- Founders -
Kristen Pepera LPCC-S, M.Ed.
Kristen is a licensed professional clinical counselor. She attended Ashland University for her undergraduate degree in psychology and graduated in 2008. Kristen earned her graduate degree in clinical mental health counseling from Kent State University in 2011. Kristen is passionate about helping and working with people of all ages, but particularly loves working with the LGBTQ+ population. She strives to walk with others and help them in any way that she can and is inspired by great thinkers such as Carl Rogers. “People are just as wonderful as sunsets if you let them be. When I look at a sunset, I don’t find myself saying, soften the orange a bit on the right hand corner. I don’t try to control the sunset. I watch with awe as it unfolds.” -Carl Rogers
Lisa Pepera LPCC-S, M.Ed.
Lisa is a licensed professional clinical counselor and supervisor. She graduated from John Carroll University with an undergraduate degree in 2008. She completed a graduate program with Kent State University in 2011 with a degree in clinical mental health counseling. Lisa has been working in both residential and outpatient settings with community based mental health agencies since 2012. Lisa is a Fairview Park native, she has a passion for helping others around her and enjoys spending time outdoors and with family. She is motivated by the following quote: “Be the change you wish to see in the world”.
- Board Members -
Phyllis "Seven" Harris Advisory Board Member
Phyllis “Seven” Harris’ 20+ years of experience with nonprofits, includes program management, fundraising, and upper-level management positions. For many years, she has played a strong role as an advocate in Cleveland’s LGBT community.
Under the direction of Ms. Harris since 2012, the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland has experienced unprecedented growth and expansion. Today, Center patrons enjoy expanded programming for everyone from teens to families to seniors in their Gordon Square facility. In 2015, the Center launched Pride in the CLE, a family-oriented and community-driven LGBT Pride festival that the group continues to produce annually. Earlier this year, Ms. Harris and her team began the construction process for a brand-new facility that will offer more space, accessibility, and versatility.
Throughout her career, Ms. Harris has leveraged both her passion and her multi-faceted experience to lead the organization on a path of sustainable growth and vitality. She is a past recipient of the Homer C. Wadsworth award, is currently completing a leadership fellowship with the Arcus Foundation and has earned a spot in the 2019 class of Leadership Cleveland. Prior to joining the Center, Ms. Harris directed a major capital campaign for the Cleveland Sight Center, served as Vice President of Programs for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cleveland and spearheaded youth initiatives at Planned Parenthood of Northeast Ohio. Her leadership in local nonprofit circles also extends to service on several boards.
Ms. Harris holds a master’s degree in non-profit management from Case Western Reserve University and a Bachelor of Arts from Baldwin Wallace College.
Dr. Peter Finnerty Board Member and President
Pete Finnerty is a licensed professional clinical counselor and supervisor (LPCC-S), advocate, consultant, educator, and founder of Grow Well Cleveland LLC. He received a B.A. in Psychology and Master’s in Counseling (with emphasis in marriage and family therapy) from California State University-Fresno, followed by a Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision from Kent State University. As a clinician Pete has worked in college counseling centers, community agencies, crisis centers, private practice, and inpatient behavioral health centers. These experiences allowed Pete to hone a holistic, systemic approach while developing unique nutritional, physical activity, and advocacy techniques for therapy borrowed from his other careers as an educator, personal trainer, and yoga instructor.
Particular modalities include exercise and yoga therapy in individual, dyad, and group settings. Pete’s practice is punctuated by the use of affirmative, feminist, existential, and wellness counseling for all clients but especially LGBTQ persons and others marginalized in society. Pete enjoys working with adolescent boys, athletes, couples, families, and many others at Grow Well Cleveland.
Pete was previously an assistant professor at Ursuline College in the Counseling & Art Therapy program where he taught assessment, theory, diversity, psychopathology, research methodology, service learning, and specialty courses on LGBTQ issues and wellness. Pete developed scholarly literature in these areas including a comprehensive set of competencies in working with the LGBTQ population as part of advocacy with the Association of LGBT Issues in Counseling (ALGBTIC), a division of the American Counseling Association. Other publications and research interests include LGBTQ issues, social justice, advocacy, wellness, and technology in counseling.
Pete advocates locally, regionally and nationally for LGBTQ persons and other marginalized persons, military members/veterans, and professional counselors. He has presented at local, state, and national conferences on LGBTQ issues, advocacy, wellness, supervision, teaching, and other topics. In his spare time you will find Pete running the trails and riding the roads of the greater Cleveland parks.
Ryan Smarsh Board Member and Secretary
Ryan is a Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW) with experience working with adults of all ages from diverse backgrounds and life experiences. He earned a Master of Social Work from Cleveland State University. He has worked in outpatient community mental health centers, providing both case management and therapy.
Ryan works with adults in individual therapy to address issues including depression, anxiety, stress, trauma, relationship issues, life adjustments, and substance abuse. He has experience working with those who have a co-occurring disorder (mental health and substance abuse). Ryan has provided individual therapy and group therapy for those in recovery, mainly groups for those in the pre-contemplation stage and the traditional IOP group. Recently, Ryan became certified to run Helping Men Recover, a group that specializes in men who are in recovery with trauma related issues and how to understand these issues better.
Ryan volunteers in many service capacities at his church, with homeless populations as well as facilitating food packing for needy families on Cleveland’s Westside. Ryan also is a volunteer board member for a new LGBT Center for Cleveland area youth. Serving the LGBT population is also a specialty of Ryan’s.
Ryan has provided services to those in emergency situations as well as short and long-term therapy and can see how impactful mental health and substance abuse treatment can be to those seeking services.
Shannon Scott-Miller Board Member and Vice-President
Shannon holds a Master of Arts in Art Therapy from Vermont College of Norwich University. Previously, she was an art therapist/child life specialist for the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital of the University of Michigan Health System before working with adults as an art therapist and then Program Coordinator of Complimentary Therapies for the Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Michigan. She subsequently worked as a Community Art Therapy Program Coordinator for Adrian College. She is former president of the Michigan Art Therapy Association and past board member of the American Art Therapy Association.
She brings the perspective as a parent of an LGBTQ+ youth as well and is very passionate about advocating for the entire LGBTQ+ community.
Ken Schneck Board Member
Ken Schneck is an author, professor, radio host, and rabble rouser. His travelogue, “Seriously, What Am I Doing Here?: The Adventures of a Wondering and Wandering Gay Jew” was published in 2017, “LGBTQ Cleveland” was released in 2018, and “LGBTQ Columbus” hit the shelves in June of 2019. He is a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post, Cleveland Magazine and FreshWater Cleveland, and currently serves as the Editor for Prizm Magazine, Ohio’s only LGBTQ+ publication. For 10 years, he was the producer/host of “This Show is So Gay,” the award-winning, nationally syndicated radio show/podcast. In his spare time, he is a Professor of Education at Baldwin Wallace University.
Evie DuVernay Board Member
Evie is passionate about preparing Cleveland’s next generation of leadership and helping to amplify their voices in a society where they are often silenced. She has been recognized for her work with young adults and the Northeast Ohio community.
She currently serves as the Director of Look Up To Cleveland, a program of the Cleveland Leadership Center. She previously held positions at The LGBT Center of Greater Cleveland and The Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio, where her focus has been around issues of equity around race, ethnicity, (dis)ability, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation and gender identity and/or expression, as well as leadership development within a global context. She developed and delivered programs extensively throughout the United States around diversity and inclusion, including a large-scale LGBTQ Cultural Competence program in preparation for the 2014 Gay Games in Northeastern Ohio.
She has been named by The Plain Dealer as one of Cleveland’s Community Heroes for her work with young adults and received an LGBT Heritage Day Award from the City of Cleveland for her work in education and social services. She was named one of the top five most influential people in Northeast Ohio for LGBTQ advocacy by Cleveland Magazine, and Cisgender Ally of the Year by the Northeast Ohio Transgender community.
Evie holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Notre Dame College, a master’s in psychology from Cleveland State University and graduate-level certification in diversity management. She is adjunct faculty in Women and Gender Studies at Cleveland State University. Evie is a proud and active resident of the Collinwood neighborhood in Cleveland.
Dr. Mitch Lieberth Board Member
Mitch Lieberth is the CARE Manager at Cleveland State University. They have worked at CSU for 15 years in nearly every student service capacity: admissions, financial aid, advising, and student life. Before working at CSU, they held positions at Case Western Reserve University and the Mid-American Conference, a Division I collegiate athletic conference. Mitch earned their BSJ in Public Relations at Ohio University where they also earned a Master of Science in Sports Administration. Mitch has earned two degrees at CSU: a Master of Education in Adult Learning and a Master of Arts in History. Mitch successfully defended their dissertation at CSU and earned their PhD in Urban Education Policy. Their doctoral research focuses on identity and policy assessment for trans students.
In their spare time Mitch loves volunteering and eating good food. Mitch has volunteered for the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Preterm, and advises the CSU queer student alliance. Mitch loves sandwiches and wings. Ask them for recommendations!
Skylar Brown Board Member and Treasurer
Sky joined the Colors+ board not only because she considers herself an ally but because she has always been an agent of change. She is someone who has been able to come from a relatively unique perspective as a young child of color growing up in a rural mostly white town. She also spent most of her life in private Catholic school where for the 1st 8 years, her brother and her were the only people of color in the entire school. While she does not know what it’s like to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community specifically, she does know what it’s like to feel different and sometimes alone as she tried to make her way through life. She has tried to avail herself of every resource possible throughout her life to give back and support others.
When she was in high school, she was on multiple boards bringing speakers like Maya Angelou, Bishop Desmond Tutu, and Matthew Shepard’s mother to speak to her contemporaries. In college, she took LGBTQ law classes, and she’s been a part of several groups since then who’s focus is on equality and unity. She would love to help young people grow up in a world where the love, acceptance, equality and unity feels more tangible than ever before.
Henry Ng, MD, MPH Board Member
Henry Ng, MD, MPH (hey/they) is a dually trained and certified internist and pediatrician, educator, and advocate for LGBTQ health. Currently. They serve as the Head for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Medical Services and the Medical Lead for the Transgender Surgery & Medicine Program at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.
They completed their BS and his MD at Michigan State University. They completed their residency and chief residency in Internal Medicine/Pediatrics at MetroHealth and joined the faculty in 2006. In 2012, they completed a Master’s in Public Health degree at Case Western Reserve University with an emphasis on Health Promotion/Disease Prevention for LGBT populations. They attained the rank of Associate Professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.
Dr. Ng’s clinical and academic work focused on delivering culturally and clinically competent care to medically vulnerable populations. In 2007, they co-founded and has since served as the Clinical Director of the PRIDE Clinic, Ohio’s first medical home for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) patients.
Dr. Ng's academic interests are in LGBT Health, health disparities, and public/population health. They served as an associate editor for the journal, LGBT Health and had directed the LGBT clinical elective "PRIDE Clinic" at CWRU School of Medicine from 2008 to 2018. Dr. Ng was a board member and past president of GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality and was involved in medical education and mentorship. They have also served on the National Advisory Council for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
Dr. Ng has received numerous community and academic awards including the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award (2009), the Cleveland Human Rights Campaign Leadership Award (2013), the Gender Equity Award (2016), and the Transforming Care Medical Provider Award (2017).
Dr. Ng is fluent in English, Spanish, Cantonese, and American Sign Language (ASL).
- Previous Board Members -
Dr. Bruce Thomas Previous Board Member
Dr. Bruce Thomas has been at Albert Einstein Academy as the Superintendent since 2012. His focus is on creating and enhancing academic programs that combine cognitive and personal growth and community service. A professor of practice at Cleveland State University and The University of Akron in the Colleges of Education, Dr. Thomas has been teaching for more than 35 years. He has served as special education teacher, a school counselor, a director of alternative learning, a school administrator, and as a school superintendent.
Dr. Thomas holds degrees from Bowling Green State University and Nova Southeastern University. He received post-doctoral training at Cleveland State University, Kent State University and Harvard University
Kristen Elliot-Thomas Previous Board Member
Kristen Elliott-Thomas joined Albert Einstein Academy in 2012 from Warren City Schools where she was the Coordinator of Community Engagement and School Counseling. Mrs. Elliott-Thomas has also served for a number of years in area schools as a school counselor and an elementary teacher. A native of Stubenville Ohio, she completed her undergraduate and graduate work at The University of Akron.