Dr. Liza Chowdhury

Project Director

Dr. Chowdhury is a scholar activist and yogi with several years of experience working in the field of community corrections and teaching in higher education.  During her career as a Probation Officer, her passion was working with justice involved youth and partnering with local schools to create positive outcomes for the young people she supervised.

After her departure from the New Jersey Judiciary, she continued her passion of working with youth into her career as a academic by continuing to advocate for innovative, evidence based, trauma informed community based solutions and safe spaces for youth. She also is a certified Yoga Instructor and utilizes wellness practices in her work with the community and her students. As an expert in this field, she regularly volunteers with youth focused community organizations, consults with organizations that work with families, advocates for social justice and partners with credible messengers to develop innovative interventions for youth that are justice involved. Her main goal in life is to continue utilizing community partnerships, academic research, activism, healing practices and education to fight against inequality and injustice.

Presently, she teaches at Borough of Manhattan Community College (CUNY) within the Social Science, Human Services and Criminal Justice Department. Prior to her current appointment, she taught at Fairleigh Dickinson University and Rutgers University. She has experience in teaching both graduate and undergraduate courses that include Research Methods, Corrections, Gender Crime and Justice, Gangs and Street Crimes, Introduction to Criminal Justice, Contemporary Issues, Community Resource Management, Advanced Corrections, Race and Crime and Juveniles and Violence. She loves her students and believes that their achievements are her greatest rewards in life. One of her most meaningful experiences in teaching has been teaching students for the NJ STEP program inside correctional facilities. Presently, she advocates for continued opportunities for students inside correctional facilities around the country.

Dr. Chowdhury’s research interests are intersectionality, juvenile justice, gender and crime, mass incarceration, restorative justice, collective efficacy, prison infractions and punishment, racial disparity and the criminal justice system, and trauma focused violence interventions. In 2017, she co-founded a nonprofit entitled Reimagining Justice. Her partners and her provide training, motivational speaking, transformative mentoring, narrative therapy, consultation, resilience circles and support for organizations and community members that are looking to develop innovative solutions for youth in schools and the community. Reimagining Justice has partnered with organizations in Belize, Illinois, Virginia, NJ and NY in the first year of its incorporation. The goal of this organization is to reimagine a justice system that provides love, empathy, equality and opportunities for our communitie
“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change, I’m changing the things I cannot accept”
Angela Davis

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Teddie Martinez

Hospital based Violence Interventions Coordinator

Theodore Martinez, commonly known as Teddie is a campaigner against gun violence and advocate for returning citizens (ex-felons). Born and raised in the city of Paterson, Teddie has worked with communities across the city, state, and country, through organizations like Paterson’s Men Stand UP, Queens Life Camp Inc., Newark ‘s FP Youth OutCry Foundation and Reimagining Justice to eradicate violence.

Teddie works as the Hospital Violence Intervention (HVIP) Coordinator/Supervisor for Reimagining Justice HVIP program at Saint Joseph Hospital in Paterson, NJ.

In 1990, Teddie fell victim to a brutal gun assault where he was shot 11 times. It is that experience that motivates him to keep fighting to end the vicious cycle of violence that’s sweeping across America- not just in Paterson. To raise awareness of the ongoing violence in the city of Paterson, using Life Camps Inc theme ‘’BURY DA BEEF” Teddie collaborated with other community organization, City Officials, Pastors and Community members and organized a series of anti –violence rallies. In 2009, after witnessing a young man get murdered, Teddie co-created Project Change Anti- Violence Movement with Kenyatte Stewart a lawyer from Paterson NJ. Together they hosted anti- violence seminars and speaking engagements in the Paterson Public School system. In 2010, they organized a successful truce among local gang members in the city of Paterson that ended months of violence in the city. In 2012, Teddie Co-founded PROJECT RECONNECT a 501c3 nonprofit organization with his Barbara. In 2013, Teddie and Barbara created a documentary titled ‘’Death by Design” which addressed the cause, affect and cure to violence in the city of Paterson. Though his work with Project Reconnect, he was instrumental in organizing a truce in 2015 with city officials. Teddie also serves as mentor and life coach to men and woman of all ages.

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Casey Melvin

Assistant Director

Casey C. Melvin is native to the Great City of Paterson where he has lived, worked and thrivedfor his entire life. He is a business owner, and a passionate advocate. He has beenself-employed for more than twenty-four years. After completing cosmetology training at Wilfred Academy in 1990, Melvin opened the door to his barber shop, Kutt Creators, in 1994. Thebarbershop changed names in 1998 to Simply the Best Barbershop and was at the samelocation for more than twenty-five years.

Melvin shares his barbering experiences by regularly teaching courses to inmates at the Passaic County Jail. Barbering has allowed him to serve asa listening and oftentimes helpful ear for his clientele and, consequently, the community at large. In addition to serving his faithful clients and teaching, Melvin also serves his community bycreating opportunities and experiences for all ages. Most notably is The Day of the Babieswhich can now boast twenty-five years of celebration and dedication to children. Melvin hasbeen an active member of the B.R.O.T.H.E.R.S. of Paterson since it was created in 2002.Hiscommunity activism is unceasing. He is wherever there is a need. In 2018, Melvin identified aneed in the Paterson City Council and sought election to the Council-at- Large seat.

He is active in community organizations including The Paterson Street Keepers which he co-founded in 2001, and The Men Stand Up Anti-violence Initiative where he served as manager.

Both organizations address violence, provide resources and aim to bring peace in the streets.Other organizations include Team Charity, and BAND Against Neighborhood Destruction. As aparent, he has served as president of the PTO and as president of the Paterson Public SchoolsParent Leadership Alliance. He brings to the Paterson Healing Collective the full benefits of all the positive relationships that he has built over the years with people no matter their job title, level of education, or station in life. A quote that he lives by comes from Marcus Garvey, “I trust that you will so live today as to realize that you are masters of your own destiny, masters of yourfate; if there is anything you want in this world, it is for you to strike out with confidence and faith in self and reach for it.”

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Adam Garrastegui, Esq.

Adam Garrastegui, Esq. is a New Jersey attorney and graduate of Rutgers Law School and Rutgers Business School where he received his JDMBA and Certificate in Corporate and Business Law.  Post-graduation, he served a federal judicial clerkship with a United States Bankruptcy Judge for the District of New Jersey and later practiced as a Bankruptcy and Corporate Restructuring associate.

Realizing the growing need for positive community engagement, Adam decided to lend his skills to Paterson Healing Collective in hopes of changing the narrative surrounding inner-city youth in New Jersey.
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Jason R. Thompson

Case Manager/ Interventionist

When your kin to something, the message you bring adds a valuable, and often rare, perspective. Born and raised in the North Main area of Paterson, NJ, I’m all too familiar with the becoming a product of your environment; having the ambition to become more than what was surrounding me but not always having the proper mindset to see life’s longevity versus the day to day decisions that had to be made as a means of survival.

Being involved in violence intervention adds purpose to my past mistakes. While in prison for a violent crime, I helped other inmates understand their charge(s) and plea agreement(s), explained defensive strategies for pre-trial motions, and intentionally took the time to be a listening ear when they needed to reflect on what decisions led them to prison and how they’ll make different decisions upon their release.

Because of my criminal history and lifelong ties to North Main, I’m able to have real conversations with citizens in the community about what we’ve endured. I’m also able to be an example, to show them that there’s life beyond North Main and the energy applied towards criminal activity, it can be applied to saving our youth, starting a legitimate business, and changing what outsiders say/think about Paterson, NJ. Ultimately, my desire is to do my part in ensuring the safety of my children, family members and my community by using my connections, voice, and experiences to help clean up Paterson’s violence ridden neighborhoods and leading by the example as proof that the opportunity to live an honorable life free of crime, it’s available to all of us.

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Jaclyn Marcella

Office Manager

Jaclyn Marcella attained her New Jersey State Social Work License in 2011 after graduating with her Master’s Degree in Social Work from Fordham University. Jaclyn’s experiences have encompassed a broad spectrum of clinical and community outreach practices.She spent seven years working in the New Jersey Children’s System of Care (CSOC), serving youth with behavioral/emotional health challenges and special needs and their families throughout Passaic County.

Within CSOC, Jaclyn worked in both the Children’s Mobile Response and Stabilization Services program and the Care Management Organization. Shehasprovided crisis intervention and care management services while working in collaboration with various systems such as the NJ Division of Child Protection and Permanency, the Division of Developmental Disabilities, probation/parole, school districts, community programs and clinical service providers. Currently, Jaclyn serves as a School Social Worker at Manchester Regional High School in Haledon, NJ. Jaclyn practices from a wraparound model of services and strength-based perspective. Through a trauma focused lens, Jaclyn uses active listening skills to meet youth and families where they are at and supports them to identify and then build upon their strengths. Jaclyn’s true passion is serving the community of Paterson. She has spent countless hours volunteering with various grass roots community organizations to help assist in planning community events and using her skills and understanding of systems to help these organizations reach their goals. Jaclyn is most proud of her work with Teens2bHeard, a nonprofit organization that teaches leadership, youth advocacy and peer support in the city of Paterson. Over the last seven years Jaclyn has mentored Teens2bHeard youth, supporting them in whatever they may need to reach their goals.
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Samiyah Abdullah

Samiyah Abdullah is a Newark New Jersey native, educated in North Jersey school system. She obtained her bachelor’s degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University with a major in Criminal Justice and a minor in Legal Studies. She has dedicated her career to being a public servant. She is a personal assistant for the author of Friend in Your Pocket Inc. Which is an inspirational/ motivational book for adults and children.

She managed the calendar, organized meetings, arranged networking events etc. She worked for Elmwood Park Police Department as a Telecommunications Operator. Dispatching 911 emergency calls for police, fire department and EMS along with a variety of other responsibilities. She worked for a non- for-profit agency called Transitional Professionals with Bergen County Jail. The mission of the agency was to provide support to those recently released from jail. Responsibilities included working in the inmate advocate office, the law library, instructing weekly programing for the Drug Rehabilitation Unit and facilitated an art therapy class with the females in the Immigration Unit. Serving justice involved individuals is her passion and she enjoys seeing our people flourish. She is a devout vegan in March of 2020 she launched her own business. “It’s a Way of Life” 100% Vegan Irish Sea Moss drinks and gels. She believes when you eat clean your mind opens making you more aware allowing individuals to grow and elevate themselves. Samiyah looks forward to helping the participants of Paterson Healing Collective thrive and be the best version of themselves. “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life” – Confucius
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Barbara Martinez

Data /Grant Manager

Barbara has been a part of the anti-violence movement since 2001, and currently works with Reimagining Justice as Data/Grant manager for the Paterson, NJ Hospital Violence Intervention Program (HVIP).  As single mother, helping two sons grow into maturity and two daughters become women, Barbara witnessed the growing gang violence in the city of Paterson and was determined to make a difference, starting with her children.

As a result, Barbara started on a mission as community mom to embrace at risk youth with the hope of steering them down the right path. She also became an advocate after witnessing the brutal beating of her brother by the police.
Barbara has a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice w/concentration in Law and is in pursuit of her law degree. For over 25 years, Barbara has worked in Corporate America as a Manager/Supervisor, Case Manager and Trainer. In 2012, she and husband Teddie created a 501c3 non-profit organization known as Project Reconnect CDC. In 2013, Barbara helped to create a documentary titled “Death by Design’’ addressing the cause, affect and cure to end violence in the city of Paterson. In 2015, working behind the scenes she worked collaboratively with other community organizations to successfully bring rival gang members together for a gang truce. Barbara also served as Case Manager for the Passaic County Re-Entry Program (P.R.E.P) at Passaic County Jail. Barbara formerly worked as a NJ Ombudsman Volunteer Advocate for the Elderly and as a Team Responder for the Domestic Violence Response Team (DVRT).
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T. Rahshon.Dixon

Community safety planner/Interventionist

Rahshon Dixon currently serves as the Parks Department Supervisor for the Department of Public Works in the City of Paterson. A native of Paterson, New Jersey, Mr. Dixon is a concerned community member who has devoted his time to violence prevention and advocacy in the city. He is also a member of several grass roots organizations in the City of Paterson such as The B.R.O.T.H.E.R.S. of Paterson Inc., The POWER Coalition and The Village.

In addition to his commitment to the organizations, Mr. Dixon is also the founder of The Street Keepers, an organization focused on peaceful conflict resolution in the streets of Paterson to prevent gun violence. He is a graduate of Eastside High School and has since returned to his alma mater to speak to youth about the pitfalls of the streets, conflict resolution and decision making. Volunteer work has been Mr. Dixon’s passion for the last fifteen years. He has worked with the city’s most challenging youth as well as adults while trying to encourage “peace in the streets”. In summary, Rashon Dixon is a pillar of the Paterson Community. He has dedicated himself to be a resource to the community he serves. He has received multiple awards and has been recognized for his volunteer efforts by city leaders as well as the community at large. His commitment to them powerment of his community has been consistent and will continue to improve the landscape of his city.
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Quan Hargrove

Community safety planner/Interventionist

LaQuan Hargrove currently serves as the Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) Coordinator & Case Expeditor for Passaic County’s Department of Human Services. A native of Newark, New Jersey, Mr. Hargrove is a concerned community member who has devoted his career to advocating for children and families who have come into contact with the Juvenile Justice System.

He is also a member of a number of grass roots organizations in the City of Paterson such as The B.R.O.T.H.E.R.S. of Paterson Inc., The Village as well as The Street Keepers. Hargrove is a graduate of East Orange High School and later the Pennsylvania State University. He has worked with the City’s most challenging youth in his current role as well as in previous positions at Great Falls Academy and the Paterson Youth Services Bureau. In short, Hargrove is dedicated to being a resource to the community he serves. His commitment to the empowerment of his community has been consistent and will continue to strengthen.
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N. Iris Akpan

N. Iris Akpan is a current resident of Newark NJ. She attended Fordham University where she obtained her Master’s degree in social work and now holds a New Jersey state License as a Social Worker. Iris has been focused on serving her community while working with the co-occurring population. Iris has over five years of experience in addiction treatment and recovery.

She has worked alongside other entities such as Drug Court, DCPP, Probation and Parole to provide psychotherapy services while being trauma informed to individuals seeking successful reentry into their communities. Iris is passionate about her work to decriminalize substance addiction and normalizing the need for mental health services in Urban communities. Her mission is to provide support through empathy and understanding with everyone she encounters and serves.
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Sasha Lowery

Sasha graduated from Saint Peter’s University in 2019 with a Master’s Degree in Public Administration. She has spent the past five years of her professional life working in social services and advocacy. Her area of expertise is working with those who are justice involved, youth, and victims of violence. She is a social justice advocate ,and wants to better the community.

A staunch believer in altruism, Sasha enjoys volunteering and attending community events with her family.

As a youth, Sasha fondly remembers playing basketball and attending local block parties absent of fear. It’s that remembrance, coupled with a can-do attitude, that has fueled her desire to help Paterson restore its reputation.

As a Case Manager/Interventionist, she seeks to understand her clients’ needs while helping them develop a plan to achieve the best possible outcome.

“We have to talk about liberating minds as well as liberating society.” -Angela Davis

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