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Team Bios

Sonya Bapna Patel

Founder & Founding Board Member, Operations

In 2010, I moved back to Cleveland from New York after completing a two-year commitment teaching elementary students through Teach for America (TFA). While in TFA, I worked at Leadership Prep Charter School - Bed Stuy teaching 2nd and 3rd grade. I noticed that my students were very over stimulated and stressed whether it be from the pressures at home or other environments. And there were limited opportunities for them to refocus their energy and find some solace in their day. While teaching at the school, I would occasionally show my students basic yoga poses and breathing techniques during PE and quick transitions during the day. They enjoyed it very much and it provided them a chance to reenergize and refocus. Upon returning to Cleveland, I worked for Breakthrough Charter Schools in HR focusing on teacher recruiting. Prior to TFA, I worked for the Monitor Group in management consulting and Mattel Inc. in International Strategic Planning. I graduated from NYU in 2003 with a BS in Finance and Accounting and also have a MEd from Teacher U (Hunter College). I now spend my time working on Zenworks Yoga and enjoying time with my energetic daughter, playful son and supportive husband and extended family.


Megan Johnston

Founding Board Memeber

I am new to the world of yoga, but I have been working in the non-profit sector in Cleveland for several years now and was immediately sold on the idea of ZENworks. I am one of the founding members of the ZENworks Board of Directors and have enjoyed watching the organization grow and serve more children. I graduated from John Carroll University with a degree in Marketing and assist the ZENworks team with branding and outreach.

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Tammy Oliver

Founding Board Memeber

Bio coming soon...

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Covesa Gragg

Board Member

Voted #1 Wedding Planning Company three years in a row by Fox8’s Hotlist, Covesa Kelly Events has made event planning expert Covesa Gragg one proud owner! Covesa is an author, an energetic and passionate speaker, coach, and a business strategist with a background in banking and finance.


When not planning, coaching, or speaking, Covesa can be found enjoying delicious meals with friends and family and cuddling up with her Rottweiler, Shaggy. 

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Jon Manke

Board Member

Hi!  I’m a sales & marketing professional with experience working in the business world.  A passioned leader that believes in growing strong cultures and teams – connected by empathy, community, & compassion. That said – I pride myself on developing people and leading functional teams to make positive, uplifting progress. I know that no single approach is the right way for every individual, and so I’ve been trained in a range of methodologies – including, Gestalt’s Organizational & System Development (OSD) & Emotional Intelligence.  My education foundation is a B.S.B.A. in Marketing from Bowling Green State University. I lead by example and motivate others through open communication, collaboration and cooperation – in a FUN way! My wife (Polly) and I are Certified Partner Yoga Instructors from Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. And – we live in Bainbridge Township, OH - and have three grown children: Jordan (29), Dieter (26), and Ernest (22).


Mary Weatherhead

Board Member

Mary started working with children and movement in her teens as a gymnastics camp counselor. Her interest in somatic movement and its therapeutic benefits led her to yoga in 1994. Mary is certified as a RYT 200, OM Yoga New York(2007) and RCYT 95 ChildLight Education Company, NH (2020). She holds many additional yoga certifications which include a 50 Hour Advanced Teacher Training, Love Yoga, CA (2021) as well as trauma informed yoga trainings. She has led yoga in various capacities since 2007. Mary's passion for Cleveland and the future of our city's children connected her to ZENworks Yoga in 2014, with whom she was an instructor from 2014-2022. 


Ariel Jordan

Board Member

Ariel Jordan comes with a health, social work, nonprofit, research background, and a strong commitment to community. She has a Master of
Science in Social Administration and Master of Nonprofit Organizations from the Mandel School at Case Western Reserve University and a
She is also a certified yoga instructor RYT 200, certified in trauma-informed yoga, and a Reiki Level 1 practitioner. Her mission is to assure overall well-being is accessible to all. She strives to live that mission in all aspects of her life – her hope is to share accessible tools to use in day-to-day life with anyone that will listen to her.


Jennifer Griest Hayes

Curriculum and Instruction

As an Intervention Specialist and Educational Consultant, I have seen first hand the need for children to incorporate movement and mindfulness into their learning and play. While having practiced yoga myself for many years, in 2012 I took my first children’s yoga training with ChildLight Yoga. Immediately, I fell in love with the concept of teaching yoga to children of all ages and abilities! Since then, I have become a licensed trainer and consultant for the Yoga 4 Classrooms program, obtained certification in Creative Relaxation: Yoga Therapy for Autism and Special Needs, ChildLight Baby & Toddler yoga, and mini yogis® for Tweens and Teens. After spending almost seventeen years teaching in the classroom setting, I am thrilled to join the ZENworks Yoga team!


Sara Kelly

Director of Curriculum and Instruction

Sara is a compassionate creative with a love for both teaching & learning. Often found in a classroom, kitchen, out in nature, or dancing with her family, she is fueled by challenging the status quo and empowering others. She earned an M.Ed as an Intervention Specialist (2014), RYT-200 (Awake to My Soul, 2018), and RCYT 95-hr trauma-informed children's and teen yoga training (Yoga Ed, 2021). She is currently training with Prison Yoga Project, and in Katie Kurtz's Cultivate program for trauma-informed space holding. Sara is dedicated to guiding individuals through accessible, meaningful practices which build confidence to develop their best selves, and in turn, their communities.


Leslie Moss


 My name is Leslie Moss and I have been practicing yoga for thirteen years. I was trained to teach yoga to children through Yoga Ed and Zenworks Yoga. I am a School Psychologist with the Cleveland Municipal School District.  I share the benefits of practicing yoga with colleagues, students, and parents as a means to help regulation of stress and their emotions,  mindfulness, and understanding of the physiological connection between their bodies and their emotions via breath work and movements of their bodies.  I am excited to be teaching Yoga with ZenWorks Yoga.

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Theresa Zele


Bio coming soon...

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Liz Kardamis

Director of Operations

Liz Kardamis is a 200hr RYT (Awake to My Soul, 2021), a Childlight Yoga certified instructor (2015) and certified in the Trauma Conscious Yoga Method (2022). She is also a licensed counselor and a Registered Art Therapist with 8+ years experience working in local pediatric psychiatric hospitals. After stepping away from the world of mental health to focus on raising her 3 children she began to contemplate how she could bring her love of yoga, mindfulness, and creativity to the community. Enter Zenworks! Liz has been teaching with Zenworks since the 2021/2022 school year and is grateful for the experience, connection and joy it has brought to her.

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Amy Ewing


I took my first yoga class in 2000 as part of an after-school program for school-employees where I was currently working.  In 2019, I became a certified yoga instructor (RYT 200) through the Cleveland Clinic School of Yoga, which maintains a focus on wellness-style yoga.  I believe that yoga can be taught in a way that makes it accessible to everyone regardless of age, health, or fitness level.  I truly believe in the benefits of teaching yoga & mindfulness to kids!  Mindful movements can enhance students’ ability to learn and focus even after yoga class has ended.  Bringing yoga to kids gives them skills they can use for the rest of their lives, and I am honored to be a part of teaching those skills to our students.  I hold a Master’s degree in speech-language pathology and have spent many years in the schools as a speech-language pathologist.  I have helped with yoga/mindfulness programs at my local school district and am a frequent presenter at Tri-C & various other organizations on the topic of wellness.  I volunteer as the student relations chair for the Ohio University Women’s Club of Greater Cleveland and have worked in the non-profit sector including Hospice.  I am a mother to 2 boys and love doing anything active, especially being outdoors!


Nadeen al-Jijakli


Originally from NYC, Nadeen came to yoga 15 years ago when a coworker gave her a prenatal yoga DVD. She completed her trauma-informed 200-hour yoga teacher training in 2022 at Abide Yoga Studio in Cleveland and became certified in Children’s Yoga through Yo Re Mi based in New York. She is a Reiki (Level II) practitioner and holds certifications in Sound Therapy as well as Positive Psychology. Nadeen has worked with families facing trauma and separation as an immigration attorney for nearly two decades. She is a mother of four, Zumba lover, hip hop head, and she plays some guitar. She especially enjoys integrating wellness and self-care regimens for women as well as community care for each other.


Connie Neese


I found yoga in 2016 as a means to get physically healthy and quickly noticed not only the physical change but began noticing a healing changing from the inside out. My interest in yoga turned into a passion. Three (3) years later, I became a  certified yoga instructor (CTY 200) and continued with my training, receiving my 300 hour yoga certification in December 2021.

Yoga is far deeper than a physical practice, it teaches you powerful tools/skills that benefit beyond the mat.  Being able to share these tools/skills with others no matter the age group is something I am passionate about. When I am not practicing or teaching, you can find me enjoying a good book, or hanging out with family/friends enjoying a good meal, good conversation and good laughs! 


Fran McIntyre


Fran Mcintyre’s introduction to yoga was through an adult community ed. class.The yoga sessions cleared her mind and the energy and peacefulness she felt inspired her to continue. She went on to teach adult and children’s yoga for school and community recreation programs. In 2022 Fran completed the 200 hour program as a certified yoga instructor at Prana Yoga in Broadview Hts.
Fran holds a M Ed. in Education Psychology and worked with elementary and secondary students as a teacher and school psychologist in the Cleveland Schools and other districts in the Greater Cleveland area. Through this work she realized the importance to offer children the benefits of yoga and mindfulness. The forced isolation of the Pandemic made that need more striking. She finds it
very rewarding to witness the kids’ enthusiasm and their embrace of mindfulness.

Gardening, art, travel and spending time with family are her go to pastimes.


Mary Conway 


Mary started practicing yoga years ago, in high school, after her last soccer game. What felt like a great way to just continue moving turned into an entire lifestyle that helps her regulate her emotions and wellbeing. Her regular practice changes pace and purpose day-to-day, but always with the intent of finding a few minutes of peace in a crazy world. She has been teaching since 2019 with a 200hr/YT certification from GIVE Yoga in Columbus and offers private classes as well as donation-based classes during the summer. During the day Mary is a management consultant in the Cleveland area and takes great joy from her travels, cooking, gardening, volunteer work, and reading in her free time. She is passionate about sharing yoga and serving the Cleveland area. 

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Joy Whitlow

Development Consultant

Joy Whitlow joined the ZENworks community in March of 2024 as a Development Consultant. With a passion for storytelling and fostering engagement, Joy is an experienced development professional with over 20 years of dedicated service in supporting student growth and enhancing children's educational experiences. Her collaborative approach with parents, teachers, and educational specialists has been instrumental in creating impactful learning environments.

Beyond her role at ZENworks, Joy has a rich background in education, having served as both a teacher and administrator in public and private schools in Cleveland, Ohio. Her commitment to continuous learning is reflected in her certification as a 200-hour level yoga instructor and her recognition as a Teaching Innovations Fellow at the Cleveland Museum of Art during 2020-2021.

Outside of her professional endeavors, Joy is a devoted fan of the arts, which is evident in her appreciation for cultural experiences. She enjoys exploring new restaurants, traveling to different destinations, and immersing herself in diverse forms of artistic expression.

Joy's multifaceted expertise, coupled with her genuine enthusiasm for personal and professional growth, makes her a valuable asset to the ZENworks community.


Ladonna Bartkowski 


I am the mother of 3 adult children and a grandmother of 6 children. This is my greatest accomplishment.  I am very proud of all of my children.  My profession is a nurse and I have worked with babies and children for over 50 years!!  I love being a nurse. It is truly my calling.  I believe in the 3 facets of life:  physical, mental & spiritual.  I have been practicing yoga for over 20 years but I have been consistent for about 5 years.  I was so interested in the poses and learning about yoga that I took two— 200 hour yoga training classes.  My main interest in life is children and working with children is in my comfort zone.  Yoga truly combines the mind- body connection and addresses all the 3 facets of life:  the physical, mental and spiritual. 


Erika Embry


Erika was introduced to yoga over 25 years ago through a series of classes in the Satyananda System of Yoga. It was there that she began her journey into understanding that the practices of yoga allow one to co-create a healthy life of body, mind and spirit 


Erika’s path in yoga exposed her to many styles, including Hatha, Anusara, Yin and  Satyananda. She became a 200 hour RYT through the Dawn M. Rivers school of Yoga in June, 2022.  A former elementary and middle school teacher, Erika holds a B.A. in English from Hampton University and a M.Ed. in Education from the Ohio State University. She is looking forward to sharing her gifts with the ZenWorks team and guiding children in  mindfulness and other yoga practices to benefit their overall well being.


Kate Dolansky


I am a proud multi-generational Cleveland native. I went to Case Western Reserve University where I studied Political Science and International Studies and later attended Emory University where I studied law. I am now an attorney in BakerHostetler’s Cleveland office, where I specialize in mergers and acquisitions and corporate governance. 


On a more personal level, I have been practicing yoga since 2011 and plan to complete my teacher training this fall. Over the last decade, yoga has helped me face challenges, grieve losses, and attain greater self-compassion. I began meditating regularly during law school, and found it essential to thrive in a highly stressful environment. I am honored to be part of ZENworks, and am excited to help share these incredible practices with others.


Kristin Mulcahy


Kristin began her practice doing yoga VHS tapes with her family as a child. She grew up in
Berea and graduated from Kent State University with a degree in Political Science and Nonprofit
Management. After college she moved out of state to work with children in trauma to provide
them with positive experiences. When she came back to Ohio she had her son and began
working in childcare, and then as a Headstart teacher in Cleveland. During virtual preschool
Kristin got certified in Cosmic Kids Yoga and incorporated that into the classroom. In 2022, she
began a social media account, Kids In Cleveland, and this year decided to leave her job as a
preschool teacher to pursue her passions. When researching kids yoga in the area Kristin
stumbled upon ZENworks and was fortunate enough to have been hired on as an instructor. She
loves the mission of ZENworks and shares the same core values as the organization. She enjoys
spending time with family and friends exploring all that Northeast Ohio has to offer, listening to
Taylor Swift and being a part of the community.


Alexis Albro


Alexis has utilized yoga as a mindfulness practice and a way to feel more awareness and love towards her body for over a decade. She is an ICF Certified Trauma-Informed Coach, speaker, advocate for ending violence against women, and the owner/founder of Survivor Rising LLC. Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, she worked as a manufacturing supply chain professional in the corporate world but recognized the need and her passion for speaking on building trauma-informed workplaces. She leads with a mission of helping survivors build a sustainable life after trauma in hopes of creating a more healed and less hurt world.  She is so grateful for the joy and purpose she feels when in the classrooms for ZENworks. Alexis is a strong believer in the mission and values of ZENworks, and the strides they are so gracefully making towards a more healed and less hurt world. Outside of yoga and the work she does, Alexis often spends time to rest and restore with her family and her 1 year old pup Coconut. 


Joie Scott

Founding Board Member & Director of Curriculum and Instruction

As a retired elementary teacher, Joie felt that the benefits she received from yoga could be offered to “children” of any age from 3 to 83. Yoga taught her to say “yes” to what life has to offer and to live skillfully. Yoga should be fun-filled, meaning-filled, and skill-filled. She began working with ZENworks Yoga in 2010 as an instructor and became a founding board member in 2013 when ZENworks became a non-profit. In 2014, as the teaching staff grew, it became her privilege to take on the role of Teacher and Program Development.

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