Founded in 2009 with the creation of the documentary film Coexist, the Upstander Project has trained more than 1,000 educators and reached thousands more across North America and around the world to encourage upstanding. 

Adam Mazo

Adam Mazo is the director of the Upstander Project and co-director and producer of First Light, and the feature-length film, Dawnland. Adam also directed and produced Coexist (WORLD Channel, Africa Movie Academy Award Nominee). He co-founded the Upstander Project in 2009. He is originally from Minnesota, graduated from the University of Florida, and now lives in Boston with his wife and son.

Mishy Lesser

Mishy Lesser, Ed.D., is the learning director for the Upstander Project and Education Fellow at the Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut. She is the co-director of the Upstander Academy. She spends much of her time analyzing and curating documents for First Light and Dawnland curricula, and testing them with teachers and their students. Mishy authored the Coexist Teacher’s Guide to promote learning about the complexity of reconciliation in post-genocide Rwanda. She is a Circle Keeper and has been featured on WBUR (Boston) and PRI/BBC’s The World. Mishy spent 12 years living and working in Latin America.

Ben Pender-Cudlip is the co-director and cinematographer of Dawnland and First Light. He has directed over a dozen short documentary films, including Sanjiban in 2012 (Hot Docs, CIFF) and Fetch in 2014 (Woods Hole). He lives in Boston, Massachusetts, and graduated from Bard College at Simon’s Rock.


  • Chico Colvard, University of Massachusetts Boston adjunct lecturer, documentary filmmaker (A Family Affair)
  • Donna Hicks, Ph.D., associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University, author of Dignity
  • Dave Joseph, LICSW, senior vice president for program, Public Conversations Project
  • Robert Koenig, film director (Returned), producer, writer, and editor
  • Rebecca Lowenhaupt, Ph.D., assistant professor for educational leadership and higher education at Boston College 
  • Dick Olsen, strategic planner and fundraising consultant for major non-profits