Skip to main content

Announcing the 2016 Returning Citizens Fellows!

By September 27, 2016September 24th, 2019One Comment


Rockwood is proud to announce the inaugural cohort of the Returning Citizens Fellowship!

The purpose of this fellowship is to provide leadership development opportunities to formerly incarcerated, emerging leaders. The intention is to transform the stigma of incarceration while upholding the dignity and humanity of all people, regardless of relationship to the criminal justice system.

Please join us in congratulating the 2016 fellows:

01-reggie-boyerReggie Boyer | Impact Coach, Rubicon Programs
Reggie has over 18 years of experience in case management and as a substance abuse treatment counselor.  His passion to support individuals in their journey to recovery and economic stability has afforded him the opportunity to work with hundreds of individuals.  Reggie is the recipient of the In The Trenches Award awarded by State Senator, Barbara Boxer and the California State Senate, Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. In addition to his experience, Reggie is a Certified Addiction Treatment Counselor.  He is the President of the Positive Direction Equals Change support group, a local nonprofit geared at supporting individuals in their recovery from addition and transition from incarceration.  Reggie, a native of Maryland, and is currently living in California Bay Area. Where he and his family enjoy being close to the Bay.

02a-porschea-brownPorschea Brown | Senior Financial Coach, Rubicon Programs
In addition to her role at Rubicon Programs, Porschea also serves as the Site Coordinator for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program which returned over $770,000 to the community. She initiated a Women’s Empowerment group as a space for women to develop a positive network. Porschea founded WE Love Our Brothers initiative, a campaign that advocates against social injustices related to Black Men and Boys.  She is also the co-founder of Richmond WEConnect, a space for professionals and college students to connect and network. Porschea earned a Masters in Social Work from Howard University in Washington, DC.  She was selected as an International Service Learning student where she studied international social welfare issues in the criminal justice system in Cape Town, South Africa. Porschea’s mission is to use her personal experiences paired with her professional expertise to serve her community.

03-reggie-danielsReggie Daniels | Facilitator, MANALIVE; Doctoral Student, University of San Francisco
Reggie graduated from Riordan High School and San Francisco City College. He completed his master’s degree at University of San Francisco in the School of Management and is currently a second year student in the Doctoral Program in Education at USF. Reggie is a Manalive Facilitator, case manager at the San Bruno County Jail, and a Community Works West employee. After struggling with the criminal justice system for fifteen years, Reggie discovered Roads to Recovery, an in-custody substance abuse program. This was followed by a year-long peer advocacy program, Manalive, a violence prevention program for men to organize against violence in their homes and communities. He hopes his story of transformation from violent survivor to community advocate will empower others to find peace through artistic expression. Reggie has been honored with the Black History Month Local Heroes Award and highlighted on KQED. In July 2012, he received the In the Trenches “Change Agent” Award from Bayview Hunter’s Point Multipurpose Senior Services.

04-juan-gomezJuan Gomez | Director of Programs and Innovation, Motivating Individual Leadership for Public Advancement (MILPA)
Juan is a raza surfer and co-founder and Director of Programs and Innovation at Motivating Individual Leadership for Public Advancement (MILPA). At MILPA his focus is on racial healing and racial equity through the development of next generation infrastructure, leadership, and analytics. Mr. Gomez is committed to promoting healthy masculinities and providing rites of passages for youth and young men especially formerly incarcerated. Simultaneously, he serves as Senior Policy and Strategy Advisor with the National Compadres Network. In 2011-2012 Juan was a health equity fellow with The California Endowment. He continues to serve on numerous statewide and national efforts that advance strategies for youth and young men of color to ensure culturally based frameworks and healing informed approaches are incorporated. Juan is fervent on ensuring community leadership is at the table, not just on the menu. Juan was raised by his abuela and abuelo in Watsonville, CA and is part of the Tapilam Coahuiltecan Nation.

05-heracio-hartsHeracio Harts | Executive Director, Healthy Hearts Institute
Heracio is the Founder and Executive Director of Healthy Hearts Institute (HHI) a nonprofit designed to transform low-income communities through health and wellness.  Growing up in a low-income neighborhood known as the El Pueblo area, in Pittsburg, CA Heracio recalls a time when many families had either a small garden or a couple of fruit trees in their yard.  These were the days when kids were outside jumping rope, playing freeze tag, or hide-and-go seek. However, by the time Heracio became a teenager his neighborhood had become decimated by crack cocaine. Gardens and fruit trees had withered away and kids no longer played outside. He watched the decline of his neighborhood and even became a part of the problem as his neighborhood turned more violent, more rundown and less healthy. Today, Heracio is building a community garden and urban farm in his old community to help it regain its vibrancy.

LaMerle Johnson | Transitional Work Coordinator, Building Opportunity for Self Sufficiency
LaMerle is a community activist who spent over 20 years in prison serving a life sentence. He is a certified paralegal, alcohol and drug counselor, mental health/first aid responder, a certified facilitator of Thinking Into Results (Proctor Gallagher Institute), a member of the Alameda County Community Advisory Board (CAB) and a healing advocate for all. He is an out of the box thinker who places spirt and soul in his work, and is seeking to start a nonprofit surrounding his community-healing practices. LaMerle currently works full time as a Transitional Work Coordinator for Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency (BOSS). He does contract work with the Federal Government at Jobcorps, Treasure Island, as well as performs public speaking and healing.

07-janetta-johnsonJanetta Johnson | Executive Director, Transgender Gender Variant & Intersex Justice Project
Janetta is an Afro-American trans woman who was raised in Tampa, Florida. She is a healer through her work at the Transgender Gender Variant and Intersex (TGI) Justice Project and facilitator invested in decolonizing spaces. Since 2006, she has been organizing around the intersections of violence she and her trans and gender non-conforming communities of color face. She has been both politicized and mentored by Miss Major who has been deeply influential in her life, and she is honored to have accepted Miss Major’s former position as Executive Director of the TGI Justice Project. As a formerly incarcerated trans person, Janetta has faced adversity and this has informed her community work as well as her deep investment in the liberation of all black trans and gender non-conforming people. Janetta works to restore her community’s spirit from the confines of the prison industrial complex. Janetta uses she/her pronouns.

08-ruben-lealRuben Leal | Community Organizer/Co-founder, Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice
Born and raised in Oakland’s Fruitvale District, Ruben has direct lived experience with being labeled as an “at-risk” youth. He has been featured in local radio and newsprint, testified to the CA State Assembly Select Committee on Gun Violence, and has served on the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color Youth Policy Task Force. Ruben started his work with CURYJ as a community outreach specialist, coordinating four mural block parties and organizing the clean-up of an abandoned site now harvesting its first community garden haul. Ruben co-led a school-based youth leadership and action research project with Dewey Academy students to develop community solutions to address public safety in Oakland that evolved into a year-long after-school program, which he co-coordinates. Ruben is a volunteer with Xican@ Moratorium Coalition where he co-leads the youth organizing group, Coatlnecalli.  As a father of two beautiful daughters he is dedicated to organizing and advocating for social change that will benefit generations to come.

Rhody McCoy | Director of Economic Empowerment, Contra Costa County
Rhody has been with Rubicon Programs Inc. since March 2010. His initial position with Rubicon was the Re-Entry Program Manager. Currently, he is responsible for program management and development including evaluating existing programs, creating new initiatives to increase opportunities for underserved populations, compliance, safety and risk mitigation, and management of contract goals and objectives. Prior to Rubicon, Rhody worked with The National Trust, where he facilitated transformational health and wellness programs in San Quentin Prison, and with both The Private Industry Council as a Contracts Specialist and Asian Neighborhood Design as the Manager of their Employment Training Program. Additionally, Rhody has over 15 years in real estate development and project management experience. Rhody majored in Biology at the University of San Francisco, and studied Urban Planning at San Francisco State University.

09-airto-moralesAirto MoralesData Specialist, Project Rebound
Airto has worked with the incarcerated and reentry population for the last twenty years gaining expertise in supporting the formerly incarcerated on their journey of transitioning from the prison system to the college setting at San Francisco State University (SFSU) via Project Rebound.  Airto’s expertise began from a first hand narrative, having spent a decade of his own life in California’s prison system pushing to find freedom via formal and informal education behind the wall. Upon his release, he received his BA and MA and has been working with SFSU’s Project Rebound as student/volunteer, Office Manager and currently as Data Specialist assisting men and women to become fully matriculated students at SFSU for the last decade.  Airto has also lectured in the Counseling and Criminal Justice Departments at SFSU.

Kevin Penn | Lead Case ManagerLeaders in Community Alternatives
Kevin was sentenced to life in prison for attempted Murder in 1989. Being sent to some of the worst prisons in California, he became a part of his environment in maximum security. After the first ten years served, Kevin began to engage in his education, earning his GED, and obtaining an Associates Degree. He regained his freedom in 2010, and was employed with Rubicon programs as a housing coach. He started facilitating Men Creating Peace at Laney College, a group for men who have been convicted of domestic violence. By 2014, he was the Housing Team Supervisor and Substance Abuse Coordinator for Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. Now he works with at-risk youth for Leaders in Community Alternatives as the Lead Case Manager. Kevin received his certification in alcohol and drug counseling from Contra Costa County College. Today, he teaches men and women across this nation about the power of intimacy in comparison to violence. Kevin’s model is hurt people hurt people, and healed people heal people.

Leonard Rubio | Board Member, Insight Prison Project (IPP)
Leonard spent over 23 years incarcerated in California.  Throughout his incarceration he was preparing for his future academically, vocationally, and spiritually.  While incarcerated at San Quentin, Leonard created the Responsibility, Rehabilitation, & Restoration Interfaith Roundtable to promote restorative justice by including prisoners and volunteers from many faith and ethnic backgrounds.  He participated in numerous self-help programs as a participant and co-facilitator.  Leonard earned an Associate of Arts Degree in General Education from Patten University, completed an apprenticeship as a general machinist, became a certified welder, and created other opportunities for prisoners to further their education.  Since his release, he has married, earned a bachelor’s degree in both Finance and Entrepreneurship & Innovation at the University of San Francisco (USF), was awarded the USF Archbishop Oscar Romero Leadership Award, and continues to promote restorative justice.  Leonard has served on the Insight Prison Project (IPP) Board of Directors since November 2011.

12-al-sasserAlbert Sasser |Case Manager, Lifelong Medical Care
Al was born in South-Central Los Angeles, California.  At 13 years old, he became involved in a subculture of gangs and criminality. This behavior led him to Juvenile Hall and then to Prison. At 19 years old, Al was sentenced to 15 years to Life.  In 1989, he was encouraged to enroll in school, which was a turning point for him. Al obtain his High School Diploma, an A.A. Degree in Liberal Arts, rediscovered the power of Words, and began writing poetry and short stories. He became a Certificated Paralegal, Certified Alcohol and Drugs Abuse Counselor. In 2013, Al was released after 31 years.  He enrolled in SFSU, and volunteered with the Alameda Youth Education Program, founded by Lt. Michael Carroll. Together, they fed homeless people and went on speaking engagements. Al volunteers to speak inside prison, and works as a Case Manager in supportive housing with formerly homeless people.

13-michael-tylerMichael Tyler | Residential Advisor, The Reset Foundation
Michael is from a small town called Los Banos, in the Central Valley. As he grew older, drugs and alcohol became more frequent in his household, and he eventually began his own cycle of drugs.  Michael committed a crime at the age of Seventeen and was sent to prison to serve an 18 to Life prison sentence.  He was recently released and is now working at The Reset Foundation.  Looking back, Michael realized that he wanted more out of his life, even in prison.  While in the midst of serving his sentences, he reached out to young kids that came in with the S.Q.U.I.R.E.S program (San Quentin Utilizing Inmate Resources and Study). Michael believes he needed to share his story to help deter youth from following his path.  He is always wanting to learn more about himself and others.  Michael’s favor quote and motto is Gandhi’s “Be the change you want to see in the World.”

twTamisha Walker | Community Organizer, PICO National Network/CCISCO; Director, Safe Return
Tamisha Walker, PICO Live Free Organizer and Director of Safe Return, a campaign of the Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization. She has been a Richmond based community organizer and known advocate on issues related to mass incarceration and racial disparity in the criminal justice system since her release from incarceration in 2009. Tamisha organizes and coordinates Safe Return and its projects at the local, State, and National level. She is formerly incarcerated and shares a powerful personal story about the journey to healing and successful re-entry. Tamisha has five years of community organizing experience in a city impacted by trauma and economic inequality, including her own personal experience with trauma and poverty growing up in Richmond California. Her educational experience includes professional training in research and advocacy for the formerly incarcerated and their families, violence prevention strategies, and conflict mediation to reduce urban gun violence.

Troy Williams | Founder/Director, 4north22; Youth Programs Development Specialist and VOEG Facilitator Trainer, Insight Prison Project (IPP)
Troy spent six years, prior to his release from San Quentin, working with and facilitating the Victim Offenders Education Group (VOEG) curriculum. At IPP, he has been a Youth Program Development Specialist, a trainer for the Victim/Offender Education Facilitator Training for Incarcerated Populations, and Director of Project Emerge, a Restorative Justice program with a financial literacy component for youth. Troy facilitated mental health & wellness workshops and Restorative Justice Programs at San Quentin. He co-founded a group called Freeman Capital to teach prisoners the principles of personal finance, preparation for parole, and retirement. Troy was the founding Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the San Quentin Prison Report (SQPR) radio and production program that continues to operate inside San Quentin State Prison. He received an Excellence in Journalism Award by the Society of Professional Journalists in 2014. Troy is the founder of 4north22, a media production and consulting company, and author of Troy Williams Journal, where he documents Restorative conversations.

rwRon Wilson | Career Coach Supervisor/Program Manager, Rubicon Programs
Ron Wilson is a native of Chicago, IL and has lived in San Francisco, CA (Bayview Hunters Point) since 1983. In 2008, Ron became the Senior Financial Coach for Rubicon Programs Financial Opportunity Center (FOC) in Richmond, CA. Recently, he became the Career Coach Supervisor/Program Manager for Rubicon Programs Career Employment Center (CEC).  In this capacity, Ron oversees the business operations for the CEC, located at the Social Services Agency Alameda County/ Hayward Building. Ron’s primary focus is to create and develop meaningful connections with CalWORKs clients to find purposeful employment that could lead to a career.  He also facilitates workshops, while being creative in marketing Rubicon Programs services to the community and other agencies.  Ron received his Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from Grambling State University in Grambling, LA.

Eddy Zheng | Co-Chair, Asian Prisoner Support Committee (APSC)
Eddy uses his experiences to inspire and motivate young people to invest in their education, raise awareness about the detrimental impact that the Prison Industrial Complex has on the Asian and Pacific Islander population, and promote racial harmony among people of color.  He was a 2015 Open Society Foundation’s Soros Justice Fellow.  Eddy serves on the San Francisco Southeast Community Facility Commission, and on the Department of Children Youth and Their Families’ Oversight and Advisory Committee. He also serves on the Board of Directors of San Francisco’s Chinese for Affirmative Action and the Chinatown Community Development Center.  Eddy is the co-chair for the Oakland-based Asian Prisoners Support Committee (APSC). He is a consultant for the Community Youth Center of San Francisco’s branch office in Bayview Hunters Point. In 2007, Eddy led a book project which culminated in the publication of Other: An Asian and Pacific Islander Prisoners’ Anthology. He is the subject of the award winning documentary Breathin’ The Eddy Zheng Story.

Unlock Joyful Leadership

enjoying this post?

Subscribe to get more leadership tips, tools, & inspiration sent right to your inbox.