Peer Culture Transformation Advisory Board Member Biographies
Co-Chairperson of the Board Mersadies S. Bonilla
Mersadies S. Bonilla is a servant, advocate, and public speaker. She is the Chief Compliance Officer with The Advocacy Foundation and serves as a liaison to Pennsylvania elected officials, behavioral health facilities, and educational institutions. She came to Philadelphia to attend college and holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in public administration. Having served as a peer supervisor with many organizations in Pennsylvania, Mersadies has developed peer support programs throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Mersadies’ participation with the Peer Culture Transformation Advisory Board is due to her advocating for the development of the peer transformation and inclusion culture. She prides herself on holding stakeholders accountable as it pertains to peer support services.
Secretary of the Board Melissa Groden
Melissa Groden, MS, HS-BCP, CFRS Director of Prevention, Training & Education, has 25 years’ experience in the behavioral health field and has worked at The Council of Southeast Pennsylvania for 12 years overseeing the prevention, school services, and training programs. She has also been an adjunct professor at Chestnut Hill College for 12 years, instructing and writing curricula in classroom and hybrid format for the School of Continuing and Professional Studies.
Melissa is a board certified human services professional and a certified trainer in Pennsylvania Student Assistance Program and Youth Mental Health First Aid. She holds a master’s degree in Administration of Human Services from Chestnut Hill College with a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in criminal justice from Temple University. The Peer Culture Transformation Advisory Board welcomes her organizational skills and overall expertise.
Board Membership Chairperson Jose Ferran Jr.
Jose Ferran Jr. is a Philadelphia native who loves people and loves to serve people. He has learned from both the negative and positive social environment experiences of growing up in Philadelphia. Since 2012, Jose embraced recovery and healing by stewarding relationships, learning, healing, and working on physical/green environmental spaces. Jose has assisted youth impacted by community violence in hospital and community settings and equipped young men living in recovery to be difference makers. Now he serves as a Life Set Specialist with Turning Points for Children supporting young adults who age out of state care to transition into adulthood. Jose encompasses the youth perspective on the Peer Culture Transformation Advisory Board, and he leads the Membership group.
Matthew Anticoli (he/him) is a Certified Peer Specialist and Learning & Development Specialist with The Institute at Mental Health Partnerships. He is a graduate of Cornell University who received his bachelor’s degree in American studies. At Cornell, Matthew worked as a teaching assistant for two years in the Computer and Information Sciences Department, where he co-led discussions on ethics and technology as well as technological history. As a graduate of the COVID-era, Matthew has extensive experience as a student with Canvas, zoom, and other virtual learning tools; he has also worked with these tools as an educator, developing online curricula for Cornell and teaching as a graduate student for Indiana University Bloomington. Matthew worked as a facilitator for Cornell’s Intergroup Dialogue Project and for the University’s LGBT Resource Center as a Peer Panel Facilitator.
John K. Carlson is the executive director of Transformation to Recovery, a faith-based recovery community center and ministry of Christ Church Philadelphia. John has an MBA and a marketing degree. He is a certified recovery specialist with Biblical addiction-counseling certification and lived experience. John attended a bible addictions-rehab ministry at Americas Keswick for four months.
John served as the volunteer coordinator, Certified Recovery Specialist, and Philadelphia Peer Leadership Trainer at the Council of Southeast Pennsylvania PRO-ACT in Philadelphia. John’s new focus includes passionate service in the behavioral health industry. Along with this focus, John is called to lead the nonprofit organization Transformation to Recovery Addictions Ministry. He continues to facilitate PRO-ACT’s educational trainings, which include the Philadelphia Peer leadership Academy, Volunteer Orientation, Recovery Planning, Self-Disclosure, and Self-Care. John is a faith-based recovery champion and the Peer Culture Transformation Advisory Board welcomes him.
Bill now works for Liberty Resources supporting others with developmental disabilities and autism. He facilitates a monthly group in which he provides support and resources. Bill is also an advocate coordinator for individuals with developmental disabilities at Keystone Services, an organization that has offices all over the world. Bill Krebs is a leader of a self-advocate movement and sits on several committees throughout the state. He is a proud recipient of the Brighter Futures Award, Justin Dart Award, and the Mental Health Association Award, among others. He brings an IDS perspective to the PCTAB, and we are excited to have him on board.
Leslie also oversees several special projects focused on fostering healthy and resilient communities and including Mobilizing Action for Resilient Communities (MARC), the Philadelphia ACE Task Force, and the Integrated Peer Models for Health in North Philadelphia. Prior to her work in Philadelphia, Leslie spent more than 15 years in California designing and directing integrated models of care for pregnant women with substance-use disorders. A social worker at heart, her passion is helping others to transform visions into reality. Leslie holds a master’s degree in social work from the University of California at Berkeley and a bachelor’s degree from Carleton College. Her experience and professional acumen are a welcomed addition to the Peer Culture Transformation Advisory Board.
Vania moved to Philadelphia from Brazil in 2008, the year President Obama was elected, a great year for humanity. Philadelphia has become home, and she feels that she has been privileged to work and volunteer in several organizations throughout this city. Her goal is to use her ability to create communities of learning and acting to make Philadelphia communities more equitable, with more access of opportunities to thrive.
Currently, The Health Federation program is a partnership with several other organizations building and testing organizational capacity and infrastructure for effective, efficient, holistic approaches to an integrated community health/peer support workforce across community-based organizations in the North Philadelphia Health Empowerment Zone. The PCTAB is pleased to welcome Vania.