Elisha Fernandes Simpson E-RYT, RCYT, M.A. YACEP, Masters Candidate of Social Work, Silberman
As Founder and Executive Director of the nonprofit organization the Crossover Yoga Project (inc. 2015) CYP has empowered over 3,300 marginalized girls through trauma informed yoga, mindfulness and creative art therapy to move towards positive change.
As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, Elisha has her own understanding of suffering and instability, and has experienced the feeling of not being heard when she needed it most. This and her teaching experience at Promises for Families are the founding blocks to CYP.
Each day, Elisha witnesses how people from all walks of life can change. Promises for Families, a quality summer camp offered at no charge for children who have parent(s) that are incarcerated, was her first introduction to working with marginalized youth. After a week of instruction, Director Katy Hoskins sent Elisha this note from the guardian of one of her students:
My granddaughter has been afraid of the water since I can remember. When she came back from camp and we went to the pool on an extremely hot day, she jumped right into the deep end, touched the bottom and came back up. Surprised, I asked her, “how did you do that?” And she told me, ” I just remembered one of Ms. Elisha’s meditations and I wasn’t afraid anymore.”
Elisha’s personal practice of over 20 years brings her the resilience she needs as a trauma survivor, and the inspiration and commitment to never give up. CYP guide girls towards resilience, helps them heal from their own traumas, and to feel alive in the present moment. Everyone has this power within them, and through the tools of mindfulness, yoga and art, each one of can be inspired, balanced, and build the resilience to take charge of our bodies.
Caralyn Nannirello is an experienced 200 hour certified teacher and a NYS Certification in Physical Education. She earned a Masters of Arts in Teaching Physical Education and Sports Pedagogy at Manhattanville College.
Caralyn first discovered yoga as a teenager as a way to stay fit, decrease stress, and be more mindful. She uses her yoga training and educational skills to help her students achieve their most healthy, happy and best selves.
She was previously employed as a physical education teacher and head of athletics at an all girls charter school in the South Bronx. There she founded both the physical education and athletic programs including designing and implementing the curriculum. Her previous work experience includes teaching yoga classes to both children, and adults, coaching young athletes in various sports, supervising youth summer programs, and also interacting with young children from diverse socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds.
Caralyn thoroughly enjoys teaching children and they respond well to her. She believes in the mission of the Crossover Yoga Project and the importance of creating a safe space for children and teens alike to use the tool’s it provides to be more mindful, self aware, and conscious of life’s experiences and traumas and the ability to use those tools in order to self heal and continuously evolve.
Sarah Knox, E-RYT, EdY has been teaching yoga since 1997, when she received her certification in ISHTA yoga from Alan Finger. She received her 200-hour Yoga Alliance certification from Betsy Kase at Yoga Haven in 2002. Sarah continued her studies with master teachers such as Erich Schiffmann, Gary Kraftsow, TKV Desikachar, Sonia Nelson, Srivatsa Ramaswami and AG Mohan, and is a graduate of the Yoga Educator (EdY) program at The Breathing Project in NYC, where she studied yoga anatomy, kinesiology, physiology and embryology with Amy Matthews and Leslie Kaminoff. Sarah is also certified in The Fishman Method: Yoga for Osteoporosis, a program developed by Loren Fishman M.D., Assistant Clinical Professor at Columbia Medical School. She completed the CYP Trauma Informed training in 2018.
Sarah attended her first yoga class with her mother when she was a teenager. This early experience stayed with her as she explored dance and movement throughout high school, college and work as a graphic designer. She rediscovered yoga after the birth of her second child, and has been a devoted practitioner ever since. Yoga has been a transformative force in Sarah’s life, helping her to stay connected to her inner resource through difficult times, and to process past trauma. Over her twenty years of teaching she has seen the profound effects that yoga can have by giving students the tools to find their own inner source of strength, wisdom and resilience. She believes that everyone should have access to these tools.
For the past ten years, Sarah has served on the Advisory Council of LitWorld, a non-profit with the mission of bringing literacy education to underserved communities in the United States and around the world and to help children discover the power of their own stories. She also volunteers with the Open Door reading program at The Children’s Village. Sarah is grateful to have found the Crossover Yoga Project and to be a part of their mission in bringing the healing power of yoga to young women in crisis.
Devon Stewart is a reproductive and maternal health care doula and advocate. Based in Harlem, New York City, Devon has integrated practical medical knowledge with yogic philosophy to promote holistic wellness in underserved communities. Devon is most concerned with empowering individuals to heal themselves via accessible mindfulness exercises. She has been practicing yoga since 2010, has 350+ hours of vinyasa, hot yoga, therapeutic and trauma-informed and prenatal trauma informed yoga training.
She is passionate about women’s reproductive/sexual health and gender equity. Devon has embodied yoga as a lifestyle. Her use of simple breathing practices has made her life much easier, and she knows when she teaches others, that their healing has the chance to commence earlier than hers and provide the opportunity to make their lives easier from within. Devon connects readily with young adults as that time in her life is still very much alive with her. She relates deeply to them through her own traumatic experiences and wants to share the rehabilitative skills she has been taught to use to help her thrive. Her training and personal transformative experiencewith yoga excites her to begin working with CYP.
Gabriela Cruz-Andrade is a bilingual nutritionist and certified vinyasa yoga teacher with a collaborative and optimistic spirit. Caring and compassionate, Gabriela is also an innate healer who is passionate about helping others find their inner healer, peace, and voice.
She discovered yoga in her early twenties as a fun hobby to help her stay fit and flexible. She loved acroyoga, a mix of yoga and acrobatics. An injury and breakdown in health taught her to be gentler with her body. After recovering, she slowly started incorporating more yoga in her life, especially when outdoors: she would unroll the mat, flow, and blend with nature.
This slower kind of practice gave her a sense of wellness she had never experienced before. But it was not until after surviving a mentally abusive relationship at the age of 27 that she could find in yoga the compassion, understanding, healing and peace that she was desperately seeking.
Gabriela started being more consistent in her practice, and not long after experiencing the healing side of yoga she felt called upon to deepen her knowledge and be proficient enough to help herself and others in a better and more transcendental way.
On January 2018, she traveled to Costa Rica to get trained as a yoga teacher with The Yoga Home Academy, and has been teaching since then in Yonkers, NY, her home since moving from Guayaquil, Ecuador in 2014.
Gabriela is a firm believer that through holding space, uplifting and soothing words, breath, and movement, a room for transformation is created. Her intentions with the CYP program are to help create a space where miracles happen.
Lead Art Teacher
Jennifer Albin was working as a case manager at Open Arms Women’s Halfway House in Rockland County, NY in 2011 when she began utilizing art journaling as part of her continued healing process from childhood trauma. Jennifer discovered that art allowed her to connect to a deep well of wisdom within and make sense of her inner world. She began to share the practice with the women in her groups and discovered that this is where her true passion lie: helping other women to discover the best parts of themselves through art.
Jennifer left a career as a substance abuse counselor in 2012 to pursue her art practice full-time and to share the healing power of art with others. A self-taught mixed media artist, she created Soul Whisper Arts in 2013, where she offers on-line and in-person art workshops, one-on-one healing art sessions, and inspirational mixed-media art. She is honored to work with the Crossover Yoga Project to bring the healing power of art to girls. As a survivor of trauma, Jennifer knows firsthand the struggles CYP girls face in learning to see their worth, trust their voices, and stand in their truth. She also knows the potential each girl carries and believes, that with paintbrush in hand, each one can discover the bravest parts of themselves.
Jennifer began her career working with homeless men at St. Christopher’s Inn in Garrison, NY in 2004, gaining the experience she needed before moving on to work with the population most dear to her heart: women and children. She has always had a passion for healing, whether as a Reiki Master or as a Credentialed NYS Substance Abuse Counselor. She was drawn to the substance abuse counseling field after her own experience recovering from childhood trauma and addiction. She worked at St. Christopher’s Inc. in Dobb’s Ferry, NY as substance abuse counselor, helping to implement an in-house substance abuse program in 2010.