Lauren Abramson is a psychologist who has worked with children and families in communities for the past 25 years. She is the Founder and former Executive Director of the Community Conferencing Center in Baltimore, Maryland.
Lauren focused attention on Community Conferencing in Baltimore in 1995. She advances conferencing as a means of building social capital and collective efficacy on many levels, including:
empowering individuals and communities to resolve their own conflicts
keeping young people out of the criminal justice system, and
mobilizing the existing untapped human assets in communities.
Lauren publishes articles on both the theoretical and empirical socio-political aspects of conferencing. The work of the Community Conferencing Center is groundbreaking for its multi-sector use of conferencing in highly distressed urban American communities.
Conferencing has helped Lauren learn that: while we can learn about conflict resolution through books and concepts, conflict–and personal–transformation happens through relationships and meaningful emotional experiences.
Liz Miyashiro Operations Manager
Jennifer Will-Thapa, MSW Common Ground Youth Farm Director
As a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal, Jennifer was trained in a strength-based approach to community building to examine and identify what is working in a community and what skills people possess that bring about long lasting and effective change. She believes that all people have something to contribute and works to identify and nurture those qualities. She has worked in youth development and as a community organizer for eight years and joined the Community Conferencing Center in 2010.Jennifer received her MSW from the University of Maryland with a concentration in Social Action and Community Development.
Conferencing has helped Jennifer learn that: people are capable of much more than they are often given credit for.
Priya Bhayana Operations Director
Priya is a cultural organizer with a background in neighborhood-based arts and nonprofit administration. Originally from Maryland, Priya returned to her home state to work as an AmeriCorps Community Organizer in Baltimore, where she has been deeply moved by the spirit of the city’s artistic and social justice movements. She has previously worked as the Director of the Bromo Arts District and in fundraising at the Maryland Institute College of Art. She is a Radical Organizing Coordinator for Baltimore Asian Resitance in Soldarity and an advisory committee member for Baltimore Youth Arts. Priya was named a 2017-18 Fellow of the Intercultural Leadership Institute and a 2014 Salzburg Global Forum Young Cultural Innovator. Priya holds a B.A. in Economics & English from Wesleyan University.
Kasai Richardson Communications and Development Coordinator
Bilphena Yahwon Outreach Coordinator
Bilphena Yahwon is a writer, researcher and community organizer born in Liberia, West Africa. With a background in family and human services and a former refugee, Yahwon is interested in exploring the ways structural racism threatens community development (ecosystem) and community health specifically in immigrant and refugee communities. Using a womanist approach, Bilphena centers women’s health and well-being in all of her work.
Yahwon serves as an advisory board member for OSI-Baltimore’s Supporting Youth Leadership Project and her organizing work with #occupytowson was recognized in TIME Person of the Year 2015.
Andria N. Cole, M.A. Program Development Director
Andria N. Cole is a certified special educator, curriculum developer, and community conference facilitator. She received degrees in writing from Morgan State and Johns Hopkins Universities. She taught middle and high school for 13 wonderful, difficult years and still maintains relationships with many of her students. She is co-founder and director of the critical reading and writing program A Revolutionary Summer.
Conferencing has helped Andria learn that: she should be quiet more and trust people to solve their own problems.
Barbara Sherrod, M.S. Restorative Practices Specialist
Barbara, once an at-risk youth is dedicated to improving the quality of school life and building community for the children of Baltimore through restorative practice. Through advocacy, Barbara educates school communities on discipline disparities among children based on race and gender. Barbara is researching how restorative practice can reverse the negative impact of school conditions for African American, Native American and Latina girls exclusively. Baltimore born and raised, Barbara holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Masters of Science in Negotiations and Conflict Management both from the
Matthew Zernhelt, Esq. Executive Director
Matt Zernhelt joined the CCC in August of 2016. Matt’s background is in the practice of law, formerly working at Maryland Legal Aid, with a focus on direct client representation. He has successfully practiced in both Maryland’s Court of Appeals and Court of Special Appeals. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland School of Law, and is also a co-founder of Baltimore Action Legal Team, an organization that provides legal support to local community organizations leading the movement for race equity in Baltimore. Matt is on the advisory board of Baltimore Youth Arts, and is part of the Leadership Council of the Open Societies Institute- Baltimore.
Meredith Kushner Facilitator
Meredith E. Kushner was born and raised in the rocky mountains of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Meredith attended Salisbury University for her undergraduate career, double majoring in Social Work and Sociology while minoring in Criminal Justice Studies. She has worked as a Drug Court Case Manager, interned for the Wicomico County Circuit Courthouse’s Family Services Coordinator, with the Administrative Office of the Courts for their Department of Family Administration, where she became a Walter Sondheim Public Service Fellow, and worked with Mid-Shore Pro Bono, where she learned about community conferencing for the first time. Meredith is currently attending the University of Maryland Baltimore, School of Social Work and will graduate with an MSW in December 2017. After completing her MSW field placement with CCC, Meredith was then hired as a Program Assistant.
Larell Smith Bacon Conferencing Program Director
Larell has been in Baltimore since 1991. Originally from Boston, Massachusetts she came to Maryland to attend The Historically Black University, Morgan State University. During her senior year she began her career in the Non- Profit sector as an intern at the Court Appointed Special Advocate Program of Baltimore City. It was during that internship when her passion to empower, uplift, and support inner city youth began to take form. After interning for a year, and graduating from Morgan State, Larell extended her services to the Baltimore Child Abuse Center, formerly known as the Child Advocacy Network. During her 11 years of employment at the Child Abuse Center she refined her skills as a child and community advocate. Larell joined the Community Conferencing Center as a Case Coordinator and Facilitator in 2010. Along with her strong communication skills, she also learned how to multi-task, organize, and create a structured atmosphere that lends to a strong working environment. Larell is excited to be part of an agency that allows members of a community to have a structured environment to effectively work out their conflicts.Community Conferencinghas helped Larell to learn that it is important to express how we feel, in order to feel a sense of wholeness and to help others to learn from our experiences.
Board of Directors
Steven J. Kravet
President, Johns Hopkins Community Physicians
Laura Freitag, Treasurer
Partner, Ernst & Young
Julie Gabrielli, Secretary
Principal, Gabrielli Design Studio