Entering the nonprofit workforce in 2003, I began as a youth counselor in a continuation school, juvenile hall, and then a group home. I became frustrated with the lack of opportunity for the youth to take accountability for their actions and learn how to make different decisions. With the intention of being more effective in my work, I taught in K-12 schools for four years while returning to CSUMB to earn a Master’s Degree in Public Policy. During this time, I became a volunteer mediator with Restorative Justice Partners, Inc. (RJP).
RJP was later the hosting agency for my Master’s internship. My project included the formation of an effective and politically feasible “RJ in the Schools” program. The project was a success and secured additional funding for the agency. I was hired as the Schools Program Coordinator. Soon after my hire, I was promoted to Programs Coordinator. The position was responsible for the community progression of all five of RJP’s programs. I became the Executive Director of RJP in July of 2013. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work each day to provide young people with the opportunity to learn from their mistakes while they repair harm they have caused in the community.
Coordinator, Victim-Offender Reconciliation Program (VORP)
Veronica joined RJP, Inc. in the summer of 2013 as the VORP Coordinator. Veronica’s main duties are overseeing and managing an average of 240 cases a year and a pool of about 40 volunteer mediators. “My goal is to close cases compliant with successful and meaningful mediations and develop a diverse, engaged and trained group of volunteers; you can’t have one without the other.” Veronica generates and facilitates 2-3 initial volunteer trainings, 3-4 advance volunteer trainings and hosts an eventful volunteer appreciation experience each year.
The Nonprofit Alliance of Monterey County awarded Veronica The 2016 Innovation Award; due to her personal touch of thoughtfulness and dedication to her work. She has grown the program’s reach and effectiveness. Veronica has strengthened the VORP Program in regard to product, training, communication, partnership. She applies innovation ideas to her work and brainstorms ways to continually improve services. Her planning, program vision and genuine desire to beneficially impact the lives of minors referred to the Victim Offender Reconciliation Program are respected and honored.
Originally from Mendocino County, Veronica also known as Ronnie, obtained her Bachelors in Human Communications at CSU Monterey Bay with a double concentration in Creative Writing/Social Action and Journalism/Media Studies. Veronica enjoys living in Monterey with her growing family: Danny, their children Ailani and Jesé, and her mother in-law Martina. Veronica also coaches JV Girls Soccer at Santa Catalina.
“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” ― Mother Teresa
Program Coordinator, Restorative Justice in the Schools Program
In 2013 I came to RJP, Inc. as the Restorative Justice in the Schools Program Coordinator after completing a masters degree in Public Administration at Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. Prior to that I attended Seattle Pacific University and received a BA in Global Development Studies. Through my educational career, experiences of growing up in a Nicaraguan-American family in Monterey County, and my time learning about and exploring different parts of the world I have become dedicated to being a steward of social change. As a facilitator of social and behavior change, I often find myself saying that communities are their own best experts at finding solutions to the challenges that they face. It’s my great pleasure to serve my community and help find solutions that are going to make the most sense for the realities of the people of Monterey County.
When I am not at RJP, Inc. you can often find me outside, whether it’s training for a half-marathon, hiking, walking on the beach, or camping; and always with my family and friends and a dog or two. To relax I love to get lost in a good book or experiment with a new baking recipe and drinking lots and lots of coffee.
Arlene de la Pena
Case Manager, Restorative Justice in the Schools Program
Arleen De La Peña was born in Chicago, Illinois and into a family of two; her mother Ahide Serrano and brother Oracio Serrano who was born deaf. Due to Arleen’s brothers disability she is fluent in American Sign Language and in two other languages which are Spanish and English. Arleen was raised in Monterey County; she attended North Monterey County High School (NC), Monterey Peninsula College (MPC), and California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB). At CSUMB she is studied Collaborative Health and Human Services (CHHS) with an emphasis in Social Work (SW). She was fortunate to obtain the opportunity to intern with Restorative Justice Partners, Inc., and became part of the great team as a staff member as the Case Manager in Schools on October, 2016. This opportunity has given her the ability to give back to her community which once gave to her!
Coordinator, Victim Impact Program
Thomas Lee joined Restorative Justice Partners in 1995 shortly after its inception. His paid job had him working with computers and paperwork, and he wanted to interact with people, especially those from different walks of life whom he could learn from. And he got exactly what he wanted! As a volunteer mediator, Tom has worked on a variety of cases and was selected to work out several cases of great sensitivity or elevated severity.
Since 2015 he has coordinated the Victim Impact Program (VIP) speakers’ bureau in conjunction with the Monterey County Probation Department and county youth institutions. The program invites victims of crime to speak about their experiences in front of audiences of young offenders, inviting all parties to listen and grow. Tom arranges speaker visits with staff for youth at the Monterey County Youth Center, Juvenile Hall, and Rancho Cielo. Tom also enjoys speaking about Restorative Justice and has twice addressed audiences at the Peace and Justice Center in Seaside. He is a retired government scientist and still does part time meteorology.