Our Year-Round Team

Full-Time Staff

Executive Director:Lara Mendel - Executive Director

Lara Mendel
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Lara Mendel co-founded The Mosaic Project with Board President, Gogi Hodder, in late 2000. Lara traces the idea for Mosaic back to her par­tic­i­pa­tion at the age of 15 in a 4-night/5-day sum­mer camp that addressed issues of dif­fer­ence. She stayed involved with the pro­gram through­out her teenage years. This expe­ri­ence con­vinced her that wait­ing until peo­ple are in high school to address issues of dif­fer­ence is wait­ing far too long. She noted that prej­u­dice, fear, and anger had already become so entrenched in some of her peers that vio­lence eas­ily erupted. She became deter­mined to some­day reach out to younger stu­dents to address diver­sity issues in a pos­i­tive way and pre­vent prej­u­dice, fear and anger from tak­ing hold.

This deter­mi­na­tion was strength­ened dur­ing a col­lege pro­gram which brought Jewish stu­dents to Germany. Meetings with for­mer Nazis, as well as vis­its to con­cen­tra­tion camps where mem­bers of her extended fam­ily were killed, solid­i­fied her com­mit­ment to fight all forms of hatred.

After grad­u­at­ing from Stanford in 1990 with a B.A. and M.A. in Anthropology, Lara worked in vio­lence pre­ven­tion and envi­ron­men­tal edu­ca­tion. She then worked for seven years as Program and In-Country Director for Global Routes, a non­profit pro­mot­ing cross-cultural and self-understanding through com­mu­nity ser­vice pro­grams for youth. During that time, she ran pro­grams in rural Ecuador, Costa Rica, Kenya, and India as well as directed the pro­grams from the Berkeley-based office. In addi­tion to being an avid trav­eler, Lara is an expe­ri­enced back­packer and mar­tial artist. She is a black belt in Kajukenbo Kung Fu.

The Mosaic Project is the cul­mi­na­tion of her expe­ri­ence, per­sonal and pro­fes­sional, and rep­re­sents her vision for social change.

Outreach & Administrative Director:Eden Chan - Administrator

Kara Murray
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Kara’s cur­rent posi­tion with The Mosaic Project is the lat­est of what she believes will be a life­time stint with this orga­ni­za­tion. Kara began with Mosaic as a cabin leader at age 16. As a native of Oakland, CA and a stu­dent at Berkeley High School, she wit­nessed first­hand severe inequal­ity and deep class and racial divi­sions amongst her peers. Because of this, she was deeply inspired by the true diver­sity she expe­ri­enced at Mosaic and moved by watch­ing the impact on every stu­dent of feel­ing truly val­ued as an indi­vid­ual.  Since then, she has been an inte­gral part of the Mosaic fam­ily and served sev­eral roles includ­ing that of intern, con­sul­tant, crazed fan and, most recently, a facil­i­ta­tor at the Outdoor School.

Kara’s pas­sion for work­ing with youth has also man­i­fested in other realms, such as teach­ing orphaned and aban­doned girls English in India at Aarti Home, teach­ing sex­ual health and HIV biol­ogy to stu­dents in Tanzania through Support for International Change, teach­ing his­tory and gov­ern­ment to Virgin Island teens from a wide range of eco­nomic back­grounds and teach­ing math to low-income, high poten­tial youth at Breakthrough Collaborative San Francisco.

After grad­u­at­ing from Stanford University with a bachelor’s degree in psy­chol­ogy in 2012, she took a year away from edu­ca­tion and worked in non-profit con­sult­ing at Harder+Company Community Research. There she assisted on eval­u­a­tions of orga­ni­za­tions such as the YMCA, Junior Achievement and First 5 San Diego. This work helped strengthen the orga­ni­za­tional and inter­per­sonal skills that she now uti­lizes to keep the Mosaic Office run­ning smoothly. Now, as full time staff, she plans to con­tinue facil­i­tat­ing when­ever and wher­ever she can, as well as con­tinue her per­sonal mis­sion to spread the word about The Mosaic Project far and wide. By doing this, she hopes that as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble can be reached by Mosaic’s uncanny abil­ity to bring con­nec­tion and com­pas­sion to even the hard­est of sit­u­a­tions.

Youth Leadership Project Director:226885_10150183246837156_6622609_n

Sanjev deSilva
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Sanjev brings over a dozen years of expe­ri­ence in youth devel­op­ment and com­mu­nity ser­vice to The Mosaic Project.  His life’s mis­sion is to empower young peo­ple to be lead­ers and to cre­ate pro­gres­sive change in their com­mu­ni­ties.

Sanjev has a BA from San Francisco State University in International Relations and a minor in Ethnic Studies. While at SFSU in 1999, Sanjev became involved with the YMCA of the East Bay’s Step Up Program, which brings col­lege stu­dents into Oakland ele­men­tary schools to work as After School Instructors.  It was then that Sanjev dis­cov­ered he had a gift for con­nect­ing with the most dif­fi­cult to reach stu­dents.

In 2000, Sanjev began work­ing with Project Avary’s sum­mer camp for chil­dren of incar­cer­ated par­ents.  Once he wit­nessed the camp’s life-changing impact, he became hooked and his com­mit­ment to work­ing with youth solid­i­fied.  During his 11 con­sec­u­tive sum­mers at the camp, he served as a Counselor, a Resource Specialist, and finally Camp Director.

Sanjev con­tin­ued to work with young peo­ple dur­ing the school year as an After School Instructor at mul­ti­ple Oakland ele­men­tary schools. He served as the After School Coordinator at Emiliano Zapata Street Academy, and as Outreach Worker/Mental Health Resource Specialist at Dewey Academy.  During his time at Dewey in 2009, Sanjev received a Mayor’s Office Award from the City of Oakland rec­og­niz­ing his con­tri­bu­tion to Measure Y’s Violence Prevention pro­gram.

In 2012, Sanjev was sta­tioned in Colombo, Sri Lanka work­ing as a Program Officer for Books for Asia, a pro­gram of The Asia Foundation that dis­trib­utes books and edu­ca­tional mate­ri­als through­out Asia.  He returned to the US as the interim Operations Manager for the entire Books for Asia pro­gram.

Sanjev is also an accom­plished Hip-hop/Reggae artist, record­ing and per­form­ing under the moniker “Ras Ceylon.”  His music is another tool for cre­at­ing pro­gres­sive change.  His song “Heal Lanka” pushes for rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and last­ing peace in his ances­tral coun­try after a 26-year civil war.  It has been receiv­ing a lot of radio play and atten­tion in Sri Lanka.  Sanjev is immensely grate­ful to be work­ing in com­mu­nity with fel­low peace­mak­ers at The Mosaic Project.

Business Manager:Brian Lowe - Business Manager

Brian Lowe
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Brian pro­vides the strate­gic vision for the Mosaic Consulting Project and man­ages the day to day oper­a­tions. Brian brings with him a com­bi­na­tion of con­sult­ing, cor­po­rate finance, and non­profit expe­ri­ence. The high­light of his non­profit career thus far has been facil­i­tat­ing The Mosaic Project’s diver­sity cur­ricu­lum at the Outdoor School. Brian has worked with sev­eral other non­prof­its as well, includ­ing the Golden Gate Opera, where he man­aged stu­dent out­reach, and the Silicon Valley Triathlon Club where he devel­oped pro­grams and coached the ath­letes.

Prior to that, Brian was a cor­po­rate finance man­ager at Hewlett-Packard and Sitesmith Inc., per­form­ing var­i­ous finan­cial plan­ning and analy­sis func­tions. He was also a man­age­ment con­sul­tant for Price Waterhouse work­ing in the South and Mid-Atlantic domes­tic US regions.

Brian received a BS in Electrical Engineering from Duke University and an MBA from the Johnson School of Management at Cornell University.

Curriculum & Training Director:

Serian Strauss
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As Mosaic’s Curriculum and Training Director, Serian’s pri­mary goals are to ensure our pro­grams’ excel­lence as well as to sup­port our part­ner schools. She helps teach­ers to infuse Mosaic val­ues and skills into school cul­tures and to cre­ate the health­i­est learn­ing cli­mates pos­si­ble. Her respon­si­bil­i­ties include man­ag­ing and expand­ing Mosaic’s In-School Project as well as devel­op­ing our Professional Development Project and Outdoor School Teacher’s Institute. After fif­teen years work­ing in edu­ca­tion, most recently as a 4th/5th grade teacher in one of Mosaic’s Oakland part­ner schools, this posi­tion brings together all Serian’s pas­sions and skills.

Born in Tanzania, East Africa to a Tanzanian mother and North American Jewish father, Serian devel­oped the abil­ity to bridge cul­tures and a deep appre­ci­a­tion for diver­sity early in life. The chal­lenge of mov­ing to the United States for col­lege at the age of 17 inspired a desire to cre­ate com­mu­ni­ties where every­one feels wel­come and included.

Serian first found her love for edu­ca­tion as a teenager in Tanzania where she taught orphans to read, phys­i­cally dis­abled stu­dents to swim, and home­less chil­dren to play soc­cer. It was the rela­tion­ships she built with these young peo­ple that sparked a pas­sion for teach­ing and work­ing towards a just, peace­ful world.

In the United States, Serian began her edu­ca­tion career teach­ing weld­ing to stu­dents with spe­cial needs. Since then, she has not only taught in tra­di­tional class­rooms, but has also directed after school pro­grams, cre­ated cur­ricu­lum for non­profit orga­ni­za­tions, facil­i­tated diver­sity train­ings through­out the coun­try , and taught self defense and mar­tial arts to youth and adults (she is a Black Belt in Kajukenbo Kung Fu). Serian received a BA in Ethnic Studies and Liberal Studies from Mills College and a Masters in Education with a teach­ing cre­den­tial from UC Berkeley.

Serian has been inspired by the work of The Mosaic Project since 2002 when she first vis­ited the Outdoor School. She imme­di­ately fell in love with the magic hap­pen­ing in the beau­ti­ful red­woods. She only meant to stay a cou­ple hours, but ended up stay­ing a cou­ple of days. Since then, she has worked sev­eral sea­sons as a Program Instructor at the Outdoor School, devel­oped Mosaic cur­ricu­lum, facil­i­tated many train­ings, writ­ten and recorded Serian’s Song (a Swahili peace song) for the Mosaic CD, served on our Board of Directors, and most recently, as a Mosaic part­ner teacher, brought her 4th-graders to the Outdoor School four years in a row.

Bringing her stu­dents to the Outdoor School was the high­light of Serian’s career teach­ing in an Oakland pub­lic school. She wit­nessed her stu­dents tak­ing risks, con­nect­ing with oth­ers, and com­mit­ting to being peace­mak­ers. She is pas­sion­ate about shar­ing Mosaic’s meth­ods as widely as pos­si­ble because she knows they work. She believes they are the most effec­tive means of cre­at­ing peace­ful com­mu­ni­ties.

Development Associate:Brian Lowe - Business Manager

Seneca Beth Miller
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After over a decade of search­ing for strate­gies and skills to truly trans­form the root causes of injus­tice and sys­tems of insti­tu­tion­al­ized oppres­sion in the world, Seneca is immensely grate­ful to have found The Mosaic Project.  Here, she val­ues the way our focus on empa­thy and inter­con­nec­tion pre­vents us from get­ting stuck in the guilt, blame, and defen­sive­ness that so often impede true trans­for­ma­tion.

Seneca’s expe­ri­ence grow­ing up sur­rounded by intense seg­re­ga­tion and inequal­ity in Arizona, as well as a piv­otal expe­ri­ence as a camper and then coun­selor at the anti-bias camp, Anytown, led her to study Sociology at Arizona State University. After grad­u­at­ing, she worked for St. Joseph the Worker fundrais­ing and facil­i­tat­ing “Job and Life Skills” work­shops in the Maricopa County Jail.  The count­less sto­ries of the dehu­man­iz­ing effects of the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem moti­vated Seneca  to leave Arizona to explore peace and con­flict stud­ies.  She attended a peace del­e­ga­tion to the Middle East, vis­ited com­mu­ni­ties doing inter­na­tional non­vi­o­lent accom­pa­ni­ment work in Colombia, trained in Permaculture Design, and par­tic­i­pated in grass­roots activism includ­ing sup­port work with indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties in the Southwest. Saddened and frus­trated by the inter­nal con­flict she wit­nessed within many orga­ni­za­tions and move­ments, she landed in California and hap­pened upon The Mosaic Project in 2010.

After work­ing as a Facilitator and later the Logistics Coordinator at Mosaic’s Outdoor School, Seneca gained an inti­mate per­spec­tive of the orga­ni­za­tion and strong deter­mi­na­tion to bring in the resources Mosaic needs to accom­plish its long-term goals.  She is hon­ored and excited to take on this chal­lenge as the Development Associate. Seneca is con­fi­dent that soon every per­son in the Bay Area will know about The Mosaic Project.  She dreams of the day when we have our own Outdoor School site and are so sus­tain­able that she can spend more time grow­ing and cook­ing food for our staff and stu­dents.


 Part-Time Staff

Bookkeeper:Barbara Lubinski - Bookkeeper

Barbara Lubinski

Barbara Lubinski, Mosaic’s book­keeper, brings the exper­tise of nearly 35 years of non-profit finan­cial  man­age­ment to the orga­ni­za­tion.  Her work includes the NEST and SHARE foun­da­tions, Earth Trade, the Asian Law Caucus, Survivors International, Purple Moon Dance Project, Hand to Hand, and Yerba Buena Garden Festivals.  She is also Treasurer of the Board of AfroSolo Theater Company.   An English major and writer, she began her book­keep­ing edu­ca­tion as coor­di­na­tor of a rad­i­cal book­shop in Washington, DC in the early 70’s where the accoun­tant made every­one learn the basics of keep­ing finan­cial records with the admo­ni­tion that, “If you want to make a rev­o­lu­tion, you have to learn how to count the money.”  Barbara learned to count the money and count it well, but it is her activism that most clearly defines her life.

Barbara grew up in a poor white work­ing class fam­ily in Roanoke, the largest town in Appalachian Virginia.  Her Dad worked for the rail­road and was a union man with a healthy mis­trust of bosses.   His pas­sion was paint­ing, sculpt­ing and car­toon­ing.  Her Mom played and com­posed music, taught piano to neigh­bor­hood kids, and gave any­one in need a help­ing hand, or a sand­wich to carry with them.  Family life was immersed in music, art, books and good con­ver­sa­tion with a deep appre­ci­a­tion for new ideas and change. Her par­ents armed Barbara and her brother with a strong sense of fair­ness, a good work­ing class sen­si­bil­ity and a pow­er­ful ide­al­ism about mak­ing the world a bet­ter place.   Those val­ues fueled the fire of Barbara’s life-long activism.

Her activism began in 1968 with Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign, the com­mit­ment inten­si­fy­ing after his assas­si­na­tion.  It con­tin­ued with anti-war and women’s move­ment orga­niz­ing and sup­port of Black Power and the American Indian move­ments.  Barbara helped coor­di­nate the first International Women’s Day cel­e­bra­tion in Washington, DC, its first International Women’s film fes­ti­val, and DC’s first coop rad­i­cal com­mu­nity.  She was also part of a com­mu­nity group that “occu­pied” Georgetown University’s radio sta­tion for sev­eral years, broad­cast­ing pro­gres­sive news, cur­rent events, music and poetry.

Since those early days of rad­i­cal­iza­tion, much of the focus of Barbara’s polit­i­cal work has been in radio, pro­duc­ing and broad­cast­ing the sounds, voices, poetry and music of people’s move­ments to inform and inspire social change.  She worked for 5 years at KPOO Community radio, as co-news direc­tor and pro­ducer of “Common Woman”, 19 years at KPFA co-producing “Freedom is a Constant Struggle,”  and is a co-founder and pro­ducer at “Freedom Archives” which works to pre­serve and pass on the his­tory of peo­ples’ move­ments, locally, nation­ally and inter­na­tion­ally.   Other polit­i­cal influ­ences have been sol­i­dar­ity work in sup­port of the strug­gles of El Salvador and Zimbabwe, orga­niz­ing work in sup­port of pris­on­ers and polit­i­cal pris­on­ers, women’s lib­er­a­tion and artic­u­lat­ing her own under­stand­ings through spo­ken word and poetry.

Barbara has lived a life filled with chil­dren, includ­ing 4 stepchil­dren she raised and many more she has men­tored and plays with reg­u­larly. She works out at the Berkeley Y and says her pri­mary rela­tion­ship is The Mosaic Project.  Her favorite quote is from Cornel West, “Justice is the pub­lic face of love.”

Resident Rock Star:Brett Dennen - Resident Rock Star

Brett Dennen

Brett Dennen is a singer/songwriter, cre­ator of The Mosaic Project’s musi­cal cur­ricu­lum, our Resident Rock Star, and our orig­i­nal “Chill Out Dude” (pos­i­tive dis­ci­pli­nar­ian).

He grew up in Oakdale, Califonia where he was home-schooled until the age of twelve. He grad­u­ated from UC Santa Cruz with a B.A. Community Studies and Social Change. He became involved in The Mosaic Project while still in col­lege, worked at our orig­i­nal pilot ses­sions in 2001, and has been with us ever since.

Brett has been instru­men­tal in cre­at­ing our pro­grams. Up until his music career took off in 2006, Brett worked at every one of our out­door school ses­sions. He now joins us when­ever he is able and serves on our Board of Directors. He has released three CDs (in addi­tion to the Mosaic CD, which we are proud to say was the very first CD he recorded) and spends most of his time tour­ing these days. Check out www.brettdennen.net, his Facebook, or his myspace page for his sched­ule and a lot more infor­ma­tion.