SCHOOL TALK STAFF
Leila Peterson | Executive Director
Leila Peterson has provided conflict resolution, change management, and leadership development services to both governmental and private clients for more than twenty years. Her practice focuses on public and community conflict, specializing in processes that allow government, private, and community stakeholders to tackle difficult issues together. Leila also teaches as an adjunct professor in the George Mason University Conflict Analysis and Resolution program. Courses taught include Dialogue and Difference (CONF 202) and Conflict Resolution Techniques and Practices (CONF 300). Leila received a Master of Science degree in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason University in 1998 and a Bachelor of Arts in Politics from Earlham College in 1993. She is an Associate Member of the Association for Conflict Resolution, the National Youth Transition Center Leadership Council, and the Mid-Atlantic ADA Leadership Network.
Antonio Carter | Restorative Program Specialist
Antonio Carter joined the SchoolTalk team following his work in the District of Columbia Public School System (DCPS), at the Cardozo Education Campus. Antonio began his work at Cardozo as a City Year Washington DC corps member providing attendance, behavioral, and academic support to a cohort of 120 ninth grade students. After completing City Year, he was hired by Cardozo Education Campus as a Dean of Students. Antonio spent three years in this role, during which he served as Cardozo’s Bully Prevention Liaison and as a member of the school’s Restorative Practice implementation team. In addition to his professional roles, he served as Assistant Coach for the girl’s Flag Football team. Antonio has a passion for working with young people, helping them overcome obstacles, and empowering them to reach their fullest potential. He graduated with a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology from Southern Connecticut State University.
Sarah Grime | Program Director
Sarah Grime came to SchoolTalk with a professional background in human rights advocacy, social justice, and conflict resolution. She has worked domestically and internationally, and she has worked in the non-profit sector and for a multilateral organization. Her work has focused on engaging communities and creating spaces for all voices and experiences to be heard and valued. Sarah’s work at SchoolTalk is focused on supporting the expansion of youth leadership in the District of Columbia, by educating youth on how to advocate for change, and share their voices as the primary stakeholders in special education in DC. She is responsible for integrating youth voice across all SchoolTalk’s projects and programs. Sarah Grime received her Master of Arts in International Policy Studies, specializing in Human Rights and Justice, from the Monterey Institute of International Studies in 2010 and her Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and International Affairs from Skidmore College in 2008. She is a member of the Mid-Atlantic ADA Leadership Network and the DC Developmental Disabilities Council.
Juanita Huff | Secondary Transition Specialist
Juanita Huff has served as a Secondary Transition Specialist for SchoolTalk, Inc. since 2013. Her experiences as a post-secondary student with moderate hemiplegic and spastic diplegic cerebral palsy give her unique insight into the transitional challenges that many young people with disabilities face. She is passionately committed to improving the ability of youth with disabilities to successfully transition into education, employment, and independence. Juanita currently manages the DC Partners in Transition website, and publishes the DC Partners in Transition Newsletter. She has participated in the “Welcoming Millennials with Disabilities into the Workplace” dialogue series developed in partnership with the National Youth Transitions Center and the Youth Transitions Collaborative, facilitated Annual Voices of Change Conference workshops, consulted on the Rehabilitative Services Administration’s “Explore the World of Work: Discover Your Career” Guide, and contributed to the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates’ “School Climate” blog series. Juanita received her Bachelor of Arts in Foreign Languages in 2013 from George Mason University, where she was a member of both Golden Key International Honour Society and Phi Kappa Phi. She is currently pursuing professional development opportunities through ONLC Training Centers to build her knowledge of web design.
Jeremiah Islar | Administrative/Program Assistant
Jeremiah Islar began his career at SchoolTalk as a youth leader in SchoolTalk’s Youth Leaders Peer Network. He is an outspoken advocate for people with disabilities. Jeremiah currently provides administrative support to SchoolTalk’s leadership team, and program support for SchoolTalk’s Youth Leadership initiatives. He works with youth from across DC to foster self-determination skills and create opportunities for self-expression. Jeremiah is a recent graduate of Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, located in Washington DC, where he was a member of the Principal’s Cabinet and an Urban Alliance Intern at the Marriott in the HR department.
Chelsea Kovacs | Senior Secondary Transition Specialist
Chelsea Kovacs began her work in Secondary Transition in Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) as a Special Education Career and Transition Services teacher. Prior to assuming her current position as a Senior Secondary Transition Specialist, Chelsea worked for SchoolTalk part time as a Project Staff Member for the 2015 Rehabilitation Services Administration’s (RSA) Summer Youth Employment Initiative, and a Senior Internship Specialist for the 2016 and 2017 JumpStart Program. Her work focuses on providing direct services to transition aged youth by means of transition planning, case management, job development, job coaching, employer engagement, and the development and implementation of transition related instruction. Chelsea’s passions emphasize aiding youth with disabilities in developing the skills needed to become self-determined individuals and creating equitable, inclusive working and learning environments. Chelsea Kovacs received her Master of Education degree in Secondary Special Education and Transition Services from The George Washington University in 2015 and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary and Special Education with a focus on middle school mathematics and science from Rider University in 2010. She is currently a doctoral candidate of Special Education and Disability Studies at the George Washington University concentrating on secondary transition and interagency collaboration.
Elijah Lee | Youth Leadership Program Assistant
Elijah Lee began his work in Youth Leadership during his senior year at Anacostia Senior High School when he led a workshop at the 8th Annual Voices of Change Conference. He continued his relationship with SchoolTalk by volunteering to co-facilitate additional workshops for his peers. During the summer of 2016, Elijah completed a Mayor Marrion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program (MBSYEP) internship with SchoolTalk. His interests include facilitating workshops for peer youth leaders, making documentary videos, and mentoring. As a Youth Leadership Program Assistant, Elijah supports both the Youth Leadership and Video Resume programs by leading workshops and supporting the development and implementation of the Annual Voices of Change Conference. He is trained in how to use iPads, iMovie, another various other technologies to support his peers. In addition, he has experience leading discussion groups on disability disclosure in the workplace, and provides youth voice across SchoolTalk programs. Elijah was a member of the DC team at the 2017 National Technical Assistance Center on Transition (NTACT) Capacity Building Institute where he provided input for the DC secondary transition plan. He graduated from Anacostia Senior High School in 2016, and is currently studying project management at the University of the District of Columbia Community College. Elijah is a member of DC’s Secondary Transition Community of Practice.
Emily Lehman | Deputy Director
Emily Lehman came to SchoolTalk after a decade working as an educator in the District of Columbia and Boston public school systems. Her work as a special education teacher and school-based administrator highlighted the personal and professional struggles that many youth experience as they transition from high school to young adult life. Emily’s work at SchoolTalk, in conjunction with her current dissertation research, focuses on the development and implementation of secondary programming that effectively identifies and meets the interests, preferences, strengths, and areas of need for all youth through the dynamic collaboration among youth, families, schools, government agencies, and community organizations. Emily received a Master of Education degree in Secondary Education from The George Washington University, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Ithaca College. She is currently a doctoral candidate of Special Education and Disability Studies at The George Washington University. Emily is a member of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), and the CEC’s Division on Career Development and Transition (DCDT).
Tarek Maassarani | Restorative Justice Consultant
Tarek Maassarani has worked for over a decade with DC public and charter schools on peace education, teacher training and mentoring, youth leadership, and school garden projects. In 2011, Tarek was the Restorative Justice Coordinator for the Latin America Youth Center where he worked to integrate restorative practices into DC schools and the juvenile justice system. In 2012, he helped established the Prince Georges County Community Conferencing Program, a Maryland judiciary-funded program that receives referrals from county schools and the juvenile justice system. Tarek is an adjunct professor of conflict resolution at a variety of area universities and regularly offers training and presentations on restorative justice to non-profit organizations, schools, parents, and police. Tarek is also the founding coordinator for the DC Alliance for Restorative Practices (DCARP) and a member of the Every Student Every Day Coalition Steering Committee.
Melina Mora | Restorative Justice Specialist
Melina Mora joined SchoolTalk following her work in the Arlington Public Schools as a school liaison to a diverse community of parents and citizens, and as a special education assistant at the primary level. In her role at Restorative DC, Melina collaborates with school staff to develop and implement restorative school implementation plans, specializing in youth and family engagement activities and the intersection of special education and restorative practices. She has worked closely under experts in the field of restorative justice since May 2015, receiving one-on-one coaching and over two hundred hours of training in responsive circles, proactive circles, and restorative communication. Melina graduated in May 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology, Law, and Society and a double minor in Conflict Analysis Resolution and Intelligence Analysis from George Mason University. She is currently pursuing a Master of Public Policy in Education through the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
Em Morrison | Restorative Program Specialist
Em Morrison joined the SchoolTalk team following her work with many DC-area youth-serving organizations leading programming and developing curriculum as well as doing hands-on youth engagement, including: City Kids Wilderness Project, One Common Unity, iBme, GirlsRock! DC, Minds Inc, BrainFood, Girls on the Run, DC Reads, and SMYAL. Em brings an anti-oppression lens to all of her work. She loves nothing more than creating safe, fun, and healthy spaces for teens to flourish. She has taught mindfulness using circle processes at in-school and afterschool programs, summer camps, and on young adult and teen retreats. Em has worked with restorative practices since December 2014 and is trained in proactive and responsive circle processes, nonviolent communication (NVC), and mindfulness facilitation. She works at the intersection of special needs and restorative processes. She graduated from George Washington University in 2009 with a degree in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.