Dr. LaWanda Wesley
LaWanda Wesley currently serves as Oakland Unified School District’s Director of Quality Enhancement and Professional Development of Early Education. Dr. Wesley is the Co-Founder and Co-Director for the Center for Equity in Early Childhood Education in service of disrupting race inequities at its root cause. Wesley is the co-author of the second and third book in the trauma series titled Culturally Responsive Self-Care for Early Childhood Educators and Trauma-Responsive Practices for Early Childhood Leaders: Creating and Sustaining Engaged Organizations. Additionally, she is the contributor to the recently published California Department of Education document, Responsive Early Education for Young Children and Families Experiencing Homelessness. She is audaciously dedicated to changing the lives of all children, especially those from communities of color, poverty, and furthest reach from opportunity.
Valentina Torres MA, LMFT is an Early Childhood Mental Health Specialist and Co-Clinical Manager in the Parenting & Youth department at Jewish Family & Community Services East Bay. She is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California. Valentina is bilingual and speaks Spanish fluently. She has worked with various populations doing Early Child Mental Health consultation in preschool, family and child psychotherapy, individual psychotherapy, developmental playgroups and parenting groups. Additionally, she provides reflective supervision to early childhood clinicians. She is a trainer with the Center for Optimal Brain Integration. She is certified as a Circle of Security Educator, a Fussy Baby Specialist with Fussy Baby Network from the Erikson Institute and an authorized trainer and coach of the CA CSEFEL Teaching Pyramid. Valentina received her BA in Theater Arts from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 2005. She received her master’s in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Drama Therapy from the California Institute of Integral Studies in 2009. Valentina is deeply passionate about providing high quality services to our most marginalized communities to heal trauma and create change by uplifting the voices of our young children, their families and the people and systems that support them.
Dr. Crystal McClendon-Gourdine
Crystal Gourdine, Ph.D. is a Race Equity Consultant lending over 25 years of experience in early childhood, K-12, and post-secondary education to partnerships with non-profit, district, and university based early childhood programs. She specializes as a Race Equity coach, trainer, and facilitator; customizing learning environments and tailoring a quality redesign to meet federal, state, and local policies, and collaborating with community stakeholders to disrupt systemic inequities. Formerly a public-school educator, college instructor, and family child care owner, she also consults with state and local organizations offering program assessment, reflective practice and mentorship, and coaching and training on early childhood quality
improvement measures using a Race and Equity lens. Crystal holds both a doctorate and master's degree in Human Development / Educational Psychology from University of Maryland, College Park; a master's degree in Leadership in Early Childhood Education from Mills College; and a bachelor's degree in Psychology from Spelman College.
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.
Silvia Bonilla has over 30 years of experience in the early childhood field. She is bilingual and bicultural and is most proud of being a grandmother! She is currently working on her bachelor’s degree and maintains an associate degree and is credentialed with a teaching permit and site supervisor permit. She is certified as a trainer in Abriendo Puertas, Touch Points, Teaching Pyramid Social Emotional Curriculum, Protective Factors and Strengthening Families Framework and Trauma-Responsive and Healing Engaged Modules 100 and 200 with the Center for Optimal Brain Integration®. She is certified with an Adult Education Teaching Credential. Silvia is experienced in planning and facilitating curriculum for children ages 2-5, parent support groups and parent training as well as training early childhood teachers. Silvia knows how to mobilize community support in times of stress, and she is a grounding force for those who are experiencing individual and collective trauma.
Jennifer Silverstein is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and California endorsed Infant Family Mental Health Specialist and Reflective Practice Facilitator. She has over 2 decades of experience in fostering early childhood mental health. She specializes in work with young children with complex developmental trauma and works extensively with children in the foster care system. She provides dyadic (relational) therapy to children and their caregivers, designed to promote healthy attachments and support mutual regulation. She provides mental health consolation to preschool providers. Jennifer has advanced training in the impact of childhood adversity on the developing brain. She is a frequent lecturer on Trauma Informed Care and is actively involved in community efforts to promote early childhood mental health through public education and the strengthening of service systems.
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.
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.