An Organization for kids and by kids working to save the lives of their bullied peers and build kinder communities using Empathy, Education and the Arts!
Be A Friend Project, Inc. | 501c3 Organization | Federal Tax ID # 84-2802576
with Co-Founder January Akselrad (left)
The Be A Friend Project was founded in 2015 by business partners and playwrights Jennifer Young (right) and January Akselrad (composer), to carry into action the "speak up, reach out and be a friend" message of their 8x Broadway World Award-winning middle school show, "IT'S EASY! The Friend Strong Musical."
From 2009 to 2019, the Founders were Co-Presidents of SEE THE WISH, their educational company created to teach and inspire in an entertaining way - including through original plays and musicals. “IT'S EASY!” first debuted in 2015 in collaboration with the Riverdale Rising Stars in the Bronx, New York. Those Junior cast members asked the Playwrights for a way to continue the show’s message off-stage.
Jennifer has directed the Be A Friend Project since 2015 as it grew national. In 2019, the BAFP came into its own as a 501c3, superseding See The Wish, with Jennifer as Executive Director.
January remains active as a Theater Consultant and Creative.
Shante Skyers (she/her) is a Bronx native who is excited to join the Be A Friend Project team! She has five years of experience working as a Development professional in the arts nonprofit world, securing millions in General Operating Support, Programming, and Capital funding. Skyers has a bachelor of the Arts in Arts Management from SUNY Purchase and a Master's degree in Applied Theatre from CUNY School of Professional Studies. Having lived in South Korea for nearly four years, working as an ESL teacher, she enjoys traveling and new activities and greatly appreciate the minds and contributions of children and young people.
Office & Program Manager
We first met Amy in 2017 when her son, Aidan, starred as JED TRAVIS in our Broadway World Award-winning production of "It's Easy!" and we have been enamored ever since! Amy was dubbed a Be A Friend Project SUPER Ambassador in 2018 for her on-going efforts to bring the show and Project to the local school district where she was President of the PTA. Her background spans from managing a large non-profit Foundation in NYC to being the Coach for school swim teams. Amy INSPIRES and we are thrilled she is volunteering her philanthropic acumen and can-do enthusiasm for the BAFP mission - and most of all, gifting her warmth and kindness - as Secretary of the Board.
Board of Directors
Essential Teen Volunteers
On-Air Teen Super Ambassador
Brielle was 11 when she auditioned for "It's Easy!" in 2017 and scored the leading role of "STACEY" in what became an 8x Broadway World Award-winning production. Brielle initiated the role of "On-Air Teen Ambassador" on Youtube, making it easier for schools across the country to introduce each Friend Mail Recipient. Awarded SUPER Ambassador in 2018, Brielle hosts letter-writing parties and has led elementary school assemblies to introduce the BAFP. In 2019, she met with Cornwall Central School District Administration and Educators to seek district-wide participation, and succeeded! Brielle was recognized as a "Student of Achievement" by NY Assemblyman Schmitt after being nominated by the CCSD for her BAFP Ambassador work.
Social Media Teen Super Ambassador
Erin performed the role of GABBY in the 2017 Broadway World Award-winning production of "IT'S EASY!" in Irvington, NY,, and soon after became an Official Presentation Ambassador, organizing and leading multiple meetings with the incoming Student Governments at her former elementary school to pitch the BAFP, recruit Ambassadors and collecting dozens of letters of support for victims of bullying. Erin is the recipient of a 2018 Super Ambassador Award. Currently a student at the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, she introduced the BAFP there in 2020, inspiring and sending dozens of heartfelt letters of support - and teaming up with fellow voice students to send amazing song videos of support! We are so proud Erin has volunteered as the new Social Media Ambassador in 2021!