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Our Team and Board


Director of Training & Conflict Consulting

Ayanna comes to New York Peace Institute with a strong background in mediation; she has served as a volunteer mediator with NYPI since 2016. In addition to being an experienced mediator, Ayanna is also a NYPI Apprenticeship Mentor and has been coaching the NYPD and mediators-in-training since 2017. Ayanna received her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and her Juris Doctorate from Fordham University School of Law. She has been a practicing attorney since 1999, is currently the President of Brooklyn’s District 13 Community Education Council, and is a Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy Board Member. Ayanna is a wife, the mother of two New York City public school students, and an advocate for peace and equity.


Civil Court Coordinator

Cai is the Civil Court Coordinator for NYPI’s Community and Civil Court Diversion program. As a case manager, he works with the courts to help parties resolve cases on their own terms. He was first certified as a mediator in 2015 and since then has mediated a variety of conflict types, including small claims court, divorce, and citizen-police cases. Cai graduated from Cardozo School of Law with JD and an Advanced Certificate in Dispute Resolution. During law school, he worked with Cardozo’s Mediation Clinic and Divorce Mediation Clinic. He has conducted research and written on the interplay of mediation and technology, and believes strongly that emerging technologies can support parties in navigating conflict.


Restorative Justice & Criminal Court Coordinator

Charlie, works tirelessly with our clients – in her native English and Spanish – to ensure they receive mediation and conflict coaching services. She also assists with our NYPD trainings, to provide officers with communication skills to de-escalate conflict. In addition to her passion for conflict resolution, Charlie has a strong interest in disability advocacy, as evidenced by her work for the Florida Division of Blind Services. She has also served as a mentor and a tutor for students K-12, and worked in the Chemistry Department of Florida State University. Charlie received a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and International Affairs from Florida State University. An avid art, food and film lover, Charlie is always on the lookout for the most unique art exhibits, delicious cheap eats and charming theatres in all five boroughs. Now a New Yorker, Charlie is a first-generation American raised in Venezuela. Using alternative dispute resolution and restorative justice skills we have gained from established indigenous and historical practices, she believes that as conflict resolution professionals, we are most successful when we act as a silent partner with a goal of strong and resilient communities.

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Senior Manager

Carol Lieb Himes is the Program Manager for the Special Education, Early Intervention, Family Care, and ACCES-VR Mediation Programs. The Special Education, Early Intervention and ACCES-VR programs provide mediations to resolve disputes between individuals with disabilities, parents of children with disabilities, and service-providing agencies, including the NYC DOE and Department of Health. The Family Care Mediation Program is being developed to provide conflict resolution services for interpersonal disputes between participants in the foster care system. Carol also enjoys mentoring new program mediators. In the past, Carol practiced law in several areas and is very happy to have found her work in mediation. Carol is a member of the New York State bar.

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Director of Mediator Training & Quality Assurance

Chris Daly is an attorney, state-certified trainer, mediator, conflict coach & circle keeper. She loves teaching the craft of mediation, and she oversees the growth and development of New York Peace Institute’s certified mediators from the start of their training throughout their time on NYPI’s roster of neutrals. Chris leads the Basic Mediation Training and manages our competitive Apprenticeship Program, an education program for aspiring conflict resolution professionals. Prior to joining New York Peace Institute, Chris was a domestic violence prosecutor for 10 years at the District Attorney’s Office in Bronx County managing a caseload ranging from harassment to homicide cases from investigation to trial. She was also a public high school teacher in Texas. Chris has a master’s degree in education from Harvard University and a law degree from Boston College. She first learned about mediation and restorative practices in 1998 as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar in New Zealand, Australia, and Fiji, where she promoted cross-cultural understanding and earned a degree from the University of Waikato. Chris is a Leader on the Horizon at Safe Horizon, supporting the mission of empowering victims and survivors to find safety, support, connection and hope. She is also a past Director at the Association for Conflict Resolution’s Greater New York Chapter (ACR-GNY). Chris is dedicated to identifying innovative approaches to bringing people together so they can manage disagreements creatively and constructively.


Development & Outreach Manager

Christine brings almost a decade of experience in development and nonprofit management to New York Peace Institute. Prior to joining NYPI, Christine worked at a number of nonprofit organizations in the Washington, DC area, including: six years at Elevate, a grant writing consulting firm; Mines Advisory Group (MAG) America, a humanitarian demining nonprofit; and Voices For Sudan, an international advocacy organization. Christine earned her BA in English Literature at the University of Sussex and her Master’s degree in Conflict Resolution at Georgetown University.


Program Associate

Hannah Resnick is the Program Coordinator for the Special Education and Early Intervention Programs. These programs provide mediations to help resolve disputes between parents of children with educational and health disabilities, and the NYC DOE/Department of Health. In addition to being a qualified mediator, Hannah has years of experience working as a litigation attorney. Hannah received her Bachelor’s Degree from Binghamton University (SUNY) and her Juris Doctorate from New York University School of Law. She began her work with NYPI as a volunteer mediator, and is trained as a mediator in Special Education, Early Intervention, Community, Custody/Visitation, Divorce, and Surrogate’s Court matters. Hannah is dedicated to helping individuals resolve their conflicts through open dialogue.


Chief Executive Officer

Prior to joining  New York Peace Institute as the Chief Executive Officer, Jennifer was Founder and Executive Director of Youth Advocacy Corps, an organization that empowers and mobilizes young people in NYC to combat poverty and become advocates and catalysts for change in their own communities.  Before that, Jennifer worked for almost ten years as a public interest attorney in New York City, with the Special Litigation Unit at the New York Legal Assistance Group and at the Urban Justice Center. Jennifer has also served on the Boards of Directors of multiple NYC-based non-profits and offered her services at a legal aid clinic in Cape Town, South Africa, at UNESCO in Paris, France, and at the AIRE Centre, a human rights organization in London, England. Jennifer received her J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School and her B.A. from Yale University. Jennifer is a strategic thinker with a demonstrated passion for and interest in conflict resolution.



Program Manager, Community and Civil Court Diversion

As a Case Manager, Jessica oversees client intake for community mediations and our Small Claims Diversion Program. She completed a vocational training in the Human Services Field which then led her to the New York Peace Institute to complete her internship. She interned for a year in the Manhattan office where she learned about mediation and developed an interest in learning how to resolve conflict in a peaceful manner. Jessica is very passionate about helping others and has been improving her communication and listening skills to better assist her clients. Jessica is also fluent in Spanish.


Manager, Youth Programming

Kailani Capote is the Manager of Youth Programs at New York Peace Institute (NYPI). She is a certified mediator, circle keeper, conflict coach, conferencing facilitator, and a lead trainer for circles, restorative practices, and conflict resolution. Since joining NYPI in 2016, Kailani has been working with staff and youth in schools and community groups, training and supporting their implementation of restorative practices. Kailani is also the Manhattan coordinator for our Community Resolve Initiative (CRI), offering youth a restorative pathway during their adjustment period with the Department of Probation. Kailani earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in psychology from Delaware State University and CUNY Hunter College, respectively, and a master’s degree in Restorative Practices from the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP).


Program Coordinator

Laura is the Program Coordinator for the Family Court and Surrogate’s Court mediation programs. Although an attorney by training, she is a devoted mediator and is especially passionate about helping families navigate through conflict and their most difficult times. She began her work with NYPI in the Civil Court Diversion Program, and is trained as a mediator in Civil Court, custody/visitation, divorce, and Surrogate’s Court matters. She received her B.A. in Psychology from New York University and J.D. from UC Davis School of Law. She is also a member of both the State Bar of California and New York State Bar.

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Director, Restorative Justice Programs

Lynne comes to NYPI with over 20 years of experience in program design and operations, advocacy and strategic planning in the child welfare, juvenile justice and youth development fields. She has worked at the Administration for Children’s Services, the Juvenile Rights Division of the Legal Aid Society, the Children’s Aid Society (CAS), Covenant House International and Good Shepherd Services, with a focus on building the highest quality programming and supports for young people in the foster care, juvenile & criminal justice, and youth homeless systems. At CAS, Lynne designed and launched the Next Generation Center, a one-stop multi-service center for young people in the Morrisania section of the Bronx that used Restorative Practices to build community and repair harm to that community. Since learning about Restorative Practices over a decade ago, Lynne has sought to integrate them whenever possible into all her work. Lynne received her Bachelor’s degree from Harvard College and her Juris Doctor from Stanford Law School.

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Director of Programs

Michele is a member of the Leadership Team and is regarded as a leader in the field of conflict resolution. She is regarded as an expert in mediation, conflict coaching and restorative justice, and oversees all New York Peace Institute programs that are offered in the courts, schools, workplace, and community. Prior to New York Peace Institute, Michele was formerly the Director of the Safe Horizon Brooklyn Mediation Center.

Michele is a recipient of the Lawrence Cooke Peace Innovator Award, given by the New York State Dispute Resolution Association for providing innovative leadership in her work in Special Education Mediation. She was also given the Bertrum Beck Achievement Award by Safe Horizon and distinguished by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office with an Extraordinary Women’s Award.


Program Associate

Onawa Gigliotti supports the Civil Court Team at NYPI as a Program Associate specializing in the fast-paced Housing Court Mediation program and the presumptive Small Claims Mediation Program. She has always been drawn to helping people navigate uncertain times; with her degree in Psychology from Bradford College, she first worked with Dual Diagnosis individuals as a case manager, then in the Human Resources field, and then as a recruiter helping people secure jobs and transition in their careers. Most recently, she has been teaching yoga, meditation and mindfulness to private clients. Onawa is enthusiastic and grateful to work for and support such an amazing organization.


Training Coordinator

Rachel Bai joined New York Peace Institute as an intern and is now our Training Associate. She is a certified mediator, circle keeper, and conflict coach. Rachel also leads training for individuals and organizations in conflict resolution and restorative practices. She earned her B.A. in Criminology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice; she minored in Psychology and earned a certificate in Dispute Resolution. Prior to interning at New York Peace Institute, Rachel interned at the Better Business Bureau as a Dispute Resolution Analyst. Rachel has experience teaching and training through different after school and summer school programs. She also advocates for mental health awareness through workshops for teachers, students, and parents in schools all over New York City with the Youth Advocacy Corps’ Mental Health Awareness Project.


Program Coordinator

Ruby Phillips is a recent graduate of Northwestern University, who studied American Studies, critical race theory and History. She comes to New York Peace as a storyteller, former health teacher, and most importantly an AmeriCorps fellow on the youth services track. Ruby has a passion for working with youth, particularly young women of color, and empowering marginalized communities through difficult conversations. As a Brooklyn native, Ruby is thrilled to be resolving conflict and building relationships within her community. She plans to grow as an ADR practitioner at NYPI and continue her work to bring people together and build empathetic connections across identities.

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Program Associate

Shana-Kay Parchment recently joined New York Peace Institute as a Program Associate. She earned her BA in History at The University of the West Indies-Mona, Jamaica and then went on to earn a Bachelor of Laws at The University of Technology, Jamaica before immigrating to the United States in August of 2012. Her study of the Law introduced her to Alternative Dispute Resolution which would later spark her interest in Mediation. Prior to joining NYPI as a staff member, Shana-Kay interned in the Civil Court Diversion Program and worked as a volunteer mediator.

Our Board of Directors


Board Chair

Michael has worked a lawyer in the government and nonprofit sectors for his entire career. He has been working by day as General Counsel of Safe Horizon since 2007. Michael has served on the Board of New York Peace Institute since its inception in 2011 when he helped establish the organization as a spin-off of Safe Horizon, the largest non-profit victim services agency in the United States. He has served as Board Chair since 2014. Michael also co-founded and serves as Board Chair of start-up nonprofit called Cuala Foundation. Michael received a JD from Brooklyn Law School and a BA in Sociology from Tufts University.




Yxa is an Executive Director at JPMorgan, where she is a Wholesale Payments Product Manager in the Corporate and Investment Bank division. Yxa served as Americas Head for Bank Network Management and as Global Head of Relationship Management and Americas Regional Sales within the Depositary Receipts business. Yxa also worked as a Client Experience and Compliance Program Manager at the firm.

Before joining JPMorgan in 1999, Yxa worked as an Investment Banker and Equity Research Assistant at Credit Suisse in New York. She was also a Fixed Income Research Analyst at Crédit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank in Paris and London.

Yxa has a degree in International Business from Hofstra University’s Zarb School of Business, where she serves on the Dean’s Advisory Board. She also holds a Master’s degree in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution from Columbia University, where she teaches a Negotiation course and serves on the Alumni Advisory Committee.

Yxa is a Board member of the New York Peace Institute and has served as a volunteer judge in negotiation competitions for Law students. She speaks Spanish, French and Portuguese and resides with her family in New York City.



Hal Gessner is a certified mediator and conflict coach, and has been with the New York Peace Institute since 2014. His areas of expertise encompass community, housing, surrogate, co-parenting, civil and criminal court cases. Hal is a mentor in the Peace Institute’s apprenticeship training program and also coaches NYPD officers in the Peace Institute’s conflict de-escalation program.

In 2019, Hal was named to the New York Peace Institute board.

Before becoming a certified mediator, Hal worked for 35 years in the network news and entertainment business as producer and executive producer for CBS and ABC. He is the recipient of four national Emmys, a Peabody Award, an Investigative Reporters and Editors Award, and an Edward R. Murrow Award.


Gay Rosenblum-Kumar is a peacebuilder with 25 years’ experience designing and managing conflict transformation projects with the UN and international NGOs. After a dozen years of anti-apartheid work, she spent two years as a UN Peace Observer in South Africa in the run up to the election of Nelson Mandela. She spent the next twenty years at UN Headquarters developing the UN’s Programme on Building National Capacities for Conflict Prevention and the UN Peace and Development Advisor (PDA) cadre.

Gay now serves as the UN Representative for two peacebuilding NGOs, Nonviolent Peaceforce and Peace Direct, and advocates for unarmed civil protection, building peace side by side with local communities, amplifying the voices of local peacebuilders, and for systemic change in how peace operations and peacebuilding are done.


Sushil Raj is the Executive Director of Rights + Communities at the Wildlife Conservation Society leading their global work with Indigenous Peoples, and Local Communities.  Previously Sushil worked as the Senior Director of Foundation Relations at World Food Program USA. He has developed strategies and programs in various countries during his twenty+ year career with the United Nations, Asia Foundation, and the Ford Foundation. At the UN, he worked in different country contexts ranging from UN Peacekeeping Operations such as MONUSCO, UNAMID and UNMIS to the Nepal Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, where he focused on indigenous peoples, minority, and women’s rights while facilitating discussions between affected communities and local authorities.

Sushil is a trained mediator and has been practicing with the New York Peace Institute since his apprenticeship in 2015. In addition to his own mediation craft, Sushil previously supported the UN Standby Team of Mediation Experts and UN Special Envoys at the UN Department of Political Affairs, where he led a team that mobilized over $90 million for conflict prevention and mediation.

Sushil is a Member from the Asia Pacific region on the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent (UN Special Procedures).  He holds a BA in Philosophy from St. Stephen’s College in Delhi. He also has a Diploma in Public International Law from the Indian Academy of International Law and Diplomacy, an MA in International Political Economy & Development from Fordham University, and an Executive MSc in Nonprofit Management and Public Policy from New York University’s Wagner School.

Sushil believes in building diverse, equitable, mindful, and compassionate organizational cultures as pathways for nurturing leadership and retaining talent. In his free time Sushil loves the outdoors and travels off the beaten path.

Our Ambassadors


Grace Hewitt is an Associate for the Introduction to Mediation class in the Negotiation and Conflict Resolution program Columbia University. Grace also previously served as an Associate for the Advanced Conflict Resolution and Skills Practicum classes.

Grace graduated from the NECR program at Columbia University in 2012. Following graduate school, Grace trained with the New York Peace Institute and officially became a Mediator in 2018.

Grace currently does community and civil court mediations with the New York Peace Institute. She also is a mentor for Apprenticeship program at the New York Peace Institute and has coached NYPD and prospective Community Mediators.

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Bernadette Jentsch is a Supervising Attorney at Mobilization for Justice, Inc. and currently a Supervising Attorney-Mediator/Adjunct Professor in the Mediation Clinic at CUNY School of Law. She has been mediating with the New York Peace Institute for over a decade and also serves as a conflict coach. She has been a member of the Mediation Panel for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York since 2017, and was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals Second Circuit Pro Bono Appellate Mediator Panel in 2021.

She is a former member of the New York City Bar Association’s ADR Committee and helped organize panels highlighting the work of Community Dispute Resolution Centers.


Céline Monnier has spent the last decade working on violence prevention and peacebuilding. She currently works at the New York University’s Center on International Cooperation, supporting the United Nations’ secretary general prevention agenda by producing policy analyses and organizing strategic convenings. Previously, she worked at the United Nations (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – OCHA) and in the International Center for the Prevention of Crime (ICPC). At the ICPC, she advised international organizations, local and national governments on effective crime prevention strategies, including on the prevention of radicalization leading to violence. Prior to that, she worked for almost two years in Colombia and Mexico on human rights and in the diplomatic sector on security and conflict analysis. She has a Masters in International Law from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva with a Master’s Thesis on the “Legal Involvement of Non-State Armed Groups in the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons.”


Stephanie Penceal has worked in nonprofit organizations and educational institutions for over 35 years and managed numerous projects in fields including adult education, community development, financial education, technology, and the arts. She has also worked as a paralegal in the areas of elder law, estate planning, and guardianship. Her paralegal work was a catalyst for her to deepen her commitment to supported decision-making as a viable alternative to guardianship.

Stephanie views Community Dispute Resolution as a vital service and strongly believes that many matters can be resolved outside of the court system when space is created for parties to feel “heard” and actively participate in the resolution. She received a B.A. from Fordham University, an M.S. Ed. from Bank Street College of Education, and a Paralegal Certificate from The City College of New York.


Ashley has over 25 years of experience in not-for-profit and public sector management. She co-led the creation and launch of a national not-for-profit organization founded to improve transparency in healthcare cost information, and has overseen policy development and health care service improvement in organizations throughout the healthcare sector including the administrations of New York City Mayors Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, the Mount Sinai Medical Center and a private foundation. She serves on the Board of Trustees of The Dalton School and the Center for Urban Community Services (CUCS), and advocates for children in the New York City foster care system through the New York chapter of CASA. Ashley is a graduate of Bowdoin College and holds masters degrees in public health and public administration from Columbia University.

Ashley began her New York Peace Institute mediator training in the fall of 2019, and now mediates for the organization’s Community, Special Education and Civil Court programs.


Nigel Thompson is the President and Co-Founder of Kindred Enterprises Incorporated, a community resource for people with different abilities, neurodiverse statuses, and socio-economic backgrounds. Kindred’s mission is to facilitate opportunities within its community, primarily with the objective of helping members obtain sustainable jobs and build community integration.

Nigel’s formative years began in Morvant, Port-of-Spain on the twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. For three generations, the matriarchs of his family fought for opportunities for their children in Grenada, Trinidad, and New York City. As the father of a neurodiverse young adult with different abilities, Nigel now carries that mantle advocating for his son and others like him.

Nigel has a combined 25 years of Public Service experience in Education, Law Enforcement, Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting and Special Education Advocacy. He is currently completing the Mediation Apprenticeship Training Program at New York Peace Institute.

When he is not working as a Care Manager, you can find him hanging out with his family, cooking, traveling the Caribbean, and listening to Soca music.