Our Year-Round Team
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
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.
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
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:
When The Mosaic Project found CJ Suitt in North Carolina in 2010 he quickly realized it was an organization whose work reflected many of his own passions. Since then, his work with Mosaic has taken many forms, including Staff Facilitator, the What’s-Up-With-That Guy, DJ CJ “can I get a re-play?” (aka Mosaic’s positive disciplinarian), and now Youth Leadership Director.
CJ is a Performance Poet, Community Organizer and Arts Educator from Chapel Hill, NC. Growing up singing in a Southern Pentecostal Church taught him early on that his voice was a powerful way of connecting with others. He also learned that when fueled by the ignorance of separation, the voice could be a tool for spreading prejudice and hate.
It wasn’t until high school that his ability to tell his own story through poetry changed his life. His English teacher at the time recognized his writing ability, and he was chosen to be on the first youth slam poetry team in the state. This team went on to compete at the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival, where he realized his voice was one of many young voices dissatisfied with the world they had inherited. That realization would lead him to co-found a non-profit called the Sacrificial Poets, which works to create safe spaces for youth to empower themselves through the spoken and written word. While watching the work of Sacrificial Poets blossom, his friend and co-founder, Ira Yarmolenko, was tragically murdered by strangers. Filled with anger and sadness, CJ felt sure that if they had known her story, this act of violence could have been prevented.
This horrific event solidified his commitment to telling his own narrative. He went on to share his experience of growing up black and male in a predominantly white town by creating works of theater, teaching writing in educational spaces, and performing various works of art. CJ co-directed, produced, and starred in a historical reenactment of the 1947 Freedom Rides, performed at many national and local music festivals, including Gnarnia, Shakori Hills and Bonnaroo, and acted in a production of Hands Up: 6 Playwrights, 6 Testaments. His career as an educator has allowed him to work with young people awaiting trial at the Durham Youth Home, older inmates whose voices have been silenced within the Orange County Correctional Facility, and high school and college-aged men pushing to redefine masculinity in their schools and communities. Additionally, he has collaborated with organizations such as Transplanting Traditions, Benevolence Farm, and Growing Change on the intersection of storytelling and food justice.
In his new role as Youth Leadership Director, CJ is making a long-awaited move to the West Coast and hopes to be a bridge for youth to see that peace is possible in a world that is often motivated by fear-driven stereotypes. He is committed to being a creative catalyst for a dynamic group of Youth Leaders who will nurture the next generation of Mosaic peace-makers.
As the Program Associate, Emily’s primary goals are to sustain the impact of the Mosaic experience by bringing a piece of Mosaic magic to all of our partner schools and by keeping Mosaic’s Outdoor School alumni excited about being Mosaic Peace Ambassadors in their communities.
She works with teachers to infuse Mosaic lessons and tools into the classroom and create a Mosaic school
Emily has been involved in several non-profit organizations throughout Southern California including AIDS Project Los Angeles and working as a Frontline Activist and Campaign Captain for Greenpeace Los Angeles. In 2009 she moved to the Bay to finish her culinary degree and pursue her career in mindful and sustainable cuisine. Emily subsequently began work as a Garde Manger in several restaurants, where she experienced a lot of objectification, misogyny and sexism. This treatment was not foreign to her as she had experienced similar harassment growing up as a young femme in the San Fernando Valley, however, her experience working in restaurants crystallized her desire to work for a world where people of all genders, body types and ethnic backgrounds realize their voice and talents and where no one is made to feel less human than anyone else. When she found the The Mosaic Project she knew she had found the vehicle for this passion, which has become her life’s work.
Emily’s responsibilities at Mosaic include curriculum development and facilitation for the Outdoor School, In-School Project, and Mosaic Consulting Project. She often says she’s associated with all the programs – that’s why she’s the Program Associate! Emily also offers leadership opportunities and community involvement for our Outdoor School alumni as the facilitator of the Children’s Board of Directors. She is so glad to have found a career doing what she loves with the people she loves.
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,
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.
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.”
Richelle began her involvement with the Mosaic Project as a Youth Leader in 2010. Since then she has played many roles within the organization, including Intern, Administrative Assistant, First Youth Board President and Outdoor School Facilitator. She also initiated and co-created the year-round curriculum for the Youth Leadership Project. She’s excited to now be part of the Development team.
Mosaic inspired her to join other social justice organizations in college such as All Power to The People Archive Project, a group that works to preserve the stories of our elders who fought for Ethnic Studies in the San Francisco State Strikes in the 70’s. She also joined and helped to create Eyes on Arizona (EOA) where she organized college students and community members and served with them in the Sonora Desert providing humanitarian aid to those who were crossing the Mexican-American border. EOA established connections with community organizers in Tucson to build solidarity between the Bay Area and Arizona. Richelle has also worked with elementary school students in the Bay Area teaching Filipina/o American History, Culture, Issues, Experiences, Art, and Language with two dynamic organizations: Pin@y Educational Partnership and Sama Sama Summer Camp Cooperative.
Richelle graduated from San Francisco State University with a self-designed major she titled Pinayist Self-Expression through Art, which bridges art and activism, focusing on creative expression as a healing tool to re-imagine the self in the context of historical oppression. As an immigrant and artist, artistic pedagogy provides her voice and empowerment to self-determine her identity. She is deeply passionate in creating a just, sustainable world through critical thinking and experiential education.
As the Development Assistant, Richelle handles donations, grants and community relations to support the growth and sustainability of The Mosaic Project.
Seneca Beth Miller
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 Events Specialist. 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.
Resident Rock Star:
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 several 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, or his Facebook, for his schedule and a lot more information.