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.
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:
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.
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 & 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.
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 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.
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.