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Who We Are

OUR MISSION

To transform the lives of individuals impacted by incarceration through compassionate experiential education.

OUR VISION

The Freedom to Choose Project 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.

It is our experience that people can change, even after spending years in prison or years in addiction. The capacity for the redemption of the human spirit is extraordinary and we have witnessed seeming miracles as people become peaceful, productive and responsible members of our society.

OUR VALUES

1. Divinely Guided Leadership
We listen within for the still, small voice of Spirit’s inspiration as it comes through the wisdom of our hearts. Spirit is our partner in this organization and we are dedicated to acting in ways that fulfill the highest good of all concerned. When we do this, we participate in opening to Grace.

2. Flexibility 
We accept and creatively embrace the challenges of life, transforming challenges into stepping stones. We work together in cooperation and harmony, gratefully appreciating our own and each other’s strengths, contributions and value. We are soooooo flexible!

3. Walk Our Talk
We do our best to authentically “walk our talk,” demonstrating the skills that we teach. We consistently and gratefully use our skills to resolve our own emotional reactivity.

4. Excellence
Our intention is to dynamically demonstrate excellence, supporting ourselves and each other in blooming fully and sharing our gifts. We take responsibility for our actions, holding a clear intention to consistently keep our agreements. We share our ideas and listen to each other openly and creatively, working together to create a culture of friendly feedback that supports excellence, growth and joy.

5. Freedom
We delight in the opportunities we have to co-create more freedom inside ourselves and in the world. We encourage freedom of Authentic Self expression, and freedom within our roles to function in ways that are fulfilling for each person. With that freedom comes responsibility to make choices that are in the highest good of all concerned.

6. Respect
We respect the value of every person, regardless of outer circumstances. We do our best to treat ourselves and each other with kindness, care and consideration. We respect the sacred and often confidential nature of our work.

7. Lifelong Learning
We are individually and collectively dedicated to learning and growth. We take responsibility for our own growth, our emotions and attitude.

8. Loving Service
We believe that loving service is one of the highest expressions of human consciousness, and it begins with taking good care of ourselves. We recognize that at our core, we are love and we bring loving forward in all the many ways we serve.

9. Stewardship
We take loving care of our resources, first and foremost ourselves. We engage in strategic planning and optimize processes to maximize our financial and people resources. As an outflow, we enjoy an ever-increasing flow of abundance on all levels!

10. Fun!
We enjoy doing amazing work in the world, and we have a lot of fun in the process!

OUR GROUND RULES

1. Take care of yourself so you can help take care of others.

2. Don’t hurt yourself and don’t hurt others.

3. Use everything for your upliftment, growth and learning.

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 since 2004. To date, FTC has served more than 5,500 prisoners through a corps of volunteers who have donated over 93,800 hours.

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

AWARDS

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

OUR TEAM

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

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

Co-Founder | Chair (Pro Bono)

FTC Volunteer since 2004

Bonnie Paul, Ph.D.

Co-Founder | Director of Education (Pro Bono)

FTC Volunteer since 2004

Karen Peterson, Ph.D.

Board Member | Director of Partnership & Program Development | Facilitation Team (Pro Bono) | Mentor Leadership (IAG) Leader – VSP (Pro Bono) | Curriculum Development (Pro Bono)

FTC volunteer since 2012

Michael Baldwin

Board Member | Facilitation Team (Pro Bono)

Active with FTC since 2013

Michael Lattimore, M.A.

Board Member | Facilitation Team (Pro Bono)

FTC volunteer since 2009

Molly Reid

Board Member | Team Captain (Pro Bono)

FTC volunteer since 2018

Fran Lewbel

Board Member | Facilitation Team (Pro Bono) | Mentor Leadership (IAG) Leader – CMC (Pro Bono)

FTC volunteer since 2014

Kim Culmone

Board Member

FTC volunteer since 2019

Kirk Souder

Board Member

FTC volunteer since 2012

Stephen Leland Keel

Board Member

Active with FTC since 2023

Holly Cook

Board Advisor

FTC volunteer since 2018

Claudia Flores, M.A.

Board Advisor

FTC volunteer since 2014

FTC STAFF

Forrest Leichtberg

Executive Director

Active with FTC since 2023

Karen Peterson, Ph.D.

Board Member | Director of Partnership & Program Development | Facilitation Team (Pro Bono) | Mentor Leadership (IAG) Leader – VSP (Pro Bono) | Curriculum Development (Pro Bono)

FTC volunteer since 2012

Stephanie Tan

Operations Manager

FTC volunteer since 2010

Susan Sizer

Program Coordinator | SATF YOP Groups | Facilitation Team

FTC volunteer since 2018

Eric Rodriguez

Manager of System Impacted Programs | Facilitation Team

Active with FTC since 2017

Nolan Hicks

Administrative Program Coordinator

Active with FTC since 2023

Rhonda Leland

Education Assistant

Active with FTC since 2004

Alejandra Valeriano

Administrative Assistant

Active with FTC since 2023

Eddie Torres

Education & Project Coordinator

Active with FTC since 2016

THE TEAM

Anthony Albright

Facilitation Team (Pro Bono) | Mentor Leadership (IAG) Leader – CIW (Pro Bono)

FTC volunteer since 2011

Michael Baldwin

Board Member | Facilitation Team (Pro Bono)

Active with FTC since 2013

LaVell Baylor

Facilitation Team (Pro Bono)

Active with FTC since 2009

Chemin Bernard

Retired

FTC volunteer since 2006

Stanley Bernard

Sabbatical

FTC volunteer since 2006

Elana Christiansen

Team Captain (Pro Bono)

FTC volunteer since 2008

Dena Hayess-Horton

Facilitation Team (Pro Bono) | Sound Lead (Pro Bono) | Mentor Leadership (IAG) Leader – LAC (Pro Bono)

FTC volunteer since 2014

Johanna Jenkins, LCSW

Education Team (Pro Bono)

FTC volunteer since 2011

Donna Kall

Facilitation Team (Pro Bono) | Team Captain (Pro Bono) | Mentor Leadership (IAG) Leader – CMC (Pro Bono)

FTC volunteer since 2004

Michael Lattimore, M.A.

Board of Directors | Facilitation Team (Pro Bono)

FTC volunteer since 2009

Howard Lazar

Mentor Leadership (IAG) Leader – VSP (Pro Bono)

FTC volunteer since 2005

Fran Lewbel

Board Member | Facilitation Team (Pro Bono) | Mentor Leadership (IAG) Leader – CMC (Pro Bono)

FTC volunteer since 2014

Alice Manning

Facilitation Team (Pro Bono)

FTC volunteer since 2009

Danielle Martin

Facilitation Team | Program Manager – FTC Australia (Pro Bono)

FTC volunteer since 2019

Ken Meyer

Legal Counsel (Pro Bono)

Clara Naum

Spanish Translations (Pro Bono)

FTC volunteer since 2011

Wayne Pepper

Director of Training (Pro Bono)

FTC volunteer since 2017

Molly Reid

Board Member | Team Captain (Pro Bono)

FTC volunteer since 2018

Angela Sanabria

Team Captain (Pro Bono) | Spanish Translations (Pro Bono)

FTC volunteer since 2014

Amanda Sherlock

Mentor Leadership (IAG) Leader – CMC (Pro Bono)

FTC volunteer since 2006

Linda Whitaker, Ph.D., MFT

Education Team (Pro Bono)

FTC volunteer since 2012

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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