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.

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.

Facilitator Oscar Paul Medina

Oscar Paul Medina is a meditation teacher, purpose guide, and somatic practitioner born in East Los Angeles and raised in the Mojave Desert. As a Dalai Lama Fellow and co-founder of Mindful Garden Collective, he created a community wellness garden and environmental restoration project centered around meditation, yoga, ecology, and growing organic food for Oakland community families in need.
He is a mindfulness teacher and facilitator at Mindful Life and Mind Body Awareness Project, where he leads mindfulness and healing circles with inner-city youth in the schools and prisons of the Bay Area. He also holds a private practice as a purpose guide and meditation teacher that helps entrepreneurs, artists, and activists awaken to their deepest impact and purpose in the world.

Senior Intern Facilitator Melrose Content

As a San Francisco Bay Area native, Senior Intern Instructor Mel has seen his peers fall to domestic abuse, drug addiction, crime and apathy for his whole life. As he got older he too experienced his share of trauma, picked up some bad habits, but despite these hurdles managed to graduate from San Francisco State University in 2011 with both a Bachelors Degree in Psychology and a serious drinking problem. Entering rehab several years later, he found the only reliable refuge from flashbacks and withdrawals was in the least likely of places, in himself.

Armed with awareness of breath and the work ethic of the drug fiend, Mel then pursued any and all avenues to creating a both a refuge within and a refuge for others. With a few months clean he began facilitating Refuge Recovery meetings, a Buddhist-based recovery system. A few years after that, he was asked to step in and facilitate the Oakland chapter of Dharma Punx. In early 2017, he found himself volunteering in a maximum-security detention facility for juveniles with the Mind Body Awareness Project. Sitting in that room, he saw the reflection of every face from his old neighborhood that he never sees anymore. In those stoic faces of those incarcerated youth, hardened to protect their tender child within, he sees himself.

While he can never truly pay back those to whom he owes the freedom of his heart, he is motivated to serve in any way he can, fueled by both the aftertaste of suffering and the verified truth of his own freedom.

Senior Intern Facilitator Joe Clements

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.

Intern Facilitator 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.

Intern Facilitator Jeff Camozzi

Around 2006, Jeff became dedicated to the mindfulness practice he was taught at a young age by joining the Dharma Punx Friday night meditation meetings in San Francisco, lead by MBA cofounder Vinny Ferraro. Now with over a decade of daily informal and formal mindfulness practice including regular silent retreating, Jeff has committed to offering this methodology of insight to internal freedom where it is needed most. To the youth inundated with today’s stressors. Jeff is a father of two and has maintained a career in construction contracting for over 25 years. In the past several years he has dedicated most of his time outside of construction to teacher training in mindfulness modalities and honing his skills in various classroom, individual and group settings. In addition to completing the Mindful School’s year-long certification program, he is an authorized MBSR teacher by UMass and passed many supplemental courses including certifying in Mindfulness Based Substance Abuse Treatment for Adolescents. Jeff is currently in the facilitator training program with Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society and is also studying to become a credentialed drug/alcohol counselor. Jeff has initiated and lead Refuge Recovery groups since 2014 and is a regional representative. Jeff’s approach to working with others is informed by his own extreme life experiences that allow him to show up with compassion, charisma and humor.

Intern Facilitator Omar Hamze

Omar 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

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.

Jessica Hartzell

Jessica Hartzell is an attorney and advocate. A relative rookie, she has been studying mindfulness since 2013, though not always in earnest. Jessica is the co-founder of the Global Unity Project, an immigration clinic in the Bay Area. With a background in local politics and public policy, Jessica is interested in the cross-section of justice, global community, and human dignity. Jessica is also counsel to a startup in San Francisco and brings a business and compliance lens to MBA. She lives in Big Sur and has an old-school telephone where you can reach her in an emergency.

 

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.

Alex Scott 

Alex Scott is a Managing Director in Client Development at Charles Schwab and has been serving on the MBA Board since 2017. He has been meditating since 2006 when he found a dusty cassette tape from Jack Kornfield. Professionally, Alex has been working with Schwab since 2011 and has served in a number of management roles in Product Management and Corporate Strategy. Before he joined Schwab, he worked for Lehman Brothers and Accenture. He lives in San Francisco.

 

 

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 | info@mbaproject.org | 465 Elwood Ave., #2, Oakland, CA 94610
Mindfulness & Life Skills for At-Risk Youth

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