Our Team

Leah B. Mazzola, PhD, PCC, BCC - Founder, Managing Director, Lead Trainer, & Practicum Supervisor

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's an Adjunct Professor for El Centro College where she teaches a dual credit course in an inner city high school introducing teens to college-level learning strategies. She also maintains a small private coaching practice (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 for intervention and prevention. 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
• Professional Certified Coach – ICF qualified 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.

Maggie Steele, MSW, BCC, ACC - Sr. Coach Training Facilitator and Practicum Supervisor

Maggie has studied and practiced coaching for the past 8 years and has a high regard for co-active, science-based coaching models that are grounded in mindfulness. As a social worker, Maggie is dedicated to bringing trauma-informed services into schools and organizations that serve adolescents. She is also a member of the National Association of Social Workers, American Psychological Association, International Coach Federation, and Oregon Mediation Association.

  • E-mail: maggie@youthcoachinginstitute.com


  • Life and career coaching for teens and young adults 14-21

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

  • Life coach training and practicum supervision


  • Master’s in Social Work for Children, Youth, and Families

  • Licensed School Social Worker

  • Bachelor of Arts in Psychology

  • Board Certified Coach

  • Associate Certified Coach

  • Over 250 hours of coach specific training

Maggie is a certified life coach who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Social Work for children, youth and families. She is also a licensed school social worker and mindfulness instructor for Peace in Schools. She is the author of How I Got My S!*t Together (2011), Ten Teen Stories That Might Just Change Your Life (2014), and #Truth Journal (2015); and contributes articles to various magazines in print and online.

As a professional coach, Maggie specializes in supporting adolescents in building confidence, overcoming limiting beliefs and identifying individual core motivation. Her devotion to equity, inclusivity, and social justice can be seen in her dedication to working with youth and families in marginalized communities, tailoring her approach to each individual, and holding fast to the belief that every single person is capable of achieving the goals they are invested in pursuing. Whether she is working with youth in foster care, youth involved in the juvenile justice system, or high school students struggling with academics, Maggie is determined to improve transition outcomes for all youth and support them in developing self-efficacy within the different areas of their lives.

As a coach training facilitator and practicum supervisor at the Youth Coaching Institute, Maggie is committed to helping new coaches grow into effective, trauma-informed, youth serving professionals. It is with this commitment that Maggie strives to ensure that each student at YCI is offered a safe, inclusive environment in which they can learn, hone, and practice their skills.

Cyndy Etler, MEd, ACC - Coach Training Facilitator and Practicum Supervisor

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.

  • Email: cyndy@youthcoachinginstitute.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

About Youth Coaching Institute

Behavioral science-based coaching services for youth, emerging adults, and youth-serving professionals. We offer life skills training, individual and group coaching for youth ages 14-24; and life coach training and certification for youth-serving professionals.

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