Connection Initiative! Since joining TCCI as its Executive Director in 2018, Sarah Beth has been busy building support for TCCI’s character curriculum and sharing the results of our work with schools all over the New York City metropolitan area.

Before coming to TCCI, Sarah Beth (known as “SB”) has helped to lead the financial growth and expansion of a wide range of successful organizations including The Jane Goodall Institute, United Nations Women’s Humanitarian Action Program, and the Mandela Scholars Program. Closer to home, Sarah Beth has worked with Aid for AIDS, Fifth Avenue Committee, and State University of New York system.

Sarah Beth was also a Co-Founder at Joshua Venture, a social venture fund for non-profit entrepreneurship that operated successfully for 4 years, funding 16 projects across the United States. She is a Mentor with MIT’s LaunchX program and routinely consults with social entrepreneurs and those seeking to support innovative projects in civil society.

dawn-mcdonald-headshotDawn McDonald
Parent Program Coordinator

Dawn joined The Character Connection Initiative in 2016 to develop parent workshops that support the TCCI curriculum. Dawn holds a Masters Degree in Educational Theatre from New York University and has spent her career teaching theatre programs in New York City public and private schools as well as in several New York State correctional facilities. Dawn’s work focuses on using the arts to encourage personal development and community engagement. She is thrilled to bring her passions and talents to The Character Connection Initiative where she engages parents and caregivers in TCCI’s character building activities during family nights.

tracy-bacigalupo-headshotTracy Bacigalupo
Student Program Coordinator

Tracy Bacigalupo has been a character education Lead Teacher in partnership with TCCI and Friends of Nick Foundation for the past eight years, participating as an 8th grade English Language Arts teacher at St. Thomas Aquinas School. She is currently a doctoral student in Literacy focusing on Diverse and At Risk Learners at St. John’s University, where she also earned an MA in Childhood Education in 2010 and a BS in Healthcare Administration in 1994.

Tracy has been instrumental in facilitating the ADNY Blended Learning Initiative through all grades. She is a grant consultant and instructional designer for Project TIE (Training Innovative Educators), a K-8 professional development program at St. John’s University.


Board of Directors

Barbara Hackett
Alexandra M. DalPan
Siya Madikane
Megan McMahon

Advisory Council

Dr. David Marcotte, SJ
Assistant Professor of Psychology and Associate Director of Clinical Training, Fordham University