Our People

Julie Atkinson

Volunteer Workshop Facilitator

Julie Atkinson is the mother of two children in Orinda, California. Having lived all around the Bay Area as well as in San Diego and briefly in Los Angeles, she calls California home, but has lived on the East Coast as well as in Hong Kong. Julie practiced law for several years, then served as the Executive Director of the nonprofit, Center of Hope (Haiti), Inc. and is currently President of the Board of Directors. Julie's passion is art, specifically painting, although she has yet to find an art medium that she doesn't want to try. She has found art to be a way of slowing down, tapping into her inner mindful little, and translating that on to a canvas. She loves to share her art practice with children (and adults) and to encourage them to express themselves as a means of self care, as well as a means of caring for others.

Shreya Bhadriraju

Intern

Shreya is a senior at Northwestern University studying Global Health Studies, Communication Studies, and Opera Performance. After graduating she plans to pursue a Masters in Public Health with a concentration in Health Communication. Shreya is passionate about education, public health, and social justice. She is super excited to work with Mindful Littles and to be a part of its movement of positive change through compassion, intentional mindfulness, and empathy!

Lauren Vertrees

Board Chair, Senior Associate for School Success at XQ Institute

Lauren’s synergistic path to Mindful Littles was sparked by her passion for empowering and supporting students. Lauren began her career teaching diverse, gifted and talented and low-income populations in Denver, Colorado, where she witnessed the power of mindfulness through the eyes of her second and third grade students. Her classroom teaching experiences, complemented by her current work rethinking school systems at XQ Institute and previously in education policy at Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) continues to drive the focus of her work. Lauren has a Master’s in Elementary Education from USC and an undergraduate degree from UC Davis, where she majored in Managerial Economics. She is also deeply passionate about yoga and is a certified yoga and mindfulness instructor. She believes wholeheartedly that there is a mindful little in each of us, and plays into that passion through teaching, hiking and boating in Lake Tahoe, cuddling with her Yorkiepoo, and planning her wedding with her fiancé .

Nini Aye

Volunteer Facilitator

Nini Aye is one of our most beloved members of the Mindful Littles family. With a special friendship with our founder that began in 2007, Nini has been a force of compassion that has influenced many Mindful Littles programs with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Nini has served as a Mindful Littles facilitator at school and virtual events. While she has managed a life-long disability with cerebral palsy, she continues her passion for life with pursuits such as skydiving, horseback riding, traveling, swimming and so much more.

Tanuka Gordon

Founder & Executive Director, Board Member

After being inspired to leave a more compassionate world for her two young daughters, Tanuka discovered her life's purpose with the founding of Mindful Littles. Tanuka's business background in designing engaging product and service experiences for technology companies has come full circle as her innovative vision for Mindful Littles continues to provide transformative compassion experiences for the most important audience- our youth.  Tanuka is recognized as a rising leader in education and service. She has spoken at several national education conferences; she is a member of the Transformative Educational Leadership (TEL) national cohort and won the Jefferson Award for public service. She has an MBA/MSI from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and is certified as a yoga and mindfulness instructor.  When not working on her passion project, she loves hiking, camping, traveling, writing...and last but not least spending quality-time with her two daughters and family.  

Cora Donadio

Intern

Cora is currently a student at Butte College where she's pursuing a career as an art teacher. She moved to northern California from Portland, Oregon in late 2020 to be closer to family. Growing up in Portland, Cora loves city life, but is enthusiastic about helping children and adults with mindfulness, self-care and acceptance. She is passionate about social justice, meditation and mindfulness and incorporates those elements into her art. She highly values the practices Mindful Littles provides. She also loves painting, hot yoga,  longboarding, coffee and her ginger cat Oliver.

Hannah Jacobs

Director of Community Engagement

Born and raised in the Bay Area, Hannah has a BA in Psychology with a minor in Education and Applied Psychology from UC Santa Barbara, where she was first introduced to mindfulness. Before joining Mindful Littles, Hannah was the Bay Area representative for Be the Match where she fostered relationships between Bay Area businesses and organizations to grow the National Marrow Donor Registry.

She’s passionate about positive psychology, wellness and going beyond surviving to truly thriving. She believes practicing mindfulness and gratitude beginning at a young age encourages Littles to be happy, healthy, compassionate members in their communities. Hannah’s dedicated her professional career to the nonprofit sector with a commitment to “leave this earth just a little better than it was when I arrived.”

Brandi Asker

Board Member, Regional Director, Starbucks Northern California

Brandi is a Regional Director at Starbucks in Northern California. She's passionate about coaching, inspiring, and uplifting leaders in the organization to their greatest potential. Acting as a connector in all sectors (private, public, NGO) to help unite forces for greater impact is a primary objective in all work she involves herself in. Brandi believes in the connectedness of all things, and the needed support to uplift consciousness in all we do, in our business, in our schools, and in our communities.
She holds a BS in Interdisciplinary Studies, focused on Organizational Leadership and Political Science; was founding chair of Women’s Development Network, and ran for public office, all to better understand and involve herself in interconnected ways for the sake of impact and change.  Brandi lives in the North Bay with her husband Damion, and two children Sadie and Sara, who are all working together to build a future retreat center on their land.

Kaylyn Goode

Intern

Kaylyn is 19-years-old and a sophomore at George Washington University. She is studying International Affairs with hopes of becoming a humanitarian lawyer. She spends her free time with family, reading, traveling, and fighting for social justice in her community.

Ava Moran

Intern

Ava is an incoming senior at Miramonte High School and has lived in Orinda her entire life. Because of various experiences in her community, she strives to create change for the better. She currently is the Co-President of the Black Student Union at Miramonte and an Equiteam leader on campus. Ava loves to play sports and she aspires to be an obstetrician in underserved communities and an advocate for marginalized groups. Through Mindful Littles she hopes to educate peers and fellow community members about the importance of compassion and morality, in order to create a safer and more accepting space for everybody.

Lisa Sadikman

Director of Digital Content & PR

Lisa is a freelance writer living in northern California with her husband and three daughters. She writes about raising girls, women’s issues and parenting. Her writing can be found on her blog Flingo, Scary Mommy, Literary Mama, Motherwell Magazine, Brain, Child, HuffPost Parents and others. At Mindful Littles, Lisa oversees the website content and communications, supports curriculum and curates resources to inspire mindfulness in both Littles and Bigs. Her passions include surfing, spinning, coffee, finishing crosswords, reading and keeping up with her daughters’ Spotify playlists. “With three girls of varying ages, I’m often quickly switching modes to meet their needs. It’s definitely a challenge, but tapping into compassion and empathy does wonders to shift the energy from precarious to positive for both me and my girls. I love that Mindful Littles reinforces what’s already true for our kids: they’re born with open hearts and helpful hands. They just need our encouragement to realize their love and care can change the world.”

Gaby Groft

Mindful Middle

Gaby is in 7th grade and loves working with Mindful Littles because it inspires her to do great things! Plus she gets to make mindful videos with her dad. Gaby really enjoys doing arts and crafts and she wants to help change the world by spreading love, peace, and mindfulness.

Liz Graham

Youth Programs Manager, Facilitator

Liz is a Saint Mary's College graduate who is passionate about enriching youth communities through yoga, education, art, dance, and mindfulness. She recently completed her yoga teacher training in Bali and is thrilled to be sharing the magic of yoga within her community. When she's not teaching yoga or working with youth, she loves to spend time connecting with nature, sharing meals in the company of loved ones, and traveling to new places to adventure and immerse herself in other cultures. Prior to joining Mindful Littles, Liz worked with many Bay Area families, volunteered with international service trips, and taught preschool.

Livia Segall

Mindful Middle

Livia Segall is 12-years-old and goes to Orinda Intermediate School. She creates content to help spread kindness and mindfulness, including videos for the Mindful Littles newsletter and YouTube channel. Livia enjoys playing tennis and doing contemporary dance and loves to explore new places around the world with her family. Painting is one of Livia's favorite things to do! She loves to paint with both watercolors and acrylics. She also takes pleasure in keeping up her family's garden.

Nina Segall

Mindful Middle

Nina is 12-years-old and is in seventh grade at Orinda Intermediate School. She is passionate about teaching kids compassion through service projects, such as making hygiene kits and writing gratitude letters. Her Mindful Middles videos empower people to bring mindfulness into their daily lives whether that is deep breathing or doing yoga. In her free time, she enjoys tennis, water polo, and contemporary dance. Nina also loves to spend time in nature, hike, travel, paint in the garden, and educate her community in taking better care of the earth.

Travis Groft

Adult Wellness Manager, Facilitator

Travis Groft is a proud and loving family man. At 18, Travis joined the U.S. Air Force on September 18th, 2001. He was stationed all over the world and was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. It was there that Travis became a man, husband and father and discovered his love of food and travel. In 2008 he and his family returned to the Bay Area. He quickly realized he needed more supportive self-care strategies in order to reintegrate into civilian life and grow as a person. He went back to school and began experimenting with mindfulness meditation and other body-based self-care techniques. Travis found that a holistic lifestyle and greater self awareness fostered emotional mastery and resilience, despite the many challenges he and his family faced. He graduated from San Francisco State University in 2014 with a B.S. in Kinesiology and has been a practicing health and fitness coach ever since. He is also an experienced facilitator, leading mindfulness and meditation workshops for veterans and sharing other self care strategies to anyone who may benefit from such practices. Travis continues to explore and grow as a person, which led him to Mindful Littles where he happily serves communities by sharing his passion for health and wellness with Littles and Bigs from all walks of life.

Mary Patel

Facilitator

Mary is one of the founding team members of Mindful Littles, even piloting the first service project in our founder's backyard.  During the nonprofit's first year of operations, Mary was an instrumental partner in organizing the initial service learning projects and helping establish the Mindful Littles platform.  With extensive training from YogaWorks, YogaKids and Mindful Schools, Mary now facilitates self-care and yoga classes for educators and parents. She is also a yoga teacher at other local studios in the Bay Area. “I want my kids to grow up in a community where we spread compassion and help each other. My hope is that when my kids grow up they never think twice about being inclusive and helping others.”

Marianne Whitfield

Facilitator

Marianne is currently a senior at Chico State University and will graduate with a degree in public health education by Spring 2021. She received her 200-hour yoga teaching certification from CorePower Yoga in Portland, Oregon in 2014 and for the past 6 years has continuously taught vinyasa, gentle yoga, pranayama, and mindfulness. In addition, she is a personal trainer and works with high-intensity interval training as well as dance fitness. Marianne grew up in Oroville and returned to California in 2017 to be closer to her family and bring her experience of yoga to her hometown. Marianne believes movement and breath in sync can connect us to our bodies deeply and awaken the intuition within. She aims to bring fun and joy into to every class. Her strong and sweet voice guides students through practices that leave them feeling cared for and refreshed. When she is not teaching classes, she loves hiking, swimming, singing, and hanging out with her daughter and her pets.

Anne Marie Feld

Blog Contributor

Anne Marie Feld (Lowell) has worked with words for as long as she can remember. She's been a staff writer and editor at Netflix, Ziff-Davis and a wide array of lifestyle and tech publications. She has also worked as a grant writer at the San Francisco Food Bank. Her essays have been published in the New York Times, Edutopia, and Babycenter, and have appeared in the anthologies The Mommy Wars, Because I Love Her, and Modern Love, a collection of the best of the New York Times Modern Love columns. She currently runs an elementary school library, and produces the Lamorinda ShortDocs Film Festival. She really enjoys helping kids complete documentaries on women’s issues, animal rights, and environmental activism. She has written three children’s books, which will be available on Amazon in September 2019, but it’s her work blending writing, service and activism that brings her the most joy. She's grateful to Mindful Littles for combining these disciplines with kindness, movement and mindfulness in a way that sparks introspection, laughter and playful participation for people of all sizes.

Kate Schox

Board Member, Partner, Trucks Venture Capital

Kate is a founding partner at Trucks Venture Capital. Trucks.vc is a seed-stage venture capital fund for entrepreneurs changing the future of transportation, making transportation safer, cleaner and more accessible. She is also the co-founder of Schox Philanthropy. Schox.org is a philanthropic fund inviting select startup founders to commit 1% equity and make donations to curated nonprofits. Kate also plays an active role in her community as a volunteer yoga teacher and board member to several Bay Area non-profits. She holds an M.A.A. (Master of Applied Anthropology) from the University of Maryland, College Park, as well as a B.Ed from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Kate lives in San Francisco with her husband Jeff, their third grade son, and 16 year old dog.

Matthew Fishleder, MA

Advisor, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Matthew Fishleder, MA is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a decade of experience working with kids and families in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has a long-standing commitment to building community awareness about the many benefits offered by mindfulness. In his daily work with psychotherapy clients, Matthew frequently integrates mindfulness strategies into a variety of approaches, and is certified in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy. Matthew currently divides his professional time between a busy clinic in San Francisco where he supports women in pregnancy and postpartum, and in his Lafayette-based private practice working with kids and adults navigating a range of human challenges. Mindfulness became an even more crucial part of his life when Matthew and his partner became parents in August 2019! He discovered Mindful Littles through the magic of social media, quickly became a huge fan of the organization’s amazing work, and is incredibly excited to be part of its continued contribution to the community.

Stuart House

Advisor, Civil Rights Movement Veteran, Director of Facilities, OUSD

Stuart (Stu) House was born into a northern Black middle-class family in Detroit, far away from the unfolding Civil Rights Movement in the South. One evening in 1960, he turned on the television news and watched in awe as young students in the South nonviolently sat-in at restaurants only to be hauled off to jail by white police officers. Realizing how Black people had been systematically discriminated against and disenfranchised for generations, Stuart, then 17, went to Mississippi to join the Movement. During his time in the Delta, he promoted Black cultural, political, and intellectual thought as a musician. Later on, he devoted most of his attention to voter rights projects in Alabama, where he was arrested in Selma for encouraging Black voters. Stuart attributes the courage and fearlessness of ordinary men and women for his involvement in the struggle for Civil Rights. “I think that their sacrifice also emboldened us to keep on fighting, to keep on struggling, because they lost their lives.” Today, Stuart lives in Northern California where he is the Director of Facilities for the Orinda Union School District.

Sue Schwartzman

Advisor, Principal Schwartzman

Sue has over two decades of experience working with high net worth individuals, teens, and multi-generational families to systematically and strategically engage in philanthropy and volunteerism. Her authentic and personal approach includes unfolding what people care and are passionate about and developing strategic plans for acting upon these determined values. Sue developed and facilitated one of the most esteemed teen philanthropy programs internationally. Her work is responsible for training more than 900 teenagers who have raised over $3 million for an array of non-profits.
Sue has a wide range of experience in the philanthropic sector including: education, program development, family engagement and running grant cycles and giving circles; personal philanthropic consulting and curriculum development. She is passionate about connecting with youth and millennials alike, is an acclaimed speaker and facilitator, has hosted several workshops specific to philanthropy, and has had her work featured in publications such as the Huffington Post. Most recently Sue has been presenting workshops around the country for Goldman Sachs.
Her expertise lies in raising well-grounded kids amidst wealth; philanthropy education and curriculum development; philanthropic practice in families, including multi -generational families, facilitation and workshop development.

Maya Smith

Advisor, Executive Director, Born This Way Foundation

Maya has over a decade of experience in the youth empowerment, civic engagement, and community development fields and proudly serves as the first Executive Director of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation. The Foundation's mission is to support the wellness of young people and empower them to build a kinder, braver world through authentic youth-focused programming and campaigns that foster kindness and advance the conversation around mental health. In addition to her work with Born This Way Foundation, Maya serves on the Board of Directors of Advocates for Youth, Learning To Give, and Give Together. She's also received numerous awards and fellowships for her leadership, including the competitive Prime Movers Fellowship of the Hunt Alternatives Fund, a multi-year fellowship program for emerging and established social movement leaders working at the national level. Very proud of her Jersey roots, Maya grew up in Maplewood, New Jersey and attended Columbia High School in Maplewood, NJ and Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. She currently resides outside of San Francisco with her husband, David, their two children and their black lab, Hudson. “Kids have kindness in them; they are born with it. Somehow along the way, they lose it, so if we could just focus on young people and focus on kids and keep that kindness, friendship, idealism, we will all be better for it.”                  

Kimthy Pham

Volunteer, Event Marketing & Outreach

Kimthy is a practicing clinical pharmacist with over a decade of experience specializing in chronic disease management. She practices and advocates for compassion and kindness within her community and has an active interest in utilizing mindfulness to promote health in ways medications can't. Kimthy is excited to be part of an organization that shares her passion in educating others about the importance of holistic wellness through physical, mental and emotional well-being.
“Children are innocent, happy, excited and honest beings. I want to help each child cultivate and nurture this beautiful spirit within so they can continue to grow in a healthy way. With the fast-paced culture in the Bay Area, it has become even more important to foster a practice of compassion and mindfulness starting at a young age. These are wonderful lifelong skills that children need as they grow into adulthood and learn to contribute to the community in a meaningful way.”

Julia Stenzel

Advisor, Brand & Strategy

Julia not only brings a calm demeanor and presence to our team, but brings a wealth of knowledge on nonprofit strategy and brand management. She co-authored the book, "The Brand IDEA: Managing Nonprofit Brands with Integrity, Democracy, and Affinity" and has consulted for many nonprofits helping organizations become more effective in achieving their mission and goals. Julia is the team's sherpa, guiding us with her strategic expertise and parenting perspectives. She has been a very active member of the community in various leadership capacities for the Educational Foundation of Orinda and the local school district. She's also trained through Mindful Schools and has a regular meditation practice.

Mark White, Ph.D.

Advisor, Researcher, SEL Program Evaluation

Mark White is a research fellow at the Institute of Social Research where he studies program evaluation with a focus on programs designed to build social and emotional skills in students. He received a PhD in education in 2017 from the University of Michigan. His interest in mindfulness began a few years ago as he began to read about the research on the benefits of mindfulness and he has begun a personal practice since then. With stars aligning, Mark first got introduced to our Mindful Littles founder through his sister, and was excited to join the organization after learning about the great work being done at the nonprofit organization.