Through their confidential helpline, cross-sector partnerships, and public awareness campaigns, Parents For Peace cultivates, develops, and advocates for sustainable ways to counter extremism.
MEET OUR TEAM
Melvin Bledsoe is the Co-Founder of Parents For Peace. His family have lived in Memphis for generations, and he is proud of his hometown’s history and culture. He founded Blues City Tours to introduce that heritage to visitors to Memphis, and he has served as a guide to thousands of tourists, sharing insights on Blues music and more. Melvin comes from a family where many of his siblings and relatives served in the U.S. military. After his son Carlos was recruited by violent extremists and murdered a soldier in Arkansas, Melvin channeled his pain into advocacy. He has testified to Congress and been featured in numerous national media outlets, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and CNN.
Monica Holley is the Co-Founder of Parents For Peace. A Memphis native, she studied Mass Communications and Marketing at Stillman College in Alabama and is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She previously worked at The Dallas Morning News and is now Director of Business Development & Marketing at Blues City Tours. Monica witnessed her younger brother Carlos drift into extremism and struggled to intervene before he committed an act of violence. She is the mother of two young boys, who can now only visit their uncle in jail.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR and BOARD MEMBER
Myrieme Churchill is the Executive Director of Parents for Peace. She has over 30 years of experience as a psychotherapist, working in variety of settings and with a range of populations in Europe and the U.S. Beginning her career in France, she intervened with first and second-generation North African immigrant sex workers on the streets of Marseille and facilitated group therapy in a juvenile detention center in Nice. In the U.S., Churchill worked as a group therapy counselor in an inpatient dual diagnosis unit at Beth Israel Deaconess and as program director of a dual diagnosis drop-in center in suburban Boston.
She obtained several life coach and professional coach certifications and has maintained a coaching practice based in Monaco since 2000. She also developed and delivered training programs in the Institut Regional Administration in Nantes, France, teaching coaching strategies to improve leadership and management in the French regional government context, and conducting follow-up coaching sessions with officials who received the training. Her therapy and coaching background were essential to the development of the Parents For Peace helpline model, and her native language skills have aided in the organization’s growing connections with counter-extremism programs in Montreal, France, and Belgium.
Shalini Kasida is the Operations Director of Parents for Peace. Shalini has worked with numerous non-profit organizations that focus on health and education for at-risk youth and children in marginalized communities, both in the U.S. and internationally. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Doc Wayne and the Brookline Education Foundation. Shalini is also an active member of Partners in Health Engage, focusing on High Schoolers, and an advisor to the board-chair of Summits Education, based in Haiti. Prior to Shalini’s work in the non-profit sector, she worked for 25 years in leadership and management roles in the technology industry, working on product marketing and usability of software applications.
Justin O’Shea is the Program Coordinator at Parents for Peace. He has a BA in Religious Studies and History from Connecticut College and an MA in International Relations and Religion from the Boston University Pardee School of Global Studies. Justin authored a thesis entitled Evolving Strategies of the Syraq Jihad: A Comparative Study of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham. He primarily focused on religious-based extremism and terrorism, particularly the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda. Justin also led a team in a nationally competitive Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) competition held by the Department of Homeland Security and Facebook. Previously, he taught English at a private school in South Korea, and worked in Sales Operations for a 3-D printing company in New York City.
Meet Our Board
Shelagh Leahy began her career at ABC News, where she reported, wrote, and produced award-winning work for PrimeTime Live, Turning Point, and World News Tonight. In senior managerial and executive roles at CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, and WGBH/PBS she has created and directed new programs, developed and executed digital + social campaigns, and managed partnership and programming strategies. As an independent consultant, Leahy has worked with Time, Inc., The Economist, The New Yorker, the Tribeca Film Festival, and WGBH. She has taught documentary journalism at Boston University, and serves on the Screening Review Board for the Alfred I duPont – Columbia University Awards. Shelagh has served as a Board Member of Parents For Peace since January 2018.
Ronald Schouten, M.D., J.D., is the Director of the Law & Psychiatry Service of the Massachusetts General Hospital and Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He has served as a teacher, consultant to organizations, and expert witness in both civil and criminal matters. Dr. Schouten has served as a subject matter expert for the Biological Threat Classification Program of the Department of Homeland Security and has testified before the Congressional Subcommittee on Prevention of Nuclear and Biological Attack. He was the mental health liaison for the Association of Trial Lawyers of America to the September 11 Victims’ Fund and served on consensus panels drafting guidelines on workplace violence for the FBI and the American Society for Industrial Security. Dr. Schouten currently serves on the Parents For Peace Advisory Board, and will soon serve as a Board Member in an official capacity.