Insight Garden Program

Core Team

BethWaitkus-200x200Beth Waitkus

Founding Director

As part of her deep commitment to systems change at the intersection of environmental, social and criminal justice, Beth founded the Insight Garden Program (IGP) in 2002. Over the past several years, as Executive Director, Beth has overseen program expansion to ten additional California prisons, two youth facilities in Indiana, and a collaborative reentry program in New York City. IGP plans for continued national program replication. IGP’s trauma-informed and assets-based yearlong program serves hundreds of men, women and youth annually.

Beth has won accolades for her work in prisons and is featured in the book, Eco Amazons: 20 Women Who are Transforming the World by Dorka Keehn. She is also a recipient of the Hotchkiss School Community Service Award, Pepperdine University Graziadio George and Waves of Service Awards, and in 2018, IGP received the (California) Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA). As a member of the American Correctional Association’s Sustainability-Oriented and Environmentally Responsible Practices Committee, in 2019, IGP received the ACA’s Innovations in Corrections Award. Beth and IGP have also been featured in ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, as well as many other media outlets.

Beth holds a MS in Organization Development from Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and a BA in Political Science from Tufts University. At home, she spends time playing in the waves, the woods and her garden to renew her spirit. She believes the natural world teaches us everything we need to know.

Amanda Berger

Program Director

Amanda is passionate about working with social justice organizations and has a special interest in criminal justice reform, including efforts to expand quality educational opportunities for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people. As Program Director, she supports IGP’s Program Managers at six California prisons and continues to manage our flagship program at San Quentin Prison. She also is helping to develop IGP’s “reentry bridge” concept and doing outreach to Bay Area and Southern California employers and community organizations to provide ongoing support for IGP’s returning citizens.

Amanda is a certified professional coach and consultant who works with social change leaders and nonprofits in the Bay Area and beyond. She has an extensive background in progressive philanthropy and transformational leadership development through her work with the Funders Collaborative for Youth Organizing, the Women Donors’ Network, Rockwood Leadership Institute and Communities for Public Education Reform (CPER).

Amanda was a past facilitator in training with the Victim Offender Education Group at a women’s prison in Chowchilla, CA. She is an affiliated coach with RoadMap, Rockwood Leadership Institute, the Haas Flexible Leadership Award and on the faculty of Leadership that Works. Amanda is on the board of UnCommon Law who provide pro-bono representation to people going to the parole board in CA.

Karen HsuehKaren Hsueh

Chief of Staff

Co-Facilitator – California Medical Facility (CMF)

Karen first joined as a volunteer in 2015 and is now IGP’s Chief of Staff and Co-Facilitator of IGP’s curriculum at CMF. She supports IGP’s operations, coordinates a variety of projects led by IGP executive staff, and promotes team collaboration and streamlined processes between organizational systems. In addition to her work with IGP, Karen also consults with multiple California-based criminal justice reform groups. She strongly upholds the leadership and perspectives of those who have been most affected by systems of oppression and incarceration. Her life’s work strives to create intentional and inclusive community-building for healing and transformation, and to embrace each and every person’s inherent ability to love, be loved, and meaningfully contribute to the world.

Karen received a Master’s Certificate in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems from Tufts University, and earned her BA in Political Science from Marist College.

Margot Reisner

Administrative Assistant & Bookkeeper

As IGP’s Administrative Assistant and Bookkeeper, Margot coordinates office needs including organization systems, communication processes, program materials and financial information. She is involved in many aspects of IGP’s work, supporting the day-to-day organizational needs so programs can operate optimally.

Margot first became involved with IGP in 2010 as a high school student when she volunteered at San Quentin, working on a curriculum design project. She received her BA in Environmental Studies at Skidmore College, where she focused on sustainable food systems and eco justice. She is a certified permaculture designer, nutritional chef and ceramic artist who has worked as an educator and activist for many years. She officially joined IGP’s staff in 2018. Margot is passionate about ecological health, social justice, racial equity and empowering communities by fostering meaningful connections to nature.

HaleyReimbold-200x200Haley Reimbold

Development Manager

Since joining IGP in 2015, Haley has supported organizational and programmatic growth as Development Manager where she has guided development and growth strategy, managed the implementation of fundraising strategies and plans, and built investment in our organization through partnerships with the organization’s dedicated supporters and volunteers.

Haley cultivated her expertise in non-profit sustainability, social entrepreneurship, and replication strategy while at the Vera Institute of Justice, where she incubated cross-sector demonstration projects in the Department of Planning and Government Innovation. She served as a governor-appointed member of the New York State Juvenile Justice Advisory Group for seven years, setting state priorities and awarding grants to organizations and municipalities across the state. For three years, Haley was a primary member of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice and she served as a board member of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice for two years. Haley received her MPA degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, MPP from the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, and her BA in Women’s Studies from Hamilton College.

AnneValiant-200x200Ann Valliant

Operations & Finance Manager

Ann Valliant managed the set-up of Insight Garden Program as a non-profit business in 2013 and has continued to oversee IGP’s finances and human relations ever since. She also creates budgets and contracts, and works closely with the development team collaborate on the organization’s financial sustainability.

She has been a finance and business operations consultant since the mid ’80s, helping a wide variety of visionaries build the business foundations for their success. Major projects included setting up the accounting and human resources operations for a start-up that offered business services to food and farming entrepreneurs and to investors in those enterprises, and the same for a non-profit that arranges tours that demonstrate the sustainable economy in action and inspire support of local green businesses. As an avid gardener, she deeply understands the power and peace that arise from hands in soil nurturing living things and is delighted to help expand that experience to people in one of our most nature-alienated environments – prisons.

Heather Bean

Publicity and Partnership Coordinator

Americorps VISTAs

The heart of Heather’s work is to recruit the outside community onto our team. She is committed to building bridges between others, a passion that she lives out by expanding our partnerships and publicity. Heather interfaces with current and potential partners, implements a proactive media strategy, and provides individualized support to our different program sites.

As a native of the beautiful Pacific Northwest, Heather knows firsthand the powerful impact that comes from access to nature. After spending 2 years honing her volunteer coordinating skills in the housing issues sphere, she is now reframing her passion for social justice and the outdoors through the lense of criminal justice reform. Heather received her BA in Sociology from Seattle Pacific University. At home, she enjoys playing in the mountains and spending time with her neighbors.

Victoria Tse

Development Coordinator

Americorps VISTAs

As IGP’s Development Coordinator, Victoria works with our development team to generate grant applications and funds to support the organization. A Southern California native, Victoria is passionate about cultivating partnerships with higher education institutions in the Los Angeles area to recruit volunteers for our in-prison programs. Through IGP’s “reentry bridge” project, Victoria is committed to reducing recidivism by bridging the needs of people in reentry with job opportunities in the green economy.

As a scholar in training, Victoria is intrigued by our society’s punitive culture and plans on attending law school where she will utilize her background in philosophy to investigate the moral challenge of punishment. The heart of her work and research interests are driven by her desire to challenge the longstanding justifications for punishment in favor of more restorative approaches. She currently holds a BA in Philosophy from UCLA and plans on obtaining a JD to continue fighting for a system that is less dehumanizing and more rehabilitative. Outside of work, she enjoys staying in shape by weightlifting and loves that it makes her feel empowered.

Site Team

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA

AmyBoyer-200x200Amy Boyer

Program Manager and Facilitator

Calfornia State Prison – Solano (CSP-SOL)
California Medical Facility – Solano (CMF)

As Program Manager and Facilitator at two California prisons, Amy loves creating space where people and plants can grow. She first joined IGP to manage IGP’s first expansion site at CSP-Solano and launched IGP’s programs at California Medical Facility (CMF) and California Health Care Facility (CHCF); Amy continues to manage IGP programs at CSP-SOL and CMF. At the heart of her work is facilitating IGP’s curriculum on the inside. She also recruits and manages volunteers, builds relationships with organizations whose interests align with IGP, and works with prison staff, volunteers, and participants to install and maintain prison gardens. She has a special interest in how contact with nature heals the mind and spirit.

In 2016 Amy was selected to participate in Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s national leadership program, Culture of Health Leaders, which supports people from all sectors that have an influence on health, to create collaborative solutions that address health inequities and move their communities and organizations toward a Culture of Health. As of 2019 she is working on initiatives to bring trauma-informed gardening to incarcerated mental health patients at CMF and managing the first Green Team in a California prison, at CSP-SOL, to come up with recommendations to reduce the facility’s environmental footprint.  This multi-stakeholder project includes staff, incarcerated people and community members at CSP-SOL. Working with IGP brings together Amy’s life-long love of gardening and nature, her training in Buddhist chaplaincy and her administrative and collaborative skills.

Tracy ‘Tylee’ Sewell

Program Manager and Facilitator

Folsom Women’s Facility (FWF)
California Health Care Facility (CCWF)
OH Close Youth Correctional Facility (OHCYCF)

In 2016, a leap of faith brought Tylee to California from Atlanta to work in the landscape industry. Later that year she began volunteering with IGP at CHCF, which lead to an opportunity to become Program Manager at FWF. Since then, she has taken over program management  CHCF and helped launch IGP at its first California youth facility, OHCYCF. In 2018, she was selected to be a part of the Sierra Health Foundation’s Health Leadership Program Class XV, joining 361 nonprofit and public sector leaders and former participants to promote health equity in underserved communities and improve the well-being of youth populations within California.

A woman with many passions, her involvements include Urban Farming, Permaculture, Art and Landscape Design. As an educator, she served as an adjunct professor at Lander University for one year and was a K-12 art teacher for 13 years. While teaching elementary school, she was inspired to create a learning garden which planted the seed to change careers. Satisfying her aspiration, she went on to study horticulture at Gwinnett Tech in Georgia where she designed, installed, and managed a 3.5 acre food forest called ‘The Learn-In-Farm.’ The farm harvest was used to organize a weekly farmer’s market and community supported agriculture program.

Tylee earned her BFA and MS from Pratt Institute in Graphic Design and Communications Design, as well as a Master of Arts in Teaching from Lander University in Art Education and an Associate of Applied Science from Gwinnett Technical College in Environmental Horticulture, Landscape Design and Sustainable Urban Agriculture. Her mix of enthusiasm, desire and integrity for improving the environment has made her an ambassador for self-reliance, food security and sustainable food within communities.

German Yambao

Co-Facilitator

OH Close Youth Correctional Facility (OHCYCF)

German became involved with IGP because he feels that the program supports ongoing rehabilitation in his own life as well as the program participants. He is interested in the way gardening reminds us that humans are deeply interconnected with nature.

After committing a crime, German was sentenced to 17 years to life in a California State Prison. While incarcerated, he experienced a spiritual transformation and began to see life from a different perspective. He also began to practice prayer, meditation and participate in educational opportunities, receiving a High School Diploma, an AA, became a Certified Substance Abuse Counselor and a Ministry Certificate from Patton College. He was trained as a facilitator and involved in a variety of programs.

Since his release, German has worked as a facilitator and case manager. He is now married, has raised two daughters and became a homeowner. He enjoys working with men and youth who are incarcerated, providing information about life skills and sharing his experience to provide insight about what success can look like after prison. German is excited to continue to make a difference in society as co-facilitator at OHCYCF.

Jill Plumb

Co-Facilitator

Folsom Women’s Facility (FWF)

As a Co-Facilitator with Tylee at FWF, Jill began her career as an adult educator and is credited with improving her school through the additions of WASC Accreditation, competency-based curriculum, and the use of varied learning styles to help all students achieve their full potential. As a teacher, she developed the Woodland Joint Unified School District K-8 Home School Program, and her documents were adopted as models for the State of California. Later, as an inventor and businesswoman, Jill designed and marketed her invention, the M Brace, to help gardeners everywhere make easy and stylish raised beds.

Jill has a deep appreciation for all her fellow beings, and expresses this in her daily meditation practice and social justice activism. She is a lifelong gardener who believes every garden is a place of growth and renewal, and every person can benefit by interacting with the natural world. She is grateful to be part of the Insight Garden team.

CENTRAL VALLEY CALIFORNIA

Katerina Friesen

Program Manager and Facilitator

Avenal State Prison (ASP-Yard D)
Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF)

Katerina came on board with IGP in 2017 as IGP’s Program Manager at CCWF in Chowchilla – the largest women’s prison in the country – where an incarcerated woman had been advocating for a gardening program for over a decade.  She also serves as the Program Manager at ASP-Yard D. As an avid gardener, Katerina knows intuitively that tending soil and plants is healing work, both for the Earth and for our own inner being. She is passionate about creating verdant spaces for healing and reconciliation within stark and often oppressive environments.

Katerina comes to IGP with experience starting and coordinating various farms and urban gardens, where she has cultivated food and community with groups from Mixteco farmworkers to youth in the Juvenile Justice System. Apart from her work with IGP, Katerina is a writer and educator focusing on themes of Indigenous justice, climate change, and ecology. She sees her overarching vocation as helping to build the “Beloved Community” of justice and love that prophetic voices have envisioned since ancient times. Katerina received her Masters in Divinity. in Theology and Peace Studies at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary.

Calliope Correa

Program Manager and Facilitator

Avenal State Prison (ASP-Yard C)

Calliope began volunteering with IGP at ASP on Yard D in July 2017 and has been the Program Manager on Yard C since July 2018. She became involved with IGP because she believes in the power of nature to heal and IGP provides an amazing opportunity to bring nature to a population that lacks access to the natural world’s beauty. She appreciates how the curriculum encourages participants to grow from within while facilitating vocational and life skills.

Calliope has a BS in Plant Science from Fresno State as well as a MS in Interdisciplinary Studies in Plant Science and Rehabilitation Counseling. She wrote her thesis on curriculum development for young adults with disabilities using horticulture to improve life and social skills. In 2015, she obtained a certificate from the Horticultural Therapy Institute and is a guest lecturer about the practical side of horticultural therapy. She is currently an Instructional Support Technician with California State University Fresno and manager of the Horticulture Nursery on the Fresno State Farm. She is passionate about getting people connected to the natural world and teaches classes to everyone from children to elders on the benefits of getting in the dirt and how to improve well-being through interaction with nature.

Arnold Trevino

Co-facilitator

Avenal State Prison (ASP)

As co-facilitator at ASP, Arnold is motivated to witness the possibilities of change. He has a strong desire to show those who are inside and outside that transformation is possible. This ethic has led him to work within the California Prisons, side-by-side with the prison population.

Arnold earned his BA in Social Work at Fresno State University and is currently working on obtaining his Master’s Degree in the same field. In addition to co-facilitating at ASP, Arnold assists with Project Rebound, a student support services program for formerly incarcerated students at California State University Fresno. He also interned as a mentor at Fresno’s Juvenile Justice Campus in the Focus Forward program and continues to play an active role there, he now currently interns at West Care’s Health and Wellness Program as he finishes his last semester at Fresno State.

Arnold deeply values the opportunity that IGP provides for humans to grow from seedling to full bloom. Having spent spent the better half of his life in prison, he experienced his own transformation which enabled him to break out of his shell and become a proactive and productive member of society. IGP has allowed Arnold to continue this fruitful journey as he shares his personal life story and the endless possibilities of change with those he now works with inside of prisons.

Aaron Green

Co-facilitator

Avenal State Prison (ASP-Yard C)

Aaron became involved with IGP through his work with Project Rebound at Fresno State where he discovered IGP through a class there. After participating in the daylong training for IGP facilitators, he knew he could put his heart into this work. He is passionate about providing positive programming to individuals and working in gardens to develop vocational skills in horticulture. He is currently working for Project Rebound and volunteering at several other organizations in Fresno. He is very interested in justice reform and advocating for justice-impacted individuals. Aaron participates in college governance and several college clubs. He will be graduating in the spring of 2019 with a BA in Psychology and has already applied for graduate school to get his MA in Psychology at Fresno State.

Jennifer Leahy

Liaison for Project Rebound

Avenal State Prison (ASP)

Jennifer is currently a Co-Facilitator for IGP at ASP and the Program Director for Project Rebound.  As an adjunct lecturer in the Criminology department at CSU, Fresno, she worked as a research assistant to Dr. Barbara Owen where she studied the effects of the criminal justice systems on female offenders. Jennifer has assisted in work for Fresno County, the Thailand Institute of Justice and CDCR along with many other agencies.

She promotes education within the correctional system at a variety of prisons to reduce recidivism and improve the quality of our communities at every opportunity through Project Rebound. Additionally,  she participates as a volunteer for Bill Glass Behind the Wall Ministry which conducts Christian outreach inside institutions across the United States. After her release from CCWF in 2006, she obtained her Masters in Criminology. Her experience of incarceration combined with a love of education puts her in a unique position to assist those interested in effective programming to reduce recidivism.

Zulema Valdez

Co-facilitator

Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF)

Through her work as a Co-facilitator at Central California Women’s Facility, Zulema applies her deep knowledge of social inequality in entrepreneurship and health, along the lines of race, class, and gender. She is Associate Professor of Sociology at University of California, Merced and has been a postdoctoral fellow at the National Poverty Center (University of Michigan) and the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies (UC San Diego). She has been the recipient of awards from the Ford Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the Social Science Research Council. Her work has been published in many academic journals and edited volumes. She is the author of two books, The New Entrepreneurs: How Race, Class and Gender Shape American Enterprise (Stanford, 2011) and Entrepreneurs and the Search for the American Dream (Routledge, 2016). Professor Valdez is currently working on two new projects: the first examines the relationship between community gardens in disadvantaged areas, like the Central Valley, and food access and health. The second investigates strategies for success among undocumented students in higher education. Professor Valdez earned her PhD from the University of California, Los Angeles.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

Armando Lawrence

Co-facilitator

California State Prison – Lancaster (CSP-LAC, Yards A & B)

Armando has worked as a Co-Facilitator with  IGP through the Catalyst Foundation in Lancaster, California since May 2016, supporting two classes on a high security and a medium security, programming yard. He has been active in the community for over 40 years as a community advocate for cultural integrity (Chicano/Indigenous/Opata Tribe), human and civil rights, and is a member of the Board of Directors for Via Health Care Clinic in East Los Angeles, LIAPA (Los Angeles Indigenous Peoples Alliance), Opateria (Opata Tribe of Arizona and Sonora, Mexico) and the Northern Southern Winds foundation. Armando also holds council for the East Los Angeles “Men Circle”/ National Compadres Network.

His experience in the community and specialized training in cultural sensitivity and healing has provided him with a strong sense of the interconnectedness of all human beings as well as all living-things. The various curriculum trainings he has received have prepared him for working with youth, parents, and incarcerated people in California’s prisons. He believes the concept of the “Circle of Life” can guide us in knowing “who we are, where we come from” and charting a positive and healthy path for not only our futures but for our children, families and community as well.