"What can I say? The Coral Reef Academy staff was incredibly warm and available, and their clinicians are very skilled. That was so reassuring. When you implicitly trust the staff, it feels like your son is just around the corner instead of far away." -Merle M.
Despite-or perhaps because of-our location on a small island in the South Pacific, Coral Reef Academy has attracted world-class talent from Samoa and abroad. We're proud of our clinical staff, our teachers, our mentors and our campus staff and look forward to you meeting them in person and experiencing a warm "Talofa lava!" or "Welcome!" Meanwhile we have provided a brief introduction to some of our staff, below.
Breda Tipi-Faitua Alalatoa
In Loving Memory
June 12th, 2015 our Coral Reef family suffered a tremendous loss. Mrs. Breda Faitua passed away due to complications, as she was recently hospitalized. Mrs. Faitua was a wonderful friend, colleague, wife, and mother. She leaves behind a loving husband, 3 bright and talented daughters, and her beautiful grandchildren. She also leaves behind her CRA family that will miss her dearly. She has left a legacy of commitment and loyalty that is unrivaled
Mrs. Faitua touched many students and families through her 18 years at CRA. She carried a tremendous presence and with that was gentle and kind. She was filled with the spirit of calmness. She always had the gift to know what to say in any situation. Anyone who had the honor to know Mrs Faitua was blessed in knowing her. Her cultural and spiritual base allowed her to share profound prayers with those she touched.
We ask that during this time you keep Mrs Faitua's family in your thoughts and prayers. We are very proud of our CRA team, which has come together to share stories and offer support to one another and make sure everyone's needs are being met at this time, especially the needs of our students. Mrs. Faitua will be greatly missed however, her legacy and memory will always live on. One of Mrs. Faitua's many attributes was that she was a true leader, and because of that she prepared and groomed her staff to function both with and without her. One of the greatest gifts that she gave to our team was that she always challenged her colleagues to be better and surpass even her expectations. While Mrs. Faitua can never be replaced, she left a team that, while mourning, will come together and make sure our students and families are well taken care of.
Thank you Mrs.Faitua for touching all of our lives, you will be truly missed and never forgotten.
Michael Geffeney - top -
Hello my name is Michael Geffeney and I am the clinical director at Coral Reef Academy program and Beyond the Reef program. I want to welcome you and thank you for choosing to partner with our team in Samoa for your son's treatment. I have been working with youth to bring change into their life for a number of years. My academic path led me contiguously from high school graduation to the University of California at Santa Barbara then graduate school directly into practice with El Nido Family Centers. I began working in private practice residential programs and found my niche. I have earned entrance into the Australian Psychological Society and under this authority practice on the island of Upolu. I have an open policy to make treatment transparent and understandable to parents and guardians we serve and advocate for their youth. I work to provide your family success achieving positive outcomes and invite your joining with me.
Patrick Dotson - top -
Patrick Dotson comes to Coral Reef Academy from the State of Utah. Patrick received a Master's Degree in Social Work from Utah State University and Licensed in Utah as a Certified Social Worker. Patrick has extensive experience working in treatment environments with adolescents and adults. Patrick has been the lead therapist at a drug and alcohol residential treatment center on the Ute Indian reservation in Northeastern Utah and has grown to love the culture and people of the Ute Tribe. Patrick also has experience with outpatient programs and has offered such mental health services as; Individual, family and group therapy, Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy, experiential therapy, Child Centered Play Therapy, couple counseling, domestic violence therapy for perpetrators, substance use treatment, and addiction treatment.
Patrick has been married to his wife, Bridgette, for fourteen years and together they have five children. The adoption of their oldest child from Samoa has created strong ties and a passion for the people and culture. Patrick and his family look forward at renewing old relationships and creating new ones.
Tasha Johnson, ACMHC - top -
Tasha Johnson comes to Coral Reef Academy from the state of Utah. She is a licensed mental health counselor (ACMHC), with an MS in Mental Health Counseling from Capella University and a BA in Psychology from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Additionally, she has training in dialectical behavioral therapy, play therapies, and attachment disorders.
Tasha has been working in adolescent residential treatment for the last couple of years in Draper, Utah. She loves working with adolescents and young adults and has experience working with a wide variety of mental health issues. Some of these issues include family relationship conflicts, post-traumatic stress and trauma, substance abuse, oppositional defiance, depression, anxiety, attachment, ADHD, and pervasive development disorders. Her approach to therapy includes modalities such as cognitive-behavioral, expressive and experiential therapies, and family therapy.
Tasha developed a love for Polynesian cultures while living in Hawaii a few years back. She has moved to Samoa with her daughter and is excited about being a part of the Coral Reef Academy team, and being immersed in a new culture. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, swimming, hiking, reading, gardening, making jewelry and creating artwork.
Ella Buckley - top -
My name is Ella Buckley and I am the Program Teacher at Coral Reef. I will take this opportunity to let you know a little about myself and my experiences. I am originally from Australia and have been living in Samoa since 2011. I am a qualified high school teacher. I gained my undergraduate Science degree at the University of Western Australia before moving to Notre Dame University where I completed my Graduate Diploma of Education (Secondary).
I moved to Samoa originally as an Australian Volunteer and was working in the Special Needs field. Specifically with people with Intellectual Disabilities. I then had a year off in which time I had my first child. I have been working at Coral Reef since December 2013 and only have positive feelings towards the program and working with young teenage boys. Although challenging at times it is a joy to help a young adult reach their potential and watch them make positive changes to their life.
Vanya Taule'alo, Ph.D. Fine Arts - top -
Vanya is an artist and educator. She was born in Christchurch, New Zealand, and has lived in Samoa since 1976. During her first twelve years in Samoa she established a kindergarten and a private primary and secondary school. In the early 1990's her family took six years study leave in Sydney where she completed a Masters in Fine Arts at the Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney. Vanya completed her doctorate in Fine Arts in 2006 the University of Newcastle in Australia. "Fetaia'i i Gafa we shall meet in our children, An Investigation into Contemporary Samoan Art." Her exhibition is her personal journey and follows the merging of two very diverse and rich cultures; her Anglo-Celtic heritage and her husband's Samoan gafa, which is manifest in her children. She did this through distance mode.
Over the years Vanya has exhibited in New Zealand, Australia and Germany and she has published articles pertaining to her work and that of other Samoan artists. Her works explore themes relating to the society in which she lives, the myths, cultural practices, issues relating to identity, family, the environment and climate change. Her current works examine the fragile mangrove ecosystems in Samoa and she is developing a visual response to the recent tsunami.
Between 1997 and 2008 Vanya was a senior lecturer at the National University of Samoa, attached to the Faculty of Education focusing mainly in Visual Arts. She was the advisor and major writer for the Visual Arts Secondary Curriculum, which was introduced into secondary schools in 2005. In 2009 she has been consultant/writer for the Samoan Primary School Visual Arts Curriculum and eight Teacher Manuals years 1-8. As well she enjoys mentoring students at the Better Way programme for the Coral Reef Academy.
Since June 2008 Vanya has become a full time artist and visual arts educational consultant. She hopes to spend more time in her studio and build a small gallery/viewing area for her works.
Filia Sua, RN - top -
Filia is the program nurse for Coral Reef Academy. She looks after the health and the general well being of all students and staff on campus. She has been working with the Coral Reef Academy since July 2008. Prior to working for Coral Reef Academy, she was firstly employed as a Registered Nurse mostly at the Royal Alexandra Children's Hospital, now called the New Children's Hospital at Westmead, Sydney Australia from 1988 till 2006, secondly at the Sydney Children's Hospital at Randwick, Sydney Australia and occasionally at the Starship Children's Hospital in Auckland New Zealand. Her main field is the Pediatric Emergency Department with some experience in the Adolescent Mental Health. She did all her nursing and education training in Samoa.
Raised in one of the rural village of Samoa called Sauano, Fagaloa. Filia now lives with her one and only 4year old son and her husband at Maagao, not far from Apia the capital of Samoa. Filia has recently moved back from Australia and established their small Bed and Breakfast Accommodation, which is running beautifully at the moment by her husband despite the tsunami which hit Samoa on September 29th.
Lisa Morales Von Colln - top -
Marketing & Admissions Director
Lisa comes to Coral Reef Academy with over 16 years experience in admissions, marketing, transports, and management. She received her B.S. degree in Business from Brigham Young University. Lisa was an integral part in the formation of two residential treatment centers specializing in the treatment of troubled adolescents and has served as Admissions Director and Marketing Director for a variety of therapeutic programs. Her most recent position was the Director of Marketing for an inpatient treatment center that specialized in the treatment of women with eating disorders.
Lisa's goal in admissions and marketing has been to provide compassion and certainty to the families with whom she works during their troubling times. She is excited to be able to provide a treatment center option to professionals and families that not only provides extensive treatment, but also adds the Samoan culture which are woven throughout the program activities. Alofa, Tautua, Fa'aaloalo –love, service, respect– values which the program are built around.
Lisa is married and the mother of 3 beautiful children. Being the mother of adopted children, she has served on a board for potential adoptive parents and worked closely with birth mothers during the adoption process. When Lisa is not watching her children play sports she is an avid runner and crossfitter. As a certified CrossFit Endurance Trainer, Lisa loves to coach and train others.