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The people behind the program



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.

Hired in 2016, Julie came to work for Youth Transforming Justice after a long career in nonprofit development work with organizations as diverse as The St. Louis Symphony, the United Way of the Bay Area, and the Daraja Academy, a girls’ school in Kenya which provides 4-year scholarships to materially impoverished girls with no other way to access secondary education. During her development career, Julie has helped these and other nonprofits raise over $20 million to support critical community services.


Julie Whyte

Development Director

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.

Antonio Zavala

William Orrego is the newest member of our staff and our Bilingual 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.


Bilingual Director of Program


William Orrego

Bilingual Restorative Justice Coordinator

Elizabeth Escalante

Restorative Practices Facilitator

Before coming to Youth Transforming Justice, Elizabeth Escalante was a special education teacher for 7th and 8th Grade students for 7 years. Elizabeth obtained a BA in Liberal Studies with a minor in Political Science from Sonoma State University. She then went on to obtain her teaching credentials and Master’s in Education at Dominican University. Elizabeth also holds a preliminary administrative services credential acquired from the North Coast School of Education. Aside from education, Elizabeth continues to dedicate her time and energy to advancing social justice, increasing equitable opportunities in public schools, and championing human rights.

Elizabeth comes to YTJ with a strong interest in furthering restorative justice practices in all schools and supporting educators, administrators, and students to implement these practices. With YTJ, Elizabeth will bring a focus on early interventions starting with elementary-aged children. However, Elizabeth will always have a fondness for working with middle school students. Outside of YTJ, Elizabeth is also co-chair of the Asian American and Pacific Islander Coalition of the North Bay. Elizabeth is a second-generation Filipina-American born and raised in San Francisco, and now residing in Petaluma.

Melissa is a new member to the YTJ staff as a Bilingual Restorative Justice Coordinator. 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.

Melissa Oviedo

Bilingual Restorative Justice Coordinator

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Jessica Chi Sanchez

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.


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. 

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Noah Block

Interim Board President


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.

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.

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Estela Merida Godfrey

Board Secretary


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.


Jorge Hernandez

Board Member

Juan Gramajo Perez, was born in Guatemala and raised in Marin County. Growing up in Marin, Juan participated and volunteered in many nonprofits in Marin helping underserved and underrepresented youth. Juan attended UC Santa Cruz where he received his BA in Political Science. He volunteered and was a president of a couple immigration rights groups focused on the Santa Cruz region. Since college Juan has volunteered at Canal Alliance, held DACA workshops and helped coordinate corporate volunteer days.


Juan currently lives in the East Bay and enjoys baking, running, fishing, reading and trying new restaurants.


Juan Gramajo Perez

Board Member


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