Our Team

Leah B. Mazzola, PhD, PCC, BCC - Founder, Managing Director, & Faculty

Dr. Mazzola is responsible for all research and development initiatives in line with our mission and values. She facilitates one to two training cohorts yearly to ensure our content and training programs remain up-to-date and effective for the diverse audiences we serve. She maintains a small private coaching practice LBM Coaching, LLC (drleahmazzola.com) where she offers life, academic, and career coaching for teens and young adults. 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 as a means to combat marginalization and trauma with resilience building and empowerment. Read more about her research in her book - How We Did It: A Guide for Juvenile and Emerging Adult Offenders Ready for Positive Reform. Read her full biography below for more insight into her story.

  • leah@youthcoachinginstitute.com
  • 1(855)809-6884 Ext. 1


Program development consulting to integrate evidence-based frameworks and competencies for existing youth coaching and/or mentoring programs

Life and career coaching for teens and young adults 14-25

Desistance coaching for young people involved in delinquency, alternative sentencing, and juvenile justice reintegration support

Life, career, mentor coaching, and new business coaching for coaches

Life coach training and practicum supervision

ICF mentor coaching for ICF ACC and PCC applicants


PhD in Psychology with Forensic Psychology specialization
o Expertise: Criminal desistance and positive reform
o 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

My passion for coaching young people through positive reform is two-fold. First, personal experience with quantum change in life, relationships, and career means I know a single choice today to change your tomorrows is a powerful place to be. I grew up at-risk and transitioned to high-risk in early adolescence. I grew up in a low-income household, lost a 16-year-old brother and cousin to homicide by peers over drugs, a 16-year-old brother to prison, and a 16-year-old cousin to suicide. I spent my teens involved in delinquency, drug abuse, and other harmful activities that I now dedicate my life to helping other young people avoid or transition away from. I came to my “aha” moment at 17, made drastic changes, and made it out to achieve personal, academic, and professional success thought beyond my reach as a teen. I know, first-hand, that dramatic change is not only possible but immediately available to anyone committed to it. My life’s purpose is to help other young people find success through positive, long-term change and achieve the potential they often don’t realize they have. Second, near a decade of formal study and research into delinquency and positive reform means I understand the science behind the process. Personal, professional, and social development are the keys to create the outcomes we seek. Each begins with self-exploration and self-mastery; and grow with focused work. Unfortunately, there’s no way around the work part. That’s where coaching comes in.

My Philosophy

My work is grounded in contextual behavioral science and choice theory. My coaching approach is pragmatic and evidence-based.
To summarize those ideas, our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are instruments that serve a purpose and contribute to our outcomes. We can create positive outcomes from the inside out through self-insight, practical strategies, and consistent, meaningful, targeted action. I coach to promote clients’ rationality, agency, and attention to knowledge and skills development relevant to their goals.

The Following Concepts Guide My Approach

• Humans share a natural drive to meet the following needs: autonomy (free will, self-direction, human agency), relatedness (belonging), competence (to be able and capable), psychological growth, well-being, and self-actualization (to achieve our fullest potential).
• Social contexts (environments and relationships) that encourage the satisfaction of these needs foster inner motivation enhancing psychological growth and well-being.
• Social contexts that stand in the way of our basic needs cultivate poor motivation, performance, and well-being.
• Humans are self-determined agents with the power to grow, change, overcome, and achieve.
• Our perception DOES create our reality. The problem there is that our perceptions are too often flawed leading to unfounded assumptions, beliefs, resulting attitudes, perspectives, motivations, and behaviors born of automatic processes that we too often allow to go on unchallenged. The beautiful thing there is that perceptions are easily adjusted with attention, time, and effort. Hence, intentional transformation is possible.
• Many of our life moments are born of self-fulfilling prophecies.
• All behavior is a result of the complex interplay of the person and the situation at the time of the behavior. Context is everything.

Cyndy Etler, MEd, ACC - Faculty

Cyndy is a certified life coach who holds bachelor’s degrees in English and American Studies and a master’s degree in education. She has been supporting teens professionally for over two decades, first as an alternative school teacher and today as a coach, a writer, and a national speaker. She is the author of two award-winning young adult memoirs, The Dead Inside (Sourcebooks, 2017) and We Can’t Be Friends (Sourcebooks, 2017). Her work has been featured on CNN, HuffPost, NPR, CBS TV, and other outlets. As a professional coach, Cyndy relies on empathy, accessibility and humor to meet clients where they are while ensuring the coaching process is enjoyable. She understands the deep adolescent needs to be heard, respected and supported in realizing self-determination. She frequently draws from ACT principles to help clients move through the barriers between their current reality and their ideal future. As a Youth Coaching Institute alumnus, Cyndy is honored to serve as a training facilitator and practicum supervisor. She brings passion, levity and accessibility to her role, ensuring that her coaches-in-training are well-prepared and confident in their youth coaching skills. Learn more about her private coaching practice at theteenlifecoach.com.


  • Life and education coaching for teens and young adults aged 14-25

  • Career transition coaching for teachers

  • Life coach training and practicum supervision


  • Master of Education: Concentration in Secondary English

  • Bachelor of English and American Studies

  • Licensed Teacher in English, Special Education and English as a Second Language, grades 6-12

  • Associate Certified Coach

Margrita van der Hoek - Coach Training Assistant

Margrita holds Bachelor´s and Master´s degree in Political Science from Leiden University in the Netherlands. During her university years, she focused on policies and programs for street children. She worked at the Dutch Embassy and at non-governmental organizations implementing projects and programs with regards to community development. She lived in seven countries and in 1999 moved to Mexico where she has been involved in different programs in her community, mostly with regards to youth, amongst these, a mentoring program for underprivileged teens as well as a classical music program for youth. During the time that her children were young she worked as a freelance certified translator. Once they began to grow up, she followed a training program for executive coaching, obtaining the Mexican certification (CONOCER) for this in January 2019. Margrita became very passionate about coaching and because she was working with adolescents, decided to initiate her training at the Youth Coaching Institute. In March 2020 she became a certified Youth Mentor Coach and a Certified Leadership Coach and is now in the process of obtaining her ICF certification. Margrita has her own coaching practice, offering individual sessions to people of all ages as well as group sessions for teens in Chapala, Mexico. Having lived in many countries, she is passionate about working with people of different cultural backgrounds.

Established 2013. All rights reserved. Contact:  1(855)809-YOUTH (6884) | Dallas, TX US | info@youthcoachinginstitute.com