STAFF APPRECIATION: Jalecia Jones
This month the Berkeley team said goodbye to one of our most seasoned and incredible clinicians, Jalecia Jones. We are excited to still have her working at Seneca as she was recently promoted to Clinical Supervisor for the UE West Bay Programs. We are so happy for her and the team at West Bay. Jalecia served the Berkeley Program for 12 years as a mental health counselor initially and then as our lead clinician. She built strong relationships with the kids and their families along with external providers and the internal team. While we will miss her greatly, she is going to be a great addition to the West Bay Team. She brings with her not only her clinical experience and skillset, but a caring heart that is genuinely invested in the kids and the families we serve. Her team members have all been touched and impacted by Jalecia over the years and we all wish her nothing but the best in her next career adventure. We got to spend some quality team time together to celebrate and honor Jalecia and below is a fun photo of most of the team at Berkeley
Blog Post Written By: Eidit Choochage, Clinical Supervisor
STAFF HIGHLIGHT: Lauren Kennedy
Name: Lauren Kennedy
Position: UE Coach, Los Angeles
What led you to your current position: I’ve always been passionate about working in the education sector. After college, I pursued a career as an educator for several years before realizing that I wanted to work more with vulnerable youth and help create a safe school environment for them. I received my master’s in social work while also working at a law firm that represented juvenile justice-involved youth and provided gang-intervention services. Through this career, I spent significant amounts of time on school campuses around Los Angeles while visiting my clients and observed school environments that further traumatized youth. This only reaffirmed my passion to create more trauma-informed and safe school environments that are welcoming for all students. I found the UE Coach role and knew that it was a career that would allow me to combine both my education and social work skills to create a safe and positive school environment for young kids.
What inspires you to do this work: I’m inspired by the connections I’ve made with kids throughout my professional career, by my own relationship with my son, and the relationships I’ve built with other professionals in this field. Seneca’s values completely align with my personal values, and I’m continuously inspired by the people I’ve met through Seneca who demonstrate these values in their work each day. I’m constantly learning from them and I’m very proud to be a part of a company with such a powerful and positive influence on the lives of others.
What is a recent highlight you’ve experienced in the work or an important lesson you’ve learned in this role: I facilitate a social skills group at my school site that focuses on increasing middle school self-esteem, healthy relationships and communication, and empowering young girls. It has been so rewarding to watch my students’ communication skills evolve and their self-esteem improve throughout the course of the group.
Share your life motto or something unique about yourself: I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 5 and I have 3 rescue dogs!
STAFF HIGHLIGHT: Luis Cuellar
Name: Luis Cuellar
Position: Clinical Intervention Specialist
What led you to your current position: I started working at Seneca’s SF Wraparound program in 2009, straight out of college and with no real experience in the mental health field. I enjoyed the work that I was doing with young people, and I was inspired by the training that I received in connecting youth in foster care to their biological relatives, which led me to becoming a Family Finder in SF. From there I went on to become a wraparound supervisor in Santa Clara’s wrap program when it was first getting started, and then a Mobile Response Counselor in San Leandro and Contra Costa counties. I went to grad school in 2014 to complete my MSW and had internships with different agencies in the Bay Area. After grad school I worked in Seneca’s Data and Evaluations department until I decided that I wanted to return to direct care. I had always been interested in working as a therapist at a school and All-In happened to have an opening for a bilingual clinician at my current site – Learning Without Limits in East Oakland. I have enjoyed making connections with kids, families, and staff members here and I’m in the middle of my fifth school year.
What inspires you to do this work: I feel inspired by the relationships I form with kids and families at my school and by watching students grow and be successful. I feel inspired when I can support caregivers in strengthening their relationships with their kids and when I help families move forward through a difficult time. Anytime I feel like I’ve built trust with a person feels meaningful.
What is a recent highlight you’ve experienced in the work or an important lesson you’ve learned in this role: An important lesson that I’ve learned in this role is that it can take time to feel competent as a school therapist. My first couple of years here I was not sure if my work was having an impact and I often wondered if there was more I should be doing because there was always more that needed to be done. Now I have a better understanding of where my role fits into the school (and its limitations) and I feel more at peace doing the best I can within that scope.
Share your life motto or something unique about yourself: I’m a competitive basketball player and have never lost a one on one game to anyone under 10.
STAFF HIGHLIGHT: Alyssa Roberg
Position: Unconditional Education Coach
What led you to your current position: Before starting at Seneca, I was an Education Specialist. It seemed to me that many of the interventions we put in place for the students we worked with who had IEPs would be effective for all students. Why weren’t we normalizing things such as mood checks, taking breaks, focusing on emotions and empathy, and receiving extra support on an academic assignment for all students?! When I saw this Seneca position that focused on broader culture and climate in schools, it felt like the right fit for me.
What inspires you to do this work: Every child should be able to go to their neighborhood public school and feel safe, loved, and valued. Every child should have access to education where they learn not only academics but also how to regulate emotions, utilize coping tools, and the importance of being a kind human. And, every child should have fun at school! I hope I can help create that positive school climate, where all students are taught, loved, and cared for unconditionally.
What is a recent highlight you’ve experienced in the work or an important lesson you’ve learned in this role: Sometimes it’s hard to step back and recognize the broader impact of the work we do in schools; this is something I’m working on celebrating more! One highlight for me this year is school-wide socio/emotional learning. I collaborate with the School Social Worker to create morning meeting lessons for all grades that are focused on SEL and our school’s monthly character traits. At times, this feels like a small drop in the bucket, but when I realize that all students are watching the same videos, doing community building activities, and are engaged in conversations about their emotions and being confident and empathic humans, I can see the positive impact of this work.
Share your life motto: I’ll quote Ted Lasso: “Be curious, not judgmental.” You never know what someone else is going through; I always try to ground myself in curiosity, understanding, and empathy.
STAFF HIGHLIGHT: Katera Green
Name: Katera Green
Position: Program Assistant for the UE School Based Programs
What led you to your current position: My professional background is mostly in childcare/early childhood education, and I have been collaborating with community outreach organizations since secondary school. As I have spent most of my time working with marginalized communities, I decided in college that I would focus more on those who are the most at-risk in our communities: children. I began working in early childhood education/childcare and have spent the last several years in a school setting. I have worked with kids from Pre-k to collegiate ages acting as an After School teacher, tutor, mentor, academic success coach, and counselor. Knowing that I have aspirations of going to law school in the future, I wanted to switch from in-person childcare to a more administrative role that would allow me to grow professionally and accumulate skills that I could utilize in my future career.
What inspires you to do this work: I have always loved spreading joy and helping others. In my role, I support 4 different programs: West Bay, South Bay, West Coast Connections, and the SpEd program. Knowing that I am able to help members from these amazing programs everyday and hearing all of the exciting stories from peers about their journeys throughout their careers has helped to inspire me to bring my best self to work every day. As I continue to learn in my role, I cannot help but be motivated by the amazing people I have met.
What is a recent highlight you’ve experienced in the work or an important lesson you’ve learned in this role: The most recent highlight was when I supported and attended the winter parties for several of the UE programs. My own programs are spread out a bit and I don’t get to see the others much since I do not support them; it was nice to see everyone in the different spaces and really feel the unique energy that each one has. Each team has helped me to learn an important lesson during my time here at Seneca: Success starts and ends with people. Every staff member I have interacted with at Seneca has always emphasized that growth, success, and understanding will come, but so will some twists and turns that may be unexpected. By helping me to offer myself the grace to navigate these, Seneca has shown me a human-centered approach to teaching and learning that I had rarely experienced at previous workplaces.
Share your life motto or something unique about yourself: My motto in life is a quote by Ayn Rand that says, "The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me.” I love this quote as it allows me to let go of a doubt-centered mindset and to focus on a goal-centered one.
STAFF HIGHLIGHT: Priscilla Chan
Position: Student Support Counselor
What led you to your current position: I was at a crossroad in my life when I found this opportunity with Seneca. I wasn't sure if I wanted to pursue a master program in counseling or whether I wanted to get more experience within the workforce. In accepting this position with Seneca, I've learned that there are more specialties within this line of work that I have yet to explore. I'm still figuring out my next steps but the support from Seneca to discover my path is motivating!
What inspires you to do this work: Life can be hard and as a person that has experienced the lack of a healthy support system and proper tools, I want to equip people with this knowledge to help them learn and grow in the future.
What is a recent highlight you’ve experienced in the work or an important lesson you’ve learned in this role: In order to be in this line of work, it requires a lot of introspection and consistent self-care. Showing up to serve others reminds me that I also need to do the same for myself. In the end it all comes full circle.
Share your life motto or something unique about yourself: Be you! Be so relentlessly you! It's weird that these words are coming from me because I was in a very different place last year but I'm proud of how far I've come, and I want to be there to witness the growth in others!
STAFF HIGHLIGHT: Shakera Buchanan
Name: Shakera Buchanan
Position: Clinical Intervention Specialist
What led you to your current position: I don’t feel as though I was led to this position, it was more like a calling. Growing up as a system impacted youth, I experienced and witnessed many flaws, wrongdoings and downright injustices towards youth that were impacted with mental health symptoms. Oftentimes, the treatment and care that was provided was insensitive, uncaring, and mundane. As I navigated my way through these systems, with the support of providers that really showed up for me, I was able to beat all odds and statistics that were “predestined” for me. I know firsthand how having access to quality mental health services, genuine care, and commitment, children and youth life trajectories can be altered. So here I am, doing the work!
What inspires you to do this work: The resilience of the community that I serve. The resiliency in the children and families that I am privileged to work with. They have taught me so much about this work, far greater than I could have learned in any graduate program. My kiddos are amazing!
What is a recent highlight you’ve experienced in the work or an important lesson you’ve learned in this role: This is my fourth year at my school site, and several students have been on my caseload for most of that time. Therapeutic rapport and trust have been solidified in relationship with these kiddos and their caregivers and as result, I have been able to really get to the heart of issues that brought them to services. I have so many rich, hearty and “aha” moments during sessions this school year. Without the prior work and time of building and strengthening trust in the relationship, these moments would not have occurred. Never underestimate the power of the therapeutic relationship.
Share your life motto or something unique about yourself: This too shall pass! No matter how grim the circumstances may look, as long as there is breath in the body and a willingness to change, hope is possible and obtainable.
STAFF HIGHLIGHT: Anisa Siddeeq
Name: Anisa Siddeeq
Position: Senior Mental Health Counselor
What led you to your current position: I've always wanted to get involved in work centering mental health and when I saw the opportunity to be a counselor, I thought it would be a great experience.
What inspires you to do this work: Some days are difficult in this work, but I believe in the impact of what we do and that is what keeps me grounded.
What is a recent highlight you’ve experienced in the work or an important lesson you’ve learned in this role: An important lesson I've learned in this role is accepting that you're human- it sounds silly but when you are in a position of being a role model it's hard to remember that. Showing up as my authentic self helps the students more than acting like you have it all figured out every single day.
Share your life motto or something unique about yourself: My life's motto is you don't have to show up perfectly because showing up as you are is enough.
STAFF HIGHLIGHT: Sarah Percy
Name: Sarah Percy
Position: Clinical Intervention Specialist
What led you to your current position? I started at Seneca 6 years ago as a Mental Health Counselor at Catalyst and was always drawn to the clinical piece of the work. I learned so much working in a Non Public School (NPS), including the difference that resources and early intervention can make for kids. I wanted to be a therapist and provide services to kids at the mainstream school level so that they don't reach the point of needing to go to an NPS or other more restrictive environment.
What inspires you to do this work? I grew up in Oakland and attended Oakland public schools my whole life, so it feels meaningful for me to now be a clinician within the school system that I attended. As a student growing up and now a staff member in schools for many years, I have seen too many kids who have learned to believe that they are not good enough because they don't have what they need to be successful in schools. I see my role as helping to empower kids to figure out what they need and what works for them so that they feel confident, capable and loved in their school environments.
What is a recent highlight you’ve experienced in the work or an important lesson you’ve learned in this role? I have a client who I have been working with for the past 3 years whose progress has been amazing to see. In the past when triggered, she had a hard time managing her feelings safely. This year, we have seen her use her skills to self-regulate and maintain a safe body through each and every triggering situation that she has experienced. It has been such an honor to see her growth and also the pride that she has in herself.
Share your life motto or something unique about yourself: I don't have a life motto per say but I always try to remember to be kind to myself and others and to ground myself in the thought that we're all just doing the best that we can.
Name: Cristina Sanchez-Cruz
Position: Assistant Director of School Partnerships, UE West Bay
What led you to your current position? What leads me to my current position is my desire to grow as a leader, to utilize my voice toward systemic change and to support creating healing centered spaces.
What inspires you to do this work? Within my own adversity, I have learned how valuable it is to create and have a community behind you to support you in times of joy and hardship. My community has helped me to strengthen my voice, given me reassurance that I can overcome the challenges I am faced with and has provided me with so much care when needed. These experiences have inspired me to help build supportive communities for youth, families, and staff because I strongly believe that there is healing and empowerment within community and connection.
What is a recent highlight you’ve experienced in the work or an important lesson you’ve learned in this role? I have learned so much since I started the role in July. However, one that I would like to highlight as Latinx woman and 1st year Assistant Director , is that it is okay to be nervous when trying to take up space, it is okay if my voice shakes, and it is okay if I don’t always know the answer. I am learning and growing and not aiming for perfection, instead aiming to elevate the voices of others and build supportive communities.
Share your life motto or something unique about yourself. Something unique about myself, I love and value creative expression, if it's through arts and crafts, photography, drumming, collaging! I love it all!
School Program Partnerships
Interested in joining our School Program Partnerships' Team? Check out our open positions below!