House Program Directors:
Katie Berenson has over three years of personal recovery experience, and has found her calling in helping others find their own path to sobriety. She began her career with Transcend Recovery Community in 2015 as a weekend manager, and because of her dedication and enthusiasm for helping women, was promoted to Program Director of the Harvard House. Katie earned her CDAC-l from Loyola Marymount University. With an extensive background in art, Katie developed and leads the Transcend weekly art group. Some of her most popular projects included self-portraits of your inner monster, friendship bracelets for the fellow residents, and dream boards. Prior to Transcend, Katie was a professional commercial dancer for fifteen-years, working with artists such as Beyonce and Lady GaGa. Her passion for the performing arts inspired her to start a dance group with the clients and staff of our women houses. We are proud to say Katie is getting girls to step out of their comfort zone, and have fun in sobriety by using dance and art as a medium. She hopes to continue her education to achieve her dream of becoming an Art Therapist, using her unique experiences and talents to reach the clients in a more dynamic, therapeutic manner. Katie treats each client as an individual, and combines empathy and structure to allow each woman to discover what best suits their authentic self. Katie’s creative and lighthearted personality is huge asset to the Transcend Recovery Community. She is able to draw upon her education and unique life experiences to make the Harvard house a place where clients can heal, grow, and have fun in their recovery.
What is an activity or hobby that you do personally that supports your health and well-being?
As a former dancer I really enjoy physical movement, as well as challenges. Health and fitness is important to me, so now that I no longer dance for a career, I find Pilates to be a great way to keep my body healthy!
What is your favorite type of music?
I’m drawn to the rock genre, specifically 70’s rock. Some of my favorite artists of that time are The Doors, Joan Jett, and The Runaways.
Jude Benoit joined the Transcend Recovery Community team in September 2014. Like all our Program Directors, her role as Program Director of The Verve Holmby house was a gradual transition. Her dedication to residents’ well-being, and initiative in creating a home where women can truly thrive in, was obvious. Jude is known for always going the extra mile and exemplifies the, “whatever it takes” approach. Beyond her role in leading the team at Holmby, Jude serves as a sober companion and mentor to many of our Transcend clients. Her intense commitment to individuals in recovery transforms her work into something more personal and truly meaningful. The prolonged and consistent amount of time she spends with each client allows her to really get to know the person, and therefore, customize a treatment plan that will best serve them. She enjoys the opportunity to highlight the things that need improvement in each client, help them develop a plan of action, and watch them flourish. She says working with Transcend has taught her a lot about herself, and life in general. Jude maintains the kind and loving approach we take with all clients, while adding a little edge. She says, “I want people to grow and just find the silver lining in this journey. Finding the peace within the chaos has been my life motto.”
What is an activity or hobby that you do personally that supports your health and well-being?
Throughout sobriety I’ve discovered a variety of things that I enjoy and supports my health and well-being. A few of my hobbies include travelling, painting, going to shows, reading, playing roller derby, boxing, and spending quality time with friends and family. I lost a majority of these things due to my addiction, but I’m grateful to have regained them in recovery. I can proudly say that I am thriving in all areas of my life now.
What’s your favorite part about working in the field?
My favorite part about working in the field is connecting with the women in the community, and consistently showing up in their lives. Creating a safe environment that maintains a sense of fun and lightness, is something I’ve experienced working in recovery. Every day presents an opportunity to learn something new, so there’s never a dull moment!
What is something you do for your health and well-being?
I started boxing about 3 years ago and fell in love with it right away. I find boxing to be a great outlet for most of life’s stresses. We try to get the Yale guys involved with it a few times a week with the opportunity to do some very light sparring down the line if they show interest. Mostly, we do it for a great workout.
What is something unique about your particular house?
The Yale house is not only in close proximity to the beach, but is also centrally located between a lot of the young people’s AA meetings on the Westside. Because our home is surrounded by so many cool restaurants, shops, and sporting stores, our guys are able to get jobs in a field that interests them if employment is one of their goals. Also, most of the staff at the Yale house are musicians and we have daily jam sessions to keep the vibe fun and energetic. It’s great when we get the guys to perform solo or together during a Friday night music meeting. Between the livelihood of Santa Monica and the high energy of our home, I’m proud to say we spend a lot of time just laughing and having fun together!
An important aspect of the Transcend philosophy is building strong bonds within one’s community. We are proud to have Elliot as a longtime family member of ours. As an alumnus of Transcend, he was able to experience all the program has to offer. While in the house, Elliot decided at some point that he wanted an opportunity to work with others and give back. Elliot found his strength in leadership and mentoring. He became inspired to serve and support others through their hardships as he had been. Elliot thrives at helping clients harness their potential and act on it. He approaches each new resident without judgement and with an open mind, and knows that every person’s needs are unique to their recovery. Having grown up in Los Angeles, Elliot understands the opportunities the city provides for self-discovery and exploration. From boxing to surfing, Elliot helps our clients uncover their passions and have fun in recovery.
What is your favorite part about working in the field?
My favorite part about working in this field has to be when a client obtains meaningful sobriety by pursuing passions that may have been lost long ago as a result of alcohol and drug use.
How do you maintain balance and good health?
Now that I live in NY, I love running through Central Park. Surfing/Boxing/Tennis are also great outlets for me.
Anthony Junger currently serves Transcend clients at our Manhattan home, but it was in California that he found his passion for helping people. Before moving to New York, he joined the Transcend family as a member of the support staff team at one of our men’s sober living locations in Los Angeles, Ca four years ago. Prior to working in treatment Anthony used his creative talents to compose television commercials in the Los Angeles area. While music composition is a passion of Anthony’s, he was inspired to work in recovery after his personal experience living in a sober home. Anthony credits the structure and accountability of the sober community he had to saving his own life. He now hopes to pay it forward, to share the inspiration and guidance he was given in his recovery, and help every Transcend resident effect positive change in their own lives. He firmly believes that all people can recover and change every aspect of their lives for the better. Anthony is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, Ca where he received training and certification as a drug and alcohol counselor.
As Program Director of the Men’s Venice house, Mike brings years of both personal and professional experience in the recovery field. After working in film and television, he sought a career in which he could help others through their own recovery and joined the Transcend family in 2015. Mike was quickly recognized for his ability to connect with clients and their families and now serves as both a mentor and Recovery Coach in addition to his Program Director role. With a bachelor’s degree in English from Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and a professional background in creative writing, he finds that writing allows him to practice and maintain balance in all areas of his life- spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. Mike’s goal is to help clients understand that recovery is an opportunity to have more out of life, despite the hesitations or fears they may have in the beginning of sobriety. He is inspired to help every client find the motivation and purpose to live a fulfilling and passionate life.
What is something you do to practice self-care?
Surfing is my go-to activity when I need to unwind and recalibrate. It is something I’m passionate about, and like to also share with my clients as well. Since our house is literally steps from the Venice ocean, I’ll take them out for a surfing session individually or as a group. It’s a great opportunity to have a new meditative experience in early recovery.
What do you find purposeful about your work?
When I was in early recovery, I needed a lot of support from others to help me find true meaning and fulfillment out of life again. I now pass on those insights and principles of recovery to help others gain a life filled with meaning and intrinsic satisfaction. Being in a position to do that provides me with ultimate purpose.
With a true passion for life and learning, Dean serves as Program Director of our men’s beachside home in Santa Monica, CA. He holds a bachelor’s in Communication Studies from the University of Texas at Austin and is currently working towards his certification as a drug and alcohol counselor. Practicing wellness & self-care are integral to Dean’s recovery and overall well-being today and says that taking care of mind, body, and spirit are crucial to his long-term sobriety. Dean enjoys an active lifestyle and spends his free time practicing yoga, taking boxing classes, playing tennis & beach volleyball, and studying Kabbalah. Through his own recovery journey and his work to help others, Dean has finally been able to bridge the gap between the theory of spiritual principals and the action behind them. He has made it his life commitment to help people overcome the disease of addiction, and teach clients the life-skills necessary to rediscover their true selves in recovery. His ultimate mission is to show individuals that they can have a beautiful & full life without the use of substances. Dean is fascinated and passionate about music, art, sports, and the human connection we all share.
What about working in the field of recovery inspires you?
Seeing somebody come back to life from the grips of a deathly disease is one of the most inspiring and fulfilling things that I have ever been a part of. Seeing the lights come back on and the transformation that can take place when a client is open-minded and willing is truly miraculous.
What do you think makes Transcend unique?
I believe the thing that makes Transcend special, and separates us from other programs out there is the community aspect. We get all of the houses together for pool parties, beach days, surfing, yoga, and BBQs. At the Seaside house, our backyard is the ocean. It is a meditative place where clients can relax, self-reflect, or just enjoy the view!
Jon is a native of the Washington D.C. area and earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. After working in film and marketing for a few years, he moved to Los Angeles in 2008 to seek a more rewarding career. During that time he volunteered with several organizations supporting at-risk and homeless youth and soon realized his purpose was to serve others and make a long-lasting positive impact on their lives. Jon came to Transcend in 2015 as an intern, working in the houses to complete the necessary hours for his drug and alcohol counseling certification through UCLA. Upon the completion of his training, Jon joined the Transcend team at our men’s Verve program. We are grateful to have Jon serve as a leader of our men’s program, as well to the greater Los Angeles recovery community! He says, “It’s funny, back in school they taught me how to construct a narrative. Today, I get to show others how to change the narrative of their lives.”
What is something fun you do in your free time?
I love to get out of the city and exploring the outdoors. I help coordinate an annual camping trip and outdoor excursion that is primarily for people in recovery. I don’t care if it’s climbing a mountain or swinging in a hammock, spending time in nature has a profound effect on my overall well-being.
What is something that supports your recovery?
For me, first and foremost, it’s service. It is absolutely crucial for me to live beyond my own self-interest, to make this world a little better for someone else. Come to think of it, recovery is a lot like climbing a mountain. Nobody is going to carry you to the top of Everest, but the right guides can definitely help you get to there. It’s important to have the support and insight of people who support your journey.
After a period of disillusionment with real estate and investment, Asher sought to do something more meaningful for others and himself.
In following suit with his desire for fulfillment, Asher decided to create a place where people could be “heard” and could receive help to improve their lives. Asher has maintained this commitment and has sought teaching from some of the best and brightest in the field of recovery to provide optimum care for our clients.
Aside from a wife and five children, Asher has always considered the Men and Women of Transcend as his extended family.
“At Transcend we believe the Road to Recovery is based on connection.”
Christian De Oliveira was Transcend’s first Program Director and he is a graduate of the drug and alcohol program at UCLA. A native of southern California, Christian has worked with Transcend for over four years as both a sober companion and a house manager. An avid boxer as well as a certified surf instructor, he is a strong believer in healing of the mind, body, and spirit. He is also a percussionist who favors the bongos. Christian has been able to use his experience to help young men define new challenges and shape new interests. He is a natural born leader and Transcend is lucky to have his decisiveness on our team.
Adam has the honorable distinction of being Transcend’s fourth client. Adam began as a Program Director for Transcend and then took on the role of CFO after his first year at Transcend. Now Adam oversees all design of administrative policy and procedure and is an integral part of creating the administrative structure for all of Transcend’s developing programs. Adam also attended FIDM Los Angeles for graphic design and has worked alongside the Transcend team lending his expertise.
“I knew I could stay sober when I saw that being sober and having fun weren’t mutually exclusive”
Joni Ogle, LCSW, CSAT will lead Transcend Texas as its Executive Director. Joni brings over 25 years of clinical experience, management, and leadership in working with adults and young adults suffering with addiction and trauma. She is licensed clinical social worker and a certified sex addiction therapist with additional training in Recreational Therapy, Pia Mellody’s Post Induction Therapy, and Dr. Brene Brown’s The Daring Way Shame Resilience curriculum.
Like several other staff members, Asher Ehrman was a member of Transcend’s Community before he began work with Transcend. After living at Transcend, Asher became a member of the wonderful community at Beit T’ Shuvah and graduated the program with honor and integrity. Asher then began his calling in a career in recovery by working in admissions at Elements for treatment programs such as Promises and The Ranch. Asher has taken that experience along with his deeply caring nature into his work, where he meets every call with a solution no matter the situation. Asher is a husband and father and it has been a privilege to watch his family and spirit grow with Transcend.
Born and raised in Mexico, Ely Velázquez Pugh found herself in the lone star state in the late 90’s after her mother re-married. With a broad range of interests and intellectual curiosity, she earned a dual-degree in Human Resources and Organizational Management from Ashford University. Throughout her studies, she gained experience in various areas in Human Resources, Office Management, Marketing and Program Accreditations in industries in the Energy sector, Healthcare, and Oil and Gas.
With her love for HR, she found a home in Transend and provides support to the organization as the Director of Human Resources. Ely has a natural ability to connect with those around her and remains steady and assured even in the most stressful of situations. Sometimes she enjoys her job way too much… a passionate HR gal, that is for sure!
The concept of “giving back” drew Ellen to work in the field of recovery. Ellen first joined Transcend Recovery community as the Program Director of our women’s Holmby house where she helped the women to find their voice, discover what they are passionate about, and pursue their dreams. Now as Transend’s Director of Business Development, continues to help others in recovery by connecting and collaborating with other organizations who are advancing the behavioral health and treatment field. Ellen draws upon her keen understanding, awareness, and experience of the recovery process, to share how Transcend assists individuals rediscover their true self. After years of staff management and business development, Ellen earned her B.A. in Photography, a certification from the Culinary Institute of America, and a CADACthrough the University of California Los Angeles. Ellen is continually impressed and inspired by the profound dedication of professionals and organizations in the recovery field who work to serve those in need each day. She finds great purpose and meaning in her work and is grateful for a career that allows her to give back on a daily basis.
To achieve a healthy, meaningful, and balanced life, I practice yoga and work on my personal artwork. These are things I do to relax my mind, body, and bring peace to my overall spirit. I practice yoga almost daily, and jump at the chance to utilize my creative side by using any and all mediums like painting, photography, and jewelry design.
Ryan Leaf is a graduate of Washington State University where he was also a standout quarterback leading the Cougars to the 1998 Rose Bowl. Ryan went on to play professionally in the NFL but injuries cut his career short. Now author and motivational speaker, Ryan shares his message of perseverance, gratitude, and hope. His motto of “Focused Intensity” is helping mentor young athletes on the high school and collegiate levels. Ryan serves as a guest analyst on numerous national radio shows while writing and speaking nationwide.
Ryan currently serves as the Program Ambassador for Transcend Recovery Community and its Mentoring Program. Given his personal growth and road to recovery, Ryan is extremely passionate about helping young adults manage the stress and difficulty of high school, college, and the transition to adulthood. Whether he is conducting assemblies at local schools, or speaking directly to students in a classroom, Ryan Leaf is dedicated to helping young adults reach, and maintain, their potential.
Originally from Boston, MA, Sean came to Los Angeles in 2012 as a client of Transcend. Upon completing his recovery program, Sean began working as a driver for the houses, and eventually as a weekend manager. After years of helping men find and work their own recovery program, Sean joined the Admissions Department of Transcend in 2016 to help others take their first step in their commitment to recovery. He holds a Bachelors of Science in Health form Worcester State University in Massachusetts. Sean combines his passion for both motorcycles and recovery as a proud member of Messengers of Recovery MC, a motorcycle club here in Los Angeles. He is an Officer of the club, whose goal is to have fun, help others, and carry the message of recovery through motorcycling.