Headshot - Noah Beaufford

Noah Beaufford

Arts to Advocacy Program Assistant

Noah Beaufford joined SchoolTalk in 2017 during his junior year at Eastern Senior High School. In the summer of 2017, Noah completed a D.C. Public Schools Competitive Employment Opportunities Program internship with SchoolTalk. After he graduated from Eastern Senior High School in 2018, he worked for Literacy Lab for two years where he tutored three- and four-year-old children in literacy.

Noah began as a program assistant for the Arts to Advocacy team in 2020, where he supports the design and facilitation of arts-based programming for D.C. youth. He facilitates a variety of school-based workshops for youth, supports youth one-to-one to complete electronic portfolios, and provides them with accommodations they need to participate.

Noah is proudest of his work interviewing and documenting the experiences of former Forest Haven residents. The project includes the voices of individuals who lived at Forest Haven and what it meant to live there. It also highlights their journeys to live lives a part of and included in the community today. Forest Haven was an institution created for people with intellectual disabilities. It was where people from the District of Columbia were sent from the 1920s to 1970 to live lives apart and separate from the community. Noah believes that it is extremely important to provide former residents of Forest Haven with a safe space and trusting environment where they can share their stories from their own perspectives. He feels honored that he can provide them with a platform to elevate their experiences to the world.

Noah has been trained in trauma informed communication. He graduated from Eastern Senior High School in 2018.


Naisha Dembele

Arts to Advocacy Program Assistant
Naisha Dembele joined SchoolTalk in 2016 during her junior year at Cardozo Education Campus. During the summer of 2016, Naisha completed a D.C. Public Schools Competitive Employment Opportunities Program internship with SchoolTalk. During the summer of 2017, Naisha completed a Mayor Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program internship with SchoolTalk. She continued her relationship with SchoolTalk by volunteering to lead various workshops at events such as SchoolTalk’s annual Voices of Change Conference from 2016 - 2019. Naisha began as a full-time program Assistant for SchoolTalk’s Arts to Advocacy Team in 2019. In her role with the Arts to Advocacy Team, she supports the design and facilitation of arts-based programming for D.C. youth. Her favorite part is leading workshops for D.C. youth. Naisha has a dual role and also works across SchoolTalk to provide administrative support to all teams. She works behind the scenes to coordinate logistics, supplies, and pay for youth programming. She is committed to ensuring that her colleagues have what they need to run high-quality programs. Growing up in D.C., she wishes that she had access to programs where she could advocate, share her voice, and demonstrate leadership in her community. In her work at SchoolTalk she focuses on creating spaces where youth can share their voices and be leaders. She believes in always making sure that youth that she works with know that they have someone who cares and supports them. Naisha serves on the D.C. Developmental Disabilities Council, appointed by the mayor. She supports the DC Girls Coalition. She graduated from Cardozo Education Campus in 2017.

Tosha Francis

Operations Manager
Tosha Francis joined SchoolTalk in 2017 as the Office Manager, where she oversees internal operations. Her work at SchoolTalk includes human resources, administration, finance, and oversight over all internal systems and processes. She has worked in the nonprofit sector for over 20 years specializing in building strong back-end end support to growing organizations. Prior to coming to SchoolTalk, Tosha managed operations at Mosaica: the Center for Nonprofit Development and Pluralism for 17 years and went on to work at DC Appleseed where she was introduced to SchoolTalk.
Headshot - Jessica Gonzalez

Jessica Gonzalez

Director, InclusiveDC

Jessica Gonzalez joined SchoolTalk in 2022. She is the director of SchoolTalk's InclusiveDC initiative, which supports youth with disabilities and their peers in D.C. schools and the community organizations and systems that serve them. InclusiveDC programs are focused on College and Career Readiness and Arts to Advocacy and designed to elevate youth voice and promote inclusion.

Since 2012, Jessica has worked in Washington, D.C. and New York City to serve students with disabilities and students identified as English language learners to gain academic skills needed to succeed in the classroom and beyond. As a bilingual leader, Jessica is passionate about language acquisition and the value it offers. In 2019, Jessica joined The Sojourner Truth Montessori Public Charter School as one of the founding design team members. Jessica became the founding special education coordinator and served the community for three years. Jessica has been a special education and Spanish language teacher for D.C. Public Schools and a middle school liaison at Flamboyan Foundation. She is also experienced in implementing restorative justice practices in schools.

Jessica also serves as a travel ambassador, exposing students to studying abroad and gaining global competency skills that enrich the lives of students beyond the traditional classroom and preparing students to become global citizens. Jessica earned an M.S. in School Leadership and Administration from Trinity Washington University and a B.S. in Special Education with a minor in Romance Languages from Dowling College.


Sarah Grime

Arts to Advocacy Manager
Sarah Grime joined SchoolTalk in 2011 and currently serves as the Arts to Advocacy Program Manager. Her expertise includes human rights advocacy, social justice, conflict resolution, and arts integration in domestic and international settings for nonprofit and multilateral organizations. In her role at SchoolTalk, she manages the design and implementation of arts-integrated programming for D.C. youth. Sarah believes that youth are endlessly creative and know what they want for their communities. Her work with Arts to Advocacy focuses on creating safe spaces to meet youth where they are at any given moment and provide them opportunities to collaborate with professional artists, create original pieces, share their voices, and pursue creative careers. Sarah’s practice is to use art to engage communities and youth in self-expression, in creating artistic pieces, and in advocating for change. Sarah Grime received a Master of Arts degree in International Policy Studies, specializing in Human Rights and Justice, from the Monterey Institute of International Studies in 2010 and her Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish and International Affairs from Skidmore College in 2008.

Juanita Huff

Secondary Transition Coordinator
Juanita Huff joined the SchoolTalk team in 2013. With over a decade of experience, she is passionately committed to increasing youth with disabilities’ access to postsecondary education, employment, and independence. As a secondary transition coordinator, she works with D.C. metro area disability service providers to understand stakeholders’ unique needs and challenges, develop resources to address these needs and challenges, and promote knowledge and skill-building opportunities that enable stakeholders’ to reach their goals. Her work furthers District-wide interagency collaboration, increased D.C. youth and family engagement, and improved postsecondary outcomes for D.C. youth with disabilities. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Foreign Languages from George Mason University.

Rashid Hughes

RestorativeDC Senior Specialist
Rashid was born in Richmond Virginia, into a family that cherished community and culture. From a very young age, he wished that there would be less violence in the world and that people would be more loving to one another. In 2010, Rashid graduated from the Howard University Department of Music and the Howard University School of Divinity in 2014. Today, he is a certified mindfulness teacher,(Engaged Mindfulness Institute (500-hrs) and a certified Trauma Technique Tapper (Peaceful Heart Network). He is also the co-founder and managing director of the Institute of African- American Mindfulness, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing mindfulness and other healing practices to the African- American community and other communities of color. Restorative Justice is another process that Rashid facilitates as an alternative approach to handling conflicts, addressing misbehavior, holding discussions, and repairing harm in communities. Rashid is devoted to helping all people rediscover well-being and fulfillment through learning how to live more compassionately towards themselves and their world.

Yazid Jackson

RestorativeDC Director
Yazid Jackson was first introduced to Restorative Practices working in Philadelphia and has been utilizing them to resolve issues in a variety of institutions for over 14 years. While the majority of his career has been in urban education he has worked in residential settings, private, alternative, and public schools in suburban and urban communities. Yazid has worked with DCPS for four years and he is excited to now support Restorative Practices in the full network of public and charter schools in the District with SchoolTalk. He stands behind the unique approach that SchoolTalk takes assessing student needs and designing restorative programs in schools. Throughout his career Yazid’s commitment to support students, schools, and communities has been at the forefront. There is a palpable passion in his work and we are grateful to have him on the team.

Chelsea Kovacs

College & Career Readiness Manager

Chelsea Kovacs joined SchoolTalk in 2015. As program manager for SchoolTalk’s College and Career Readiness work, she directs the JumpStart program, facilitates the D.C. Secondary Transition Community of Practice, leads the D.C. Interagency Secondary Transition State Team, provides professional development and technical assistance for transition service providers.

With over 15 years of experience in special education and transition services, her work focuses on increasing the D.C.’s capacity to provide meaningful and evidence-based services to youth through transition planning, pre-employment transition services (Pre-ETS), case management, job development, job coaching, employer and stakeholder engagement, interagency collaboration, and the development and implementation of transition-related instruction.

Chelsea’s is passionate about helping youth with disabilities overcome barriers to postsecondary success and becoming self-determined individuals.

Chelsea earned 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 concentration 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 Pre-ETS data collection, secondary transition, and interagency collaboration.


Elijah Lee

Arts to Advocacy Senior Program Assistant
Elijah Lee joined SchoolTalk in 2016 during his senior year at Anacostia Senior High School when he led a workshop at SchoolTalk’s annual Voices of Change Conference. He continued his relationship with SchoolTalk by volunteering to co-facilitate additional workshops for youth. During the summer of 2016, Elijah completed a Mayor Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program internship with SchoolTalk. He currently serves as the senior program assistant for SchoolTalk’s Arts to Advocacy Program. In his role at SchoolTalk, he designs and facilitates arts-based programming for D.C. youth, produces videos, leads photography programming, and mentors youth. He has extensive experience with DSLR cameras, photography editing software, videography equipment, iMovie, Final Cut ProX. He trains D.C. youth to use professional-grade technology to create art. Growing up in D.C., he wished there were safe places for him and his peers to go and express themselves artistically through different media. He believes in creating safe spaces where youth with and without disabilities can receive coaching in a variety art forms, express their artistic passions, and pursue creative careers. Elijah was a member of the D.C. team at the 2017 National Technical Assistance Center on Transition Capacity Building Institute, where he provided input for the D.C. secondary transition plan. Elijah is a member of DC’s Secondary Transition Community of Practice. He graduated from Anacostia Senior High School in 2016.
Headshot - Johileny Merán

Johileny Merán

Program Assistant
Johileny Merán joined SchoolTalk in 2023 as RestorativeDC program assistant. Johileny supports the restorative justice senior project manager in maintaining relationships with program stakeholders, leading programming in assigned schools, and supporting the work of the RestorativeDC implementation team. She also provides logistical, communications, and operations support for implementation of restorative programming for D.C. schools. A Disabled Afro-Dominican immigrant raised in New York City, Johileny is passionate about advocacy, education and any opportunity that allows her to empower young people to reach their full potential. She believes in the power of implementing a disability inclusive and intersectional approach to all social justice work. Prior to joining SchoolTalk, Johileny was a program coordinator for Mobility International USA, where she was working on the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange an ongoing project to increase the participation of people with disabilities in international exchange. Previously, she worked in a variety of organizations to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in study abroad programs, college student communities, emergency response and preparedness, and more. Johileny has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Global Public Health and Sociology with a minor in Disability Studies from New York University. She also volunteers as a mentor to young girls with disabilities with Disability EmpowHer Network.
Headshot - Jannah Muhammad

Jannah Muhammad

Development and Partnership Coordinator
Jannah Muhammad joined SchoolTalk in 2021 as the development and partnership coordinator. Jannah is bilingual in English and French, with over eight years of domestic and international nonprofit experience, specializing in youth programming and partnership building. Jannah brings a passion for connecting marginalized populations to the resources they need to thrive, as well as experience in mobilizing stakeholders with a mission to serve them. In 2020, Jannah landed a graduate internship at Catholic Relief Services in Niger where she supported the development of three successful funding proposals ranging from $80K to $1.9M and continued with the organization as an international development fellow in Senegal where she demonstrated her capacity to facilitate, coordinate, and establish relationships with external partners and donors. She has been a mentor, facilitator, and program manager for youth-serving programs. Jannah earned a Master of Social Work degree specializing in macro global practice earning certificates in management, policy, and community organizing from Boston College in 2020 and a Bachelor of Arts in Biology & Social Work from Columbia College in 2013. She is a fellow of the Surge Institute for leaders of color in D.C. and a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Benin ’13-’16).
Leila Peterson

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.

Lisa Shaw

RestorativeDC Special Projects Manager
Lisa has twenty-five years of experience in experiential education and community-based programs at the international, national, and local levels. Her background has centered on training and development of conflict resolution skills in post-conflict and community-based settings, curriculum development and facilitation of experiential education programs, and environmental stewardship. Her work includes education, environmental stewardship, and wildland firefighting as an inaugural member of Americorps-NCC, creating curriculums and traveling nature trunks for the Chattahoochee Nature Center, teaching for High Touch-High Tech, a hands-on learning program focused on strengthening national science standards, and directing primary and secondary after-school and summer programs for the City of Decatur Recreation Department. As an administrative faculty member with George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution she co-developed and co-facilitated field courses that included post-conflict peacebuilding in Liberia, transitional justice in Colombia and integration of migrant populations in Malta. Lisa received a Master of Science degree in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from the Institute of Conflict Analysis and Resolution in 2011, and Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, Philosophy, and Environmental Science at Regis University in 1994. She also volunteers as a keeper-aide with the Smithsonian National Zoo.
Headshot - Shana Townes

Shana Townes

Senior Project Manager

Shana Townes joined SchoolTalk in 2022 as a RestorativeDC senior project manager. Shana creates logistical systems and peer-learning environments to support staff and program management. She develops community partnerships focusing on bringing high-quality restorative justice practices to school communities. Shana works closely with RestorativeDC’s program director to implement RestorativeDC projects.

Shana was raised in the Washington metropolitan area and has served students in Virginia and D.C. Shana’s passion is providing youth with tools to succeed in life and giving young people a platform to navigate conflict and support their emotional growth.

Prior to joining SchoolTalk, Shana was a program director at Kid Power, Inc., where she managed all afterschool and summer programming, AmeriCorps members, family engagement, community partnerships, and diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Previously, Shana was a program coordinator for Housing Opportunities Unlimited, where she implemented year-round programming for adults and children, conducted community outreach, and assisted in case management and resident skill-building opportunities. Shana began her journey in out-of-school time programming when she led afterschool and summer programming with the Alexandria (Virginia) Recreation Department, focused on academics, social-emotional learning, and drama.

Shana attended George Mason University, where her studies included child psychology, elementary math and science, bullying and emotional behavior, and creative programming. She has had extensive training through D.C.’s Learn24 and 21st Century Community Learning Centers, focused on a variety of topics, including parent input, community building, staff engagement, and supporting our youth in social-emotional learning.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser appointed Shana as a commissioner to the D.C. Community Schools Advisory Committee, which advises the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent on community schools in the District. She also serves on the Out-of-School Time Committee with DCAction.