The people behind the program
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.
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.
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.
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 currently a commissioner on Sonoma County’s Commission on Human Rights and 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.
Lupita Ramos is the most recent member of the Youth Transforming Justice team, joining as a Restorative Justice Coordinator. In 2023, she obtained her degree from Cal State East Bay in Sociology with a minor in Ethnic Studies. Ramos calls the East Bay home, where she spent her teen years in youth mentorship positions. Before joining Youth Transforming Justice as a staff member, Ramos was a college intern for YTJ and also served as an After School Program Instructor. As a part of Youth Transforming Justice, Ramos brings a passion for connecting with youth and helping support youth and their families, looking for the opportunity to meet the needs of the community around her.
Restorative Justice Coordinator
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.
Jennifer Lee, a Korean-American born and raised in the Midwest, has cultivated a longstanding career in nonprofit management and administration. She is dedicated to advancing racial, social, and economic justice opportunities for marginalized populations through community empowerment strategies, leadership development, and social norms change. Jennifer has worked on a broad range of issues, including poverty alleviation, educational equity, homelessness, immigrants’ rights, violence prevention, and criminal justice reform.
Board Vice President
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.
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 Merida Godfrey
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.
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.
Juan Gramajo Perez
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.