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MEET THE 

TEAM

The people behind the program

STAFF.

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Don Carney

Executive Director

Don Carney has worked in the field of Juvenile Justice for over 45 years. He started his career in 1975 directing group homes and educational services for wards of the court. In 2000, Don became Director of Youth and Family Services for the YMCA, where he recruited and trained mentors, supervised probation youth at Marin County’s Community School and during the summers he directed a residential camp for high-risk youth. ​ In 2004 Don established the program, which has diverted nearly 1,300 youth from the juvenile justice system, through the use of restorative and trauma-informed practices. Establishing Youth Transforming Justice has allowed Don the opportunity to expand programs including a successful Alcohol and Drug Safety Skills Harm Reduction program, a School Suspension Alternatives program, and add a youth advocacy arm dedicated to ending the school-prison pipeline and racial equity issues. ​ Don is a member of the Superior Court’s Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Commission, the Mental Health Services Act Advisory Committee; he also consults several federally funded Drug-Free Community Coalations. He lives in Fairfax, CA, and has two adult children.

Antonio Zavala is Youth Transforming Justice’s Bilingual Director of Programs. He is responsible for overseeing the development and implementation of all of YTJ’s programs, including the BIPOC Research Internship, School-Suspension Alternatives, and Drug & Alcohol Safety Skills Training. Antonio is uniquely positioned to help youth avoid the juvenile justice system through his own lived experience that today provides him with a deeper and richer understanding of the needs and service gaps negatively impacting teens. ​ He holds a BA in Political Science from Sonoma State University and is currently enrolled in Cal State East Bay to become a substance abuse counselor. He is passionate about disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline by reducing the number of out-of-school suspensions, keeping kids off probation, and limiting the number of juvenile arrests. Raised in a strong Mexican household, Antonio is an avid boxing fan. In his free time, he enjoys strength training and mountain biking.

William Orrego is our Lead Restorative Justice Coordinator. In 2018, he obtained his degree from Sonoma State University in Philosophy: Pre Law and Applied Ethics along with a minor in Political Science. While from the east bay, Orrego attended schools in Marin and was exposed to many local nonprofits including 10,000 Degrees and Huckleberry. His experience encouraged him to positively challenge himself to support others like he once was. Prior to joining YTJ he was a family advocate providing Early Childhood Education for East Bay families. Orrego is now part of the YTJ team continuing to pursue his passion for helping to support youth and their families during their developmental age and encourage youth to make a positive change.

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Antonio Zavala

Bilingual Director of Programs

azavala@ytjustice.org

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William Orrego

Bilingual Restorative Justice Coordinator

Before joining the YTJ staff as a Bilingual Restorative Justice Coordinator, Jessica Chi Sanchez was a program instructor at Bahia Vista elementary school and Davidson middle school in Marin County. Throughout the past 6 years she has gained extensive knowledge on youths developmental phases by working one-on-one with children from 6-months-old to 13-years-old. She obtained her degree from University of California, Merced in Psychology. Jessica is a first-generation Mexican graduate who values her Mayan culture, traditions, and her community. During her downtime she enjoys gardening, painting, hiking, playing softball and spending time with her family. During her academic career she had the opportunity to speak at the Marin Teen Girls Conference in 2018 about her experience and struggles as an undocumented student and Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals recipient in hopes of bringing awareness. She worked alongside the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s president Cecilia Zamora on bringing inclusion in San Rafael High School for newcomers. This project consisted of meeting one-on-one with the students as well as in a group to provide them information on the types of clubs, sports, and events occurring on campus. Jessica is very passionate about supporting and aiding the Latinx Youth.

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Jessica Chi
Sanchez

Bilingual Restorative Justice Coordinator

Melissa is one of our Bilingual Restorative Justice Coordinators. Prior to this, Melissa was a Program leader for an after school program at Davidson Middle School. She worked with a range of students from 6 to 8th grade by assisting them through academic and personal support. Melissa is a first generation to proceed in higher education at Sonoma State where she received a BA in Chicano and Latino Studies. She comes from a Guatemalan and Mexican background that is dedicated to relearning her ancestral roots. Through her college career, Melissa was involved with the social justice movement, mentorship support and community cultural awareness. She has been part of different Non-profits organizations that have served San Rafael's community from support in Literacy practices with ELD students to coordinating a food pantry in Canal. Through these work Melissa grew a passion for working with the youth and being part of social change in her community.

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Melissa Oviedo

Bilingual Restorative Justice Coordinator

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Sophia Martin

Youth Leadership Coordinator

Starting as a volunteer in high school, Sophia Martin has been involved with Youth Transforming Justice for seven years and has recently become their Youth Leadership Coordinator. Sophia grew up in Marin graduating from Archie Williams High School where she was heavily engaged in advocacy within her community. She is currently in her final year at UC Berkeley working toward obtaining her BA in Political Science with a minor in Public Policy. Prior to beginning her position as the Youth Leadership Coordinator, Sophia was the Harm Reduction Director for the UC Berkeley Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union as well as doing policy research for a Berkeley City Council member. Sophia’s goal in her pursuing her role is to empower youth and equip them with the resources to make large impacts in their communities.

BOARD.

Noah Block is a transformative justice advocate who works to expand community-driven approaches that support systems-impacted youth and families. Noah has worked as a program consultant with organizations addressing public health challenges, centering human dignity, and promoting community care, empowerment, and respect. Noah was first introduced to the field of restorative practices with Youth Transforming Justice (YTJ), ultimately serving as their Youth Training and Leadership Coordinator. YTJ established the Block Award in 2017 in recognition of Noah’s service, which annually recognizes youth leaders in the movement. Noah has served on YTJ’s Board of Directors since its incorporation as an independent nonprofit. He has worked with various organizations, including Redwood Community Services, the National Center for Learning Disabilities, the California Association of Youth Courts, and the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes in South Africa. Noah regularly trains communities in providing innovative solutions to transform systems that perpetuate inequality. In his work, Noah seeks to empower communities to advocate for transformative policy change. Noah holds a degree in Peace Studies and American Studies from Goucher College in Baltimore. His degree focuses on the politics of social change and conflict transformation, with an emphasis on community health and well-being.

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Noah Block

Board Chair

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Jonathan Frieman

Board Member

Jonathan is a social entrepreneur who co-founded several nonprofits in Marin County. He has a law degree from New College in San Francisco and an MPA from the University of Denver, and graduated summa cum laude from Mrs. Cortleyou’s Nursery School. He helped the Marin City Health and Wellness Center gain FQHC status, raised funds to help Marin Clean Energy gain a foothold in the county, and led a community-wide effort to try and keep Target out of San Rafael. He is co-director of and president of the board of In Spirit, a small nonprofit in Woodacre which raises funds to supplement the IHSS payments quadriplegics use in order to be able to stay in their homes. He helped incorporate YTJ and is its first board president. A 25 year resident of San Rafael, he is an assistant coach for San Rafael High’s varsity football team. With a severe loss of 100db from birth, he plays guitar and bass and writes songs, and became somewhat adept in the music of Michael Hedges. He is an autodidact in human prehistory and lives with his wife Suki, a Burmese cat, and is actively engaged in self-enquiry and believes we should love everyone.

Estela Merida Godfrey is a bilingual Spanish-English teacher with extensive experience teaching Elementary, Junior High, High School, and adult students for more than 27 years in her home country, Guatemala, and also in El Salvador. In 2016, she moved from Guatemala to San Rafael, California, where she has had the opportunity to become acquainted with the local community by working at the San Rafael City Schools District where she is currently the District Bilingual Community Liaison. Estela is also a Translator/Interpreter, and a Spanish Language Literacy Teacher. She volunteered at Canal Alliance as an ESL teacher and is currently a Board Member at Youth Transforming Justice.

Estela Merida Godfrey

Board Secretary

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While many of our volunteers discover our program through their high school, Savanna Williams joined the Youth Transforming Justice team during her time as a college student at Sonoma State University. Williams was in the process of receiving her BA in Criminology and Criminal Justice Studies at the time. She knew the severe impact that the criminal justice system has on youth, especially those of color, and wanted to learn more about ways of combating that. She has seen how YTJ and other uses of restorative justice have helped prevent youth of color from entering the school-to-prison pipeline.

Savanna Williams

Board Member

Jorge Hernandez is a recent college graduate from UC Santa Cruz and a marketing and communications professional from Marin County. He is a champion for racial equity and economic justice and has been involved in a handful of nonprofit organizations from the Bay Area like Next Generation Scholars, 10,000 Degrees, and the ACLU of Northern California. In 2017, Jorge volunteered with YTJ as a Case Manager and returned to join our Board in 2021. He is looking forward to seeing YTJ grow as an impactful organization and expand its reach to all underrepresented communities in Marin.

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Jorge Hernandez

Board Member

PARTNERS.

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