Meet the board

We are a team of dynamic individuals with a wide range of skills and experience. We love what we do, and we do it with passion and a commitment to evidence-based practices.

Ellyn Ahmer

President; Co-Executive Director

My earliest experiences with conflict were growing up in an ordinary, middle class, white family of five children. I unconsciously learned about the power structure very early. Adults are in charge. Kids do what they do to get what they need. When their needs are not met, they resort to many different behaviors to survive. The variety & intensity of needs within a group of seven people caused much conflict, most of it unspoken & unresolved.

As a 50-something adult, I became fascinated with tension & conflict & how it plays out in human relationships. Reflecting on years in school & business, I wanted to learn how to resolve brewing or erupting tensions to keep friends & business partners from disconnecting. I quickly discovered the most crucial conflict to resolve was that within myself. Most of the last 10 years has been dedicated to studying & learning ways of being through various methods, processes & activities to enter conflict & facilitate connections, thereby bringing more peace into the world.

Nancy J. Michaels

Co-Founder, Co-Executive Director

Nancy Michaels, Co-Executive Director of Illinois Balanced and Restorative Justice. Recently the Restorative Justice Community Court Coordinator at the Circuit Court of Cook County where she worked on the launch of the pilot project for this innovative court in North Lawndale. Her prior work was at Roosevelt University as the Associate Director at the Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation. She has a BA in Social Justice Studies and an MA in Sociology from Roosevelt University.  Her work and areas of interest and activism lie in justice reform, mass incarceration, community, and restorative justice and more broadly, in raising awareness around the societal structures, policy and institutions that lead to the marginalization and criminalization of whole communities in urban environments.  Nancy is a highly collaborative and driven change agent with a passion and focus for moving social justice initiatives forward by building relationships and raising consciousness through research, program development and community engagement. Nancy is a restorative justice practitioner and trainer, has developed and led restorative justice programming in two Chicago Public schools, leads the “Embrace Restorative Justice in Schools Collaborative,” and was a key member in the vision, planning, and evaluation of the Restorative Justice Community Court.

Amy Felty

Amy Felty is a retired high school English teacher and elementary school administrator with the majority of her experience in Illinois public school systems. She has also lived and taught in Cochabamba, Bolivia and Taichung, Taiwan. Her work in restorative circles focuses on two major outcomes: first, in how people gain multiple perspectives and open new lines of communication, and second, in how restorative circles create space for meaningful conversations that promote more mature decisions about community building. In 2016-17, Amy was appointed to the Racial Justice Task Force (RJTF) of Champaign County, a body charged with examining ways in which racism operates in the criminal justice system in the county. The RTJF also looked at racism’s effects in education, employment and housing. The task force presented 31 recommendations to the Regional County Board to combat racism and to foster systemic change. Those recommendations, including ones to advocate for restorative practices, are still timely and are still playing out in Champaign County.

Onie L. Riley

Onie L. Riley firmly believes that you can overcome any obstacles in life when you have love and support from others. Onie has worked in various positions across the City of Chicago which include University of Illinois, Illinois African American Family Commission and UCAN just to name a few. She loves helping others understand their impact and social responsibility on society. Onie believes in giving back and encourages others to do so as well. In one of her most recent roles as the North Lawndale Restorative Justice Hub Coordinator she helped raise the multimillion dollar budget needed for the countries first Restorative Justice Community Court in Chicago. Her role also included working as a liaison in coordinating community based services for court participants. Onie’s work experiences allowed her to understand that providing access to resources and opportunities in communities is one way to challenge and ultimately decrease the violence in today’s society.

Onie has presented at over 30 conferences across the country on a range of various topics on Child Welfare, Organizational and Leadership Development, Capacity Building Strategies for Nonprofits, Small Business Creation, Community and Economic Development, as well as Violence Intervention and Prevention. In 2016, she was the Commencement speaker for the Spertus College Class of 2016 Masters of Science in Nonprofit Management. Onie has done her best to succeed in life while overcoming many obstacles. She uses her many accomplishments in life as a testimony. Onie received her B.A from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her M.S. from Spertus College in Chicago, IL.

Joseph “Joe” Omo-Osagie

Joseph “Joe” Omo-Osagie has been working as a community outreach worker and counselor for the past 35 years. In this role he has had the opportunity to work within the local schools in the Champaign County area and in the state of Illinois as a whole. He has also been a sought-after mediator on restorative justice and domestic violence.  He has led community workshops on various issues from understanding the African Diaspora to parenting in a multi-cultural America to violence reduction and to human sexuality and intimate relationships.

He is currently a counselor and Psychology instructor at Parkland College Champaign. He is also at this time the President of The Champaign County Mental Health Board. He is also a fitness instructor and a caterer of African Cuisines.

Mikhail Lyubansky

Mikhail Lyubansky, Ph.D., is a teaching associate professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where among other courses, he teaches courses on restorative justice. Since 2009, Mikhail has been bringing his almost two decades of experience in teaching and writing about race dynamics to studying conflict and restorative responses to conflict in a variety of different contexts, including schools, organizations, and the criminal justice system – supporting these entities in designing and implementing a restorative infrastructure with sustainable organizational resources to facilitate conflicts and evaluate the associated outcomes. He is particularly interested in a restorative practice developed in Brazil by Dominic Barter and associates called Restorative Circles (RC). A brief description of RC and links to some recent papers are available here.

In addition to multiple book chapters and peer-reviewed articles, Mikhail is the co-author of Building a Diaspora: Russian Jews in Israel, Germany, and the USA and recently co-edited an academic text Toward a Socially Responsible Psychology for a Global AgeHe also regularly explores racial justice and restorative justice themes in his Psychology Today blog Between the Lines.