Jennifer Freed

Jennifer Freed, Executive Director

Jennifer Freed, PhD is a psychotherapist, mediator, and author with over 30 years’ experience working with youth and deep roots in the Santa Barbara area. She began at age 19, running a peer counselor training program at Dos Pueblos High School; shortly thereafter, she began working for YouthWorks. She became Statewide Director of that program, which conducted research into reasons why young people were dropping out of school. Dr. Freed then worked in the field of job rehabilitation, where she helped people find job placements following illness or injury. She underwent training at the Rape Crisis Center, Domestic Violence Solutions, Pacific Pride Foundation, and the Community Counseling Center, and earned her Master’s in psychology from Antioch University by age 23.

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Rendy Freedman

Rendy Freedman, MFT, Co-Founder, Education and Clinical Director

Rendy Freedman has been a psychotherapist and mediator for over 20 years, and an educator for over 35 years. She specializes in working with adolescents, couples, families, groups, and trauma issues through EMDR. She has worked extensively with women’s issues and leads groups for parents of teens. She is a licensed mediator and certified EMDR practitioner and has had significant training and experience in body related healing modalities, as well as in relational therapy systems including self psychology, family systems, the mutuality philosophy of the Stone Center at Wellesley College, and council practice from The Ojai Foundation.

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Molly Green, Development Director

Molly Green is an eight-year development professional. She attended University of Texas at Austin and has continued her education at universities in Santa Barbara and New York. She is honored to work with the amazing team at AHA! serving teens and the greater community and has a strong interest in promoting restorative approaches. Molly has been involved with many local non-profit organizations and served on the Advisory Committee for Storyteller Children’s Center. She has a freelance graphic design business, graphic design, and is a passionate art lover, traveler, reader, hiker, and proud mother of a college student.

Jenna Tico

Jenna Tico, Grant Writer

Jenna Tico is a 9th-generation Santa Barbara native, and is thrilled to be on board as grant writer for AHA! Jenna received her BA in Humanities/Dance from Scripps College in 2012, where she was selected as a “Who’s Who Among Colleges and Universities” and received a grant from Hostelling International to teach and write in Bali, Indonesia. Once home, Jenna served as a founding member of World Dance for Humanity, and gave a PechaKucha 20×20 talk about improvisational dance as a vehicle for social change. After participating in Interchange Counseling Institute’s yearlong training program, Jenna co-founded TOTEM: an intergenerational arts collaborative that aims to build community through free, holistic educational workshops and seasonal storytelling nights. She is a regular collaborator with Santa Barbara High School Theatre, Lucidity Festival, and Fishbon Arts Collaborative; and in 2014, authored Art Fisher’s Santa Barbara Summer Solstice retrospective. Jenna has previously served as grant writer for three local nonprofits, teaches Contact Improvisation as a means for building healthy relationships, and believes most things can be solved by a flash mob.


Roxana Petty, Office Administrator and Executive Assistant

Roxana Petty was born and raised in Santa Barbara. Her professional background includes 16 years of a combination of administrative management, banking and finance positions that make her a great asset to our AHA! team.


Kristi Converse, Administrative and Finance Assistant

Kristi Converse, a licensed MFT working withAHA! since 2006, graduated from UCSB in 1998 with degrees in Studio Art and Religious Studies, and received her Masters of Science in Clinical Psychology from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 2006. Prior to her work with AHA!, Kristi worked with several teens and their families at Domestic Violence Solutions and the Family Therapy Institute of Santa Barbara. She has experience running AHA! in-school and after-school groups, as well as providing therapy for AHA! teens and their families, including EMDR. Kristi also enjoys creating art, swimming in the ocean, and spending time with her husband and their two children.

Laurel O’Connor

Laurel O’Connor, Development Officer & Program Coordinator

Laurel O’Connor holds a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University and is a Marriage and Family Therapist Registered Intern (MFTI) currently working towards licensure. After witnessing the transformative effects the AHA! program had on her own teen daughter, Laurel joined the AHA! staff in 2015. She is a facilitator with the In-School program and provides individual therapy to teens affiliated with the After-School program. Beginning in 2017, Laurel will also be the Program Coordinator for a pilot program teaching educators the AHA! method of social and emotional learning. In addition to AHA!, Laurel works as a MFTI at the Community Counseling and Education Center where her life experience informs her work with people of all ages and backgrounds. She has a private practice in Santa Barbara, is trained in EMDR and is proud to be a volunteer with Hospice of Santa Barbara.

AHA! Leaders


Melissa Lowenstein, Program Director

Melissa Lowenstein (formerly Block), M.Ed., is AHA!’s Grant Writer, a Core Facilitator in the in-school and after-school programs, and co-leader of the after-school Creative Discoveries group. She holds a BA in Theater and Dance from the College of William and Mary in Virginia and a Master’s in Education from the University of Virginia. Melissa has worked as a freelance writer and editor since 1997 and has authored, co-authored, and ghostwritten over 25 books on topics including education, psychology, parenting, relationships, social-emotional learning, intentional community, and health.

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Leo Caporal, Research Director and Peace Builders Administrator

Leonisia Caporal graduated from UCSB with a BA in Sociology and Chicano Studies and a minor in Applied Psychology. She worked at CALM (Child Abuse, Listening & Mediation) for seven years, providing counseling services to foster children and families. For a year and a half, she worked at Santa Barbara County for the SPIRIT Program, serving high-risk families as a Parent Partner. She has worked for AHA! since 2007. Leo is bilingual and well-connected with the Latino community; she is committed to applying the skills she has learned to working with teens and families from different backgrounds. She plans to return to graduate school and get her Master’s Degree in Social Work.

Claire Blakey

Claire Blakey, Director of Enrollment

Claire graduated with her degree in Psychology and minor in Communication from CSU Channel Islands and entered the world of nonprofits back in 2015. Her most recent position was at PathPoint as the Communications Manager where Claire cultivated her leadership skills to build a competitive PR presence for the California-based nonprofit. With managerial experience and a passion for communication, Claire piloted an internship program with UC Santa Barbara to increase community engagement.

Claire Blakey now holds her Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology with a concentration in Healthy Aging from Antioch University and is pursuing licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapist. Her passion is people and she has been actively involved in volunteering through Big Brother Big Sisters in both Sacramento, and also in Santa Barbara on the Advisory Council.

Claire works in both the AHA! in-school and after-school programs as a facilitator, and is in charge of Enrollment. Claire is thrilled to be a part of AHA!’s mission to equip teens with social emotional intelligence and adores her AHA! family.


Sabrina Geshay, Team Leader

Sabrina Geshay is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with 14 years of experience counseling children, teens and families. She received her Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from CIIS in 2003 and spent several years providing services in Bay Area schools (grades K-12). She also spent two years in San Diego supporting military children and their families through the Military and Family Life Counselor program. Sabrina relocated back to her hometown of Santa Barbara in July, 2013, opened her private practice, and joined AHA! in April, 2014. A passionate advocate for children and teens, Sabrina is thrilled to be working with a team that empowers and teaches young people about social-emotional intelligence and the importance of community.


Caitlin Slutzky, Team Leader

Caitlin Slutzky holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology from Naropa University and is a LicensedMarriage and Family Therapist. Caitlin’s work emphasizes empowering individuals to restore relationships with self, others, and nature. This passion has underscored her 10+ years of professional experience working in a variety of therapeutic and educational roles, including: elementary and high school educator, wilderness guide for teens and young adults, mindfulness instructor, and psychotherapist. She has a private psychotherapy practice in Santa Barbara, sits on the board of directors as Vice President for New House (a sober living program for men), and is a core facilitator for CenterPoint Retreats (a program designed for women military veterans).


Michelle Lebeau, Peace Builders Coordinator

Michelle LeBeau has a Master’s Degree in Social Work with a concentration in Community Mental Health from California State University Dominguez Hills and a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Colorado. She has seven years of experience as a behavior therapist for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Her passion is in helping children and adolescents. She currently splits her time between AHA! and CALM (Child Abuse, Listening & Mediation) as a mental health therapist for children, teens, and families.



Kris Ehrman

Kris’ experience as a youth mentor began at a licensed group home in San Diego. There, he also worked for the Toussaint Academy of Arts from 2004-2008 as a Case Manager and Activity Coordinator. In addition to being an AHA! Facilitator, Kris is activity involved in the development of our local youth music scene as the Regional Director for Notes For Notes.


Nicolas A. Aguilar

Nic attended SBCC for psychology & child development and is looking to pursue a BA in Liberal Arts at Antioch with a focus on social justice. He interned at the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara’s Resident Services Department, working on year-round programming for elementary to high school aged kids/teens, family and senior participants and as property manager for a family complex. Nic went on to work for A-OK! (After School Opportunities for Kids) as a program leader at Franklin Elementary & Adalante Charter School, then as the site coordinator at Franklin Elementary.

Julian Henderson

Julian Henderson

Julian Henderson earned his BA in Psychology from San Diego State University. He returned to Santa Barbara to work for AHA!, a program that was beneficial for him as a teen. AHA! helped Julian to develop social-emotional intelligence and to create the strong sense of self that he now holds today. He is beginning his Masters education in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University in fall of 2016. His future goal is to become a licensed MFT. He is an excellent addition to the AHA! staff given his experience and natural leadership abilities. Julian is trained in hypnosis and NLP. He lives with his girlfriend and cat on West Camino Cielo. He enjoys lounging in his forested back yard, playing basketball with friends, and swimming in the ocean.

Alia Aizenstat

Alia Aizenstat

Alia Aizenstat holds a BA in Liberal Studies from Antioch University, a Leadership Certificate from Leadership Santa Barbara County, and is a registered yoga teacher (RYT-440). She is currently pursuing her M.A. in Counseling Psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute and is a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) trainee. Alia brings to AHA! years of experience leading mindfulness meditations and working as a counselor to youth with learning differences. In addition to Alia’s work as a Facilitator for AHA!’s in-school and after-school programs, Alia provides therapy as a MFT trainee at the Community Counseling and Education Center.


Brandon Battle

Brandon is a core facilitator at AHA!, driven by a desire to support people in his community. Brandon has worked with differently abled individuals in supportive living at Devereux and with children of single moms at St. Vincent’s. He has studied Early Childhood Education, Philosophy, Music Composition, and plans to return to school and major in Music Therapy.

Brandon was raised in Goleta and is a happy father of beautiful, imaginative seven-year-old daughter. He enjoys playing guitar, basketball, and hacki sack and loves to dive into the water and climb in the mountains. Brandon is always looking for fun and interesting ways to spice up life. He brings a positive energy and go-with-the-flow attitude, ready to help in every way he can! Brandon says, “I am at home with the AHA! Team, who all support each other while providing the community we love with amazing social-emotional learning! I really enjoy bringing a balance of fun and depth while engaging the inspiring youth we serve.”

Francisca Mendoza

Francisca Mendoza

Francisca Mendoza, born and raised in Santa Barbara, studied pre-nursing at Santa Barbara City College. Her decision to change careers came after seeing how much of an impact programs like AHA! can have in a teen’s life. She earned her B.A. in psychology from CSUCI and is planning to go back to school and receive her Masters in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis on Latino Mental Health from Antioch University.

Debbie Gunther

Debbie Gunther

Debbie has worked with teens for most of her life. For 35 years, she taught junior high and high school English and Human Development and co-wrote a book of writing exercises for teachers published by Addison Wesley.
She has been part of AHA for 15 years. What she dearly values there is the richness and depth that evolves when we learn, in groups, and how to find ourselves with the support of others. She is also a retired 5 Element acupuncturist.

Ali Cortez

Ali Cortez

Ali Cortez is a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern who holds a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology, emphasis on Latino Mental Health. Since 2009, she has rooted herself personally and professionally into Santa Barbara. She attended the University of California Santa Barbara and graduated in the class of 2011. After, she fell in love working with public mental health agencies to empower vulnerable youth in the Santa Barbara county. She has provided case management, advocacy, mentorship, mediations, workshops, and counseling to teens for 6 years. Currently, Ali works through the Santa Barbara School District as the Youth Outreach Worker. She is also a Board Member with the non profit A Different Point of View. She also holds a position through AHA! In which she supports the mission of the agency in recruiting youth to participate in the wonderful growth experience AHA! offers. Her passion continues to empower young lives by bringing out their strengths and creating positive paradigm shifts.

AHA! Method Trainers


Ben Zimmer

Ben Zimmer is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist serving teens, families, and individuals in the Santa Barbara area. After graduating with a Masters in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University in 2012, Ben found his passion in working with teens and families. Ben has been facilitating, creating curriculum, and coordinating programs for AHA! for the past four years and has been working with teens and children for the last seven years. In addition to his work with AHA!, Ben has a private practice in Santa Barbara and is trained in EMDR.


Martin Leyva

Martin Leyva holds a BA in Liberal Arts/Psychology from Antioch University and is a CAADE Certified Drug and Alcohol Treatment Counselor. He has a strong passion for social justice and human rights issues. In 2008, he founded the SBCC/EOPS Transitions Program, which offers therapeutic and educational opportunities to those affected by the criminal justice system who wish to reintegrate into society. The program won The John G. Rice Award for Diversity and Equity in 2012. He also authored a scholarly article, From CorrectionstoCollege: The Valueof a Convict’s Voice. He has spoken and shared at multiple venues including universities throughout California and the American Society of Criminology. He is well known for his abilities with gang intervention/prevention & mediation skills and helping those with AOD issues.