center for council staff
Jared Seide is the Executive Director of Center for Council. He has designed, piloted and coordinated council-based programs in prisons, assisted living facilities, youth groups and a variety of non-profit, faith-based organizations, social service and law enforcement agencies, including the "Co-Mentoring Project,” for emancipated foster youth, the "Organizational Wellness Project,” for the staff of scores of community-based organizations, the “Council for Insight, Compassion & Resilience” active in more than twenty prisons throughout California and winner of the American Correctional Association’s Innovations in Corrections award, the "Trainer Leadership Initiative," supporting emerging council leaders serving impacted communities, and the council-based "Peace Officer Wellness, Empathy & Resilience” (POWER) Training Program for law enforcement and correctional officers. “Compassion, Attunement & Resilience Education” (CARE) for Healthcare Professionals is a program he developed with Dr. Ann Philips Seide that focuses on burnout and dysregulation amongst physicians, nurses and other first responders and utilizes innovations mindfulness science and compassionate communication techniques like council to support a culture of professional wellness in healthcare.
Jared has coordinated, mentored and facilitated council programs at over a dozen schools in Southern California and has led trainings and retreats focusing on reconciliation and community-building throughout the U.S., and in Poland, Rwanda, France, Colombia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Jared directed the "Center for Council Practice" initiative of The Ojai Foundation, the antecedent of Center for Council. He co-led the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Conference on integrating Council and SRM in California and Rwandan prisons and was a Resident Fellow at the Bellagio Center. He has been a presenter at conferences and seminars, speaking on the integration of Council into varied arenas, including South by Southwest, International Association of Chiefs of Police, California Rehabilitation Oversight Board, Association of Change Management Professionals, Bellagio Fellows Gathering, Monterey Restorative Justice Commission and the Restorative Justice in Motion Conference, at Eastern Methodist University. Jared’s educational background includes a BA with high honors from Brown University. Prior to his work with Center for Council, Jared led careers in the entertainment industry and the corporate world. He is a member of the Zen Center of Los Angeles, a graduate of the Upaya Institute Chaplaincy Program and has been a Spirit Holder for Zen Peacemaker Bearing Witness Retreats around the world.
Jared is also the author of Where Compassion Begins: Foundational Practices to Enhance Mindfulness, Attention and Listening from the Heart, a book that draws from the extraordinary contributions of many teachers, mentors and allies who have contributed to the evolution of the work of Center for Council.
Read archived articles and listen to interviews with Jared.
Director of Operations
Summre Garber has been working in nonprofit finance and operations for over a decade in the Los Angeles area. Beginning with film festival and event production at Slamdance, the Bentonville Film Festival, and others, she moved into her role as the Director of Operations at the Silverlake Independent Jewish Community Center bringing her skills as a community organizer and independent thought leader from her festival background. Summre is committed to engaging people from all backgrounds towards thoughtful communication and mindfulness and regularly practices mediation and yoga with her two children. Summre received an MA in Film Theory from San Francisco State University.
Mitch Highley was born and raised in Orange County, California. He has been involved with Center for Council since 2016, when he enrolled in the council program at Ironwood State Prison, where he was facing a life sentence.
"I spent half my life incarcerated due to poor choices and lacking a sense of purpose and belonging in the community. Center for Council is where I learned healing from my past is possible. It gave me a safe place to learn, grow, and be vulnerable with my peers. Connection was invaluable to my recovery and these circles served as the ground for empathy, compassion and understanding to not only take root, but flourish. I discovered how to fill voids of emptiness with emotions I couldn't identify in my past. Through council interactions I learned to leave prejudice and look for similarities rather than differences."
Despite his sentence, Mitch committed himself fully to his self-improvement and education in prison. He achieved a Bachelor's Degree in Sociology with an emphasis on criminology as well as Certification as a Substance Abuse Counselor. As a result of his work and transformation, he was granted parole in 2019. He has been working to share his story of redemption, and giving back to support those on the path, ever since.
Executive Development Specialist
Sydney Scanlon has been working in nonprofits across the world focusing on issues of healthcare, education, equity, and mental health. She has published research experience in climate change and health, childhood trauma, and psychedelic therapy. She has been working in marketing and design for universities, nonprofits, and musicians. Sydney received a BA with honors from Amherst College with a Five College Certificate in Culture, Health, and Science. Sydney is a big picture thinker that loves to be creative and conceptual. She brings a trauma-informed lens to her work. She is also a yoga teacher.
Alea Wade is a teacher, council trainer & facilitator, youth mentor, resource advocate, and administrative professional. She is committed to the enrichment of mind, body, spirit and collective healing. Alea is a facilitator for Rites of Passage retreats with The Ojai Foundation, Brentwood school, and Crossroads school. She creates and collaborates on social and emotional programs that support community, growth, and empowerment. Alea received her Bachelor’s degree from UC Santa Barbara with studies in Philosophy, English, and Black Studies. As a FIRE fellow with the Ojai Foundation, she co-founded Blk Crcl where she develops programs that support mental health, personal development, and healing for Black communities being impacted by systems of oppression. In addition to her work as a disability resource advocate with the Independent Living Resource Center, Alea has also collaborated with social justice organizations like The Youth Justice Coalition to promote disability justice in healthcare. Her mission is to build more bridges of access that meet at the intersections of healing, council, social justice, and disability justice.
James DeBacco was born in Riverside and raised in Los Angeles County, California. James has been involved with Center for Council since 2016 when he enrolled in the council program at Ironwood State Prison, where he was facing a life sentence. "I spent nearly 28 years of my early adult life incarcerated following an early discharge from the United States Marine Corps. Center for Council offered me a way to look deep within myself and see the possibilities of my humanity. Center for Council taught me that it is OK to be afraid and be yourself. The essence of being who you are is the culmination of all your experiences in life. The connections I made in Center for Council were life-changing. Center for Council helped me to understand that compassion, empathy, and insight are not tasks that we have to learn, rather, they are gifts within each of us to become a better version of ourselves. I was taught how to accept, cope, let go, and heal from a traumatic past. The teachings from Center for Council taught me the true meaning behind the values of diversity and inclusion."
Despite his sentence, James committed himself fully to his self-improvement and education in prison. He achieved an AA degree in Social & Behavioral Sciences; a Paralegal diploma authored the publications "Bridges to Freedom" and "Positive Interventions", and was granted parole in 2019. James earned a second AS degree in Human Services Addiction Studies and graduated Magna Cum Laude from California State University Los Angeles, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Rehabilitation Services. James' Case Management work on Skid Row in Los Angeles has resulted in Congressional recognition and contributed to many homeless men and women reconnecting with loved ones and securing long-term housing. James is currently studying Social Change & Innovation at the University of Southern California, as a Graduate student in the Suzanne-Dworak School of Social Work.
Wendy Travers Chao
Wendy has years of experience in helping communities thrive, through her work at various nonprofits and schools in the Midwest and California. She graduated from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with a B.S. in Business Administration (Marketing). In her previous job at the Silverlake Jewish Community Center, Wendy acted as registrar for the preschool and b’nai mitzvah programs, created new cost and time saving processes, and loved helping the families feel a sense of welcome and belonging. At the University of Minnesota’s College of Continuing and Professional Studies, Wendy prepared course materials and conference room setups for a large catalog of adult education courses, created and reported on post-course surveys, and managed the billing process.
While her three sons were young, Wendy worked as a Special Education Paraprofessional in Minnesota schools, acting as a 1:1 guide to students with a variety of special needs. She took courses in wellness and mindfulness in schools, including MindUp! training and Resilience Training. It was during this time that Wendy realized her passion for wellness and healing, and she completed her Certificate in Holistic Health Studies from St. Catherine University in St.Paul, Minnesota. Wendy is thrilled to join Center for Council and is grateful for the sense of purpose and community it brings to her life.
Programs and Operations Consultant
Most recently, Josh Jentzsch was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco, where he lived in a remote desert town near the border with Algeria. Through dust storms and extreme temperatures, he taught English and helped numerous Moroccans start or expand their businesses, teaching basic accounting, website development, and business soft-skills. Prior to that, he spent eleven years in the legal services industry, where he owned one firm and managed another. Because of his passion and acumen for establishing effective systems for growth, he has also helped numerous start-ups, acting as an adviser and operations manager. The vision of Center for Council dovetails perfectly with Josh's philosophy to "give back better," offering the world and our communities more than what was handed us. Josh has a degree in History from Westminster College, an intimate liberal arts university in Salt Lake City.
A true champion for dreamers, David inspires social change. He is the author of Show Up!: Unlocking the Power of Relational Networking, a story-filled guide for those hungry for what's next in life; showing how to connect with opportunities by investing in authentic relationships. He is a business/nonprofit advisor, and a sought-after keynote speaker. He has appeared in Time Magazine, CNN, Al Jazeera, among many other news outlets. He believes joy in life is increased when we give our lives away for the joy of others! David supports Center for Council with his creative communication skills and engagement strategies to elevate the visibility of our work.