Vicki Abadesco | Founder & Director of Infinite Possibilities
As the Co-Founder of Soul Shoppe, vicki! brings 30 years of experience as an educator teaching life skills and conflict resolution tools to young people and adults. vicki! is known for creating fun and safe environments where everyone is free to be. She is a fellow for the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at MIT, author of “Free to Be,” “Leadership: Truth or Dare” and “Mentor Magic” activity cards, and co-author of “Cool Tools for Schools” an interactive curricula guide for teachers.
Joseph Savage | Founder & Chief Executive Storyteller
A Co-Founder of Soul Shoppe, Joseph has created and presented award-winning curricula for hundreds of thousands of students, teachers and parents. As a presenter, Joseph is known for his mastery facilitating safe and fun learning environments where students gain self-esteem, accelerate their learning processes, and where a culture of empathy becomes the norm. He co-authored “Cool Tools For Schools,” an interactive character-education curriculum for teachers, and is currently writing and illustrating a series of children’s books on building character.
Prior to founding Soul Shoppe, Joseph was an elementary school teacher in San Francisco where he perceived the need to teach elementary school students empathy and peace-making skills. Joseph has received numerous accolades including awards from the ACLU, the San Francisco Board of supervisors, and the City of Dublin for his innovative work. In addition to his educational experience he has written, performed, and directed acclaimed theater productions throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Melanie Hopson | Organizational Pillar a.k.a. Director of Operations
Melanie has enjoyed a variety of positions in nonprofit organizations, ecumenical settings, school districts, and city government. As a consultant for United Way of the Bay Area, she is the project manager for a collective impact initiative that aims to cut poverty in half in the Bay Area by 2020. For 5 years she worked with San Francisco’s Department of Children, Youth, and their Families supporting city-wide childcare, after-school programming networks, family support programs, and professional development that trained youth workers in how to develop summer programs that would help prevent summer learning loss for students.
Melanie collaborated with the Children’s Aid Society to plan and deliver the first west coast conference of resources for the Community School movement. She has created and hosted many conferences, convenings, and resource fairs that put learning resources directly into the hands of parents and youth workers so they will benefit students.
Amy MacClain | Program Director, Chief Synthesizer & Rockstar of Special Projects
Amy is the Chief Synthesizer, Program Director & Director of Special Projects for Soul Shoppe. As a licensed facilitator, Amy has presented to over 100,000 students, teachers and parents. Amy has a BA in Psychology from the University of California, San Diego, and has done extensive post-graduate training in Re-Evaluation Counseling, Developmental Neuro-Science, Somatic Experiencing, Meditation and Social Justice. She has worked with and supported global organizations like The Pachamama Alliance and Music In Schools Today, consulting on projects and curriculum development.
Amy was also trained by Hand in Hand Parenting to teach Parenting By Connection, and co-founded a childcare co-operative based on conscious intentional parenting, providing a supportive environment for parents to explore how they were parented in an effort to create the most nurturing and educational space for the entire community. She is also a singer/songwriter with over 20 years performing experience and multiple songwriting awards including West Coast Songwriters Best Lyric of the Year. She has performed on stage with Joan Baez, Arrested Development and many other talented musicians, and released several acclaimed original albums.
Kelly Rafferty, Ph.D. | Scripts & Curriculum AKA Captain Curriculum
Kelly is a facilitator and educator with over 10 years of experience helping artists, activists, and students become the most dynamic and brave versions of themselves through training in creative collaboration and critical thinking. Kelly has taught courses in social justice and the performing arts at University of California – Berkeley, the San Francisco Mime Troupe, Education Unlimited, and Arizona State University, where she was Assistant Professor of Performance Studies. She has also designed and facilitated workshops on a range of topics including devised performance, physical comedy, gender and sexual identity, bioethics and reproductive rights, domestic violence, and body image for universities and nonprofit organizations across the country.
Kelly is thrilled that Soul Shoppe allows her to share her passion for creativity, collaboration, and social justice with elementary and middle schools. When she’s not in the classroom, Kelly writes, directs, and performs award-winning theater and trains in powerlifting and strongwoman. She has a Ph.D. from the University of California Berkeley, and a B.A. from Tulane University.
Mark Zoidis | Chief Financial Officer
Mark has spent over 20 years working in financial services in many capacities including private equity, institutional bond sales, product development, most of the time as an advisor and broker in the area of “Socially Responsible Investing.” He was a financial advisor for Progressive Asset Management for over a decade, where he co-founded the managed money division which accounted for the majority of the firm’s assets.
Since leaving Progressive, Mark has managed an independent advisory business and worked with private equity and strategic planning with socially progressive and ecologically oriented companies. Mark has a B.A. in Economics from Haverford College and has studied at the Wharton School and Harvard University.
Amanda Wentworth | Office Manager
Amanda is an Oakland native who is passionate about working with her community. She graduated from UC Davis with a degree in Community and Regional Development and a minor in Chican@ Studies. Amanda‘s love for her Oakland fam is apparent in her involvement with the Oakland Girls Softball League, where she grew up learning the sport. She now volunteers as a coach for both recreation and competitive travel teams while servings as the board’s Communications Manager.
Amanda brings several years of office management experience to Soul Shoppe after working with the City and County of San Francisco Employees’ Retirement System. Settling into Soul Shoppe has allowed Amanda to find a space where she can continue to serve youth communities while building and maintaining meaningful relationships around the Bay and beyond!
Randy Fortes | Coach & Big Hearted Facilitator
Randy became a childcare provider right after high school, and has been on a conquest to further youth development ever since. After graduating, his path led him back to an elementary school in his hometown of Livermore, CA where he rediscovered the spirit of adolescence. Becoming “Mr. Randy” sometimes meant being the only male role on staff for the students. All the while, Randy stayed true to his roots and continues to writing poems, singing, rapping, and break-dancing.
In 2006 Randy found a new home in a non-profit organization called Challenge Day, where for the past 8 years, he has been traveling the nation co-leading a life changing experiential workshop in high schools all over the nation and beyond, empowering students to take a stand and use their voice in a positive way. Here Randy found a place where love always prevails. Now speaking to students by the thousands, he has developed his own style of facilitation utilizing poetry, singing, conversational brainstorming, activities rooted in compassion, and now coaching. Having so much experience with children at all levels has helped him to be with every part of himself, which he then applies to all others.
Rhyan Ramirez | Big-Hearted Facilitator
Rhyan has over 15 years of experience doing volunteer work with teens in his community in many capacities from peer and young adult leader, to youth minister. He is also a youth motivational speaker, working to help teens understand the value of having healthy relationships in their lives. Based on Rhyan’s personal life experiences, his mission is to help kids with their relationships with their friends, parents, relatives and with themselves. Rhyan takes a different approach and looks inward to see how the kids are doing inside, helping them understand their behavior, which is what really attracted him to Soul Shoppe.
Rhyan also comes with 10 years of experience as a Psychiatric Technician in the Mental Health field. Rhyan really enjoys traveling with his wife, spending time with his family and friends, taking his boxer puppy Roxie to the park, doing Cross-fit and Olympic weightlifting.
Dara Ackerman | Lead Big-Hearted Peacemaker Trainer
Dara is a singer-songwriter, bandleader, and creative arts educator with a background in music, dance and children’s theater. She loves to collaborate with others and has combined creativity with organizing for youth, environmental protection, animal rights and social justice. Dara is co-founder of The Earthville Network, a nonprofit based in Northern India, where she spent eight years working with Tibetan refugees and international volunteers on projects for cross-cultural friendship, education, and peace. She is thrilled to have the chance to bring peace onto the playground, into the classroom, and into the lives of students and their families with Soul Shoppe, her dream come true. Come say hi at daraackerman.com!
Adhamh Hoeltzel | Big-Hearted Peacemaker Trainer
Adhamh arrived at Soul Shoppe with over ten years of experience in social justice education. Working with youth in his hometown at the National Conference for Community and Justice St. Louis and later with Bay Area elementary school children at the The Mosaic Project, Adhamh has developed a passion for compassionately addressing the collective wounds that affect how we treat ourselves and one another.
Adhamh has been trained in Restorative Justice practices and has collaborated with the Just Schools Project in Southern Vermont. He has mentored youth in mindfulness practices through Niroga’s Mindful Mentor program as well as through residential youth retreats at Inward Bound Mindfulness Education.
Adhamh has found a home in Soul Shoppe for four years and is honored to be a part of the courageous work/play of personal and collective healing.
In addition to working with young people, Adhamh writes and performs original music.
Annie Anton | Big-Hearted Facilitator
If Annie had to stand for one thing in this life, it would be working towards creating a vulnerable and loving world – a world where each human being feels celebrated for his or her imperfections and safe to simply be his or her own authentic expression. Annie is called to empower people, young and old, to feel the depths of their humanity and hearts. Having had painful experiences being bullied in her youth, Annie is thrilled that she is engaging in the work that is changing the culture in schools – work that she would have so greatly benefited from having in her own schools growing up. Annie graduated from Stanford in 2014 with a degree in Psychology, and also works as a Life Coach for teen girls.
Anthony Jackson | Big-Hearted Facilitator
Anthony has worked with a wide range of youth in many capacities for over 20 years. As a counselor, instructor, and facilitator he has developed and implemented life changing programs, lesson plans, and youth leadership groups, using resiliency models, VARK learning strategies, generationally relevant material, and cultural sensitivity. As a Diversity Committee Facilitator, Anthony created a proposal for a music project connecting staff to their youth approved by The Department of Labor. Its success spear headed new positive culture center wide. He proudly received a Martin & Malcolm Award for creating a positive multi-cultural universe while reaching actively to enhance the lives of our youth. Intricate societal realities encouraged Anthony to attend Chabot College where he earned an 18 month certification in Multi-Cultural Relations for the Helping Profession subsequently asked to sit on the board for the related AA.
When Anthony wasn’t helping the community, he was establishing an independent entertainment company and awarded (Bay Indie Award) music studio (Chamberz Studio) proficient in artist development, emceeing, event coordinating, performing, producing, and marketing. He is an author and poet, currently working on an ethnically versed comic with socially healing themes. “Art is Love, and I just love Love!”
James Damiani | Big-Hearted Facilitator
James graduated from CSUS with a double major in sociology and small group communications. Since graduating he has spent the last 5 years serving in the field of youth development. James is a certified yoga teacher and has revived specialized trying in yoga for youth, dynamic mindfulness practices, and trauma informed yoga. Over the past several years James has worked with youth in various capacities including mentoring, leadership coach, trainer, program coordinator, youth advocates, spoken word coach, and yoga teacher. James is a firm believer that emotional awareness and self-regulation are invaluable assets which all students must have in order to be resilient and develop into successful adults.
Jill Brittner | Big-Hearted Peacemaker Trainer
Jill has over nineteen years of study and practice in the fields of meditation and spiritual studies. These interests, which came from her desire to heal her own childhood trauma, kept her on a healing path and created a deep passion to help adults and children learn, grow, and thrive. She has spent the last five years teaching meditation, helping people change behaviors, and offering love and compassion as a certified meditation instructor and hypnotherapist. Jill volunteered for many years in elementary, middle, and high schools as her children grew including Challenge Day (anti-bullying program) at her daughter’s high school. In addition, she volunteered as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for children in southern California.
Jill has been married for over twenty years and has two grown children. She gets to enjoy the result of conscious parenting and, although her children continue to surprise and inspire her, her passion for helping others to find their truth and self-love now extends to other children. Jill is thrilled to have found a new home at Soul Shoppe as a Peacemaker Trainer.
“It is my honor and intention as a Peacemaker Trainer to provide a loving, joyful, and safe space for kids to be able to open to their own truth, drop their stories, and experience the joy of creating life, love, and play from their hearts.”
Jyoti Subramanian | Big-Hearted Facilitator
Jyoti has been a facilitator of transformation for over 16 years. She’s run a yoga ashram high up in the Himalayas of India, she’s lead Challenge Day workshops for 11 years, developed and ran a sacred warrior school in the Bay, Peru and Mexico, and now helps children across the Bay Area learn how to manage their feelings through her work with Soul Shoppe. Jyoti is also a local sound healer and spiritual teacher, focused on shifting the vibration of our wounds into our greatest superpowers. She knows that within each one of us is a profound light whose birthright it is to shine in its own unique way, and through her facilitation, Jyoti helps others realize this as well.
Molly James | Big-Hearted Facilitator
Molly is passionate about building a world where empathy and justice define our human story. She began her career as a climate justice activist. And, after 7 years of working for climate justice, it became clear to her that no true climate solution would be possible without a loving human family. This realization galvanized her to focus her energies on creating a culture of vulnerability and heart-centered communication. As a long time experiential educator and community organizer, she began this work by creating a workshop series called Leading from the Heart, which focused on the power of vulnerability in leadership. Next she blended her passion for music into her fascination with community building and founded the 9 Lives Music Collective. The 9 Lives Collective brought together seasoned and new musicians together for collaboration and learning. Through their regular retreats, skill shares, performances and creative collaborations, Molly witnessed the power of heart-centered community to bring growth, safety and transformation to those who participate. Now with Soul Shoppe, Molly is inspired to bring the power of heart-center community to youth.