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Executive Director

 We are excited to announce our Executive Director, Eric S. Lee!  
 
Eric’s Mission  To help others find inner peace, joy and purpose regardless of circumstances. 
 
Eric’s passion for inspiring and uplifting others was sparked by his own challenges growing up in Detroit, 
Michigan. The unique trials and tribulations of urban life and witnessing the impact of those experiences by 
others in his community planted the seed of service that would eventually lead to his life’s calling. 
 
In search of a higher path, he spent much of his young adult life in the hospitality industry. As a quick study he 
found himself in a position of leadership at 22 years old. 
 
Prompted by moving to Colorado in 1989, he quickly began to build upon his leadership skills and as a self-
taught chef opened three restaurants in Boulder County. Looking to be of greater service to his community he 
began volunteering for several youth-based initiatives, including Project Yes and Lafayette Youth Sports. Soon 
after Eric began his life coaching practice. 
 
After transitioning out of restaurants he focused his energy on his coaching practice specializing in health and 
wellness with a focus on fitness, nutrition, and stress management. A common thread throughout Eric’s adult life is 
his passion for impacting others in a positive way. Through his coaching practice Eric supported his clients to 
overcome life’s invariable obstacles, find deeper levels of inner peace, align with their life’s meaning and purpose, 
and live healthier lifestyles. Often, simply by showing them kindness. As a reminder that, yes this still can be a loving 
and supportive world after all. 
 
Along the way Eric has published three books. Adam’s Eve – A Novel, Sweeping Her Off Her Feet with Food, a 
romantic cookbook, and 29 Degrees – How to Live a Life of Inner Peace, Joy and Purpose Regardless of 
Circumstances. 
 
Eric loves family life with his wife Trudi and his three children, Erica, Forrest, and Justin and his stepson Brock. 
He also loves working out and playing outside, mountain biking, hiking, off-roading, bowhunting and camping. 
When Eric is not recreating outdoors, he enjoys watching and playing football and basketball.
Most recently, Eric comes to us from Longmont, Colorado where he has been serving his community as a 
Restorative Justice Facilitator with the Conflict Center in Denver and was also an integral part of the 
Professional Standards-Citizens Review Panel for the Police Division in Longmont. Eric brings a wealth of 
dynamic leadership experience from a multitude of fields and is a passionate advocate and activist for criminal 
justice reform. We are thrilled to welcome Eric to the team and excited for this new chapter for FCRJ! 

Natalie Carmen Millis - Restorative Schools Manager

Natalie Carmen Millis was born and raised in Denver, CO. She has a degree in Biology and studied community health at Hampshire College, where she wrote a thesis on the political history of the Indian Health Service. Originally focused on going to medical school, Natalie worked as an EMT during college and then at an inpatient psychiatric unit upon returning to Denver. After witnessing firsthand the way our medical system treats patients (especially youth) in crisis, she became very interested in finding out how people can learn to truly break cycles of trauma.

While working as a lead guide in a wilderness therapy program for teens in the backcountry of Utah, Natalie witnessed the truly impressive impact of both wilderness and a collaborative approach to helping young women heal. After a detour during which she worked as a project manager at a tech startup in Salt Lake City, Natalie then served as manager at the Volunteers of America Homeless Youth Resource Center in Salt Lake City. One of her side projects was strengthening the program’s policies by facilitating regular feedback groups with clients. In addition, she supported the placement of Trauma-Informed Care principles into the Center’s policies around addressing challenging behavior from clients.

After moving back to Colorado for family reasons, Natalie worked at a large Federally-Qualified Health Center as a program coordinator, but during the pandemic she returned to the front lines as a Medical Assistant on a Covid testing and vaccination team in Denver. She is currently also a volunteer for the Blue Bench Project’s rape crisis hotline.

Although she grew up in the inner city, Natalie was fortunate to have a mentor who inspired her love of Colorado’s wilderness from a young age. Besides hiking the Colorado trail, Natalie has also done an 800-mile section of the Appalachian trail as well as countless trips throughout the Southwest. She is excited to use her spare time in the Salida area to work on connecting inner-city youth, BIPOC folks, and other “unlikely hikers” with the wilderness.

Cindy Merchant - Restorative Justice Diversion Manager

Cindy Merchant graduated from Adams State University with a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies Sociology/Business with a focus in Criminology and Women’s Studies. She is National Victim Advocate credentialed through the Nation Organization for Victim Assistance. Cindy is passionate about social Justice issues and working to ensure those underrepresented and marginalized are served through restorative justice. She loves spending time in her garden with her family, hiking the trails with her dog Bear, and reading historical fiction. She’s known among family and friends for her homemade soup, random acts of kindness and making people laugh. She’s excited to share with others in this beautiful community the transformative power and compassionate opportunities that restorative justice provides for repairing harm and building healthy relationships.

Carey Cloud - Programs Oversight Manager

Carey has spent the last 10 years working with youth in a variety of settings; health and wellness, experiential education, backcountry adventure programs, and wilderness therapy. Her path has taken her from her hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Virginia, Florida, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and finally landing in Colorado. For the last five years Carey has had the privilege of calling Salida home. Carey has served the community as FCRJ’s first Restorative Justice Care Facilitator and is now transitioning into the role of Programs Oversight Manager. She strives to provide a judgment-free and supportive space to ensure that every participant is successful in our program and beyond. Carey is currently working towards a master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a focus on Adventure-Based Therapy at Prescott College.

Ava Janowski

Ava was adopted from Guatemala City, Guatemala and grew up in Farmville, Virginia. Ava’s small hometown strengthened her bond with nature and her family. She graduated early and was in the top 10% of her graduating class. Her compassion for others led her to community work and restorative justice.

Ava has a strong work ethic and enjoys pushing her limits. During her gap year she’s been alternating between three jobs. One at a local Pizza Place in Eldorado at Santa Fe, New Mexico. Another at a popular breakfast, lunch, and dinner restaurant running and bussing tables. And the last at a

family run Thai place as a cashier/ prep cook. 

 Due to her father’s job at a small liberal arts college in Virginia, her family journeyed to the west multiple times. These visits to New Mexico opened her eyes to the unique beauty of the desert. In her spare time, she enjoys baking, writing short stories, and running. She plans on attending University of New Mexico in the honors program on a scholarship. Although her major is undecided at the moment, Ava’s main motivation is to help people.

Jodi Breckenridge Petit, Ph.D.

Jodi Breckenridge Petit, Ph.D. is a Restorative Schools Practitioner assisting FCRJ with student conflicts and restorative practices. Jodi lives by the three power verbs:  teach, author, lead. 

She has taught everything from chemistry to public education funding to Special Operations effective writing.  She values volunteering in meaningful ways in Salida, Colorado; enjoys making art; and has three young-adult sons with her husband, Brian.

Rami El Gharib - Restorative Justice Facilitator

Born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, Rami came to the United States in 2018 to pursue a master’s degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Such a degree provides specialization in human behavior and problem-solving, things Rami focuses on daily.

Rami’s career in Restorative Justice started with the Tow Youth Justice institute where he developed a process to resolve conflicts between students living in the University of New Haven’s student housing. He then moved to Colorado, where he became the Restorative Justice Coordinator with YouthZone, and virtually trained a school in California with SEEDS on Restorative Practices. During his time with YouthZone, he facilitated many Community Group Conferences referred by the courts and schools in the region.

Rami is also an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. As a gay man in Lebanon, he worked with the Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality where he recruited and trained data collectors to properly communicate, gather, and input data. He also gathered data from over 250 gay men in Lebanon on anxiety, depression and discrimination. He also established the first LGBTQ+ youth safe space in the Roaring Fork Valley that incorporates Restorative Practices. The LGBTQ+ space was funded by Colorado’s Restorative Justice Council. He is also one of the founders of the Restorative Rainbow Alliance, an alliance that focuses on advancing an LGBTQ+ lens into the field of Restorative Justice.

Annie Burgner- Restorative Schools Intern

Annie is from Salida, Colorado and is a rising senior at Horizons Exploratory Academy. Besides Restorative Justice, Annie loves hiking, fishing, swimming, working hard, and getting lost in a good book. Annie is exploring career paths that would allow her to pursue her passion for helping others and the community, and dreams of attending college and owning a home in Salida someday.

Justice does not always mean punishment

Physical Address:
448 E. 1st Street, Suite 208
Salida, CO 81201
Mailing Address:
PO Box 603
Salida, CO 81201
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