Haydée Cuza, Ed.D.
Outgoing Executive Director
It is with mixed emotions that I share that I will be transitioning out of PEERS in early September. I have accepted an Executive Director position with a statewide foster youth advocacy organization, California Youth Connection.
PEERS is in a very strong place to undergo a transition in leadership and with the support of the executive team, board, staff, and community will continue to excel in providing peer-to-peer mental health wellness and stigma and discrimination reduction programs!
Important items to note:
- The board has elected Vanetta Johnson as the Interim Executive Director. She has been an incredible asset to the mental health community and will provide leadership, stability, and consistency for the community, funders, and staff.
- PEERS has a very dedicated, mission-focused board who will conduct a broad search for an Executive Director.
- The hiring committee has identified an Associate Director, Lynn May Rivas, PhD, who will begin work August 29, 2016. She comes with seasoned experience, has lived experience, and will be excellent in supporting the operations of PEERS, the Everyone Counts Campaign and other programs.
PEERS has played an incredibly positive role in my growth and I am grateful for everyone who has supported our success. I will miss being here but I trust there will be opportunities to partner in my new role.
Interim Exective Director
As the Interim Executive Director, Vanetta is responsible for providing leadership for PEERS while the board of directors conducts a broad search for a permanent Executive Director. Vanetta works closely with the executive team to ensure we are operating within our mission and vision and promoting a peer-to-peer culture. Vanetta is also responsible for supervising program staff, supporting professional development, and implementing a coaching culture throughout the organization.
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.
Kenneth Kozi Arrington
Program Outreach Coordinator
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 Emotional CPR and facilitates WRAP and Tobacco groups. He is also the founder and lead facilitator for Pool of Consumer Champions (POCC ) Sexuality & Gender Alliance (SAGA )
As Program Outreach 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 experiences. 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 served 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.
Lyndsey Ellis is a Program Coordinator with PEERS. She’s responsible for outreach, blog writing, facilitating Reflections and Expressions workshops, Spirituality, co-organizing Day of Prayer, and various other 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.
Bio coming soon.
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.
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 is the Program Coordinator for the Chinese American project at PEERS. She also is lead for administrative tasks and internal operations. 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.
As the Communications Coordinator, TeAirra is lead on the Everyone Counts Campaign website content and media alerts, publicizes PEERS news and events through our bi-monthly eBlasts, as well as creating outreach materials for PEERS programs. TeAirra is also lead for the Psych Med Video Project.
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.
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.
Bio coming soon.
Gilbert is a Program Coordinator at PEERS. In his role, Gilbert is lead staff for the Lift Every Voice and Speak speakers' bureau. 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.
As a Program Coordinator, Vincianna is responsible for supporting the PEERS TAY Leadership Circle in developing new skills, facilitating trainings and meetings, and coordinating outreach events designed to promote wellness and leadership within the TAY mental health community. In collaboration with other TAY-focused organizations and the Programs Director, 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 three children, friends and family.
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, and eCPR workshops.
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.
Lynn Rivas, PhD
Bio coming soon
Vilma was an intern at PEERS through BestNow! peer specialist training program and is now employed as a Program Assistant. Vilma assists Program Coordinators with various tasks, facilitates Tobacco presentations and assists with WRAP.
Originally from Lithuania, Vilma has a lived immigration experience. She takes interest in mental health, wellness and addiction recovery. 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 supports the success of various programs at PEERS. He also greets guests and staff while working at the reception desk and maintains the neat and cheery lobby appearance.
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.
Program Coordinator II
Bre is an Advanced Level WRAP Facilitator, Program Coordinator II 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.