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 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.
Eden is the Administrative Director for The Mosaic Project and holds down the fort in the Oakland office. Prior to joining Mosaic, Eden was a Program Coordinator for the San Francisco Food Bank, managing city contracts and developing programs and partnerships with SF non-profits to “feed the programs that feed the people.” Before that, Eden discovered her love for social work and Bay Area non-profits with the Glide Foundation/Glide Memorial Church in SF’s Tenderloin district. There, she truly experienced Glide’s commitment to “miracles through action” while overseeing administration and daily operations for the Janice Mirikitani Family, Youth and Childcare Center. Throughout all this, Eden has remained involved with the East Bay Asian Youth Outreach Ministry, which provides community programs for newly immigrated families in Oakland Chinatown. Eden’s diversity of experiences and personal passion for cultural competency work has brought her to The Mosaic Project, where she is excited to wear various hats (rather stylishly) to support Mosaic’s vision of “peacing it together.”
Eden received her BA in Classics from New York University and loves her dog, Bikram yoga, and 90’s hip hop.
Youth Leadership Project Director:
Gyasi Kofi Parker-Ross has studied social justice, alternative learning, and peace since he was young. Gyasi’s elementary and middle school, Omowale Ujamaa (literally translated ‘children coming home’), taught him individuality within a community framework at a young age. In high school, he was highly motivated by the adults around him and has always shared that ‘follow your dreams’ attitude with others. Gyasi’s goals are fostering community empowerment through peaceful methods and being a catalyst for positive youth development.
Gyasi has a deep love for music and a BA in Performance Jazz Guitar and World Music from San Francisco State University. He is not only Mosaic’s Youth Leadership Project Director, but also the current Resident Rock Star for the Outdoor School. Gyasi is a singer/songwriter and member of “Dirty Boots”, a hip-hop, rock, R&B, and soul band. Dirty Boots helps to run an open mic for high school students in San Francisco’s Mission District, empowering them to express themselves through music.
Gyasi served as a Programs Coordinator for AmeriCorps VISTA at HandsOn Bay Area (HOBA), a volunteer recruitment and event management organization. During his service, he organized an internship program centered around youth in media, coordinated large events for Project Homeless Connect, and was the lead coordinator for HOBA’s Be the Change Day 2010.
Gyasi is dedicated to spreading peace, love, and joy through his work with The Mosaic Project, his music, and his life.
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.
Curriculum and Training Director:
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.
Rachel Katz is a Jane-of-all-trades, who has a diversity of experiences and skills to share with The Mosaic Project. She met Lara and Gogi when they were all members of a collective that taught women’s self defense called Women Defending Ourselves in the early 90’s. They used many of the same experiential learning techniques that Mosaic uses today.
In 1996 Rachel co-founded and continues to live at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, in northeastern Missouri. The goal is to build a small town where residents live ecologically sustainable and socially rewarding lives, and share the skills and ideas behind that lifestyle.
Rachel has always been passionate about social justice and the environment, and she has brought that to bear on her many different pursuits. She has been a web designer, a booking agent for musicians that sing about social issues, a bookkeeper, and has worked in land management and conservation.
Rachel brings many of the skills she has gathered to her role as Development Director. Whether it’s working on the web site or writing grant applications, Rachel gets the job done from her off-the-grid, strawbale cabin in Missouri.
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 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.