Core Team

A Thousand Joys’ work is led by a core team who envisions, designs and guides the work. By joining together and leveraging our expertise in mental health, educational practices and wellness we are able to craft programs and tools grounded in both research and practice from these complementary fields.
Hillary Johnson, Ed.D., Chief Executive OfficerDr. Johnson originally joined A Thousand Joys as a senior strategic advisor and lead educational consultant in 2018. Throughout her career she has created and advocated for powerful learning environments for learners of all ages. Over the past 25 years, Dr. Johnson has taught students ranging from kindergarten to doctoral students, as well as adults in professional and community-based settings. As the founding Chief Academic Officer of Citizens of the World Charter Schools, she provided the academic vision and direction needed to take the organization from inception to a network of seven schools across three states. Dr. Johnson has a multi-faceted perspective on our education system, developed via her work with district schools and central offices, charter schools, and educational resource centers. Though her work has taken many forms, she remains a teacher at heart and working alongside others as they strive to improve their practice has been among her most satisfying work. Dr. Johnson is the lead author of The Aspen Institute’s publication This Time, With Feeling: Integrating Social and Emotional Development and College- and Career-Readiness Standards. She graduated with distinction from the University of California, Berkeley and earned her doctorate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Hala Khouri, M.A., SEP, E-RYT 500, Clinical Advisor/Lead ConsultantHala, a long-time consultant to A Thousand Joys, is a co-creator of Off the Mat, Into the World, a non-profit organization dedicated to utilizing the tools of yoga and somatic practices within a justice framework to inspire people to be conscious leaders of change. She has taught yoga and the movement arts for over 20 years in a myriad of locations from traditional studios to schools, juvenile detention centers, and mental health hospitals. She is also trained in Somatic Experiencing, a technique which focuses on trauma’s impact on the body-mind and ways to resolve it. She provides trainings on the effects of trauma, vicarious trauma and offers tools to create a culture of wellness and to manage stress. Hala is the author of Peace from Anxiety: Get Grounded, Build Resilience & Stay Connected Amidst the Chaos (2021). She earned a bachelors in psychology with a minor in religion from Columbia University and has a masters degree in counseling psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute. She is currently a doctoral candidate in community psychology, liberation studies and ecopsychology.
Alexandra Ostrow, B.A., Strategist/Operations ConsultantAlexandra is a strategist and operations consultant who is deeply passionate about redesigning our social systems and workplaces to better care for our communities. Currently, she serves as a key operational partner to inspiring leaders who are building or managing innovative education, employment, and philanthropic initiatives. Prior to this, she served as co-founder and COO of Momentum Advisory Collective, a 501(c)3 organization that provides employment, education, and life skills training to justice-involved youth across the country. Additionally, as the founder of WhyWhisper Collective, she worked with nonprofits, philanthropists, and businesses to strengthen and expand their positive impact. Alexandra’s clients have included The Center for Social Impact Strategy at the University of Pennsylvania, Echoing Green, New York State, Cafe Momentum, Starlight Children’s Foundation, Aspen Institute, and more.

Consulting Team

To be the strongest partner to the organizations and schools we work with, A Thousand Joys has cultivated a team of consultants, some of whom have worked with us for over 10 years. Our group of consultants is comprised of licensed social workers and clinicians, executive coaches, and educators as well as yoga and mindfulness teachers. Because of their other work in academic, clinical, corporate and community-based settings, they are actively engaged in doing the work and bring practical knowledge and “know how” to their consulting practices. We aim to select a consultant or a team that best matches your organization’s needs.
Christopher Burton, B.A.Christopher Burton is driven by his passion for learning, community service, and embodying the practices of mindfulness and sharing them with others. Chris is the founder and CEO of Art Active, Inc., a non-profit that has provided art and mindfulness programming to senior citizens and youth in Los Angeles area schools since 2014. Living the importance of being both a student and a teacher, Chris has remained dedicated to learning and deepening his mindfulness practice, training skills, and counseling abilities. A meditator for more than 30 years, Burton is also a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) year-long Training in Mindfulness Facilitation (TMF). His seven years as a secondary math teacher with the Los Angeles Unified School District adds to his diverse background which includes aerospace engineering and personal fitness trainer. A graduate of Cal State Fullerton, he holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Applied Mathematics.
Sherisa Dahlgren, LMFT
Sherisa is an innovative creator of evidence-informed, holistic treatment modalities for PTSD who prioritizes joy, resiliency and playfulness as a way of life. With a master’s degree in clinical psychology and licensed as a marriage and family therapist in California, Sherisa holds specific expertise in integrating arts and holistic modalities into the healing of primary and secondary trauma. With Georgetown University, she co-created a residential retreat treatment program for chronic PTSD found to be effective in a double-blind clinical trial. She has built her professional career with a strong focus on somatic therapies, including yoga, breathing, mindfulness and movement, as well as applying these techniques to strengthen naturally existing, healthy resiliency skills in children and adults. Through her consulting firm, Inherent Wellbeing, Sherisa provides experiential trainings for organizations on wellness strategies to address vicarious trauma, serves as interim executive capacity for organizations in transition, designs and implements resiliency based clinical approaches to PTSD and creates sustainable work practices in under-resourced environments. Sherisa’s mission is to create change that promotes global service while living life from a place of true joy.
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Maria del Rosario Franco-Rahman, B.A.Maria is sustained by visions of a loving, harmonious world where healing and liberation resound and we all thrive. She is the founder and CEO of Con Todo Corazon where she works locally and nationally offering heart-centered holistic healing services including embodied movement through yoga and dance designed to support personal and social transformation. During her time at Joyful Heart Foundation, she co-authored a retreat model for survivors of gender-based violence in collaboration with Georgetown University. Her fifteen years of service to survivors also includes direct service to undocumented domestic violence survivors at a Latinx culturally-specific transitional shelter and advocacy at the state level. Her work centers the healing and liberation of women of color, advocates, activists, service providers and our communities on the margins. She has been lovingly contributing to community care and social justice since 2013. Maria holds a Bachelor’s degree from Loyola Marymount University.
Karen Eastman, Ph.D.Karen is a licensed clinical psychologist committed to meditation, spiritual practices and mind-body interventions. She has conducted mind-body research in the UCLA Department of Pediatrics. She served as the assistant director of the UCLA/RAND Center for Adolescent Health Promotion, where she led the Training and Education Core and developed, implemented and evaluated programs for parents and adolescents that focused on communication and adolescent health issues. Since then, Karen has worked with several child-related organizations, leading training seminars on communication skills and providing training materials on child development issues. Karen received a Yale-China Teaching Fellowship to the Chinese University of Hong Kong and has taught courses at UC Irvine and UCLA. She received her bachelors from Yale University and her masters and doctorate from UCLA, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at UCLA’s Semel Neuropsychiatric Institute. She is an active volunteer at several public schools and she maintains a private practice in Los Angeles.
Kyra Haglund, LCSW, SEP, E-RYT Kyra is a licensed clinical social worker, Somatic Experiencing practitioner, yoga teacher and activist based in Los Angeles. She completed her graduate studies in social work from the University of Southern California focusing on mental health, military social work, family systems, and public policy. She is also certified in Somatic Experiencing, a mind-body modality that works directly with the nervous system to relieve and resolve symptoms of trauma. She takes an integrative approach to her work, blending traditional psychotherapy, holistic arts, and somatic tools to support greater self-regulation and well-being.
Susan Hess, MSW, LCSW-ILSusan is a clinical assistant professor at USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. She is an advocate, consultant and relational organizer in the areas of trauma-informed approaches and the intersections of intimate partner violence. She is the co-founder of Trauma Informed LA whose mission is to foster resilient communities that promote healing and well-being through collaboration, education, and community engagement. In recognition of her dedication, Susan was presented with the distinguished Dr. Marjorie Braude Award by the City of Los Angeles Domestic Violence City Task Force in October, 2013 for innovative collaboration in serving victims of domestic violence. Since 2016, she has worked with A Thousand Joys and facilitates trainings on trauma and trauma-informed care for educators as well as staff at community agencies.
Lisa Lawrence, MBAA high-energy consulting executive with a passion for achieving breakthrough ideas, Lisa develops and implements innovative and targeted strategic, leadership, organizational, and operational solutions for higher education, academic medical systems, healthcare, technology, and nonprofit organizations. With more than 30 years of experience improving performance and organizational capabilities, Lisa is passionate about helping individuals and teams resolve conflict, work through misunderstandings, improve communication, and adopt agreed-upon team norms and behaviors. Lisa is a certified Dare to Lead ™ Facilitator, certified in the Motivational Needs Profiling System (MNPS), and is ISO 9000 Qualified. Lisa received a Bachelor of Arts degree, focused on organizational communication, from Brigham Young University and an MBA, focused on productivity and quality, from the University of San Diego.
Sara Lev, MS.Ed.As a long-time early educator and professional developer, Sara is committed to the integration of social and emotional learning into education, for student development as well as for teacher wellness and self-care. She believes that her role as an educator is to guide a community of learners to connect the knowledge that they have to knowledge that they need, while building relationships, using culturally responsive teaching practices, and cultivating a sense of joy and independence. This philosophy holds true for all children as well as for all adults. Sara earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rochester and a master’s degree in early childhood education from Bank Street College. She is a National Faculty member with PBLWorks and a co-author of Implementing Project Based Learning in Early Childhood: Overcoming Misconceptions and Reaching Success. Sara is also a certified yoga instructor and Yoga Ed. trainer, and offers workshops for educators and health care workers on how to bring the benefits of yoga to the children in their lives.
Marie Elena Rigo, M.A.Marie Elena is a consultant, facilitator and coach with more than 15 years of experience in teaching, marketing and communications. Marie Elena is president of MER Life Design, a full-service firm that offers personal/professional coaching, residential and commercial Feng Shui/interior design, and customized workshops and seminars to help organizations motivate, inspire and promote positive change. Marie Elena has worked for Fortune 500 companies such as MasterCard, IBM and Deloitte, and she served as vice president of marketing and communications for Gilda’s Club Worldwide, a nonprofit cancer support community. Her business acumen, along with her graduate training in psychology, equips her with a unique ability to impart tangible skills for personal and professional growth, development and success. In addition to her work with A Thousand Joys, Marie Elena teaches classes and workshops for the Learning Annex and major corporations such as Amtrak and the Disney Store. She holds a masters in spiritual psychology from the University of Santa Monica and a bachelors in classics from Trinity College in Hartford, CT.
Lily Ross, LCSWLily Ross has been working as a teacher, coach and clinical social worker with children and families for the last 16 years, beginning in New York City and now in Los Angeles. She has worked with children of all ages and takes an interdisciplinary, trauma-informed approach to her practice. Lily’s goal is to help people discover strength in relationships and truly find joy in their connections. She is passionate about helping them develop self-purpose, stressing the importance of authenticity and weaving humor into the trainings, consultations and groups she runs. Lily is on the adjunct faculty at the USC School of Social Work where she teaches individual, family and group practice as well as child development. As a clinical supervisor, consultant and program coordinator she has worked with agencies that focus on children and families as well as schools and summer camps.
Ebony Williams, LMFT, MFAEbony Williams, LMFT is a Black, queer, first generation woman who is also a licensed marriage and family therapist, social emotional healing arts instructor, and a trauma-informed yoga teacher. Currently, Ebony maintains a private therapeutic and coaching practice while serving as adjunct faculty in the cultural psychology LGBTQIA specialization at Pacific Oaks College and as a supervisor for Journey Out, supporting case managers working with survivors of human trafficking. She has facilitated workshops for survivors of personal and community trauma as well as individuals navigating life challenges. Her blog on holistic wellness and healing can be found at RootWellness Healing. Ebony earned an MA in Marriage and Family Therapy with a specialization in African American Family Studies as well as an MFA in Writing at the California Institute of the Arts.
Victoria Alvarado, M.A.For over 20 years Victoria has been building her body of knowledge around resilience and wellbeing. This longtime commitment has taught her the power of these practices in managing stress and relating to others with compassion and curiosity. Through A Thousand Joys, Victoria shares these learnings with others and supports their growth with a kind and nurturing approach. Victoria joined ATJ in 2009 and served in multiple roles including program director and operations director. During her tenure here, she taught mindfulness and coping skills to children, co-facilitated retreats, led the schools-based services program, improved our operations practices–and just about anything else that was needed to support ATJ’s growth. Victoria is also a 200-hour certified yoga teachers and Reiki practitioner. She holds a bachelors in archaeology from Boston University and a master’s degree in archaeology from Columbia University.
We are continually building our consultant team to strengthen our capacity and to meet our clients’ needs. Please reach out if you or someone you know could make a great contribution to our work!