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At the Center — July-Sept 2008

NCYL Welcomes New Volunteer Attorney Jora Trang

Jora Trang

Jora Trang

NCYL would like to welcome new volunteer attorney Jora Trang, who will be working on Clark K. v. Willden, which seeks to reform the foster care system in Clark County (Las Vegas), Nevada.  Since 2006, Jora has worked for the San Francisco Dependency Panel representing parents and abused, neglected, and abandoned children in dependency cases.  Jora also has her own law office in Oakland, CA, representing local artists, small businesses, and non-profit social justice organizations in the areas of civil rights, education, and intellectual property.

Jora earned her law degree in 2001 from UC Berkeley School of Law, where she was awarded a full scholarship.  While in law school, Jora was an intern with Bay Area Legal Aid, the East Bay Community Law Center, and the StreetLaw program.  After graduating from law school, Jora spent three years practicing civil rights litigation with several civil rights firms, including Employment Lawyers Group and Minami, Lew, and Tamaki, LLP (now Minami & Tamaki, LLP).  Concurrent with her law career, Jora served as Program Director for the East Bay Mentors in Parole program, which sought to reduce the recidivism in Oakland by pairing attorney mentors to youth paroling out of California Youth Authority.

Prior to attending law school, Jora was the Program Director of the San Diego Council for Literacy, working in the AmeriCorps Program.  Her directive was to provide literacy enrichment programs for at-risk youth in San Diego.  In addition, she was the Program Director for The Women’s Center at UC San Diego, assisting women staff, students, and faculty with career advancement, childcare, and healthcare.

Jora moonlights as an artist, athlete, and mother.  While in college, she toured with her daughter, Meggy Trang, in the Funky Fresh Theater Troupe, based in San Diego, and has since performed in community and underground theater throughout California.  Jora is currently writing a two-woman play with her daughter. Jora also enjoys spending time with her family, and paddling with Kaimanu, a competitive outrigger canoe paddling team in San Leandro.


NCYL’s New Law Clerks and Communications Intern

Jenny Yellin

Jenny Yellin

Jenny Yelin is working with Senior Attorney Pat Arthur on Juvenile Justice issues, including NCYL’s efforts to ban life without parole for juveniles in California.

Jenny is in her second year at UC Berkeley School of Law. She is on the California Law Review and the Leadership Committee for the Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Youth Policy Committee. Before attending law school, Jenny was a paralegal for the Juvenile Rights Division of the Legal Aid Society in the Bronx, NY.  She assisted attorneys with writing and legal research, interviewed children charged with delinquency and those who suffered abuse and neglect.  Jenny also advocated for benefits and services for children in foster care.

Jenny, a native of San Francisco, graduated magna cum laude from Columbia University in 2004 with a BA in History.

Anna Krieger

Anna Krieger

Anna Krieger is a third-year law student at UC Berkeley, where she is an editor of the Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law & Justice.  She is working with Senior Attorney Rebecca Gudeman on adolescent health care and reproductive rights, and with Staff Attorney Bryn Martyna on Clark K. v. Willden, NCYL’s foster care reform case in Clark County (Las Vegas), Nevada.

Last summer, Anna clerked with Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, where she helped prepare a case on school desegregation in the Berkeley Unified School District. Before that, Anna worked with the East Bay Community Law Center in Berkeley, CA, advocating for low-income, HIV-positive claimants and dependent children.  In summer 2007, Anna clerked for the LGBT & HIV Division of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission.

Anna received her BA in Philosophy with honors from Haverford College in 2002. After college, Anna was selected as an Emerson National Hunger Fellow for the Congressional Hunger Center in Washington, DC.  During the fellowship, she worked as a researcher and community organizer.

NCYL is sponsoring Anna for an Equal Justice Works fellowship that would begin next fall.

Lani Molina

Lani Molina

Lani Molina is a communications intern assisting NCYL’s Communication Director Tracy Schroth.  In addition to her work at NCYL, Lani is a Substitute Teacher for the Alameda Unified School District, where she teaches all academic subjects to grades K-12.  As head coach of the Encinal High School (Alameda, CA) water polo team, Lani mentors students and “works to make them mentally and physically strong.”

Lani graduated from UC Berkeley with High Honors in 2007 with a BA in Psychology.  While in college, Lani volunteered for Digital Underground Story Telling for Youth (D.U.S.T.Y.), an afterschool literacy program, teaching elementary school children how to use technology to discuss issues affecting their community.  She also worked as an Interpretive Aide for the East Bay Regional Park District in Alameda, CA, designing and performing programs to educate families and youth on ecology.

Last summer, Lani shaved her head and donated 20 inches of hair to Locks of Love, an organization that makes and donates wigs to children with cancer.


NCYL Welcomes Two New Fellows

Jesse Hahnel, a graduate of Stanford Law School who clerked at NCYL in summer 2007, has returned to the Center as a Skadden Fellow. Zahra Hayat, a Rhodes Scholar who graduated from Yale Law School with an LL.M degree, joins the Center as an Arthur Liman Fellow. The Arthur Liman Public Interest Fellowship is awarded to a Yale Law School graduate to work full time for a year on a public interest law project.

Jesse Hahnel

Jesse Hahnel

Jesse Hahnel’s Skadden Fellowship project is to advance the educational rights of foster youth in group homes, work for which Jesse is particularly qualified.  At Harvard College, where he earned a BA in mathematics, he was active in organizations focusing on economic and educational fairness.  His commitment to educational justice stems from his years teaching, first at a middle school in inner-city Washington DC, then at L.D. Brandeis High School in New York City. After teaching, Jesse joined the KIPP Foundation as the Senior Analyst.  At KIPP, he worked directly with principals and teachers at 45 charter schools, each providing a high quality college-preparatory education to students in some of the nation’s neediest communities.

Jesse spent his first year of law school at Harvard, but after working with Professor William Koski at Stanford’s Youth and Education Law Project, Jesse transferred to Stanford to better facilitate their collaboration; together with Professor Koski, he is the co-author of The Past, Present, and Possible Futures of “Education Finance Reform” Litigation, published by the American Education Finance Association.

At NCYL, Jesse will be working on behalf of foster youth who desperately need a quality education. but rarely get it.  They are in group homes because they have been abused, neglected, or abandoned by their parents. They have no extended family to take care of them, and no foster family to take them in.  High-quality education is essential to their life success.

Jesse intends to improve educational outcomes for group home youth through individual representation and local and statewide policy changes.  He will also train agencies and youth advocates about the laws impacting educational outcomes for group home youth; facilitate representation of youth by pro bono attorneys and local advocates; and pursue impact litigation and legislative advocacy as appropriate.

Zahra Hayat

Zahra Hayat

Zahra Hayat earned her undergraduate degree in Computer Science from Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) in her native Pakistan.  As part of her course work in Human Rights Law, she undertook a study of Pakistan’s Juvenile Justice system, documenting the conditions of the juvenile ward at one of Pakistan’s largest prisons.  She found that all 273 juveniles imprisoned there belonged to economically disadvantaged families, and that only four of them had been convicted.  Many had been incarcerated longer than the sentences they would have received if they were convicted.  That experience, coupled with a broader interest in law as an academic discipline, motivated Zahra to apply to study Jurisprudence at Oxford, where she was a Rhodes scholar.

While at Oxford, Zahra joined Oxford Pro Bono Publica, a collaborative faculty-student initiative drawing upon participants’ legal expertise to advise human rights groups worldwide.  She also spent a summer clerking at two leading London law firms and, as a result, received a number of offers of employment at British firms.  She chose instead to seek a career in public interest law, and after a year in Pakistan working on the country’s blasphemy laws, she attended Yale Law School because of its strong clinical program, receiving an LL.M degree.

Zahra’s project at NCYL focuses on serving foster children with unmet mental health needs.  Foster children in California have an enforceable right to mental health services under Medicaid, the cooperative federal-state program that funds medical assistance to low-income individuals.  However, California falls short of its health care obligations to foster children under the Medicaid Act.

Zahra will focus particularly on the plight of children with serious mental illnesses who are placed in foster homes across county lines.  Twenty percent of California’s foster children are in foster care outside their “home” county (defined as the county in which they entered care).  The current system in California requires “home” counties to provide mental health services to foster children.  Consequently, the county in which the child actually resides will not provide those services.  To compound the problem, children who have been moved to another county are typically those with the most serious behavioral and emotional challenges, yet they experience the greatest obstacles in getting mental health care.

NCYL intends to address this problem with public information, public policy work, and litigation.  Zahra will play a key role, conducting essential research, and participating in all phases of the advocacy.


NCYL Bids Sad Farewell to Long-time Development Director Dan DeVries and Staff Attorney Molly Dunn

Dan DeVries

Dan DeVries

Dan DeVries, NCYL’s Director of Development for the past 15 years, has taken a job as Development/Communications Director at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies at Hastings College of Law. A former high school teacher who began his Development career writing grants at Stanford Business School, Dan says he is looking forward to returning to academia.

Since 1993, when he joined NCYL, Dan oversaw NCYL’s very successful efforts to secure donations from law firms and individuals. He also headed up NCYL’s efforts to raise money through private foundations and special events, including NCYL’s first ever benefit concert featuring the legendary Bay Area rock band Journey. The concert (and live auction), held at the historic Paramount Theatre in downtown Oakland, CA, sold out, raising $150,000 in net proceeds for NCYL.

Just a few short years after starting at NCYL, Dan found himself in the unenviable position of having to completely reshape NCYL’s fundraising efforts after it lost more than $800,000 – 60 percent of  its budget at the time – when the Newt Gingrich Congress cut all federal funding for national support centers, including NCYL. . But working with Director John O’Toole and NCYL’s Board of Directors, Dan intensified NCYL’s efforts to raise the needed funding from private law firms, individuals, and foundations.

Dan was well-known at NCYL for his twice-yearly “stuffing” parties, where he would treat the staff to pizza in exchange for help stuffing thousands of envelopes for NCYL’s fundraising mailings. The conversation would often turn to golf, “roots” music, and great books – three of Dan’s most avid interests.

“Dan was integrally involved in so many of our successes over the past 15 years. We will miss him and we wish him the best,” said long-time Director O’Toole.

Molly Dunn, who specialized in foster youth education and juvenile justice at NCYL, is also returning to the world of higher education. Molly, who came to NCYL from Stanford University, where she was a Youth Advocacy Fellow in the Youth and Education Law Clinic, will begin work this winter as Associate Clinical Professor of Law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

Molly, who joined NCYL in 2007, brought her expertise in education, working to improve the educational outcomes for foster and other at-risk youth. Her work included a comprehensive analysis of alternative schools in California.

Molly consulted NCYL’s juvenile mental health team on education issues and was a vital participant in the Center’s collaborative court in Alameda County. Molly also worked closely with NCYL Senior Attorney Pat Arthur on the Center’s work to reform the juvenile justice system in Arkansas.

Good luck Dan and Molly – we will miss you!


NCYL Attorney Bryn Martyna is Ultimate Frisbee World Champion

Bryn_victory_01Staff Attorney Bryn Martyna’s women’s Ultimate Frisbee team “Fury” won the World Championships in Vancouver, Canada on August 9, 2008.  Bryn and her teammates, who are mostly from the Bay Area, won the U.S. National Championships last year to qualify them to represent the U.S. at Worlds, which are held every four years.  They defeated Germany in the quarterfinals and Canada in the semifinals. On the final day of the seven-day tournament, Fury went head-to-head against Japan in the championship match.  Bryn scored two goals and helped her team defeat Japan 13-10.

Fifteen countries were represented at the tournament, and Fury defeated 10 of them to earn the championship title, including Australia, Mexico, Italy, and Finland.  The final game between the U.S. and Japan was their second tournament match.  Earlier in the week, the Japanese defeated the Americans 15-14 – Fury’s only loss of the entire tournament.  It was the first World Championship for Fury, which has won five National Championships (1999, 2003, 2006, 2007 and 2008) and represented the U.S. at three World Championships (2000, 2004 and 2008).  Bryn’s team won its fourth consecutive National Championship in Sarasota, Fla. last month.

Bryn started playing Ultimate Frisbee back in College in 1997.  She joined Fury in 2002 and was captain for two of the team’s National Championship wins, in 2006 and 2007.

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