Joelle’s career has seen her teaching, leading, and developing in various roles and across multiple continents both in academia and in nonprofit. She is determined to use her diverse skills and experiences in program development, data analysis, curriculum development, and teaching, as well as her own love of learning, to build and offer tools and opportunities to Returning Citizens as they transition out of prison and back into the community.
Todd has been working in the public interest in one form or another since 2007. He served in the U.S. Air Force as a network analyst and team lead for nearly eight years. He then became a lawyer after attending the USC Gould School of Law and has worked in criminal defense, dependency, and immigration law. He is dedicated to ensuring positive outcomes for those individuals whose personal histories create barriers to success and is excited to use his technical and legal skills to that end.
Roberto is a proud Angeleno who grew up in the Pico-Union neighborhood. When he was still a teen, he was caught up in the wave of violence, gangs, and police brutality that plagued LA County for more than a decade. During his 28 years of incarceration, he became skilled at facilitation, leadership, and curriculum development. He also began formal post-secondary education. During his transition, he continued that education and also began to work in helping other Returning Citizens. He has worked in housing, in vocational development, and in educational programs. He brings a vast knowledge of opportunities for Returning Citizens and an indefatigable approach to his work in helping individuals to carry out their unique plans for their lives post-incarceration.
At 17, Joel was sentenced to Life Without the Possibility of Parole. While incarcerated, he committed himself to a life of nonviolence and focused on personal growth, taking college classes and leading self-help groups. Legal changes brought about by organizations like Human Rights Watch and the Anti Recidivism Coalition gave Joel a chance for release. Inspired by how the work of activists changed his life forever, he became active in criminal justice reform, working to change laws and bring hope to thousands of people in prison, and even testifying before the legislature. After his release in 2015, Joel completed his B.A. in Liberal Arts and worked in transitional housing. Now, he brings that passion for change and justice to his work at Mass Liberation, using his education and experience to motivate and inspire Returning Citizens.
Growing up in a family lifestyle of gangs and drugs in the East Los Angeles area, Joseph decided to try and make a change and pursued a degree in Administration of Justice at LA City College. He worked as a Private Investigator for different law firms while attending school, but then he was convicted and imprisoned. After 22 years of prison, and after completing a pre-release program, he was assured that he would have help while he transitioned back into society. Upon his release, however, he found out that the zip code he was living in had no housing assistance available. He was given $200 gate money and told by his Parole Agent to pitch a tent. He found his own transitional housing, and using all his skills as a Private Investigator, he researched all the Reentry programs he could find to help with his transition. In doing so, he found himself passionate about making sure other Returning Citizens did not face the same barriers that he did when they came home. He also found Mass Liberation, and now he uses that know-how and his familiarity with LA County to help others to find the housing and employment they need.
Melissa Shumsky has built a life around serving underserved populations, but she has also personally experienced so many of the traumas suffered by Returning Citizens. She herself entered the foster care system at 16 after her mother passed from addiction, and she found gangs while trying to survive. She turned her life around and had a baby, got married and was going to college for nursing, but during this time, she was indicted on federal charges and faced 40 years-to-life for marijuana. After her release, her husband, who was also formerly incarcerated, was murdered, leaving her a widow with their small child. She found the field of Reentry in 2015, and she found her life’s calling. Her passion is to see that everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential. She is currently pursuing higher education for Social Work to achieve her MSW.
Brad Nemer has led product design and development in global corporations and still-in-the-garage startups. He strives to solve problems from the core rather than simply treat symptoms, and above all believes in individuals’ potential to grow beyond past challenges and thrive.
Donato Clay is an experienced healthcare professional who currently works as an operations executive with National Veterinary Associates where he oversees Specialty ER hospitals in the Pacific Northwest. He is also an Army Reservist Judge Advocate where he serves as a senior criminal defense services attorney with the rank of Major. As a former civilian criminal defense attorney, Donato fully believes Mass Liberation’s mission to support Returning Citizens.
Donato holds a law degree from Southwestern Law School, a Master’s in Public Health from UCLA, and an MBA from Yale University School of Management.
With more than 40 years of professional experience in business, psychology and education, John Brown says that listening is the number one quality that top performing professionals most value in a coaching relationship.
“There aren’t very many places where a person in a professional role can dive deep into their own thoughts and experiences without having to account for other peoples’ responses and reactions,” says Brown, who has been a full time executive coach since 2012.
John has contributed to research on human behavior in healthcare settings that has been published in the esteemed New England Journal of Medicine. He has presented to the Obama Administration’s White House Office on AIDS Policy on complex team behavior in healthcare delivery, and was a consulting psychologist for the United States Embassy in San José, Costa Rica. He has held directorships at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, the American International School of Costa Rica, and the Universidad Latinoamericana de Ciencia y Tecnología, and was a private practice psychotherapist for fourteen years.
John has a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University, and graduate degrees from New Mexico State University and the University of Costa Rica, where he lived full time for nearly 20 years, and continues to be a licensed psychologist, providing technical assistance to La Posada de Belén, a refuge for teenage mothers who are survivors of abuse, neglect and human trafficking, and to Bosque de las Madres, an initiative to reduce gender based violence in rural Costa Rica. He lives in Sacramento, CA with his partner of 30 years.
Kerby Altidor is an operational consultant with over 10 years of experience and has worked in a variety of industries, including consulting, telecom, and tourism. He has also worked on a variety of large-scale engagements which include global transformations, system implementations, and scaling emerging business lines. Currently, Kerby is a manager of strategy & transformation at Morgan Franklin Consulting, where he leads a team focused on business integration and project management.
Kerby holds an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Florida.
Kim has built a career helping early stage companies evolve and scale-up to more sustainable and stable long term organizations. She has over 20 years of experience building businesses across several industries such as technology, medical devices and healthcare services. She currently serves as the COO of Traditions Behavioral Health, a Psychological Corporation, where she is helping the company expand services across the United States. Kim is a licensed professional engineer in the state of California and holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Jay Gutierrez was born into the country’s poorest congressional district, the South Bronx, and moved to Texas when he was fourteen. At nineteen years old, he was sentenced to fifty years in State Prison. Seven years into his sentence, Jay decided to make a change. He used the driven character traits that led him into incarceration to foster something he realized he had lacked, empathy for others. While incarcerated, Jay became a peer mentor and educated himself with every book he could borrow from the small prison library. He worked to understand others in a different way, meeting them where they were. He worked to make himself a better citizen. He made parole at his first opportunity, and decided to continue to make empathy his path. He has been working in various reentry and social services efforts since his own return to society.
Jay met Joelle working together at an employment preparation service on Skid Row in Los Angeles that served the city’s homeless and reentry populations. Joelle came to social services through a winding and indirect path through academia. Teaching and building life-changing relationships is her internal drive. Every individual has the right to experience compassion and joy, and it is Mass Liberation’s purpose to help others meet these potentials.
Todd came to the Mass Liberation team to lend his technical and legal expertise. Growing up, Todd watched his father, struggling with mental health issues, interacting with the justice system time and time again. Motivated by these interactions and by others he saw in his rural community, Todd chose to go to law school to become a defense attorney, after serving in the military. He believes in fair and effective representation for every individual and brings that passion to reentry efforts.
Roberto Luca became invested in the development of Mass Liberation early on in 2019 as well. He and Joelle met at a symposium on employment for Returning Citizens, and he began to offer help to the team with his specific expertise in LA County and with CDCR, and his talent for mobilizing and connecting people with a passion to make change in their own lives and in the community.
Today, Mass Liberation has two houses and a Community Center in South Bay as well as many resources and tools for Returning Citizens, and the team works together to build community and affinity for Returning Citizens and create opportunities to find joy and experience peace.