Randima (Randy) Fernando was a product manager for several award-winning projects over 7 years at NVIDIA Corporation (Forbes Magazine’s 2007 Company of the Year), where he also served as an inaugural member of the employee-run NVIDIA Foundation Board.
He has successfully managed large cross-disciplinary projects and worked on all aspects of product development, from technical facets to public relations and marketing. He has published three highly acclaimed books (two of which held the #1 spot on Barnes & Noble’s “Graphics Programming” list for most of 2003 and 2004), written several papers, and given numerous presentations on real-time computer graphics. (Full Resume)
Randy is from Sri Lanka and attended Cornell University, where he received his BS in Computer Science and MS in Computer Graphics. Randy was drawn to Mindful Schools because of its compelling results and preventive nature, and is grateful for how Mindful Schools combines Silicon Valley best practices with sincere core values and intentions. Introduced to mindfulness as a child, Randy has been practicing formally since 2004.
Co-Founder and Program Director
Megan Cowan comes to this work with over 15 years of formal and intensive mindfulness training, a background in teaching and education, and a degree from UC Berkeley in Alternative Health. Megan is the primary author of the Mindful Schools Elementary School Curriculum, and created their first Adolescent Curriculum. She has taught more than 3500 youth via Mindful Schools’ in-class direct-service program, trained more than 2000 educators, mental health professionals, and parents in mindfulness practices and applications for youth, and has been leading the Curriculum Training domestically and internationally since its inception in 2010. She has been the sole trainer for the dozens of instructors who have taught for Mindful Schools. In 2012, Megan was featured in “Room To Breathe,” the first feature-length film documentary on the effort to integrate mindfulness training into U.S. public schools.
Previous to joining Mindful Schools, Chris McKenna was Executive Director of the Mind Body Awareness Project, a nonprofit that pioneered the development of mindfulness-based interventions for high-risk adolescents with complex trauma. During his tenure, MBA published the first formal research on the impact of mindfulness programming on youth in the U.S. juvenile probation system. In collaboration with Colorado State University, MBA also developed mindfulness training programs that met the specific needs of diverse youth populations, including youth of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in Montana, and military youth in Ft. Collins, CO.
Chris has spent over a decade working with diverse communities suffering from high incidents of trauma, including five years with an organization launched out of Amnesty International that provided legal and psychosocial services to victims of torture and war crimes from over 20 countries. He has a eighteen-year history with mindfulness meditation and has taught mindfulness practices to diverse youth & adult populations. He is on the Curriculum Advisory Committee of Dalai Lama Fellows and the Advisory Councils of the Mind Body Awareness Project, Inward Bound Mindfulness Education and Honoring the Path of the Warrior – a project which teaches mindfulness to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He holds a degree in Religion & Asian Studies from Columbia University.
Vinny Ferraro is a long-time mindfulness practitioner and instructor and a nationally recognized leader in designing and implementing interventions for at-risk adolescents. The child of an incarcerated father, Vinny spent the majority of his teenage life hustling and living on the streets. In 1987, after recovering from drug addiction, he began leading youth groups in drug rehabilitation centers, juvenile halls, schools and half-way houses through the Hospitals and Institutions Program of Narcotics Anonymous. Vinny continued this work for nearly a decade before transitioning to a more intensive focus on mindfulness and emotional intelligence work. In 2001, he began teaching for the Challenge Day organization, a nationally recognized, school-based emotional intelligence and life skills program, eventually becoming Challenge Day’s Director of Training and leading workshops for over 110,000 youth on four continents. In 2008, Vinny became Training Director of the Mind Body Awareness Project (MBA) and is the principle author of MBA’s mindfulness-based curriculum for incarcerated youth. Vinny has received national media coverage for his work with adolescents; he is the subject of the MTV series “If You Really Knew Me…” In addition to his work with youth, Vinny teaches mindfulness retreats to adults around the U.S. and the world.
Director of Course Admissions
Vanessa Ross brings over two decades of organizational and training experience to Mindful Schools. She has worked at a variety of innovative and successful companies including Pixar Animation Studios, Blue Sky Studios, salesforce.com, and Wells Fargo Bank.
Her own personal mindfulness practice started in 2006 when her physician recommended “Full Catastrophe Living” to help deal with the stresses of a busy life. Learning and incorporating mindfulness had a profound affect including changing the focus of her career.
Vanessa feels so fortunate to be at Mindful Schools, considering it a privilege to be able to work with parents, teachers, educators and other professionals who want to learn mindfulness and share it with the children in their lives.
Certification Program and Community Engagement Manager
Christina Costelo received her MA in Sociology from the University of California, Santa Cruz and her BA in Psychology from San Francisco State University. With a passion in progressive and innovative learning environments, Christina has worked in education for 9 years in a variety of settings. Most recently, she worked as a Camp Director for 3 years for Camp Galileo during the summer and an afterschool program quality assessor for OUSD during the school year. She has also worked as a Program Director for a nonprofit afterschool program funded by No Child Left Behind where she managed academic programming and wrote extensive guided reading curricula for elementary and middle school students in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley and Mountain View.
Christina moved from the Training Coordinator role to the Community Engagement Manager, allowing her to continue to bring her love of connecting to people and her project management experience to a mission she feels strongly about. She has cultivated her own mindfulness practice since joining the team in 2011.
Matthew Brensilver, PhD, holds a master’s degree in clinical social work and has done psychotherapy with adolescents, adults and groups. He received a PhD from USC, where his research investigated explanations of psychiatric comorbidity. Currently, Matthew conducts research on addiction treatment at the UCLA Center for Behavioral and Addiction Medicine. He also teaches at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center on the intersection of mindfulness and psychotherapy.
Course Admissions Specialist
Amy Allum-Poon has over ten years of experience in the non-profit and education sector. She received her BA in Psychology and Sociology from UC Santa Barbara. Amy worked for an education non-profit in Washington DC and later taught English in Korea and Indonesia. Upon her return to the Bay Area, Amy worked for two local energy efficiency non-profits before joining Mindful Schools. Amy began her mindfulness practice in earnest after attending a 10-day retreat in India in 2009 and is grateful for the impact that it has had on her life. She is thrilled to be a part of the Mindful Schools team where she is able to combine her passion for education and meditation.
Stephanie (Steph) Smith was born and raised by two hard-working and compassionate school teachers in Fresno, CA. She earned her BA in History and English from UC Berkeley. Steph began her career as a co-owner at a technology cooperative, and then went to work as an IT Administrator at Sungevity for 4 years. In 2013, it became confusingly clear to Steph that she managed stress poorly. That same year she began a personal mindfulness practice and quickly recognized positive changes in her life. Her practice led her to apply for a position at Mindful Schools, and she enthusiastically joined the team in 2015. Steph is excited to be connected to the Mindful Schools network of brilliant, interesting, and kind people from all over the globe. She is also grateful for the opportunity to work towards a mission that honors the two most powerful influences in her life: her family and her practice.
Director of Technology
David Rogers is an experienced technology manager with extensive expertise in the for-profit financial services sector and the nonprofit education and instructional technology sectors. Formerly the Chief Technology Officer at the GreenPoint Mortgage division of Capital One, David has successfully built multiple online businesses, and brings with him a Wharton MBA and a Masters in Teaching from New York University.
Director of Finance and Operations
Eden Feil is a Certified Nonprofit Accounting Professional and has spent the last several years building nonprofit human resources and finance departments from the ground up. She holds a BS in Business Administration (with concentrations in Human Resources Management and Corporate Management) from California State University East Bay and is an active member of the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) and Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN). Eden was immediately drawn to the mission of Mindful Schools and is excited to be a part of such important work at the intersection of mindfulness and education.
Martha Brown has a BA in Communications and Ethnic Studies from U.C. Berkeley and over 20 years of experience managing staff and operations. In an eclectic career that began in hospitality and nightclub management and spans roles in administrative management, tourism, travel management, PR and media communications, and TV and film production, Martha has worked for a variety of companies including Viacom for MTV Networks, the Shubert Organization for Broadway Inbound, Kaiser Permanente, and the Port of Oakland. She also spent three years as Director of Operations for a TV production company that produced children’s programming for the WB and G-4 networks and had a performing arts training program for kids.
After spending time at home with her new son, Martha wanted an opportunity to work with an organization that was positively impacting early education. Becoming part of the Mindful Schools team and furthering the mindfulness in education movement is very fulfilling to her.
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Guiding Teacher, Year-Long Certification
For over 10 years, Pam Dunn has been a leader and teacher trainer for Challenge Day, one of the best known organizations in North America teaching empathy, compassion and other core social & emotional skills to students. She has worked with well over 100,000 youth in middle schools and high schools across the U.S., Europe and Canada. Her work with youth was recently featured in the Dutch Documentary series “Over De Streep (Cross the Line).” In addition to her work with Challenge Day, Pam has been a lead facilitator and curriculum developer for Be Present, Inc. (BPI), supporting individuals of all ages, genders and cultures in developing leadership in their own lives as well as in their families and communities. Pam has consulted with numerous youth & family service agencies on youth program development, staff training and program evaluation, including the Family Childcare Training Project, The Mind Body Awareness Project, The Edgewood Center for Children & Families, Mission Neighborhood Centers, & Urban Tilth.
Guiding Teacher, Curriculum Training
Argos Gonzalez grew up in Queens, NY and is a product of the NYC public educations system from elementary school to his graduate studies. He is a high school English teacher in the Bronx with ten years experience. He also teaches literacy instruction at Hunter College and is finishing his Ph.D. in Urban Education at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is interested in the impact mindfulness can have on teachers and students alike.
Guiding Teacher, Mindfulness Fundamentals
Kevin Griffin is a longtime practitioner who trained as a Community Dharma Leader at Spirit Rock. He is the author of One Breath at a Time: Buddhism and the Twelve Steps. A co-founder of the Buddhist Recovery Network, he teaches regularly at Spirit Rock, as well as at treatment centers, professional conferences, and colleges across the U.S. Kevin has been a member of the Spirit Rock Family Program for ten years.
Eric López-Maya has an extensive background practicing mindfulness and integrating it into different scenarios. He directs REDEA, a leading Institution in Mexico City that offers mindfulness-based interventions for mental health, well-being and stress reduction, both for companies and the general public. He also collaborates with the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center as an Assistant Teacher in its Certification Program. He is a clinical psychologist and a PhD candidate in Health Psychology and has led and collaborated in contemplative research projects in Mexico, United States and Germany. He holds a certificate in Mindfulness Facilitation from UCLA and has completed professional training in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) through the programs offered by the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He thoroughly enjoys assisting others to learn and deepen their mindfulness practice.
Gene Lushtak started practicing meditation in 1997 with Jack Kornfield Inspired by his experiences with multiple month-long retreats and eventually moved to Thailand to ordain as a monk in 2004. On returning to the United States, Gene sought to bring the teachings into lay life. He completed Spirit Rock’s Community Dharma Leader Program and taught mindfulness in grade schools as part of InnerKids in Los Angeles. Gene has led numerous ongoing meditation groups and currently teaches with the Against the Stream Meditation Society of San Francisco. Gene also sees clients privately as a Somatic Experiencing practitioner.
Since Bonnie began practicing meditation in 2005, she’s spent almost a year on silent retreat, spread out over 1 month, 2 month and 3 month periods. She is passionate about practice and has found it has benefited her life in innumerable ways. She teaches mindfulness to children in Cambridge and Boston, both in the classroom and in an after school program. She also teaches non-violent communication to youth and adults.
Dr. Montminy is a clinical child psychologist, family wellness coach, and national workshop presenter. As the founding director of MidStep Centers for Child Development, private practitioner, and school-based mental health consultant, he has worked passionately for 25 years to improve the emotional well-being of children and adolescents. Peter was educated at Dartmouth, Penn State University, and Yale Medical School’s Child Study Center, yet his ultimate training – and source of joy – come from raising his four children with his wife Mary in the woods of central Pennsylvania.
Heather is a UCLA certified mindfulness facilitator and Self Compassion teacher. She has had the opportunity to share the practice of mindfulness in California and Chicago and has accumulated over ten years of teaching experience. She began her own formal practice in 1998, completing her first teacher training 5 years later. In 2007, Heather became interested in secular mindfulness and the neuroscience of practice. Soon after, she began training at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center, eventually completing the Certification in Mindfulness Facilitation and MAPs Teacher Training. Heather teaches throughout the Los Angeles area in many capacities including training PHD interns self compassion at Tarzana Treatment Center and physicians at UCLA hospitals, helping those in recovery at women’s sober homes, and teaching actors to have more joy in their careers through mindfulness practices. Since 2000 Heather has remained committed to training that includes yearly retreats ranging from 14 to 30 days in length. She is honored to be a guiding teacher for Mindful Schools.
Devon Rath has been practicing mindfulness since 1997. She graduated with her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania in 2002. Since that time she has worked with teens in many different capacities. Currently she works in a public school in San Francisco, teaching mindfulness, facilitating therapeutic groups and doing emotional triage. She is passionate about sharing mindfulness and hopes that it may help people find greater peace and happiness.
Cheryl Slean has completed Spirit Rock’s Dedicated Practitioner Program, and is currently enrolled in UCLA’s Certificate Program in Mindfulness Facilitation. She was invited to start teaching meditation in 2007 by her teacher Rodney Smith, and has since led numerous sitting groups, daylongs, and class series at many spiritual and secular venues, including Seattle Insight, Mid-Columbia Insight (WA), Swedish Hospital (Seattle), Long Beach Insight and in the health care community, participating in research and education on meditation and chronic pain, stress relief and substance addiction. She currently teaches regularly at Against the Stream L.A., Michael’s House Drug & Alcohol Treatment Center and Insight Community of the Desert (Palm Springs), where she is a founding board member and teacher. Cheryl is also a writer and filmmaker working in documentary and narrative film and media.
Guiding Teacher, Mindfulness Fundamentals & Curriculum Training
Oren J. Sofer is a teacher and practitioner of mindfulness meditation, Nonviolent Communication (NVC) and somatics. In the early 2000s, he developed a deep interest in the relationship between mindfulness practice and communication. A graduate of the BayNVC North American Leadership Training, he began teaching NVC in 2006 and has taught classes and workshops to individuals and organizations nationally. Oren has extensive experience with mindfulness-based programs for children and adolescents; he was one of the first generation of teachers at Mindful Schools and made significant contributions to the development of the Mindful Schools curriculum. Oren is also trained and certified in Somatic Experiencing – a modality developed by former NASA-trauma specialist Peter Levine that emphasizes the role of nervous system regulation in the trauma healing process. He holds a degree in Comparative Religion from Columbia University.
Sarah M. Waxman is a youth mindfulness and mind/body educator. Since completing the Mindful Schools curriculum training in 2010 Sarah has been teaching mindfulness in schools, after-school programs, summer camps, and Jewish religious schools. She holds a 200-hr vinyasa teacher training certification as well as certifications from several youth mind/body courses. Her enthusiasm for mindfulness and other mind/body practices in schools comes from her own discoveries with contemplative practices, and from her experience teaching in the classroom. She firmly believes that educating youth in healthy self-soothing methods will greatly enhance our education system, reduce harmful addictive behaviors, and improve the character of our society. Sarah began practicing mindfulness and yoga while playing Goalkeeper in Lacrosse at the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a BA degree in Sociology.
Publisher of Mindful Magazine
U.C.Berkeley Mindfulness & Law
University of Virginia
Greater Good Science Center
USCF Osher Center
Program Director, Education
S. H. Cowell Foundation
University of California, Davis
Former CEO & Co-Founder
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