Meet Our Team
Karen Edmonds, Co-Founder and Executive Director
Karen Light Edmonds has been an advocate and mentor for disenfranchised and street-involved youth for over 20 years. The cornerstone of her work is intensive street work and mentoring which includes unrelenting outreach, high expectations, and unconditional love. In 2008 Karen offered a free Yoga class to 5 fifth grade girls who were referred by their school counselors. Word spread quickly among Rochester young people who were homeless, gang-affiliated, or from gang-affiliated families and living in poverty. Soon Karen was involved with more than 200 children and young people, ages 4-21. Those young people were the seeds of Project Legacy as we know it today. Karen is currently an Equity Specialist at Rochester Public Schools. Karen has worked in education and non-profits for more than thirty years.
John Edmonds, Co-Founder
John Edmonds is both a cofounder and board member of Project Legacy, a non-profit empowerment program for youth and young adults of color who lack a positive support system, offering long-term, trauma-informed mentoring, advocacy and supportive services.
John graduated from New York University School of Social Work in 1971 with a Masters in Social Work. Since 1971, John has held positions in nonprofit and governmental agencies as a social worker, supervisor, administrator and educator at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
He has taught at the undergraduate level at New York University, the State University of New York and Winona State University. He has taught at the graduate level in the NYU Graduate School of Social Work and at the University of Minnesota Graduate School of Social Work. He has also served as a field instructor for NYU, the University of Minnesota Schools of Social Work and Winona State University.
John came to Minnesota in 1997 and since has become intimately involved in the issue of disparities as they affect African-Americans. He has been a member of the African-American Disparities Advisory Committee at the State Department of Human Services since 2000. He has made numerous presentations locally and nationally on various aspects of disparities and disproportionality affecting African-Americans.
Most notably, John presented at the 2005 15th National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect in Boston entitled Addressing Racial Disparities in Child Protection: Minnesota’s Response; at the 2006 National Workforce Association and National Association of County Human Services Administrators Conference in St. Petersburg, Fla. entitled Taking Action on Racial Disparities; at the 2007 16th National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect in Portland, Oregon entitled Taking Action on Disparities: A Public-Private Collaboration to Enhance African-American Family Well-being; and at the 2007 Minnesota Social Services Association (MSSA) Conference entitled Taking Action on Racial Disparities.
Locally, he has presented to the boards of the United Way of Olmsted County, Family Services of Rochester, the Olmsted County Community Services Advisory Board and the Mayo Clinic Community Relations Committee about the changing demographics of Rochester and the plight of the “invisible immigrants,” e.g. native born African-Americans who have migrated to the city from urban areas in other parts of the country.
In addition to raising awareness of the issues of disparities, John is actively involved in community organizations addressing the needs of poor and minority families. He has served on the board of Child Care Resource and Referral of Olmsted County (CCRR); member of the board of Quarry Hill Nature Center; co-chair of the Children and Youth Community Solutions Team; co-chair of the Vision Council; member of the board of the United Way; member of the board of Interfaith Hospitality Network; and as a member of the Integration Committee of the Rochester School District, a committee charged with developing strategies to impact the achievement gap.
Outside of his professional and community involvement, John attributes his most important roles as a husband to Karen and father to his 3 daughters and 1 son, all of whom graduated from Rochester Public Schools.
Board of Directors
Carole Pasternak, President
Carole Pasternak is Project Legacy’s Board Chair, having served on the Board of Directors since 2017 and holding her officer role since July 2018.
Prior to her work with Project Legacy, she has both served and chaired the board of Good News Children’s Center, and currently serves on the board of the Legal Assistance of Olmsted County as the board secretary.
Carole is a partner at Klampe, Delehanty & Pasternak LLC, a law firm in Rochester, having worked at the firm since 1999 and being a partner since 2008. Carole was awarded a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology from Rutgers University in 1991 and her J.D. from Seton Hall School of Law in 1997. She is a member of the bar in both New Jersey and Minnesota and was admitted to the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota in September 2003. As an attorney, Carole specializes in family law and is a family law mediator.
Outside of her professional experiences, Carole spends time with her family including her husband, Jeff, and two sons. She enjoys volunteering, watching movies and playing with her family dog, Juno.
According to Carole, “When I learned about Project Legacy, I could see it was an organization doing what no other organization did. This organization not only benefits youth, but our community as a whole.”
Malachi Johnson, Vice President
Malachi Johnson is Project Legacy’s Vice Chair, having served on the Board of Directors since 2017.
Malachi is a Fifth Grade Teacher at Gage Elementary School in Rochester, where he is in his 16th year teaching. He holds a Master’s Degree in Education from St. Mary’s University and an Education Specialist Degree from Saint Mary’s University. He is a licensed teacher in Minnesota.
Outside of his professional experiences, Malachi spends time with his family including his wife, Annie, and two children, Cashton and Hayward. He enjoys spending time with family, sports, Crossfit and trying to find time to relax.
According to Malachi, “I have seen what a huge need there is for this program and all the things it has to offer the community of Rochester. I truly believe in my heart that Project Legacy can help change lives.”
Lauren Mao, Treasurer
Lauren Mao is the Treasurer of the Project Legacy Board of Directors, having served in this role since 2018.
Lauren currently works with Associated Bank in Commercial and Private Banking. She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and Finance from Winona State University.
Outside of work, Lauren enjoys spending time with her husband, Chris, and her two dogs. She loves to travel, spend time outdoors and spend time with friends.
According to Lauren, “Project Legacy is such a great cause that has had such a positive impact on so many individuals. I think it is incredibly important to help youth “break the cycle” and offer a positive support system that will encourage youth to strive to be everything they have wanted to be and more.”
Vicki Friedman, Secretary
Vicki Friedman is the Secretary of the Project Legacy Board of Directors, having served in this role since 2017. In addition to her service on the board, Vicki also serves as the Director of Development for Project Legacy’s Board of Directors.
Vicki is a stay-at-home mom committed to making a difference in the community. Prior to moving to Rochester, she attended the University of Texas in Austin.
According to Vicki, she attributes a Maya Angelou quote as inspiration for why she chose to join the board of Project Legacy, stating, “Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future, and renders the present inaccessible.”
Sarah Harper is a member of the Project Legacy Board of Directors, having served in this role since 2018.
Sarah’s experience is diverse, having built a career in training, development, education and private tutoring. As an educator of more than 8 years, she has provided education to learners of all ages including teaching Spanish to middle schoolers, coaching boys’ golf and training Mayo Clinic physicians.
She is currently a Specialist in the Office of Patient Education at Mayo Clinic, where she works with Mayo Clinic physicians and nurses to develop educational materials for complex healthcare needs and diverse patients.
Outside of work, Sarah is passionate about working alongside community members to make Rochester an affordable, accessible and safe place for people from all walks of life to live happily and healthily. She cares deeply about social justice and the issues affecting Rochester residents today and into the future. Before joining the Project Legacy Board, she volunteered at the YMCA, Dorothy Day House and the Empowerment Center, and currently serves as a No One Dies Alone Volunteer at Mayo Clinic.
Outside of her professional and community involvement, Sarah is active in her family life, including her husband, Sean, and two children, Louise and George. She enjoys spending time outdoors, hiking and spending time with her two dogs, Orson and Nana.
According to Sarah, “I can think of no greater privilege than being asked to join the board of Project Legacy and work to remove the barriers impeding the success of so many young people in our community. These young adults inspire me and challenge me to be a better person and citizen of Rochester. Knowing the challenges that they’ve been through and bearing witness to their courage, audacity, and resilience is so incredibly humbling. If these youth can get back up and hold their heads up with pride and dignity after falling down or being knocked down time and time again, I owe it to them to give it all I’ve got.”
Heather Holmes is a member of the Project Legacy Board of Directors, having served in this role since 2018.
Heather’s career is diverse, including experiences in sales, marketing, resource development, technology and journalism. She spent over a decade in television news and has won numerous awards for her storytelling, including two Emmy nominations.
Currently, Heather serves as the Journey to Growth Project Manager with the Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc. (RAEDI) and is the owner of Heather Holmes Solutions, a consulting firm providing services in communications, public relations, resource development, social media, event management, earned media and all things marketing.
Outside of her work, Heather is passionate about serving her community and currently serves on the City of Rochester’s Charter Commission, the University of Minnesota Extension’s Rural Workforce and Entrepreneur Recruitment and Retention Advisory Committee, the Ronald McDonald House Board of Trustees, Rotary Club Board of Directors, is a member of Toastmasters and engages in numerous community volunteer efforts.
Something most people don’t know about Heather is that she graduated high school with a class of eight students, seven boys and herself, and was a diesel mechanic in the Army National Guard for six years.
According to Heather, “I’m looking forward to being part of a caring, passionate team, focused on supporting and providing for a segment of our young people that can be forgotten, judged, ignored or overlooked. The impact made today will not only positively affect those in Project Legacy’s programs but also improve our community and economy by creating productive, thriving citizens.”
Nicole Pierson is a member of the Project Legacy Board of Directors, having served in this role since March 2018.
Nicole is an architect in Rochester, owning her own design and consulting business that specializes in residential design and commercial interiors. She holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Architecture with a minor in Landscape Architecture, both from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.
Outside of her work, Nicole is active in her family, including her husband and three children via birth and adoption. She and her husband are currently in the process of adopting an infant via adoption. In her free time, Nicole enjoys spending time with her family, volunteering in the community, watching movies, running, biking, and watching her kids play sports.
According to Nicole, “I believe every life and person has value and potential. I think too often our society disregards people, especially teens and young adults, who struggle, often through no fault of their own. I am passionate about the resiliency of the human spirit when given the chance to succeed and want to provide the support needed for that success.”
Paul Friedman, M.D.
Paul Friedman is a member of the Project Legacy Board of Directors, having served in this role since 2018.
Paul is a cardiologist at Mayo Clinic, holding his M.D. distinction. Outside of his work, Paul is active with his family and enjoys bicycling, travel and photography.
According to Paul, “In these times of divisive national discourse, an organization that focuses on building community by helping its most vulnerable and disadvantaged members is sorely needed. Giving a helping hand to enable people who have not had a fair chance or who have faced significant obstacles help themselves to become productive members of the community who pay it forward, is meaningful, powerful and is the soul of Project Legacy.”
Nasra Jimale is a member of the Project Legacy Board of Directors, having served in this role since 2018.
Nasra is currently a social worker in the Emergency Department at Mayo Clinic. Prior to this role, she worked at the Olmsted County Youth Behavioral Health Clinic as a Children’s Mental Health Case Manager and has held positions in early childhood education and development as a paraprofessional and teaching aide. Most of her experiences have been with children from infants to young adults aged 18 years old in the mental health field.
Nasra holds her Master’s Degree in Social Work (MSW) from Mankato State University. She is a Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW). She also holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology and a certificate in Child Advocacy Studies from Winona State University.
Outside of her professional role, Nasra has been involved in the community, using her refugee experience to help others. She served two terms with AmeriCorps following her undergraduate degree where she made a commitment to serving the community through volunteerism. She also comes from a large family with 4 brothers and 5 sisters, having come to America as refugees in 1993. She is fluent in both English and her native language of Somali.
Outside of her professional and community involvement, Nasra enjoys shopping, traveling to other parts of the world, and spending time with friends learning new things.
According to Nasra, “I was introduced to Project Legacy by another board member. We shared a mutual interest in taking on leadership roles within the community. I wanted to be more active and do more to serve my community in areas that interest me and populations that I am passionate about, and Project Legacy has been the perfect fit.”
Cesar Sandoval is a member of the Project Legacy Board of Directors, having served in this role since 2018.
Cesar is a Clinical Social Worker in the Emergency Department at St. Mary’s Hospital, Mayo Clinic. Prior to this role, he served in the Peace Corps in El Salvador working in Youth Development. He holds his Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, International Affairs and Social Work from Florida State University. He is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) in Minnesota.
Outside of work, Cesar is active in the community and enjoys giving back to others. He was involved in the Rochester Flag Project and currently assists an international Salvadoran student attending school in Winona. He was born in Nicaragua and immigrated to the United States when he was four years old, having grown up in Miami, Florida. He speaks both English and Spanish, which is his native language.
Outside of his professional and community involvement, Cesar enjoys spending time with his future in-laws and getting to know more about the Midwest, including Northern Minnesota, Wisconsin and Northern Illinois.
According to Cesar, “I feel that as an immigrant whose parents did not speak English, and my personal background being exposed to family members with chemical dependency issues, I was grateful for the existence of agencies that allowed me to flourish and encouraged my growth. I feel that Project Legacy allows for this type of space for youth in Rochester, and I want to support this organization.”
Tej Khasla is a member of the Project Legacy Board of Directors, having served in this role since 2018. In addition to her role on the board, Tej also runs weekly yoga classes and resiliency circle for Project Legacy Youth alongside her husband.
Tej is a physician at Mayo Clinic, where she is specialized as a General Internist and Mind-Body Expert. Alongside her role as a physician, Tej has been a Kundalini Yoga Teacher for 15 years. In addition to her medical training and M.D. distinction, Tej holds a Master of Science in Gender, Development and Globalization, specifically in Race and Gender Theory and Immigrant Health. Her certifications include her M.D., Kundalini Yoga Teacher Certification and a Piano Teacher with the Canadian Royal Conservatory.
Outside of work, Tej shares that music is a big part of her family’s life. As blues and sacred musicians, she and her husband are formally trained in sacred Indian music, believing music is medicine, “It’s the universal language and delivers one of the most transformative, healing experiences of love,” she says.
Outside of her professional and community involvement, her hobbies include singing sacred Indian and blues music, songwriting, yoga, camping in Northern New Mexico and waking up before the sunrise to practice yoga and meditate.
According to Tej, she was interested in joining Project Legacy’s board “because we are one human family,” also quoting Yogi Bhajan, “Make yourself so happy that when others look at you they become happy, too.”