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Our Team

At the Youth Coaching Institute, our team is driven by a deep-rooted passion for youth coaching and mentorship. For many of our faculty and staff, this passion is ignited by their own experiences and struggles as adolescents. This personal connection to our mission and expertise in youth coaching makes every team member uniquely qualified to train and support coaches in this vital field. Get to know our team of extraordinary individuals who are not only shaping the future of youth coaching but also profoundly impacting the lives of youth every day.

Our Founder

Leah B. Mazzola, PhD, PCC, BCC

Founder, CEO, & Director of Education

Dr. Leah has handled all business administration, management, research, and development responsibilities since founding YCI in 2013. She is an experienced leader, coaching professional, and psychology expert passionate about integrating evidence-based coaching into mainstream support services as a social change initiative. As a leader in the coach training industry, she’s committed to increasing access to rigorous, ethical, high-quality training, mentoring, and supervision for underserved communities. As a professional coach, she offers behavioral science-based coaching to support clients as they identify, tap into, and build their inner resources and resilience to enhance well-being, performance, and quality of life.

Prior to transitioning to this passion work full-time she spent 18 years in the corporate world between the finance and insurance industries. Since entering the professional coaching space in 2012, she’s offered life, academic, career, and parent coaching in private practice at LBM Coaching, LLC serving teens and adults of all ages. She’s also had the pleasure of dedicating a portion of her coaching slots to organizations leading the charge to increase access to high-quality coaching on a global scale – BetterUp, Lyra Health, and Modern Health.

Her overarching mission across industries has been to promote self-determination, values-based goal pursuit, evidence-based decision-making, and psychologically safe work environments that foster well-being at work. She approaches all of her work as a social responsibility initiative to ensure those she supports walk away with more knowledge of the biopsychosocial contributors to thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that allow them to recognize when and how to choose and act to positively influence outcomes for self, others, and the communities around them.

She discovered the power of coaching through her doctoral studies as she investigated why some high-risk youth overcome the barriers to success while others do not. This research led her to coaching to combat marginalization and trauma with resilience building and empowerment. Her passion for the work is very personal as a thriving adult who overcame trauma, poverty, and juvenile delinquency to create a future she never imagined possible.


  • PhD in Psychology with Forensic Psychology specialization
  • Expertise: Criminal desistance and positive reform
  • Dissertation: A Phenomenological Inquiry into Identity Change on the Path to Long-term Criminal Desistance
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Administration
  • Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice
  • Board Certified Coach – Center for Credentialing & Education
  • Professional Certified Coach – International Coach Federation – Registered ICF Mentor Coach
  • Over 250 hours of coach-specific training

Personal Experience

  • A Hispanic/Indigenous American who grew up one of seven kids in poverty,
  • Experienced all 10 assessed Adverse Childhood Experiences,
  • Spent teens involved in delinquency and heavy substance abuse,
  • Worked at least 2 jobs at all times since 14,
  • Dropped out of high school junior year,
  • Decided to create a new path for herself at 17,
  • Secured first corporate job at 18,
  • Used an iron will and willingness to learn from those who had what she wanted to gain the professional skills necessary to thrive at work,
  • Bought first house at 21,
  • Earned GED at 24,
  • Paused to consider how beautiful life was on the other side of positive transformation, so became a first-generation college student at 25 to study why she was able to make it out and transform her life when so many others hadn’t,
  • Worked 70+ hours weekly for the next nine years as she juggled full-time corporate work, full-time school, full-time family life, and began life coaching-focused side hustles that have become her full-time life’s work,
  • Met the love of her life at 27 in between and co-raised four securely attached, thriving, children effectively breaking the cycle of poverty, abuse, and criminality for her kids.
  • Earned her PhD in Psychology at 34 and walked the stage with a lump in her throat as she considered representing every young brown girl managing risk and trauma outside of their control, still feeling like every day won’t end and struggling to imagine better for themselves. This could be them too. We have no idea what we’re capable of until we decide to focus our energy on building the good within and for ourselves to make positive, meaningful contributions to our world. YCI coaches are here to guide youth to that awareness and support their efforts to overcome and thrive too.

Faculty & Support Team

Bonnie Prestridge

Program Manager

Jessica Koehler, PhD, ACC

Research & Quality Consultant

Jean Trujillo, ACC

Community Development Specialist & Evaluator

Cameron E. O'Brien, ACC

Communications Specialist & Evaluator

Ronicka Hamilton, MA, LLPC, ACC

Coaching Faculty, Practicum Supervisor & Mentor Coach

Liezel Lane, MA, ACC

Coaching Faculty & Practicum Supervisor

Joe Chan, PCC, RSW

Coaching Faculty, Practicum Supervisor & Mentor Coach

Heidi Hackney, MS, PCC, BCC

Mentor Coach, Performance Evaluator & Substitute Coaching Faculty

Tasha McGhie, PCC

Mentor Coach, Performance Evaluator & Substitute Coaching Faculty

Sarah Grace, MBA, ACC

Coaching Faculty & Practicum Supervisor

Lillian Powell, MA, ACC

Coaching Practice Evaluator

Davina McKnight, ACC

Coaching Practice Evaluator

Rahul Shah, MA, ACC

Coaching Practice Evaluator

Carine Auburn, ACC

Coaching Practice Evaluator

Margrita VanderHoek, MA, ACC

Coaching Practice Evaluator

Youth Coaching Expert Insights

Discover a library of free expert resources exploring the youth coaching landscape, the experiences of adolescents today, and opportunities to strengthen your approach. 

Elevate Your Impact and Start Coaching Today

Make a positive and measurable impact with the Youth Coaching Institute.  Develop your coaching skillset and begin the journey to becoming a certified youth life coach today.