Our Team

Our Board
Awaken Pittsburgh mindfulness program clients, volunteers team
RICK STACHEL
Board President
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RICK STACHEL

Board President

Rick is an assistant professor of healthcare administration. He has taught at the college level for over 20 years. Prior to taking a full-time position in higher education, Rick worked in marketing and research in the medical device industry. He has also worked in economic development and started his professional

career as a broadcast journalist. Rick has been a nearly life-long practitioner of mindfulness and meditation, first learning in his early teen years. He credits his practice with an improved ability to deal with stressful situations we all face in daily life as well as increased focus on positivity. He is a Pittsburgh native and enjoys spending time with his family in the area’s many parks and at Heinz Field during Steeler Sundays. Rick has a doctorate in information systems from Robert Morris University. His dissertation research focused on using internet-connected and digital devices to improve positivity through various tools, including mindfulness. He also holds an MBA in international business.

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SARA JANE LOWRY
Board Vice President
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SARA JANE LOWRY

Board Vice President

Sara Jane is the founder of a local consulting firm specializing in management consulting, organizational capacity building, board development, and executive coaching, as well as The Nest Group, a company focused on helping organizations to manage an emergency leadership loss, and executive level leadership transitions. Mindfulness is a tool she began using 30 years ago (in a previous career as an opera singer), and she promotes mindfulness with her clients as a resource for managing stress, finding inner balance, better decision-making, and focusing of energy. She believes that mindfulness practices help individuals to first manage their own emotions and mind, and then position them to better support compassion and building a more ethical community.

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JOHN WATTS
Board Secretary
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JOHN WATTS

Board Secretary

John is a management and technology consultant with 20+ years of experience in financial accounting, planning, analytical and reporting processes and systems. He is passionate about progress and sustainability across education, mental health, physical health, the environment and safety. In continual pursuit of open-minded and bi-directional self-improvement through helping others, John believes that mindful education and practices, especially for young people, are essential to living healthier lives and solving most human-made problems.

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LAURA SHOEMAKER
Board Treasurer
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LAURA SHOEMAKER

Board Treasurer

Laura is a finance professional focused on strategic investments with 15 years of experience in the healthcare industry. Her experience includes financial analysis, commercialization assessment, and business case development for both payers and providers. Laura became interested in mindfulness through her work in the health insurance industry, where it became increasingly evident to her how important mental health is to one’s physical health and overall well-being. Laura is a native to Pittsburgh and enjoys spending time outdoors with family and friends.

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ALEXANDER LISOWSKI
Board Assistant Treasurer
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ALEXANDER LISOWSKI

Board Assistant Treasurer

Alex is a CPA with a background in serving financial service audit clients. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, he is a proponent of working hard to grow diversity in the greater Pittsburgh region. A member and advocate of the LGBTQ community, Alex has served as the founder and chair of the LGBTQ BRG in his workplace. Alex’s journey of mindful meditation began after entering the workplace where he realized that finding his center was a key driver to his success. From practicing yoga regularly to supplementing his meditation with literature on mindfulness, Alex wants Pittsburgh to share in the success by broadly introducing mindful meditation. Alex holds a B.S. in Accounting and Information Systems Management from Duquesne University.

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CHRISTOPHER BEVEL
Marketing Chair
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CHRISTOPHER BEVEL

Marketing Chair

Christopher is the owner of Bevelroom Consulting, a consultancy focused on customer-centric demand generation for service businesses. With over 15 years of experience across several industries, Christopher strives to create remarkable brand experiences and optimize results for business and customers. His customer-centric approach blends design thinking, data-driven decision making and digital-first strategies that help organizations understand and reach customers more effectively. Christopher’s journey into mindfulness started before he attended George Washington University to earn an MBA. He realized that mindfulness was a great way to be a better student and balance work and life.

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ASHLEY BAPTISTE
Board Member at Large
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ASHLEY BAPTISTE

Board Member at Large

Ashley is an analyst working in infection prevention and control. She has over a decade of professional experience in human resources and project management. Ashley is passionate about living whole by teaching others with making well-informed decisions regarding the quality of life and executing projects to deliver results. She has practiced yoga for over 10 years and reiki for the past 5 years. Her mission is to teach simple wellness tips for the mind, body, and spirit to a happier, healthier life.

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AMIT R. DUA
Board Member at Large
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AMIT R. DUA

Board Member at Large

Amit Dua is the Vice President, Market Development at Life Science Connect based in Pittsburgh, PA. In his current role, he leads the Clinical Research & Development business and is responsible for developing the market strategy, leading the commercial team, and delivering valued outcomes to customers. Amit has been in the Biopharmaceutical and Life Sciences industry for 15 years leading teams across sales, marketing, and product management functions at companies such as Pall Life Sciences, Cytiva (formerly GE Healthcare Life Sciences), and Viatris (formerly Mylan). Amit has a BS in Bioengineering from Stonybrook University and an MBA from Columbia Business School.

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RYAN FISHER
Board Member at Large
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RYAN FISHER

Board Member at Large

Ryan has 8 years of experience in Human Resources. He currently works at Verisys Corporation as a Payroll and Benefit Manager. Prior to working at Verisys, he worked at Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals in their Human Resources department. He regularly promotes employee benefits such as Employee Assistance Programs on a regular basis. Ryan has his Masters in Human Resources from Utah State University and his Senior HR Certification from the Society of Human Resources Management. Ryan is involved in his local HR chapter where he continues to learn best practices to share with others. He is an avid learner. Ryan became interested in mindfulness through his own mental health journey. For fun, Ryan enjoys writing and recording music. At his work, he has a special channel called #FreestyleFridays where he raps and sings about benefits or company events.

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CARL E. PATTEN, II
Board Member at Large
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CARL E. PATTEN, II

Board Member at Large

Carl is a native of Memphis, TN, and has lived in Atlanta for 19 years. Carl has 16 years of strategy, operations, and technology experience across multiple sectors. Carl holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; M.Div. in Hebrew Bible from the Interdenominational Theological Center; an M.B.A. from Emory University, Goizueta Business School. He is currently pursuing his D. Min from Emory University, Candler School of Theology. Carl serves as the Head of Product & Technology at Open Doors, a housing equity organization, and Managing Director of ExcelR8 Advisory Services. His experience includes Global Healthcare Innovation Director at NTT Data and Healthcare Strategist at Accenture. Carl has traveled to 40+ countries and utilizes his spare time to cook, volunteer, and collect cufflinks. In 2019, Carl was named Top 40 Under 40 for The Whole Truth Magazine. Carl is a newly wed and celebrates life with his wife, Karen Young Patten, and their dog, Jackson.

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ASHLEY LYNN PRIORE
Board Member at Large
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ASHLEY LYNN PRIORE

Board Member at Large

Ashley Lynn Priore is an American chess player & coach, entrepreneur, nonprofit founder, strategist, activist and writer currently serving as the founder, inaugural president, & CEO of Queens Gambit, a national nonprofit using chess to teach strategic leadership, and in turn, give youth the tools they need to change the world. Ashley has been featured and recognized for her work using chess to combat society’s biggest issues in Elite Daily, Katie Couric Media, Forbes, and USA Today. An awarded chess player in her own right, Ashley is known for her fierce leadership in creating gender equity in chess education. In 2019, she founded Y’22 (A Youth On Boards Movement) to advocate for intergenerational diversity on nonprofit boards. In her role as President, Ashley educates, empowers, and supports young leaders (under 25) to join nonprofit boards and trains nonprofits on best practices for board leadership.

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DARRELL RUBIN, M.D.
Board Member at Large
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DARRELL RUBIN, M.D.

Board Member at Large

Dr. Rubin is a Cardiologist with strong interest in the integration of mindfulness and meditation into clinical care. He completed the patient-side Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program through the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness and started that institution’s provider-side training program. Dr. Rubin graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.S. from Xavier University in Louisiana, completed the Medical Scientist Training Program and studied Internal Medicine at Case-Western Reserve University and completed his General Cardiology training and Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology Research Fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

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EPPECHAL SMALLS
Board Member at Large
Awaken Pittsburgh mindfulness program clients, volunteers team

EPPECHAL SMALLS

Board Member at Large

Eppechal T. Smalls, Ed.D. is a seasoned professional with 20+ years of experience in Higher Ed & Philanthropy. Smalls received his Doctorate in Higher Educational Leadership from the Union Institute & University of Cincinnati and has served as VP for Institutional Advancement at Hiwassee College, VP for Development at Wilberforce University, and Associate VP for Major Gifts & Planned Giving at Tennessee State University. He co-chaired and assisted in designing TSU’s first Assessment Council. Other positions include Director of the Annual Funds at Claflin University, Director of Annual Funds at Central State University, Development Officer at Lutheran Social Services, and Senior Development Officer at Antioch College. Smalls served as an adjunct professor at Central State University and ITT Technical Institute. Smalls serves on the boards for the Youth Haven Public Ecovillage, the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, and the Union Institute & University International Alumni Association. He is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. Smalls is married to his wife, Dr. Lola Kelly Smalls and has two daughters, Kellynn and Archer.

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ROB ZISMAN
Board Member at Large
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ROB ZISMAN

Board Member at Large

Rob is a healthcare industry veteran with 17 years of experience working with organizations across the U.S. to develop and execute their strategy. His areas of expertise include strategy, business development and operational excellence. Rob started his career in a Leadership Program at GE Healthcare, where he went on to be Vice President and Chief of Staff for it’s management consulting division. Most recently, he was a Vice President of Strategy and Business Development at Highmark Health and Allegheny Health Network. Rob became interested in mindfulness after seeing the acute need for mental health solutions rise significantly during the COVID Pandemic and the impact that solutions such as Mindfulness can have in areas such as schools. Rob lives in Pittsburgh with his wife Alisa and their two sons, Enzo and Ari.

Our Team
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STEPHANIE M. ROMERO, Ed.D.
Founder & Executive Director
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STEPHANIE M. ROMERO, Ed.D.

Founder & Executive Director

Stephanie is an educator with 20+ years of experience teaching elementary, middle school, high school and college students. She has been a meditator and mindfulness practitioner for more than 15 years. In 2013, seeking to bring others the same benefits she was experiencing, Stephanie was trained in the Path of Freedom Mindfulness Curriculum, which she delivered through the HOPE pre-release program in the Allegheny County Jail. Stephanie’s dissertation was the culmination of three years of research into mindfulness in education. She is a member of the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Mindfulness and Consciousness Studies.

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TRINLEY BUSBY
Program Deliverer
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TRINLEY BUSBY

Program Deliverer

Trinley has a professional background in mental health and harm reduction. In Vancouver, Canada’s Downtown Eastside (DTES), she worked as a frontline service provider in shelters, transitional and permanent housing serving those experiencing homelessness and struggling with concurrent mental health and substance abuse challenges. She also worked with community-based groups in the DTES to address poverty and housing injustices and as an advocate and ally to those engaged in survival sex-trade. Trinley has studied and practiced meditation extensively for the past 15+ years. She became an authorized meditation instructor and teacher in 2011 and has led numerous beginner and advanced meditation workshops and retreats in the Canada, USA, Mexico and Europe.

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BRITT DORAZIO
Program Deliverer
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BRITT DORAZIO

Program Deliverer

In 2011, Britt made a deep resolve to take an active part in her healing process. Since then she has been a dedicated practitioner and facilitator

living at the intersection of inner space exploration and creative expression. She believes that working with the languages of the arts, the body, and the breath, together, in community, has the compassionate power to bring us back home to ourselves, each other, and the land. Britt received her meditation certification from Sarvaguna Yoga Institute in Dharamshala, India. She received her social emotional arts certification from UCLA’s Arts & Healing School. Britt has dedicated many hours of training in nervous system regulation, non-judgmental facilitation, and anti-violence in education. Britt works with a wide range of communities. Currently, she works most closely with youth and folks with autism, intellectual, developmental, and physical disabilities. This work has expanded her heart in ways she never imagined. In her free time, Britt loves nothing more than communing with the Earth and drinking tea with her loved ones.

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VERONICA HABERKOST
Meditation Instructor
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VERONICA HABERKOST

Meditation Instructor

Rick is an assistant professor of healthcare administration. He has taught at the college level for over 20 years. Prior to taking a full-time position in higher education, Rick worked in marketing and research in the medical device industry. He has also worked in economic development and started his professional

career as a broadcast journalist. Rick has been a nearly life-long practitioner of mindfulness and meditation, first learning in his early teen years. He credits his practice with an improved ability to deal with stressful situations we all face in daily life as well as increased focus on positivity. He is a Pittsburgh native and enjoys spending time with his family in the area’s many parks and at Heinz Field during Steeler Sundays. Rick has a doctorate in information systems from Robert Morris University. His dissertation research focused on using internet-connected and digital devices to improve positivity through various tools, including mindfulness. He also holds an MBA in international business.

Awaken Pittsburgh mindfulness program clients, volunteers team
SHANNON JENKINS
Program Deliverer
Awaken Pittsburgh mindfulness program clients, volunteers team

SHANNON JENKINS

Program Deliverer

Shannon has had two life events that have placed her squarely in the experience of life-before and life-after: cancer and the loss of mobility as-she-knew-it at age twelve, and the death of her brother when she was 27. Both carved the paths she would take to working with neurodivergent learners and the gravitation to mindfulness practice. Shannon began teaching neurodivergent learners in 1999, and has worked as a caseworker for non-profits and government agencies as well. She has been in relationship with meditation and mindfulness practice for 11 years. Shannon finds putting hands in soil, petting animals, laughter, silliness, movement, and deep hugs to be an important part of this practice. She believes learning to love where you are is a radical act.

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DAWN LEHMAN
Program Coordinator
Awaken Pittsburgh mindfulness program clients, volunteers team

DAWN LEHMAN

Program Coordinator

Dawn has trained countless people to mediate conflicts has conducted over 100 restorative dialogues ranging from minor school infractions to violent felonies. She is a Professional Coach, helping people live in alignment with their ideals, and enjoys engaging others to think about how organizations and communities can best represent shared values. Dawn has practiced mindfulness in the tradition of Thich Naht Hanh for twenty years and holds a B.A. in Social Work and an M.A. in Conflict Transformation.

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DEB MESSER
Meditation Instructor
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DEB MESSER

Meditation Instructor

Deb has more than 30 years’ experience providing training and leadership consultation to healthcare organizations and businesses in western PA. Her areas of expertise include Workplace Civility, Resiliency in the Workplace, Emotionally Intelligent Leadership, Self-Care for Nurses/Healthcare Providers, and Mindfulness in the Workplace. Deb has over 25 years’ experience as a mindfulness practitioner and has been teaching mindfulness for the past 6 years. She created the ‘Mindfulness in the Workplace” program for UPMC HealthPlan EAP and initiated mindfulness and self-care retreats for UPMC nurses. Deb is the co-founder of the Insight Meditation Community of Pittsburgh.

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TANISHA RAMSEY
Program Deliverer
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TANISHA RAMSEY

Program Deliverer

Tanisha Ramsey is a Licensed Professional Counselor who completed her undergraduate studies at Penn State University and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. She also attended Carlow University where she obtained a Master’s Degree in Professional Counseling. She has experience working with young to middle aged adults, individuals in treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorders, and with individuals who have experienced abuse and trauma. Tanisha participated in the Mindful Connections program and has seen the value and benefit mindfulness has brought to her personal and professional life. She is excited to share the skills and knowledge with others as a program facilitator.

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YVETTE SHIPMAN
Program Deliverer
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YVETTE SHIPMAN

Program Deliverer

Yvette’s life’s work in justice and transformative change embodies a social practice of creativity towards healing and spiritual growth. As a trained mediator and facilitator, Yvette moves through the world with integrity and ease; honoring folks where they are. She works to build generative spaces with individuals and organizations to bring about individual, collective, and societal transformation. Yvette feels most connected to herself and her ancestors when practicing the artistry of tea and tisane blending and conversation. Yvette has a B.A. in Communications and an M.A. in Social and Public Policy with a focus on Conflict Mediation and Peace Studies.

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EDDY PAUL THOMAS
Marketing and Communications Manager
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EDDY PAUL THOMAS

Marketing and Communications Manager

An advocate for faith, justice, and compassion, Eddy Paul Thomas serves those around him with heart. His entrepreneurship revolves around growing organizations through organizational development, digital transformation, and authentic storytelling. His gift is strategic as he identifies problems, engages in consulting, listening, and offers solutions. With his master’s in organizational management (MAOM), Eddy’s business expertise aids his nonprofit experience. He brings a diverse perspective to the executive table and challenges leaders to move beyond their comfort zones. Eddy’s life’s work is at the intersection of organizational growth, faith, social justice, and racial progress.

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KALEN TENDERNESS TIERNEY
Program Deliverer
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KALEN TENDERNESS TIERNEY

Program Deliverer

Kalen tenderness Tierney or tender is person navigating the world in a trans non-binary white body, working at the intersection of somatics, meditation and social justice. tender is a facilitator, teacher, ceramicist, and builder for social change. They are currently studying the history of bodies, critical phenomenology, polyvagal theory, the Dzogchen meditation tradition and somatic practices. tender has been living in the Pittsburgh area since the early 2000’s when they moved here to pursue a degree in philosophy with a focus on queer and gender theory. Over the last decade tender has worked with various groups to combat social injustice, including their work with Braddock Tiles and as a core member of WHAT’S UP?! Pittsburgh. They live with their canine companion in a 1960 Airstream camper. tender lives for wild blueberries, the ocean, rocks, trees, sky, animals and being in the forest.

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MICHAEL TUMMINIA
Research Associate
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MICHAEL TUMMINIA

MICHAEL TUMMINIA

Michael is a Ph.D. student in the Applied Developmental Psychology program at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education. In his research he utilizes both quantitative and qualitative methods to examine how mindfulness meditation training can support positive youth development from adolescence to young adulthood.

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KRISTY WEIDNER
Program Deliverer
Awaken Pittsburgh mindfulness program clients, volunteers team

KRISTY WEIDNER

Program Deliverer

Kristy Weidner is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Co-Owner of the Village Center for Holistic Therapy. She completed her master’s in social work from the University of Pittsburgh. She is fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) and has extensive experience in working with Deaf and hard of hearing clients, family members and within the culture of the Deaf Community. She has also taken an active role within our First Responders Community and continues to offer events and workshops to this population. She became a 200 hour certified yoga instructor in 2018, and studied with Max Strom, global speaker, teacher, actor, and founder of Inner Axis yoga. She also completed her mindfulness meditation teacher training with Lodro Rinzler, author and Buddhist meditation teacher based in New York City.

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MARK A.D. WILLIAMS
Program Deliverer
Awaken Pittsburgh mindfulness program clients, volunteers team

MARK A.D. WILLIAMS

Program Deliverer

Mark is a father, partner, educator, gardener, musician, and mindfulness practitioner. More importantly, Mark is a human. Most importantly, we all are! Mark is a certified Pre K – 4th grade teacher with a masters in foundations of education and mindfulness for educators from Antioch University. He works to build bridges between the branches of our human family tree that have forgotten we share the same roots. It’s Mark’s hope that by remembering our shared identity we can be free to celebrate our uniqueness and work together to create a kinder world.

Our Volunteers
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BRIAN WALSH
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CONNOR MURPHY
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DINEKE TOLKAMP
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ELIZABETH BARGER
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JACQUELINE GONZALEZ
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JAKE MACKENZIE
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KAILI DOUD
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LARISSA EVANS
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MELLOWEE SEVILLA
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MOLLY GREENO
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ROMAINE KNOX-CHAPMAN
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RYAN MCCARTHY
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SARAH URBANIC
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SHANNON DRUFFNER
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SHAWN ATKINS
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SHRADDHA RAO
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SNEZANA DJORDJEVIC
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SUE SIEGERT
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VICTORIA MAGIERA SHINER
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YAEL GUTMAN
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YVONNE BENINATI