Board of Directors
Olivier de Lavalette
For the past 3 years, Olivier has been the Treasurer of Mindful Kids Miami, and has actively contributed to its development. He is a designated CFM Qualified MBSR Teacher that has completed the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), University of Massachusetts’ Center for Mindfulness, Practice Teacher Intensive. Olivier facilitates workshops on mindfulness and the many benefits this practice can bring to the community.
Raised and educated in France as well as the United States, Olivier is bilingual in French and English, comfortably conversant in Spanish, Italian and German. His multicultural upbringing has fueled his interest in the diverse beliefs, customs and values underlying human needs and behaviors. Olivier‘s longtime interest in promoting and nurturing physical, psychological well-being, has led him to a focus on stress and its negative impact on physical and emotional health.
Olivier has had an active meditation practice for several years, and continues to regularly attend silent retreats, and other mindfulness based trainings. In more than 30 years in the Private sector (Information Technology and real-estate) he has held many upper-management positions, managing profit centers and culturally diverse teams across most of the European continent, as well as in the Middle-East and Africa. He was also involved in founding and directing a non-profit organization in Paris. Having recently moved to Miami from Paris, he is an active Board of Director on several “not-for-profit” institutions. Olivier de Lavalette holds an BA from Brown University and a MBA from Columbia University.
Silvia R. Rojas
Silvia Rojas is the Managing Director for Mindful Kids Miami and is a designated CFM Qualified MBSR Teacher that has completed the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), University of Massachusetts’ Center for Mindfulness, Practice Teacher Intensive. In addition, she has completed the teacher training intensive from the University of California San Diego’s Mindfulness-Based Professional Training Institute, along with participating in an MBSR Program and MBSR Teacher Tutorial with Zayda Vallejo, Mindful Kids Miami Senior Teacher. Silvia facilitates workshops on mindfulness and the many benefits this practice can bring to the community and has had an active meditation practice for several years. She continues to regularly attend silent retreats, and other mindfulness based trainings.
Silvia joined MKM’s Board of Directors in December 2014 after retiring from a distinguished 30-year career at Miami-Dade County Public Schools in early 2014, where she served as Treasurer for the prior nine years. After working as part-time Administrative Director during 2015, in March 2016 she became MKM’s Managing Director, in charge of day-to-day operations. She also serves on MKM’s Research Committee and is CITI certified. Silvia is grateful for the opportunity to continue to serve our community and to work with mindfulness teachers, staff and community members dedicated to bringing the benefits of mindfulness to the children of South Florida.
Michael C. Cesarano
Michael C. Cesarano is a patent attorney, board-certified by The Florida Bar in the fields of Business Litigation, Civil Trial and Intellectual Property Law. Michael focuses his practice on intellectual property litigation and patent prosecution, and assists clients with registering trademarks and copyrights. He served as a fighter pilot in Vietnam before earning his J.D. degree from what is now Seattle University, and then a masters degree (LLM) in International Law from the London School of Economics and Political Science. A native Floridian born and raised in Coral Gables, Michael is an accomplished pianist and guitarist, and gives freely of his time and talent for worthy causes.
Renee Lopez-Cantera, MBA
Mrs. Lopez-Cantera is the VP of Business Development at Eikon Digital, focusing on the digital strategy with clients and agencies. Renee has held several managerial positions at MHMC since 2006 and has been honored with the Herald Hero award. She has over 16 years of consumer marketing and customer service experience in media, real estate and consumer products. Renee graduated with her MBA in Finance and Marketing from the University of Miami in 1998. Her undergraduate degree is from Tulane University in Political Science. Renee is also an Executive Board Member of New World School of the Arts, Secretary of the Hebrew Free Loan Association, and on the United Way’s Women’s Leadership Committee. Mrs. Lopez-Cantera is a native Floridian and her favorite role is as a Mom of two young children with her husband, Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera.
Dr. Jill Beloff Farrell
Dr. Jill Beloff Farrell is a Full Professor and currently serves as the Dean in the Adrian Dominican School of Education at Barry University. She earned her doctoral degree in Curriculum and Instruction/Instructional Leadership at Florida International University in 1999. She also holds a master’s degree in Elementary Education and a bachelor’s in Fine Arts. In her 17 years at Barry University, Dr. Farrell has held many roles including: Director of the MS Elementary Education program, Director of the MS, EdS, and PhD Curriculum and Instruction programs, and Chair for the Curriculum and Instruction Department. Throughout her years of service at Barry University, Dr. Farrell has been instrumental in raising awareness in the School of Education, the University, and in the community, about a number of significant issues ranging from the role of nutrition and wellness programs in school curricula to collaborative inquiry and action research, teacher leadership and arts-based educational research methods. Prior to joining the University, Dr. Farrell served as a K-8 principal, assistant principal, and curriculum director. She has taught science, social studies, mathematics, language arts and art at both the elementary and middle school levels. Her passion and dedication to high-quality teacher preparation programs continues to drive her work.
John Davies, Ed.D.
John Davies has been at Miami Country Day School for the past 26 years. He has served as a social studies and philosophy teacher, middle school director and now head of school at Country Day. An educator for 30 years, John received a BA in philosophy from Merrimack College and his MA in history from Texas A&M University. He completed his doctorate in educational leadership at Florida International University. The author of numerous articles on media, wellness, and education topics, Dr. Davies has spoken at the local and national level to both educational and other community groups on media literacy. He has served as a consultant on various media literacy projects and is the author of Educating Students in a Media-Saturated Culture and DOA: Education in an Electronic Culture, which explores the impact of electronic culture on learning and education. Also interested in Holocaust education, Dr. Davies has served on the Executive Board of Directors of the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center. He has also served on the Florida Commissioner of Education’s Task Force on Holocaust Education and the Florida Council of Independent Schools Board of Directors.
Valerie DeWitt, E-RYT 200, RCYT
Ms. DeWitt began her career as an executive in the fashion business and in the early 1980’s became a student of yoga. In 1998 after leaving the fashion industry, she began teaching yoga to adults at the Yoga Institute of Miami. She specializes in both Iyengar and Insight Yoga which incorporates mindfulness with yoga practice. A year later she became a Certified YogaKids® Teacher and brought her yoga programs designed for children into the schools. Since that time, Ms. DeWitt has served as a mentor to trainees in the program and facilitated workshops & trainings for teachers, parents, and childcare professionals at several local public and private schools and community organizations. She continues to teach adults at the Institute and at Palmetto High School thru Miami-Dade Public School’s Community Education Program.
David J. Lee, Ph.D
Dr. Lee is a tenured Professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences (former Department of Epidemiology & Public Health) at the University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine. Currently, he is the Project Director and Principal Investigator of the Florida Cancer Data System at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine, the Co-Leader of the Mind-Body Medical Workgroup, and the Director of the UM School of Medicine, Department of Public Health Sciences Graduate Programs. Dr. Lee is also a member of the National Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Advisory Council at National Institutes of Health. He has published book chapters and monographs, peer reviewed journal articles as well as other works and abstracts. Dr. Lee has received numerous grants and contracts and presented at innumerable conferences. He has served on the Editorial Board of Behavioral Medicine (1995-2012), and continues to sit on many university and national committees.
Linda McKenzie is the lead teacher for the Mindful Teacher Training Program and is a designated CFM Qualified MBSR Teacher that has completed the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), University of Massachusetts’ Center for Mindfulness, Practice Teacher Intensive. In addition, she has completed the teacher training intensive from the University of California San Diego’s Mindfulness-Based Professional Training Institute, along with participating in an MBSR Program and MBSR Teacher Tutorial with Zayda Vallejo, Mindful Kids Miami Senior Teacher. Linda also facilitates workshops on mindfulness and the many benefits this practice can bring to the community and has had an active meditation practice for several years.
Linda has volunteered extensively with community organizations in Miami-Dade County, particularly in the areas of education and wellness. She is a past president of the Miami Children’s Hospital Community Council (the fundraising arm of the hospital), and is a founding member of the Wellness Community of Greater Miami (now the Cancer Support Group), which provides free support services to cancer patients and their families. She has also served in numerous leadership positions and committees in parent-teacher and related organizations. Having attended the IJ-MBSR with Valerie York-Zimmerman she quickly increased her training in mindfulness.
Ashwin Mehta, M.D., M.P.H.
Dr. Mehta is the Medical Director for the Memorial Division of Integrative Medicine at Memorial Healthcare System. In collaboration with a team of experts in complementary techniques, Dr. Mehta has developed innovative, client-centered wellness programs aimed to enhance quality of life throughout the spectrum of care. Ashwin Mehta, MD, who is board certified in internal medicine and sleep medicine, Dr. Mehta is a conference co-chair for the Society for Integrative Oncology annual meeting in November 2016, and he applies integrative modalities in his clinical practice. His expertise includes nutrition, exercise, sleep, yoga and mindfulness to achieve wellness in the context of coping with challenging treatments for chronic health conditions. Dr. Mehta’s research interests include the use of preventative medicine and positive health behaviors to improve quality of life in patients being treated for cancer, heart disease and neurological conditions, as well as those undergoing rehabilitation.
Ian M. Reiss, M.D.
Dr. Reiss is a highly regarded board certified surgeon who has practiced at both Baptist and South Miami Hospitals beginning in 1972. He serves as the Clinical Assistant Professor of Surgery at Florida International University’s School of Medicine and specializes in vascular surgery. Dr. Reiss received his undergraduate and medical training at Colombia University and serves in a number of professional associations including the American Medical Association, the Florida Medical Association, and the Dade County Medical Association. He was a founding member of both the South Florida Society for Vascular Surgery and the Florida Vascular Society, and he is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons. Dr. Reiss also serves as a Director on the South Miami Hospital Board, a part of Baptist Health South Florida.