Growing up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Oronde Cruger, 29, assumed he would someday become a neurosurgeon.

But after studying neuroscience at Bowdoin College where he graduated in 2011, he went to work at Mercy Hospital and realized hospitals were not for him. Then after a series of violent American tragedies in 2012, including the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Miami Gardens, Florida, and the massacre of children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Cruger started to make good on his urge to help make the world a better place.

“The world seemingly being on fire and me needing to help people live their lives on a day-to-day basis,” said Cruger, a Portland resident.

He first tried admissions at Bowdoin College hoping to help open access to higher education among the underrepresented groups but found that was only a small part of the job. Two years ago, he found his niche in sexual assault prevention.

Now the program manager for Speak About It, Cruger said he is seeing the impact a small Maine nonprofit can make both in Maine and around the globe.

Based in Portland, Speak About It was founded by his Bowdoin schoolmate, Shane Diamond, who started the program at the Brunswick college and made it into a full-time organization after graduation.


The organization offers performance-based prevention education aimed at promoting healthy sexuality and relationships, informing students about the realities of sexual assault, providing strategies for bystander intervention and connecting audience members to campus and community resources. Each performance is customized for each school.

Speak About It has performed before 300,000 high school, college and military academy students in about half the U.S. states and at international schools in Canada and Singapore.

Cruger said he sees the impact of the performances all the time. At Colby College this fall, a student told Cruger that a Speak About It performance the year before gave the student the courage to talk about the student’s own sexual assault and start a campus sexual assault victims support group.

“That was amazing. Am I single-handedly fixing rape? No. But I am helping some people think differently about gender and sex,” said Cruger.

Cruger, who fell in love with Maine the first time he flew over the state, said one of his five-year goals is to bring Speak About It to more Maine school districts, many of which can’t afford to cover the costs. The other is to become the owner of a sugar glider, a small, nocturnal gliding opossum.

“I want one so badly. I am a simple man,” said Cruger.

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