Director of Organizational Development and Central Mass Programs
Brenda Vezina has served as Director of the Central MA Recovery Learning Community for the past seven years, following her 10 years as Director of the Tradewinds Clubhouse in Southbridge, MA. Her work in creating a system for the Peer movement has seen the RLC grow and thrive under her guidance. Her strengths include focus on relationships that help heal the effects of trauma and extreme experiences, changing the course of a person’s well-being. Under her leadership, the CMRLC offers a variety of professional trainings that are well respected and sought after in Central MA and beyond, including Trauma Informed Services, Health and Social Equity, and Professionalism in the Peer Workforce. A licensed social worker with 25 plus years in the field and a trauma survivor, she is Executive Producer of the “Voice Award” honorable mention documentary “What Happened to You?” which speaks to the causes and effects of childhood trauma and their relationship to public health issues.
Director of Operations
A Certified Psychiatric Rehabilitation Practitioner (CPRP), Certified Peer Specialist (CPS), and person with lived experience with mental health and trauma issues, Donna has worked in the mental health recovery field for 27 years. Donna was a 2008 Eli Lilly Reintegration Award recipient for Mentor-ship. She is currently the Director of Operations at the Central Mass RLC and Kiva Center, and is a trained WRAP facilitator, Hearing Voices Network facilitator, and Human Rights Advocate. Donna is a firm believer in “nothing about us without us.”
Donna’s favorite author is Jane Austen, and she likes to spend time with her 4 grandchildren, read, cook, figure out crossword puzzles, and watch really bad monster movies (such as Tremors, Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus, and Sharknado).
Office Manager, Peer Facilitator & Certified Alternative Health Practitioner/Teacher
Joyce has been working at Central Mass Recovery Learning for close to almost 10 years. Besides making sure that all runs smoothly within the office, she facilitates a number of groups promoting healthy options. Prior to working here, she was employed at an Herbal Apothecary/Holistic Center where numerous alternative health certifications were obtained and used toward her own recovery. She loves people and especially seeing people working toward a better life and happiness. She looks forward to nice weather as free time often means being outside with her hands in the dirt or playing golf.
Mike MacInnis, Certified Peer Specialist
Mike “Mac” is responsible for the continuity and diversity of our meetings in the 96 communities that the Central Mass RLC serves. He also manages the peer facilitators who run those meetings and coordinates and facilitates the many different trainings we are proud to offer. Mike has completed virtually every peer certification and group there is, and has been a strong voice for those of us with lived experience via public speaking in front of the state senate and legislature, multiple radio and television appearances and workshops. Mike is the weekly host of “Talking Wellness” on Worcester’s Unity Radio WUTY 97.9FM. Mike’s story has been featured in a segment of the “Voice Award” nominated documentary ‘What Happened To You”.
Mike holds a national certification in the field of fitness and personal training and performs stand-up comedy throughout New England. A dad, a loyal friend, sports fanatic and dog lover, Mike lives his life by the creed “Never give up. Never, ever give up.”
Patty Rodriguez, CPS
Special Reporting Coordinator
Patty has been a part of the Central Mass Recovery Learning Community since April 2017. She began work on the technical side with the redesign of the Central Mass RLC website and has since contributed more in administrative and special projects roles. Patty is a person with lived experiences with trauma and mental health and is a Certified Peer Specialist (CPS). She continues to broaden her knowledge of being trauma-informed and all aspects of the peer movement. In her free time, she enjoys being involved in and inspired by the Steampunk scene and has an inherent natural desire to know how things work. Creativity and curiosity are her motivations.
MUCH Coordinator and Peer Specialist
Jillian joined the Central MA Recovery Learning Community in June of 2018. Since becoming a Certified Peer Specialist in 2015, Jillian has worked in multiple roles providing direct one-on-one peer support, group facilitation and functioning as the assistant to the Human Rights Coordinator within her previous role. She uses her lived experiences existing within and navigating the mental health system as both a child and young adult to advocate for the rights and choices of people currently still within them. Not doing for, but walking alongside and doing ‘with’. Jillian also brings a creative arts background to the role which you can see in the weekly email updates, printed marketing materials and the monthly Massachusetts United for Community and Healing (MUCH) newsletter. Jillian is passionate about bringing topics considered ‘taboo’, particularly suicide, to the forefront and hopes to create spaces and strategies for people to have conversation around these topics more naturally. She wishes to collaborate with the community at large to create ways that keep people in their lives at they navigate the more painful or challenging pieces that are often a normal part of the human experience.
Zia Access Center: Director
Pronouns: They/Them/Theirs (He or She Pronouns are also acceptable)
Vesper has been a part of the Central Mass Recovery Learning Community for several years and works as Director of Zia, a young adult access center operated by the Central Mass Recovery Learning Community’s connection site, Kiva Center. Zia has 2 locations one in the Kiva Center and the other at The Bridge of Central Mass, Worcester, MA. Vesper is a person of many lived experiences they are an inter-sectional activist and one of our state and nation-wide trainers. They train curriculums surrounding the topics of trauma, trauma-informed services, state-wide organizational training development, public health, mental health, peer support, gender, queer & trans communities, attraction, race, ethnicity, nationality, culture, social work and social justice. Vesper is skilled in many aspects of peer specialist/mutuality-based work such as peer bridging, general peer support work, peer supervision, peer mentoring, recovery-based coaching and peer facilitation. Vesper is bi-lingual and has supported their Latin community through the advocacy group called “Latinos en Accion (Latinos in action.)” Vesper as a lecturer and instructor has taught at various universities and has spoken on several panels within Central Massachusetts and beyond. They were awarded the Transformation Center’s “Inspirational Journey Award.” Vesper aims to build leadership in all people and believes recovery is not only possible but probable for any person who seeks it.
Khalil has worked as an advocate with sexual assault survivors and uses this past work to understand the intersections of trauma(s) and mental health. Khalil hopes to increase understandings of how gender, economic status, race, culture, and language impact lived experiences with mental health. More specifically, Khalil aims to incorporate these perspectives into research through their role with as an Administrative Specialist for the Central Mass RLC and The Transformation Center. Always aiming to learn, Khalil works to bring together history, lived experience, and community narratives to dispel socially pervasive myths and stereotypes regrading mental health, substance use, and trauma. Khalil believes that each person is the driver of their own healing journey and deserves support and compassion while navigating their experiences. Ultimately, Khalil strives to increase lived experience representation through peer-lead research.
Young Adult Peer Mentor
Shayn is a Certified Peer Specialist who has been a part of the Zia Young Adult Access Center team since August of 2018. Their passion lies in expanding awareness around the diversity of human experiences, and believes that every person is deserving of community and self-determined support. Their lived experience within the mental health system motivates them to continue supporting people actively going through it. They are an advocate for young adult and queer communities, and actively seek to highlight and address
the impact of trauma and systemic oppression with the intention of creating greater change.
Eden, a Certified Peer Specialist in the state of Massachusetts, joined the Zia Young Adult Access Center team at the Kiva Center and Open Sky Community Services as their Recovery Navigator in February of 2019. Eden’s passion for systemic change has been a focal point of her work since 2015 when she began advocating for increased educational opportunity and access for youth who identified with various forms of trauma similar to those she experienced herself.
Shulamith.Jacobi@centralmassrlc.org 508-751-9600 Pronouns: They/Them/Theirs
Shulamith first joined the Central Mass RLC as a community member and is now the Peer Bridger. As an advocate, Shulamith’s previous work focused on decarceration (the elimination of mass incarceration), and fostering community-based support. Shulamith firmly believes in a harm-reduction approach to ending cycles of violence (both interpersonal and systemic). They spearheaded the Life After Violence peer-support group dedicated to creating intentional de-stigmatized and non-judgmental space for dialogue about having perpetrated trauma to occur, after recognizing that it is only through openness and accountability that growth and change can be made. Shulamith blends a sociological and personal approach to systems change and is driven towards ensuring equity, justice, and self-determination for all.
Lindsey.Vezina@centralmassrlc.org 508-626-2206 Pronouns: She/Her/Hers
Lindsey has worked at the Central Mass RLC for over eight years. Currently, she is working as the Wellness Director for The Transformation Center. Lindsey is a trauma-informed yoga instructor and enjoys making yoga accessible to all people, kids included! She is an engaging and thought-provoking trainer of Trauma-Informed Peer Support (TIPS) and the 12-week Parenting Journey class. Lindsey recently became a Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) train-the-trainer in “Preventing Workplace Discrimination & Harassment” and aims to prevent and decrease workplace discrimination across the Commonwealth.
Andrei.Silva@centralmassrlc.org 508-626-2206 Pronouns: He/Him/His
Andrei specializes in reaching the strong Brazilian population. He was formally a community Bridger and has been a Peer Support Worker at the Recovery Learning Community for several years, helping with daily maintenance as well as with Peer Support in different settings throughout the community including long and short term hospitals, group homes and libraries. Andrei is from Brazil and has been in different schools improving his English and has used this process to engage with other Peers, who like him, are comfortable with Peer Support in their native language, Portuguese. Andrei likes to spend time with his dog Luxy and teaching Zumba. Catch a class at the RLC!