Who We Are

OUR MISSION

The Freedom to Choose Project (FTC) is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization. FEIN #27-2521943.

FTC transforms the lives of individuals impacted by incarceration through compassionate experiential education that has been proven to reduce prison violence and recidivism. We are deeply committed to our vision that every person who wants to learn to become a responsible, productive member of society has the opportunity and support to do so.

OUR STORY

The name of the organization and the signature workshop, “Freedom to Choose,” was inspired by the work of Viktor Frankl and his well-known book “Man’s Search for Meaning.” Fundamental to his teaching was the lesson, hard-won as a survivor of the concentration camps, that every person always has the freedom to choose their response to the events of their life. This lesson serves as a cornerstone of what The Freedom to Choose Project teaches in prison. In Frankl’s words:

“Everything can be taken from a person but the last of the human freedoms, the freedom to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances – to choose one’s own way.”

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.”

FTC has been providing programs that reduce violence and recidivism in California prisons for more than 14 years. To date, FTC has served more than 3,000 prisoners through a corps of volunteers who have donated over 74,600 hours.

AWARDS

The Freedom to Choose Project, along with the co-directors Drs. David and Bonnie Paul have received numerous awards:

OUR TEAM

FOUNDERS

David Paul, M.D., Ph.D.

Co-Founder | Board of Directors | Facilitator (Pro Bono) | Curriculum Development (Pro Bono)

FTC Volunteer since 2004

Bonnie Paul, Ph.D.

Co-Founder | Director of Education (Pro Bono) | Board of Directors | Facilitator (Pro Bono) | Curriculum Development (Pro Bono)

FTC Volunteer since 2004

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

David Paul, M.D., Ph.D.

Chair

FTC Volunteer since 2004

Bonnie Paul, Ph.D.

Chair

FTC Volunteer since 2004

Michael Lattimore, M.A.

Facilitator (Pro Bono)

FTC volunteer since 2009

Karen Peterson, Ph.D.

Board of Directors | Mentor Support Group (ILTAG) Leader – VSP (Pro Bono) | Facilitator (Pro Bono)
Curriculum Development (Pro Bono)

FTC volunteer since 2012

Claudia Flores, M.A.

FTC volunteer since 2014

Renee Croce, M.A.

FTC volunteer since 2016

David Couper, M.A.

FTC volunteer since 2013

FTC STAFF

Molly Barby

Administrative Program Coordinator

FTC volunteer since 2017

Sara Avant Stover

Director of Operations

THE TEAM

Karen Peterson, Ph.D.

Board of Directors | Mentor Support Group (ILTAG) Leader – VSP (Pro Bono) | Facilitator (Pro Bono) | Curriculum Development (Pro Bono)

FTC volunteer since 2012

Howard Lazar

Mentor Support Group (ILTAG) Leader – VSP (Pro Bono) | Facilitator (Pro Bono)

FTC volunteer since 2005

Chemin Bernard

Mentor Support Group (ILTAG) Leader – CIW (Pro Bono) | Facilitator (Pro Bono) | Curriculum Development (Pro Bono) | Newcomer Liasion (Pro Bono)

FTC volunteer since 2006

Stanley Bernard

Mentor Support Group (ILTAG) Leader – CIW (Pro Bono) | Facilitator (Pro Bono) | Curriculum Development (Pro Bono)

FTC volunteer since 2006

Michael Lattimore, M.A.

Board of Directors | Facilitator (Pro Bono)

FTC volunteer since 2009

Donna Kall

Team Captain (Pro Bono)

FTC volunteer since 2004

Elana Christiansen

Team Captain (Pro Bono)

FTC volunteer since 2008

Cynthia Chapman

Team Captain (Pro Bono)

FTC volunteer since 2006

Tim Cloutier

Team Captain (Pro Bono)

FTC volunteer since 2004

Jennifer Herrera

Team Captain (Pro Bono)

FTC volunteer since 2013

Larry Murphy

FTC volunteer since 2018

Dena Hayess-Horton

Sound Lead (Pro Bono)

FTC volunteer since 2014

Clara Naum

Spanish Translations (Pro Bono)

FTC volunteer since 2011

Angela Sanabria

Spanish Translations (Pro Bono)

FTC volunteer since 2014

ALL OF OUR WORK IS MADE POSSIBLE BY OUR WONDERFUL CORP OF VOLUNTEERS

FTC is primarily a volunteer run organization and we are incredibly grateful for the dedication, heart and support of our amazing team. Our volunteers make this works possible.

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CHEMIN BERNARD

Mentor Support Group (ILTAG) Leader – CIW (Pro Bono) | Facilitator (Pro Bono) | Curriculum Development (Pro Bono) | Newcomer Liasion (Pro Bono)

Volunteering since 2006

Chemin has been an Entertainment Executive for 20 years and a Licensed Spiritual Counselor for over 25 years. She has facilitated a variety of workshops and classes across the country - all designed to help Individuals expand their lives. Chemin sees her work with FTC as an opportunity to "Pay It Forward" and be of service by sharing life-changing tools to an under-represented population. Regardless of where we are, as humans we all deal with same emotions and internal challenges.

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David Paul, M.D., Ph.D.

Co-Founder | Board of Directors | Facilitator (Pro Bono) | Curriculum Development (Pro Bono)

Volunteering since 2004

David Paul earned his M.D. at Jefferson Medical College and his Ph.D. in Psychology at Saybrook University. He served as graduate psychology faculty for over 15 years. He also served as faculty for several Counseling Psychology courses, including Treatment of Chemical Dependency, Psychopharmacology and the Practice of Marriage and Family Therapy, and Human Sexuality in the Therapeutic Context. He was a Clinical Professor in the Department of Family Practice at Southern Illinois University Medical School. He currently is faculty at the Graduate College of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences at Saybrook University. David also is an executive coach, workshop facilitator, and has a private consulting practice in mind/body medicine.

The Freedom to Choose Project was co-founded by the husband-and-wife team Drs. David and Bonnie Paul. This program is a work of the heart, and since its inception David and Bonnie have volunteered their time and energy to co-direct, co-produce and co-facilitate these programs. David and Bonnie co-write the curriculum and are the lead facilitators/trainers for FTC.

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Bonnie Paul, Ph.D.

Co-Founder | Director of Education (Pro Bono) | Facilitator (Pro Bono) | Curriculum Development (Pro Bono)

Volunteering since 2004

Bonnie Paul earned her Ph.D. in Psychology at Saybrook University. She is also an executive coach and workshop facilitator and she served as graduate psychology faculty for over 12 years at the University of Santa Monica. She has been interviewed about her work in Freedom to Choose for Arianna Huffington’s book: On Becoming Fearless. Earlier in her career, Bonnie earned a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, and managed an electronics manufacturing company in Los Angeles.

The Freedom to Choose Project was co-founded by the husband-and-wife team Drs. David and Bonnie Paul. This program is a work of the heart, and since its inception David and Bonnie have volunteered their time and energy to co-direct, co-produce and co-facilitate these programs. David and Bonnie co-write the curriculum and are the lead facilitators/trainers for FTC.

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Renee Croce, M.A.

Volunteering since 2016

Renee Croce grew up in a community where she watched many of her peers go to prison. She began her professional life working for the police department and witnessed firsthand good people on both sides of the fence, and also the lack of training provided to help people cope and thrive in those tough environments. Later she changed careers and became a professional fundraiser, but never forgot those early experiences which instilled in her an intention to give back. Renee is a key volunteer in supporting work that she sees making a profound difference in the world. 

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David Couper, M.A.

Volunteering since 2013

David Couper has a consulting company helping corporations, not-for-profits, and government agencies develop their leaders and change culture. His clients include Kaiser Permanente and Los Angeles World Airports. He has published seven fiction and non-fiction books and is Vice Chairman of the not-for-profit Project Angel Food which serves those who are sick with 11,000 meals weekly.

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Claudia Flores, M.A.

Volunteering since 2014

It has been such a joy to participate with FTC, organically becoming aware that beyond all personalities, contexts and beliefs, there is a fundamental essence we share as humanity.

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Michael Lattimore, M.A.

Facilitator (Pro Bono)

Volunteering since 2009

Michael is a valued member of our incredible volunteer team. It is through the generous support of our dedicated community that makes this work possible. Thank you for all that you do.

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Karen Peterson, Ph.D.

Board of Directors | Mentor Support Group (ILTAG) | Leader – VSP (Pro Bono) | Facilitator (Pro Bono) | Curriculum Development (Pro Bono)

Volunteering since 2012

Karen holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. Karen has spent over three decades in the corporate sector focused on business development and organizational development. Earning her doctorate, Karen fulfilled a lifelong dream of becoming a clinical psychologist specializing in resolving trauma. I started volunteering with the misguided belief that I was going to be of service to incarcerated individuals. Little did I know that FTC would also be a huge catalyst for my continued growth and healing. In FTC, I have found my true calling.

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Molly Barby

Administrative Assistant | Program Assistant

Volunteering since 2017

Transferred from Saddleback Community College (2 yrs.), graduated Cum Laude (2 yrs.) with a BA in Psychology from Seattle University. Trained in crisis intervention techniques and has prior experience volunteering on a crisis hotline. I'm involved with FTC as both staff and as a volunteer because this work allows me to provide a space for myself and others to explore themselves in a safe, non-judgmental setting. The love and community I receive feeds my soul, there's simply no other way to put it.

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Karin Weber, M.Ed.

Director of Development (Pro Bono)

Volunteering since 2007

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Larry Murphy

Volunteering since 2018

Larry is a valued member of our incredible volunteer team. It is through the generous support of our dedicated community that makes this work possible. Thank you for all that you do.

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Howard Lazar

Mentor Support Group (ILTAG) Leader – VSP (Pro Bono) | Facilitator (Pro Bono)

Volunteering since 2005

Howard is a retired businessman. Participating in this work has given me a wonderful natural way of being. A state of always caring for others and myself with a safe and non-judgmental connection. This form of acceptance connects me to a beautiful clarity that I experience in all parts of my life as I face my universe of choices. Giving and receiving become the same.

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Stanley Bernard

Mentor Support Group (ILTAG) Leader – CIW (Pro Bono) | Facilitator (Pro Bono) | Curriculum Development (Pro Bono)

Volunteering since 2006

Stanley is a valued member of our incredible volunteer team. It is through the generous support of our dedicated community that makes this work possible. Thank you for all that you do.

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Ali Boone

Team Captain (Pro Bono)

Volunteering since 2016

Ali is a valued member of our incredible volunteer team. It is through the generous support of our dedicated community that makes this work possible. Thank you for all that you do.

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Cynthia Chapman

Team Captain (Pro Bono)

Volunteering since 2006

Cynthia is a valued member of our incredible volunteer team. It is through the generous support of our dedicated community that makes this work possible. Thank you for all that you do.

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Donna Kall

Team Captain (Pro Bono)

Volunteering since 2004

Donna is an intervention specialist working with individuals returning to the community on parole or probation, a certified life coach, and former entrepreneur. We had no idea what to expect at our first visit to a men's prison and were blown away by their openness and enthusiasm. A man, incarcerated for 41 years and serving a life sentence, stood up to thank us. He referenced an animated movie and said, prison was like the Island for Misfit Toys and what they needed is the caring and support we were providing. My experience that day dispelled every pre-conceived notion I ever had about men in prison!

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Elana Christiansen

Team Captain (Pro Bono)

Volunteering since 2008

Elana is a valued member of our incredible volunteer team. It is through the generous support of our dedicated community that makes this work possible. Thank you for all that you do.

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Jennifer Herrera

Team Captain (Pro Bono)

Volunteering since 2013

Jennifer is a valued member of our incredible volunteer team. It is through the generous support of our dedicated community that makes this work possible. Thank you for all that you do.

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Nancy Staack

Team Captain (Pro Bono)

Volunteering since 2004

Nancy is a valued member of our incredible volunteer team. It is through the generous support of our dedicated community that makes this work possible. Thank you for all that you do.

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Tim Cloutier

Team Captain (Pro Bono)

Volunteering since 2004

Tim is a valued member of our incredible volunteer team. It is through the generous support of our dedicated community that makes this work possible. Thank you for all that you do.

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Dena Hayess-Horton

Sound Lead (Pro Bono)

Volunteering since 2014

Dena is a valued member of our incredible volunteer team. It is through the generous support of our dedicated community that makes this work possible. Thank you for all that you do.

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Clara Naum

Spanish Translations (Pro Bono)

Volunteering since 2011

Clara is a valued member of our incredible volunteer team. It is through the generous support of our dedicated community that makes this work possible. Thank you for all that you do.

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Angela Sanabria

Spanish Translations (Pro Bono)

Volunteering since 2014

Angela is a valued member of our incredible volunteer team. It is through the generous support of our dedicated community that makes this work possible. Thank you for all that you do.

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Sara Avant Stover

Director of Operations

A bestselling author, Sara was CEO of her own company for 20 years and a Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude graduate of Columbia University's Barnard College. Sara moved to Thailand in her early 20s, where she embarked on a decade-long spiritual odyssey throughout Asia. Her work has uplifted the lives of tens of thousands of women worldwide and has been featured in Yoga Journal, the Huffington Post, Newsweek, ABC, NBC, and CBS. Heeding the desire to serve, Sara began working with FTC. 

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