Staff

Haydée Cuza, Ed.D.

Executive Director

Working closely with the Board of Directors, staff, and the community, Haydée is responsible for sustaining wellness programs and initiatives that eliminate stigma and discrimination.  Additionally, she is committed to the overall growth and success of the mental health consumer run and led movement. Haydée leads within diverse communities, as PEERS offers culturally-powered and innovative programs, trainings, and peer groups.

Combined with 25 years of professional experience working for foster care system policy, workforce development, improving outcomes for transition age youth and mental health systems; her passions come from her lived experiences as a former homeless and foster youth, struggles with mental health and wellness, personal commitment to self-reflection and healing, and being a mommy, abuelita, and multidimensional and multicultural womyn.

Before coming to PEERS, Haydée served as the Executive Director for Youth In Mind; as a Social Scientist and Technical Assistance Specialist working with federally funded workforce development programs, nonprofits, and for profit organizations; as the Program Director for Youth Advocate Program in Alameda County, and at 16 years old was a founding member of Foster Youth Connection (FYC), later transitioning to Policy Coordinator for California Youth Connection (formerly FYC). She has over 13 years of experience in consulting work, including curriculum development, strategic planning, individual and group professional coaching, peer employment support groups, and has extensive experience with bookkeeping, fund development, and financial analysis.

Haydée loves spending quality time with her wife, daughter, grandson, family, and close friends, and she especially loves dancing and taking time to consciously connect spiritually. 

Kozi Arrington

Program Coordinator

Kenneth Kozi Arrington

Kenneth Kozi Arrington is a Program Coordinator for PEERS. In his role, Kozi is in charge of reaching out to various Alameda County communities, organizations, and agencies that serve people with mental health challenges.  He also plays a lead role with the Lift Every Voice and Speak (LEVS) Speakers Bureau team.

As Program Coordinator, Kozi utilizes his community relations skills to promote awareness, recruit volunteers, and organize events that benefit both the public and people with mental health challenges. He also introduces the concept and educates members of the community on the importance of mental health.

What Kozi likes most about being involved with PEERS is his ability to meet with, connect with, listen to, and learn from others. He enjoys facilitating self-empowerment with others as well as himself as he proactively engages in his individual recovery.

Kozi has held various roles at PEERS. In January of 2013, he served as an intern from the BestNow! Peer Specialist Training Program and worked on the PEERS video series Stories of Recovery. Following his internship and before transitioning to his current role, he served as the Front Desk Receptionist.

A graduate of Emotional CPR, Kozi also serves as a Mentor on Discharge through the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and is a certified "Peer 2 Peer"group facilitator and "In Our Own Voice" (IOOV) group facilitator through NAMI. Most recently, he has become a subject/participant of the NAMI, IOOV Cultural Adaptation Video Series as a representative of the African American LGBT family of mental health consumers.

Kozi is also a professional vocalist, actor, director for stage and television, writer, and spoken word artist. He worked and volunteered for many years for the Alameda County Public Health Department’s Office of AIDS as a community activist, advocate, Peer Educator and Linkage Coordinator for People Living With HIV/AIDS, PLWHA.

Anika Carter

Program Assistant

Anika Carter started with PEERS as an intern. Anika is now a Program Assistant and provides support to the Transition Age Youth (TAY) Program. She also provides support to various TAY related events.

Anika has a strong background in public speaking, facilitation and youth advocacy. She has strong communal ties to the city of Oakland and brings mental health awareness to her community. She also provides support to people who struggle with mental health challenges and works specifically with transition age youth at San Francisco State college student retention and success programs. She also promotes awareness through her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. 

Anika is a graduating senior at San Francisco State University where she is studying Psychology and Africana Studies. She is also involved in a Cognitive and Social Equity lab where she is researching how stereotype threat affects identity. 

Lyndsey Ellis

Program Assistant Coordinator

Lyndsey Ellis is the Program Assistant Coordinator for PEERS. She’s responsible for various administrative tasks, including internal and external communications with vendors and contractors, media requests, and scheduling of monthly events for PEERS activities.

As a resident of the Bay Area for nearly 10 years, Ellis has engaged in volunteer outreach, facilitated writing workshops for, and worked with domestic violence survivors in the past. She has a background in creative writing with some experience in copywriting, freelance journalism, and blogging with work appearing in 7x7, For Harriet, Examiner.com, and Heart & Soul Magazine among other places. In her spare time, she enjoys Afro Samba dancing and traveling to spend time with family in her hometown, St. Louis MO. 

Vanetta Johnson

Programs Manager

PEERS Programs Manager

As the Programs Manager, Vanetta works closely with Associate Director and program staff to plan and implement programs. Vanetta is also responsible for supervising program staff and supporting professional development.

Vanetta is joining PEERS with a background that includes youth leadership and workforce development, program coordination, and administration.  Before joining PEERS, she worked as Program/Professional Development Coordinator, working closely with former foster and probation Transition Age Youth.   She also volunteered at VBR Family and Children Services, where she discovered a passion for supporting systems involved youth.

As a former foster youth, Vanetta has been personally impacted by mental health and has overcome various obstacles. Vanetta is deeply invested in her recovery and being an example to others that recovery is possible. She leans on her faith, counseling/mentoring, and her support system to continue her wellness journey.  

In her spare time, Vanetta loves spending time with friends and family, listening to music, creative writing, watching movies, and learning/experimenting with natural health and beauty products.

Zakiya Johnson

Program Assistant

Zakiya Johnson started as an intern and quickly found that her values aligned with PEERS. Zakiya is now a Program Assistant, currently responsible for supporting programs with evaluations, and provides administrative support to the Wellness and Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) team and Lift Every Voice and Speak (LEVS) team. Zakiya also supports program related events such as the We Move for Health Walk (formerly 10x10 Walk).

Zakiya has also been introduced to the Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP®).  She has started to use the tools to support herself through school and family life. She is excited to be a part of educating and reducing the stigma about mental health in her community and has joined the Pool Of Consumer Champions (POCC) a program of Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services with a membership of 900+. She is excited to continue to grow as an advocate in this field and continue to network with peers across Alameda County.

Zakiya likes to spend time with her children, family, and friends. Zakiya is a Bay Area native and loves interacting with people and has a strong interest in helping youth who have experienced trauma. Zakiya attends San Francisco State University and is working toward her Bachelors of Arts in Liberal Studies/Social Work.

Nancy Lee

Finance Director

As Finance Director, Nancy Lee controls the purse strings for PEERS. Responsible for establishing and maintaining accounting systems, safeguarding PEERS assets, preparing financial reports, and complying with audit requirements, Nancy has been involved with PEERS since 2002 when she helped create the program budget with the first BHCS contract.

Nancy is proud to be associated with PEERS and share the commitment to advocating wellness recovery and social inclusion. A graduate of the 3-Day WRAP workshop, Nancy believes that there is hope and help to feel and get well.

Nancy is married and has two children.

Veronica Liu

Program Coordinator

Veronica Liu is the Program Coordinator for the Chinese American project at PEERS. In her role, she oversees a program that serves Chinese Americans with mental health diagnoses to overcome internalized stigma through conducting intakes, outreach, and administrative tasks. For the past 17 years, she has worked within diverse communities as an educator within the academic field serving predominantly low-income Spanish speaking youth from immigrant families as well as students in special education.

In addition, she has volunteered at her local Second Harvest Food Bank and continues to do so providing translation work and helping to distribute food to families and elders. Veronica is always inspired by how resilient communities are in face of struggle and adversity and the selflessness of those who serve others. She is excited to bring her bilingual language skills to PEERS to serve her community. She holds a degree in Sociology from San Jose State University and is the proud parent of a daughter who also engages in social justice work. In her spare time, she enjoys reading fiction mystery novels, watching all movies, and exercising.

TeAirra Mitchell

Communications Coordinator

PEERS Communication Coordinator

As the Communications Coordinator, TeAirra is lead on the Everyone Counts Campaign website content, publicizes PEERS news and events, promotes trainings and other PEERS activities, as well as creating outreach materials for PEERS programs. TeAirra also supports PEERS Lift Every Voice and Speak Speakers bureau.

With a background in social media marketing, TeAirra will be updating PEERS social media networks and websites, interacting with the community over our Facebook and Twitter page and email list, and also providing updates on the Everyone Counts website.  

After overcoming her struggle with depression, TeAirra discovered that she had control over her happiness and well-being—not depression. Shortly after, she found PEERS and was immediately inspired by their mission and values. She wanted to be a part of everything that PEERS stands for, and using her knowledge and skills to help share with others the importance of wellness for their self, and their loved ones.

Being a professional photographer she loves capturing moments with her husband and little girl. She’s a self-proclaimed home body, and likes to read, crochet, and participate in online workshops for creatives.  An aspiring fit-freak, she also enjoys going to the gym, hiking, and going for runs around her neighborhood in Oakland. 

Toshie Narita

Finance Coordinator

Toshie Narita

In her role, Finance Coordinator Toshie Narita helps the finance department with bookkeeping, filing, and other activities that keep the office running smoothly and efficiently. Before coming to PEERS, Toshie served as a bookkeeper, front clerk, concierge, and financial manager at a hotel in her hometown. She has also been a tutor for children.

Toshie is originally from Japan and came to the United States in 1999 to study film. Shortly after she arrived, Toshie found she wasn't as young as other students and didn’t have friends for a period of time. In addition, she found herself lonely shortly after getting married and as a result, sought counseling. In the process, she learned that she could ask for help when needed, which helped her feel better being in a country in which she did not grow up. Toshie believes that experience was an "amazing realization" as to how important mental health is and the effectiveness of related programs.

Toshie is excited to be a part of an organization that has been doing "great things in the mental health field and is increasingly recognized by society." In her spare time, Toshie loves photography, camping, snowboarding, going for a drive, hiking, reading, and watching suspense movies and TV shows.

Gilbert Pizano

Program Coordinator

Gilbert is a Program Coordinator at PEERS. In his role, Gilbert works with and supports the TAY Leadership Team in helping them develop new skills and coordinate outreach to the TAY Community. He is also responsible for facilitating Wellness Recovery Action Plans (WRAP) groups, Reflections and Expressions Workshops, and participating in the Psych Med Videos project.

Gilbert has a background in youth advocacy, facilitating trainings and focus groups, as well as lived experience as a Transition Age Youth (TAY) and the Foster Care System. Before joining PEERS, Gilbert worked for an organization that provided direct and indirect advocacy to foster and probation youth throughout Alameda County’s Department of Children and Family Services. Gilbert’s experiences have motivated him to further his career path within this field of work and to make changes every step of the way.

He also loves skateboarding, cutting hair, photography, but most importantly enjoys the company of his loved ones.

Vincianna Reed

Program Coordinator

As a Program Coordinator, Vincianna is responsible for supporting the TAY leadership in developing new skills, facilitating trainings and meetings, and coordinating outreach events designed to promote wellness and leadership within the TAY community. In collaboration with other TAY-focused organizations and the Programs Manager, she is also responsible for building new and sustaining relationships to expand communities of youth and young adults to support wellness.

Vincianna is joining PEERS with a rich background that includes peer-led youth advocacy, curriculum and training facilitation, and youth leadership development.  Before coming to PEERS, she worked as a youth advocate, representing the perspective and voice of youth who have experienced foster care.   She also volunteered at Alameda County Independent Living Skills Program events for transition age youth.

Vincianna is a certified facilitator of Making Proud Choices, a curriculum to assist youth in care with making healthy decisions around sexual activity. She is community minded and is known for being someone who promotes the voice and perspective of young people in foster care. Vincianna enjoys spending time with her two children, friends and family. 

Heather Riemer

Program Coordinator

Heather Riemer is a Program Coordinator with PEERS.  In her role, Heather leads the Tobacco Harm Reduction program and facilitates WRAP groups, trainings and orientations.  She also supports the success of other programs at PEERS.

Heather has struggled with her own personal issues stemming from the trauma in her early life. Depression and anxiety have plagued her since she was young, leading to homelessness and hospitals. She is so grateful to say that she now lives a good life. Heather wants to help change the mental health care system so others will know that recovery is real.

Before making a transition to Program Coordinator she worked with the “Special Messages” innovation grant project, a program of PEERS. She was an Outreach/Peer Specialist and worked with individuals experiencing psychosis to let them know that they not alone.  She also facilitated presentations geared toward providers to assist with developing a common language that honors the strengths of people with mental health experiences.

Heather is originally from Hawaii, but now calls the Bay Area home. She enjoys being a part of PEERS, and she hopes to make a positive difference in the health and well-being of people who identify as mental health consumers. Heather is a graduate of Hawaii Community College and BestNow! She is also certified in WRAP, eCPR, Tobacco Cessation, First Aid and  Hearing Voices training. She strives to make the world more aware and accepting of those who have mental health experiences.

Vilma Sakalauskaite

BestNow! Intern

Vilma is an intern at PEERS through BestNow! peer specialist training program. She embraces the opportunity to learn about PEERS and the different programs that support people with mental health experiences.She is looking forward to gaining professional skills such as public speaking and group facilitation.

Originally from Lithuania, Vilma has a lived immigration experience. She takes interest in mental health, wellness and addiction. Being committed to self-determination and healing, Vilma is familiar with recovery services and supports various programs at PEERS. She likes exercising, dancing and nature hikes. Her intention is to be as present as possible and to have fun.

Eric Summerville

Receptionist/Program Assistant

Eric Summerville

Eric Summerville is likely the first face you see when you enter the PEERS office. As the Receptionist, Eric ensures calls are forwarded to the correct person, maintains the neat and cheery lobby appearance, uplifting staff and guests, and provides a helping hand to other staff whenever it's needed.

Before joining PEERS a staff member, Eric was active in TAY advocacy and has had personal experience with mental health issues since he was young. While Eric says that has presented challenges for him, he also believes it has made him "a better person and more understanding of how others feel or may feel."

Eric enjoys working at PEERS because he values working for an organization that "actually does what it represents." He likes that he has the opportunity to help others feel good, be it with a simple joke or just making sure they get what they need.

Eric likes waffles, music, adventure time, helping people, eating new food, and practicing Mandarin while working on his TSOL certificate. One of his goals is to expand wellness, love, art, and care to a world stage rather than just one nation. Eric can also play a mean game of Street Fighter and is an avid Anime and comic book lover.

Michelle Thomas

Associate Director

Michelle Thomas Picture

As Associate Director, Michelle Thomas works closely with the Executive Director, managers, and program staff to create a cohesive organizational environment to facilitate the PEERS mission of providing new solutions for wellness where people can freely choose among many recovery options.

Michelle’s enthusiasm and excitement for this work comes from her lived experience as a mental health services consumer. Michelle is a self-identified adult survivor of child abuse and a suicide attempt, and thrives in her recovery from these mental health challenges. She uses wellness and resiliency tools every day as part of her self-care. As a gay woman of color, Michelle is especially passionate about LGBTQ, youth and Transition Age Youth issues.

Michelle comes to PEERS after spending five years as one of the directors on staff with San Francisco Suicide Prevention (SFSP). Michelle founded the San Francisco Interagency Suicide Prevention Youth Task Force to support schools after youth suicides. In partnership with Mental Health Association of San Francisco and SFSP, she helped create the first peer WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) group for survivors of suicide attempts in the country. Michelle is a certified WRAP facilitator, certified Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Trainer (ASIST) and certified Suicide Alertness for Everyone (SafeTALK) trainer.

Michelle grew up in the East Bay and currently loves living in Berkeley. She is also a proud UC Berkeley alum (Go Bears!). If you can’t find her at work, she’s usually watching a theater performance, attending a dance class, or hiking.

Bre Williams

Program Coordinator

Brianna Williams

Bre is an Advanced Level WRAP Facilitator, Program Coordinator at PEERS, student of life, and an advocate wherever she goes. She knows that life challenges happen to any and everyone, but fully believes that with hope, determination, and support, everyone can recover and live the life they desire! 

Bre Williams started working in the mental health field as an advocate for youth services after being diagnosed with depression and social anxiety at the age of 15. After a suicide attempt and creating a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) plan for her to stay on the road to recovery, she became a certified WRAP facilitator in 2009. (She recently received her Advanced Level WRAP Facilitator certification in 2014). Having a baby girl a month later drove her to become more aware and act on the need for more support for herself and other Transition Age Youth like her. In 2010, she became the staff support for the TAY committee of Pool Of Consumer Champions (POCC) and in 2011, she used her advocacy skills to lobby for a more long term and visible TAY program, and became a co-creator of the Transition Age Youth Initiative, now known as the Transition Age Youth  (TAY) Leadership Program.

She is the creator of the Ebony Youth Project (now known as Downtown TAY) and the Sankofa Sessions under HHREC, a project whose mission is to understand, address, and eliminate environmental, generational, and systematic barriers the create PTSD for underserved TAY populations. 

She is trained and certified in a wide array of certifications, such as Peer Support, eCPR, Motivational Interviewing (MI), Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), and was given the 2012 Transition Age Youth award from ACBHCS’s Pool of Consumer Champions. She has been a keynote for two consecutive years at the National Alternatives conference, co-created a psycho-educational board game called "TAY Area," participants in multiple public speaking campaigns, and has facilitated countless workshops and trainings to mental health providers and clinicians, graduate and undergrad students entering in the field of mental health, and other Transition Age Youth. She was featured in the Shine documentary telling her story of recovery with two other dynamic TAY, which received an honorable mention on the 2013 Voice Awards, and viewed in the 12th annual International Film Festival in Oakland.