Team Members

Dr. Julie Nicholson

Chief Strategy Officer

Julie Nicholson, Ph.D. is a Professor of Practice in the School of Education at Mills College, Senior Fellow for Childhood Education International and Co-Founder of the new Center for Equity in Early Childhood Education. Dr. Nicholson conducts community-engaged scholarship and her teaching, research and publications emphasize a range of topics related to social justice and equity especially leadership, racial and gender justice and the impact of trauma on children, adults and systems. Dr. Nicholson regularly gives keynotes and provides trainings and technical assistance for diverse stakeholders about the impact of trauma, strategies for building resilience in children, families and the workforce serving them and shifting programs and systems to become trauma-informed and healing oriented. She has published over 30 research articles in peer reviewed journals and many books including titles examining trauma-informed practice and culturally responsive self-care for educators. She is the lead evaluator for the Resilient Oakland Children and Kids (ROCK) project, a community collaborative building resilience and trauma informed practices in schools and programs across Oakland.

Dr. LaWanda Wesley


LaWanda Wesley, Ed.D. earned a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership and Management with a concentration in Higher Education from Drexel University. She is Co-Director of the Center for Equity in Early Childhood Education and Director of Quality Enhancement and Professional Development of Early Education for Oakland Unified School District.  She is dedicated to changing the lives of all children, especially those from communities of color, poverty, and furthest reach from opportunity.  Dr. Wesley is the co-author of the second book in the trauma series called Culturally Responsive Self-Care for Early Childhood Educators.  She trains on trauma modules 100 and 200 in the series and trauma informed care topics that have a lens of equity and justice. 

Valentina Torres


Valentina Torres MA, LMFT is a full-time Early Childhood Mental Health Specialist at Jewish Family & Community Services of the East Bay.  She is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California.  Valentina is bilingual and speaks spanish fluently.  She has trained extensively with the Center for Optimal Brain Integration as a master level trainer.

Dana Cox


Dana Cox, RN, MA has worked in the field of child health and development for over 35 years, as both a RN/Public Health Nurse and an Early Childhood Special Educator. She is trained in the Child Trauma Academy's Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (Level ll).  She credits her three children, one a young adult with cerebral palsy as her greatest teachers.  Dana specializes in trauma informed practices with a cross-sectional lens of medical trauma and disabilities.

Lisa Lewis-Cogswell


Lisa Lewis-Cogswell, MS, MA, has been a speaker, trainer and coach for individuals and groups for over 20 years.  She has taught meditation, mindfulness, and stress management, among other topics in the fields of personal growth and well-being.  Lisa has advanced degrees in Clinical as well as Transpersonal Psychology, and did her undergraduate work in Human Development. She has experience training on mindfulness and self-care with a trauma informed lens.


Rainbow Markell


Rainbow Markell is a long-term trainer and Early Care and Education specialist.  With her Master’s in Non-Profit Administration and years of experience with young children, she brings deep understanding of social emotional and a trauma lens to everything she does. She is currently the Trauma-Informed Care Training & Coaching Coordinator for California Child Care Resource and Referral Network. Trauma-Informed Training is her passion and she is involved with many efforts to promote trauma informed care and resilience including running a Training of Trainer’s certification program for the CA Resource and Referral Network, delivering Trauma-informed training with a specialized lens for the LGBTQ community and race equity.  Rainbow is a Master Level trainer with the Center for Optimal Brain Integration™.

Melissa Sweeney

Education and Organizational Administrator

Melissa Sweeney MA has over two decades of experience as an educational and organizational administrator. During her undergraduate degree in Family Social Science, she was invested in Child Abuse and Prevention Studies (CAPS) and throughout her Master’s program in Marriage and Family Therapy, she focused her practice on work with interracial families.  After college, Melissa was the Educational Coordinator for an international cooperation and conflict resolution center in New York City. She came to California to become the Director of a Bay Area diversity consulting company.  After the birth of her son, she started her own consulting firm and joined the Center for Optimal Brain Integration team.