Our Team

MBA Staff

Executive Director Mary Stancavage

Mary Stancavage joined Mind Body Awareness Project in January 2016 as part of the formal affiliation with Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society (ATS). Mary has served as Director of ATS since its opening in 2009. She has practiced meditation, yoga, and cultivated a spiritual practice for almost 30 years. She taught mindfulness at recovery centers in Los Angeles, completed the Buddhist Chaplaincy Program at the Sati Center and served as volunteer chaplain at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center. Mary sits on the board of the Buddhist Insight Network and has volunteered with CLUE-LA (Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice). She has a Masters from UCLA.

Mary is committed to MBA’s purpose in bringing mindfulness-based interventions and emotional intelligence training to incarcerated and at-risk youth. She has an extensive organizational background both in corporate and non-profit settings and will utilize those skills to allow MBA to focus on its core mission. Reaching those who are historically marginalized is of utmost importance and Mary is excited to be part of this important work and will work hard to enable MBA to expand its reach.

Mary can be reached at 415-824-2048 x701.

Program Director Micah Anderson

Born in Connecticut, Micah spent several of his teen years in and out of placements due to struggles with drugs, crime, and anger. Around this time, he was introduced to 12-step fellowship, and after extensive travel overseas, began a personal meditation practice in the early 1990s.

He began working with MBA in 2011. Since then, he taught retreats and led trainings on mindfulness, emotional literacy, and mental wellness in five countries, and leads a weekly meditation group in the Bay Area. He is also the Wellness Director at Ta’leef Collective, a Fremont, CA. organization that provides an alternative social and sacred space for Muslim converts and seekers. He is currently a MFT trainee with a humanistic-existential lens, focusing on both trauma-informed approaches and and mindfulness-based interventions. As a founding member of the Dharma Punx, he draws from a wide variety of personal experiences, including over 20 years meditation practice, a deep understanding and passion for youth counter-culture movements, and an experiential understanding of the world’s wisdom traditions, which he loves to translate to incarcerated and at-risk youth.

Micah lives in Oakland, CA. with his wife and two children, and received his Masters in Psychology from Sofia University in Palo Alto, CA. He is currently undergoing supervision for his MFT license. He loves to spend time with his family, drink matcha tea, and catch up on his collection of books.

Micah can be reached at 415-824-2048 x703.

Program Management Consultant Pamela Fong

PamPamela brings more than twenty years of executive and fundraising experience for SF Bay Area nonprofits of varying sizes and missions with budgets ranging from under $1 million to over $15 million. From her first nonprofit gig at age 17 in Berkeley Rep’s box office, Pamela worked her way up through various nonprofit roles ranging from receptionist, database manager, development associate, and bookkeeper to senior level management. Her expertise centers on helping youth serving agencies build their financial, fundraising and technical infrastructure and capacity. Pamela’s professional experience includes working with top development and capital campaign consultants, major foundations, institutional finance and real estate groups, and evaluation and planning professionals.

As Managing Director at Youth Radio, she oversaw the organization’s transition from a local agency to a community institution that culminated in the purchase a $3 million building with state-of-the-art digital studios. She worked as Director of Finance and Human Resources at Youth ALIVE! for several years before joining Safe Passages. There, she led the Elev8 collaborative which represented a $50 million public/private investment in five of the highest need middle schools across the Oakland flatlands.

Pamela has an unsentimental view of what it takes to make impact on our communities and brings a level of pragmatism to her work, tweaking old business rules to match new values in an ever-changing nonprofit environment. Her fundraising and budgeting expertise has helped secure over $10 million in local, federal and private foundations for leading Oakland nonprofits. As an Oakland native, Pamela is committed to supporting young people to create positive change in their community.

Instructor Intern Agnieszka Karoluk

Agnieszka (AK) was born in Poland and raised in Chicago and Northwest Illinois. As a teen and young adult, AK was accustomed to working and being around diverse populations both in her in childcare as well as the punk scene in the Midwest. AK has acquired a Masters in Early Childhood and Special Education and is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Special Education and Disability Studies. On AK’s spiritual path she acquired knowledge of Buddhist teachings through hardcore punk as well as learning to meditate from Micah Anderson while on a spiritual retreat in Northern California. AK continued to practice mindfulness and meditation, attending multiple Against The Stream retreats, and currently teaches mindfulness to teens in Fremont. AK has a passion for empowering children and youth to have control over their lives by way of reflection and mindfulness. AK is enthusiastic about using knowledge to help people identify inner strength.

Instructor Intern Joe Clements

Joe Clements Headshot

Joe was introduced to mindfulness through guidance from friend and MBA Project co-founder, Noah Levine. He later found refuge in his meditation practice to heal from the suffering of addiction. As a foundational member of Refuge Recovery—a Buddhist-inspired path to recovery from addiction—Joe has spent the last year working in various intensive outpatient programs and drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers in Northern CA. Following his heart, Joe is excited to serve at-risk youth by teaming up with the MBA Project. Joe is currently being trained to facilitate Mindfulness and Buddhist meditation through Against the Stream Meditation Society.

Instructor Intern Omar Hamze

Omar headshotOmar Hamze grew up in Fremont, CA and experienced firsthand the implications of a life impacted by gangs, drugs, and violence. As he began feeling hopeless, his search for purpose led him to sign up for a meditation class that eventually opened his eyes and heart. Omar slowly started down a path of self-awareness and after several residential retreats and four years of practice he decided to share his insights and experiences to positively impact the lives of Bay Area adolescents. Omar has been interning with the MBA Project since 2015, and his passions include teaching and practicing martial arts. He plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in psychology beginning in 2017, and to continue serving youth throughout the Bay Area in years to come.

Board of Directors

Noah Levine

One of the founders of MBA Project, Noah Levine has taught meditation in juvenile halls and prisons for 10 years and leads retreats and workshops all over the world.  As a Buddhist teacher, Noah has led rights of passage retreats for youth and he has become a leading advocate for incarcerated youth. He is trained to teach by Jack Kornfield of Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, CA. Noah holds a masters degree in counseling psychology from CIIS. He has studied with many prominent teachers in both the Theravadan and Mahayanan Buddhist traditions. Noah lives in Los Angeles and has authored Dharma Punx, a spiritual biography chronicling his transformation from Juvenile hall to spiritual activist.

Vinny Ferraro 

Vinny Ferraro was running the streets at a young age. With an incarcerated father and not much supervision he soon found himself headed there too. Vinny was introduced to the path of service in 1987 and began a journey that continues today.

In 2001, he began teaching for Challenge Day, where he taught emotional intelligence and other social skills to youth. Vinny eventually become their Training Director, leading workshops for over 100,000 youth. He went on to become the Training Director for the MBA Project and is currently the Senior Trainer for Mindful Schools in Oakland.

Vinny underwent 10 years of teacher training under the guidance of Noah Levine & Jack Kornfield. He’s a nationally recognized leader in designing and implementing interventions for at-risk youth. He is also one of the founding members of Dharma Punx and the Guiding Teacher of Against The Stream Meditation Society, and doesn’t like talking about himself in the 3rd person.

Jennie Powe Runde

Jennie Headshot Oct 2016Jennie-Powe Runde is a licensed marriage and family therapist, and has been working with youth at risk for incarceration and their families for over 15 years. During her college years, Jennie worked with several organizations devoted to empowering and supporting at-risk youth. She made weekly visits to juvenile hall, and facilitated workshops with an organization developed to address the disproportionate number of minority youth in the juvenile justice system.

Jennie later joined AmeriCorps to work as a mentor for teens on probation. She found that she loved working with juvenile justice impacted youth, and especially helping young people discover their inherent creativity to encourage reflection and deeper self-understanding. She has continued working with youth, their families, and the people that serve them as a clinician, administrator, workshop leader, trainer, supervisor, mentor and friend. Her passion for expressive arts, values-based work, and the importance of including all voices in a team-based approach to treatment strongly influences her work.

Advisory Council

Daniel Goleman, Ph.D. is a co-founder of the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning at the Yale University Child Studies Center (now at the University of Illinois at Chicago), with the mission to help schools introduce emotional literacy courses. One mark of the Collaborative’s impact is that thousands of schools around the world have implemented such programs. His 1998 book, Working With Emotional Intelligence, argues that workplace competencies based on emotional intelligence play a far greater role in star performance than do intellect or technical skill, and that both individuals and companies will benefit from cultivating these capabilities. His  book, Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, explores the crucial role of emotional intelligence in leadership. Daniel is co-chairman of The Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations, based in the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology at Rutgers University, which seeks to recommend best practices for developing emotional competence. In 2003 he published Destructive Emotions, an account of a scientific dialogue between the Dalai Lama and a group of psychologists, neuroscientists, and philosophers.

Joan Halifax is a medical anthropologist, deep ecologist, and meditation teacher, who has long been at the forefront of cultural and spiritual exploration. A former Rockefeller fellow, she lectures and teaches worldwide. She directs the Upaya Institute in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which includes the Upaya Prison Project, a network of contemplative prison programs.

Sam Himelstein, Ph.D. is passionate about serving high-risk and incarcerated youth through the practice of mindfulness and other emotional intelligence skills. He is currently a Clinical Therapist at Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center. A formerly incarcerated youth himself, Sam brought a great deal of both personal and professional experience to his seven years at MBA Project in various roles including Program Director, Executive Director and most recently as Clinical Services Director. As an adolescent, Sam was heavily involved in the juvenile justice system and incarcerated on several occasions over three years. He was on a path to destruction, struggling with drugs, violence, delinquency, and most notably anger. He eventually turned his life around through connections with mentors and personal inner work, including mindfulness meditation. Sam eventually pursued and received his PhD in Clinical Psychology from Sofia University. At MBA, Sam completed the first published research for the organization entitled, “A Mixed Methods Study of a Mindfulness-Based Intervention with Incarcerated Youth.” as his dissertation.  His went on to publish his book, A Mindfulness-Based Approach to Working with High-Risk Adolescents, through Routledge in April 2013. Sam currently runs his personal practice Lion Mind in Oakland.

Chris McKenna is Program Director at Mindful Schools, one of the leading organizations in the U.S. integrating mindfulness into education and youth mental health. Mindful Schools has trained educators in all 50 U.S. states and 80+ countries, impacting over 300,000 children and adolescents. Chris was the Executive Director of MBA from 2009 to 2012. He is on the Curriculum Advisory Committee of Dalai Lama Fellows and the Advisory Councils of Inward Bound Mindfulness Education, Mindful Muslims, and Veterans PATH.

George Mumford is a sports psychology consultant, meditation teacher, and personal/organizational development consultant. He served as a member of Head Coach Phil Jackson’s support staff for the Chicago Bulls (1993-1998) and the Los Angeles Lakers (1999-2003), teaching both teams the practice of mindfulness meditation. During that time, Jackson’s teams won six NBA World Championships—the Chicago Bulls won three (1996-98) and the Los Angeles Lakers won three (2000-2002).  Mumford was Jon Kabat-Zinn’s colleague at the University of Massachusetts for five years. He first began teaching vipassana in 1986 and taught meditation in prisons, medical clinics, corporations, and at Harvard University. Since 1999, he has taught insight meditation in Brooklyn, New York. As a consultant to the Boston College Athletic Department, George works with the men and women’s basketball and soccer teams, as well as the women’s field hockey, softball, volleyball and lacrosse teams.  In 2003, he was one of several meditation teachers invited to participate with Dalai Lama and a group of former prisoners in the “Healing through Great Difficulty” three-day conference held in New York City.

Research Advisory Council

Dr. John Astin, Ph.D.
Research Scientist, California Pacific Medical Center, San Francisco

John Astin is a Research Scientist at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. His research and clinical work has focused on several related areas: 1) the use of mind-body therapies, particularly mindfulness meditation, to treat various health-related problems; 2) psychosocial factors associated with use of complementary and alternative medical therapies; 3) the psychological construct of control and its relationship to mental and physical health; and, 4) the role of spirituality in healthcare. John received his Ph.D. in Health Psychology from the University of California, Irvine. From 1997-1999, he was a research fellow in the Complementary and Alternative Medicine Program at the Stanford University School of Medicine. From 2000-2002, he was the director of mind-body research at the Complementary Medicine Program, University of Maryland School of Medicine. He has occupied his present position at CPMC since July of 2002. His research has appeared in such journals as Archives of Internal Medicine, JAMA, and the Annals of Internal Medicine. John is the co-author (with Deane Shapiro) of the book: Control therapy: An integrated approach to psychotherapy, health, and healing.

Thao Le, MPH, Ph.D.
Senior Fellow, National Council on Crime & Delinquency

Thao Le is an Assistant Professor in the Human Development and Family Studies Department at Colorado State University (CSU). She also has joint appointments with the Colorado School of Public Health, and serves as the Director of Translation and Dissemination Activities for the Colorado Injury Control Research Center. As a senior fellow with the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, Thao has conducted multiple research and evaluation studies with immigrant and ethnic minority youth. She has 27 publications in peer-reviewed journals related to adolescent development that focus on delinquency and at-risk behaviors, as well as on topics related to cultural influences on the development of wisdom self-transcendence. She is currently the Co-Principal Investigator on a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense/NIFA to develop a mindfulness curriculum for 225 military youth.

Emiliana R. Simon-Thomas, Ph.D.
Science Director, Greater Good Science Center

Emiliana Simon-Thomas is the Science Director of the Greater Good Science Center, where she oversees GGSC’s Expanding Gratitude project. She earned her doctorate in Cognition Brain and Behavior at UC Berkeley. Her dissertation used behavioral and neuroscience methods to examine how negative states, such as fear and aversion, influence thinking and decision-making. During her postdoctorate, Emiliana shifted to studying pro-social states, including love of humanity, compassion, and awe. From there, she served as Associate Director/Senior Scientist at CCAre (the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University), focusing on how compassion benefits health, well-being, and psychosocial functioning. Today, Emiliana’s work spotlights the science that connects health and happiness to social affiliation, caregiving, and collaborative relationships.  She continues to examine the potential for–as well as the benefits of–living a more meaningful life.

Susan L. Smalley, Ph.D.
Founder and Director, Mindful Awareness Research Center, UCLA
Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, UCLA

Dr. Susan L. Smalley is a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine and Founder and Director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center in the Semel Institute. Dr. Smalley’s research laboratory at UCLA investigates the genetic basis of childhood onset psychiatric disorders such as ADHD and neurodiversity, in general. She is particularly interested in how self-regulation of environments – including one’s own attentional states – can be used to enhance health and well-being while reducing impairment associated with neurobiological differences. This work has led to research on mindfulness including studies of basic biological mechanisms, relationship and intervention in childhood onset psychiatric disorders including ADHD, and dissemination of mindfulness across the lifespan, from Pre-K to the elderly. Dr. Smalley is widely published in both scientific journals and mainstream press (e.g. The Huffington Post) as she is particularly interested in the intersection of science and self-exploration (such as meditation) and its translation to the general public. Lab websites: http://www.marc.ucla.edu and www.adhd.ucla.edu

Susan Turner, Ph.D.
Co-Director, Center for Evidence-Based Corrections, University of California, Irvine.
Professor, Criminology, Law and Society, University of California, Irvine.

Susan is a Professor in the Department of Criminology, Law and Society at the University of California Irvine. She serves as Co-Director of the Center for Evidence-Based Corrections, and is a board member of  the California Rehabilitation Oversight Board. She received her Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has led research projects including studies on racial disparity, field experiments of private sector alternatives for serious juvenile offenders, and a 14-site evaluation of intensive supervision probation. Her areas of expertise include the design and implementation of randomized field experiments and research collaborations with state and local justice agencies. She has conducted a number of evaluations of drug courts, including a nationwide implementation study. Her article, “A Decade of Drug Treatment Court Research” (2002) appeared in Substance Use and Misuse, summarizing more than 10 years of drug court research conducted while she was at RAND Corporation. Susan is a member of the American Society of Criminology, the American Probation and Parole Association, and a Fellow of the Academy of Experimental Criminology. 

Angela M. West, Ph.D.
Developer of the MTASA- Mindfulness Thinking and Acting Scale for Adolescents

Ms. West has studied mindfulness meditation as an adjunctive therapy since 2001; initially in a maximum security forensic mental hospital. In 2003, she initiated her own research in this field focusing on measurement of mindfulness in an adolescent population. The result of an initial project dedicated to measuring mindfulness in youth resulted in an experimental self-report questionnaire, the Mindful Thinking and Action Scale for Adolescents (MTASA). The MTASA is a thirty-two item pencil and paper instrument designed for administration to English speaking adolescents ages thirteen through nineteen. Currently, this project is in a second stage devoted to determining the psychometric properties of the MTASA, along side mindfulness measures designed for use with adults. Results are expected to assist with the further exploration of mindfulness as a potential wellbeing marker in adolescence.

The Mind Body Awareness Project | 415.824.2048 | 465 E. Elwood Ave., #2, Oakland, CA 94610
Mindfulness & Life Skills for At-Risk Youth

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