Stigma Free Communities, A Place For Some Unsung Heroes

By Edie Johnson

Keith Andrew is not from New Jersey, but he has something in common with many who live there. Keith was born with some special challenges, including dyslexia and inability to concentrate on long spells of speech or writing. But Keith has made some nearly miraculous accomplishments despite his difficulties. And we want to showcase both his accomplishments and those of us who have other “special challenges”. We ALL have special challenges as well as special abilities. It’s just that some are more noticeable to the general population than others. Having attended Monroe-Wood bury High School, and getting special support from the Audio Visual Department, he has launched an incredible adventure. He has a regular PODCAST where he interviews interesting people, many of them being others that have overcome daunting odds. His venture has been portrayed by Fox News as well as a show that broadcasts from Canada. The one thing that Keith really wanted to know when he came to our office for an interview was “Why is it that I’ll be talking to someone about being on my show, and they seem very interested, until they hear that I have a ‘disability’.” I told him that I thought that like travel being the antidote for hatred (because once you get to know a people and land you usually end up finding things you love”). Interaction with people who have special challenges is a compelling force for change, and especially if there is some kind of fear at the base. Once you know something or someone the fear generally disappears like magic. If there is nothing unknown, there is nothing to fear.

Ramsey High School ‘Stigma Free’ Walk and Talk-at hon

Like Keith, there are numerous towns and people in New Jersey who have and are tackling the “stigma” that is sometimes attached to people with special challenges.

In recent decades there has been much improvement, especially with programs designed for exclusivity. So, New Jersey now has a growing list of communities that call themselves “Stigma Free Communities”. Like any label, the title can only do so much. There needs to be a host of supportive programs to make the label useful. But already communities in Northern New Jersey have reported lower numbers of suicide, and numerous incidental reports of people labeled “Manic-depressive”, or “Schizophrenic”, who have come out, sought and received more support and acceptance for their disorders, and increased understanding in the general community. Rutgers University has even started a shared press release composite to help towns interested in becoming Stigma Free. Other towns have kits of ideas to help make the program successful. Ramsey High School held a rally in their football field followed by a Walk and Talkative.

The concept has been presented to the Town of Blooming Grove which just may end up being the first community in Orange County to declare themselves Stigma Free. So far they have just been presented with the concept, but were receptive. Feelers have been sent out to Orange County officials to suggest that the idea travel from town to town, and collect ideas. The idea to design such programs in Orange County came after the county’s suicide walk, and a tragic loss in Washingtonian. If we try to stop a suicide it is very late in the game. It is in fact akin to suggesting treatment for a Stage 4 cancer patient. Of course it is important to tackle overwhelming challenges when they are at their peak. But how much better a chance there is to help someone get on a better, more successful path with reachable goals, before a situation becomes a crisis.

Hoboken was one of the first towns to declare itself stigma free. Now there are over 70.

Stay tuned for more about Keith’s amazing progress and PODCAST, and the trail of stigma free communities we hope to support. Our next report on this innovative program will include feedback from the County Executive’s Office and Darcy Miller, Commissioner of Social Services.

Written by

Marisa Damele

Keith Andrew giving a message for society.

More than 300 interviews in Youtube and a book in preparation, all this, overcoming a learning disability, is a great testimony of achievement through hard work and persistence.

Keith Andrew has hosted more than 300 interviews in KeithAndrewNetWork Channel on YouTube. He has done this in a relative short time. Previously, he did many interviews with actors and very important people on an Internet Radio Talk Show. This should not be nothing special for a regular person but Keith Andrew is special, because he has a learning disability condition from birth.

What does a learning disability condition mean? It means that everything that he wants to study, learn, or practice, takes him much more time and effort than to a regular person.

Does it mean he could never learn anything? Well, it might, if he wouldn't have the patience and strong will to work as hard as it is necessary for him to learn.

But Keith Andrew is a very determinate and hard working man and he made up his mind since an early age, that he would not let his medical condition stop him to be part of society. He would learn whatever it would take and he would never accept anybody to put a label on him.

Now, he can work on computers, in a way that he has been able to make his own website and open the Youtube Channel for himself.

I find this an extraordinary example and I think Keith Andrew can be a role model for many other kids who are in the same situation he was, when he was a child too.

We had a conversation with Keith Andrew and we want to share it with you on our second page. We also want you to visit his website and his other pages on Internet here:


And please, support Keith Andrew so he can publish his book and get a program on Public Television.

Tell me, Keith, how do you choose the people you interview?

I find people who I like and who interest me on the internet.

What are the most interesting interviews you have done?

I have done over few dozen interviews with Actors, Actresses, Models, CEOs, Wrestlers, just to name a few but, really it all depends on the person and chemistry that makes It really fun and exciting.

Are you trying to entertain or giving a message through your interviews?

Both. They are very important messages and they should reflect the message and cause and the true is you need to have a passion and heart for the work you do. If there's no passion behind it, then it is meaningless.

What would be your plans if you got a show in Public Television?

LED Screen.....Wrestling Ring, Art Room or Class room and the different stages would reflect the guest and environment also more fun have different themes to the show to shake things up.

Tell me about the book you are going to publish.

At some point once I get to do more things in my life. I think doing a book on how I got started is step in the right direction.

Show people the hard work you have gone through, to where you have reach, the point in life where you are, and how you overcame the odds and obstacles.

Is there anything else you would like to tell people who are reading this?

That Labels do not dictate who you are and going to be and if you have the heart and passion for what you do, you are always going to reach your goals in life no matter what.

I agree, Keith. Congratulations on your great work. Keep on because you are on the right path. I am sure you are going to inspire many others. And of course, we support you.