Staff + Board

Our Team

Lauren Abramson, PhD
Lauren Abramson, PhD Senior Implementation Specialist, Founder

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.

Lauren can be reached at
Liz Miyashiro
Liz Miyashiro Operations Manager

Liz Miyashiro joined the CCC in December 2017 as the Operations Manager. Liz’s background is in nonprofit administration, and she has spent her career building administrative infrastructure and support for progressive nonprofits including the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, Working America AFL-CIO, Clean Water Action, and the Center for Global Policy Solutions. Liz has expertise in office management and event planning. She serves on the board of Friends of Hampden School #55 and is deeply committed to advancing social and economic justice and equity in public education. She resides in Baltimore with her two daughters, Lola and Penelope.

Liz can be reached at
Jennifer Will-Thapa, MSW
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.

Jennifer can be reached at
Priya Bhayana
Priya Bhayana Program Development Manager

Priya is an organizer with a background in community development and cultural organizing. Raised in Maryland, she moved back to her home state in 2011 to work in Baltimore. She’s passionate about how community accountability, solidarity economies, and mental wellness intersect with building power in and sustaining communities of color. She organizes with diasporic Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) to create spaces for learning, healing, organizing, and solidarity to address systems of oppression and root us in culture. 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.

Priya can be reached at
Kasai Richardson
Kasai Richardson Communications and Development Coordinator

Born on a snowy night in northwest Baltimore, Kasai has lived here nearly his entire life. As a writer, he has always loved storytelling. Analyzing race, gender, and class in America and abroad, his essays and reviews have appeared in Salon, Vice, Good, Apogee Journal, The Root, Baltimore City Paper and more.

He comes to Community Conferencing Center after nearly a decade in the long-term mental healthcare field. He is currently writing a book on anger and its place in our lives.

Kasai can be reached at
Bilphena Yahwon
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.

Bilphena can be reached at
Andria N. Cole, M.A.
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.

Andria can be reached at
Barbara Sherrod, M.S.
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 University of Baltimore.

Barbara can be reached at
Matthew Zernhelt, Esq.
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 argued in both Maryland’s Court of Appeals and Court of Special Appeals, and is currently practicing in the Supreme Court of the United States.  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.

Larell Smith Bacon
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 Conferencing has 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.

Larell can be reached at

Board of Directors

Steven J. Kravet, President
President, Johns Hopkins Community Physicians

Laura Freitag, Treasurer
Partner, Ernst & Young

Julie Gabrielli, Secretary
Principal, Gabrielli Design Studio

Scott Edward Reid
Director of Assigned Counsel and Investigator Panels, Maryland Office of the Public Defender