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.
Outreach & Administrative Director:
Mark’s activism began when he was just 16 years old. Coming from a low income mostly Latino neighborhood in South Los Angeles, he was part of the street team to increase awareness around LGBT issues and reduce rates of HIV/AIDS. He also started the first Gay-Straight Alliance at his high school. His activism motivated his educational prowess and he became the first member of his family to attend a four-year college. While at UC Davis he continued his activism around LGBT, Chican@, and Student movements. Mark helped to bring in low-income students from neighboring communities of Davis onto the campus and see themselves as potential university students and hosted Chicano Youth Empowerment Conferences.
Upon graduating with a BA in Sociology and Gender Studies he became a facilitator at Mosaic’s Outdoor School. After many years of radical activism, he was a little apprehensive at first about what Mosaic had to offer. However, he quickly realized that the tools that Mosaic uses really do work. He worked at many non-profit organizations around the Bay Area and carried the Mosaic values wherever he went. He founded a Black and Latino queer boys and men group that focused on principals of assertiveness in relationships and later worked his way up to interim program coordinator at Our Family Coalition. During that time Mark continued to come back to Mosaic as a volunteer, which deepened his commitment to and love for the organization. He is excited to play a different role in the organization and be the administrative backbone for Mosaic.
Mark has an extensive zine collection and enjoys cooking vegan Mexican food, discussing decolonizing efforts, planning his next Disneyland visit, and playing Dead of Winter, a cooperative zombie-apocalypse board game. In fact, he likes zombies in general, but not as much as he likes Mosaic.
Youth Leadership Project Director:
Khemnes first joined The Mosaic Project as a Program Instructor at our Outdoor School in 2007. Since then, he has worked many Outdoor School seasons as well as facilitated our adult training programs. He has also worked as an education specialist in the Assistive Technology field, helping people with a variety of disabilities. As a field trainer, he has traveled nationally to provide instruction at organizations such as San Francisco General Hospital, Pacific Gas and Electric, the IRS, and Social Security administration centers.
Khemnes has served as the Outdoor Recreation Assistant Director for the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired. As a Resource Program Specialist within the San Francisco and Alameda County Unified School Districts, Khemnes designed programs to address specific academic concerns and learning strategies for students with special needs.
Khemnes has a BA in Business Administration from the California State University of Fullerton and an Education Specialist credential from San Francisco State University.
In-School/Outdoor School Director:
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 environment – a school that reflects the vision, belief, and mission of The Mosaic Project.
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.
Chief Operating Officer:
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.
Development & Project Specialist:
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.
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.