National Center for Youth Law

Staff Biographies

Jacinda Abcarian

Development Manager

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Jacinda Abcarian joined NCYL in September 2020 as a Development Manager. She works with NCYL’s staff to secure funding for transformative work that improves outcomes for young people involved in the juvenile justice and foster care systems. Abcarian has more than twenty years’ fundraising experience in the nonprofit youth development arena. Most recently she served as the Senior Grants Manager at Social Advocates for Youth (SAY) San Diego. Previously, she worked as the Director of Development for the Ecology Center, and the East Oakland Youth Development Center. Abcarian began her career at Youth Radio (now YR Media) as a radio journalist, reporting on the juvenile justice system and working with community-based organizations across the state on media advocacy and violence prevention initiatives. She filled many roles within the organization, including Development Director and Executive Director. Abcarian has a BA in Sociology from UC Berkeley, an MSW with a focus on Communities and Social Systems from the University of Michigan, and a certificate in Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management from Harvard Business School’s Executive Education program.

Crystal Adams

Attorney, Legal Advocacy

Primary Office: Washington D.C.

Crystal Adams is an attorney on the Strategic Advocacy team who will be litigating on behalf of vulnerable children across a variety of areas. Prior to joining NCYL, Adams was an attorney in the Office of General Counsel at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Through her work in the Fair Housing Enforcement Division, Crystal pursued injunctions and damages under the Fair Housing Act for victims of discriminatory conduct. She also helped draft legal guidance, including a memorandum explaining HUD’s interpretation of how the Fair Housing Act applies to local nuisance property ordinances that disproportionately harm low-income women who are victims of domestic violence. Adams earned her J.D. from UC Irvine School of Law, where she was President of the Black Law Students Association and received several honors including the Faculty Award in the Immigrant Rights Clinic, the Pro Bono Leadership Award in the Education Rights Clinic, and the Dean’s Award for the Education Law and Policy Course. In law school, she completed a legal externship in the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education, where she worked on emerging and existing civil rights issues with a focus on racial discrimination under Title VI. Crystal earned her B.A. in Government and Psychology from Claremont McKenna College.

Melissa Adamson

Attorney, Immigration & Legal Advocacy

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Melissa Adamson is an attorney on NCYL’s Immigration and Legal Advocacy teams. Adamson works on immigrant youth issues, including litigation on behalf of detained unaccompanied minors and policy work on behalf of immigrant youth in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. As a Berkeley Public Interest Fellow at NCYL, Adamson focused on adolescent health, reproductive rights for foster youth, and consent and confidentiality law.

Adamson earned her J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, where she represented youth in delinquency proceedings and expulsion hearings through the Education Defense and Justice for Youth Clinic at the East Bay Community Law Center and interned at Legal Services for Children and the Bay Area Legal Aid San Francisco Medical-Legal Partnership. She received her B.A. from Tufts University, where she majored in International Relations and Community Health. Prior to becoming a lawyer, Adamson directed the Hospital Outreach Program at The Painted Turtle Camp in Los Angeles, supported adults and children with disabilities in Saint Louis, and worked with SeriousFun Children’s Network to open the first medical camp for children living with HIV in Botswana.

Mae Ackerman-Brimberg

Senior Attorney, Collaborative Responses to Commercial Sexual Exploitation Initiative

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Mae Ackerman-Brimberg is an attorney on NCYL’s campaign to end child trafficking.  Ackerman-Brimberg previously worked at NCYL as a legal fellow on the juvenile justice team, where she was involved in efforts to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline, and reduce the disproportionate involvement of youth of color and youth with disabilities in school discipline and the juvenile justice system.  Prior to returning to NCYL, Ackerman-Brimberg was a fellow and staff attorney at the Prison Law Office, where she focused on class action litigation and monitoring to improve medical and mental health care, and reduce isolation and use of force in California and Arizona state prisons and county jails; she also worked to increase access to the parole process and opportunities for parole for people who committed crimes as youth and people with disabilities.  Ackerman-Brimberg also served as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Deborah A. Batts in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.  Mae received her B.A. in Political Science from Stanford University in 2006, and a dual Master of Social Work and J.D. from Columbia University in 2013.

Ki Allen

Deputy Director, Information Technology

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Ki Allen Joined NCYL in June of 2020 as the organization’s IT Manager. Allen has spent the past sixteen years working in the non-profit sector, most recently she spent seven years as the IT Director for a large Community Development Financial Institution in San Francisco. Prior to that she worked for the Insight Center for Community Economic Development and Eden Housing. Allen is committed to working for organizations with a mission to bring about radical change in the field of social justice. She has brought significant transformation to her past organizations, initiating IT Strategic Planning, leading large technology projects, and implementing changes to advance and mature the use of technology across the organization.

Allen brings a passion for helping people use technology so that staff can better accomplish the important work of the organization with more ease and impact.

Allen holds a number of technical certifications ranging from networking to business analysis.

Jasmine AmonsJasmineAmons

Senior Program and Policy Coordinator, Youth Justice

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Jasmine Amons is the Senior Program and Policy Associate for the Youth Justice Initiative, providing administrative, communications, and policy support. Previously, Jasmine served as a Program Associate for Adolescent Health and the FosterEd and Collaborative Responses to Commercial Sexual Exploitation Initiatives. Outside of NCYL, Jasmine hosts the monthly environmental networking event East Bay Green Drinks, is a member of Thousand Currents Young Professional Group’s Leadership Team, and is an alumna of the Women’s Foundation of California’s Women’s Policy Institute State Program. She formerly worked as the Grants and Development Manager at Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment. Jasmine graduated with a B.A. in History and a minor in Italian Studies from the University of California, Berkeley in 2013.

Kayla Antes

Senior Education Liaison, Compassionate Education Systems: California

Primary Office: Monterey County, CA

Kayla Antes joined in November 2020 as an Education Liaison in Monterey County. Through this role, she supports high school students and their families who are experiencing homelessness. Prior to joining NCYL, Antes provided targeted school-based mental health services at a high school and elementary school in San José CA through Seneca Family of Agencies. Prior to this, Antes supported middle school students at a charter school in downtown San José as a school-based social worker.

Antes is a Bay Area native and holds a Master of Social Work (MSW) and a California Pupil Personnel Service Credential in School Social Work and Child Welfare Attendance Services from the University of Southern California. Antes also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work from California State University, Fresno.

Reymundo Juan Armendariz

Senior Community Policy Associate, Youth Justice

Primary Office: San Jose, CA

Reymundo Armendariz is the Community Policy Associate for NCYL’s Santa Clara Youth Justice Initiative. Armendariz has been an activist and social services professional in Santa Clara County for over 19 years. He has overcome many challenges including gang violence, addiction, and discrimination to establish a successful career in the field of community organizing and youth advocacy. Armendariz is a graduate of Evergreen Valley College and attends San Jose State University. He has worked within the arena of juvenile justice as a youth intervention worker with the Restorative Justice Program in East San Jose. Armendariz has also worked with gang impacted youth in East San Jose through the Mexican American Community Service Agency Jovenes Nobles program. Using Rites of Passage oriented programming to deliver culturally competent service Armendariz has been able to experience success working with some of the most challenging youth at the Santa Clara County and Alameda County Juvenile Halls. Most Recently he worked as a Mentor Recruitment Specialist with mentees referred from the Juvenile Probation Department as well as the local school districts. Armendariz still mentors four young men in his community and volunteers with the program.

Julee Aros-Thornton

Education Liaison II, FosterEd: Arizona

Primary Office: Tucson, AZ

Julee Aros-Thornton is an Education Liaison with FosterEd: Arizona. She holds an undergraduate degree in family studies from the University of Arizona. She began her career over two decades ago working with delinquent juveniles and their families through the juvenile court, providing case management services to improve educational and delinquent outcomes. She then moved on to provide in-home services to families who had been referred to Child Protective Services. Working with families in their homes gave her a real life understanding of the challenges underprivileged families face day to day. Prior to joining NCYL, she worked in foster care, educating, licensing and supporting foster families to meet the needs of the foster children in their homes. Aros-Thornton speaks Spanish, providing her the ability to work with Spanish-speaking families, and she also has knowledge of American Sign Language.

Jasmine Barber

Education Liaison, Compassionate Education Systems California

Primary Office: Antelope Valley

Jasmine Barber is an Education Liaison in the Antelope Valley region of Los Angeles County. She earned a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, followed by a Master’s of Education from Lesley University in 2018. Barber is committed to improving the lives of youth through the provision of services that link them with beneficial resources and empowering them to access those resources as needed. Prior to joining the Compassionate Education Systems team, Barber served youth in various capacities through education, arts integration, foster care and adoption services, therapeutic behavioral services and programming in partnership with non-profit organizations from Washington, DC to Southern California.

Shelbby Bambrick

Senior Education Liaison, Compassionate Education Systems

Primary Office: Antelope Valley

Shelbby Bambrick is an Senior Education Liaison in the Antelope Valley region of Los Angeles County. Prior to joining the Compassionate Education Systems team, Bambrick worked as a Children’s Therapist in a community mental health setting serving children and families in Los Angeles. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a master’s in Social Work and Certificate in Child Welfare from the University of Michigan. While in her graduate studies, Bambrick concentrated on the impacts of trauma, youth advocacy and building resiliency for families. She has several years of experiencing working directly with youth and has spent time as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) advocate, community organizer, educator and group facilitator. Bambrick is fluent in Spanish, enabling her to serve both English-speaking and Spanish-speaking families.

Matthew Bedrick

Legal Fellow

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Matthew Bedrick is an Equal Justice Works Fellow, sponsored by Cooley LLP, on NCYL’s Immigration team. Bedrick’s fellowship project aims to ensure that detained immigrant children receive the education services to which they are entitled and that recently released children receive the services they need to succeed in public schools. Bedrick also supports NCYL’s litigation on behalf of immigrant youth, including the Flores and Lucas R. cases. Bedrick earned his J.D. with Pro Bono Honors from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (Berkeley Law). During law school, he was a summer clerk at NCYL where he worked on litigation to protect the rights of foster children and detained immigrant children. He also interned at the East Bay Community Law Center in the Immigration, Youth Defender, and Education Advocacy clinics. Prior to law school, Bedrick served with City Year New York as an AmeriCorps member in a high-need public school and as a staff member on the communications team. Bedrick received his B.A. from Yale University where he majored in History.

Anna Belkin

Fiza Quraishi Fellow, Child Welfare

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Anna Belkin is Fiza Quraishi Legal Fellow on NCYL’s Child Welfare team. Belkin earned her J.D. from University of Michigan Law School in 2020, where she was the Editor in Chief of the Michigan Journal of Gender and Law and a student attorney with both the Human Trafficking Clinic and the Civil Rights Litigation Initiative. During law school Belkin was a summer legal intern at the New York Civil Liberties Union, where she provided legal research on Freedom of Information Law, voting rights, attorneys’ fees, and anti-abortion legislation. She was also a judicial intern for the Honorable J. Paul Oetken of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Prior to attending law school, Belkin was a paralegal at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Women’s Rights Project where she supported attorneys working on sex discrimination cases in housing, education, and employment. Belkin received her B.A. from Wellesley College where she majored in English.

Shakti Belway

Deputy Director

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Shakti Belway is the Deputy Director of Policy, Litigation and Programs at the National Center for Youth Law. In this role, she directs and supports the staff leading NCYL’s extraordinary advocacy on behalf of children, youth, families and communities.

During her career, Belway has worked in human rights advocacy, as a civil rights attorney, policy reformer and litigator, as an educator, and as a child and youth advocate.

Belway has a B.A from Yale College in Ethics, Politics & Economics and a law degree from Stanford Law School. After law school, in 2005 Belway served as a Skadden Fellow in Mississippi.

Taima Beyah

Human Resources Partner

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Taima Beyah joined the National Center for Youth Law in July 2019 as the Human Resource Partner. Beyah is a Bay Area native with deep roots in the fight for social justice and social change. She has been committed to helping people improve the quality of their lives through her work in education, health care, mental health, and affordable supportive housing. Prior to joining the NCYL family she served as the Director of Operations for Urban Montessori Charter School. Her depth of experience includes an extensive background in human resources, operations, employee training, risk management, family advocacy, and systems policies and procedures in nonprofit organizations. Beyah holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Cal State University Long Beach. She is certified by the Society of Human Resource Management as a Senior Certified Professional and holds a specialty credential in California Employment Law.


Hannah Benton Eidsath

Directing Attorney,  Legal Advocacy & Juvenile Justice

Primary Office: Madison, WI

Hannah Benton Eidsath is a staff attorney specializing in juvenile justice reform. At NCYL, Eidsath works primarily on dismantling the “school-to-prison-pipeline” through improving children’s access to appropriate educational interventions to prevent court involvement. Eidsath’s work particularly focuses on reducing the disparate entry of youth of color into the juvenile justice system and looks at how unconscious bias can perpetuate inequity. Eidsath’s work at NCYL includes litigation, administrative complaints, collaborative reform projects, and policy advocacy. Prior to joining NCYL, she was a staff attorney and an Equal Justice America fellow at the Center for Children’s Advocacy (CCA) in Hartford, CT, where she represented clients in obtaining educational and mental health services to mitigate juvenile delinquency involvement. At CCA, Eidsath also worked on behalf of children in the juvenile and criminal justice systems to increase system-wide access to diversionary programs, appropriate treatment services and effective re-entry planning. Eidsath has been counsel on several successful class administrative complaints resulting in improved educational services for children with disabilities, particularly children with behavioral and mental health disabilities. Eidsath led a coalition in securing passage of Connecticut legislation to require immediate readmission to public school for students returning to the community from state juvenile or criminal justice placements. Eidsath graduated from Yale Law School and the University of Chicago.

Austin Block

Education Liaison, Santa Clara County

Primary Office: San Jose

Austin Block is an Education Liaison working for the Santa Clara County JusticeEd program, where he works with youth and their families to help them set and complete academic and career goals. Prior to working at NCYL, Block was a high school teacher, advisor, and soccer coach at a school in East San Jose. Block worked there for 5 years, teaching courses in United States History, Government, and Economics. Block obtained his bachelor’s degree in public policy at Stanford University, and also earned his master’s degree and teaching credential through the Stanford Teacher Education Program before beginning his career in education.

Shane Carr

Senior Education Liaison, FosterEd: Arizona

Primary Office: Yavapai County, AZ

Shane Carr is an Education Liaison with FosterEd: Arizona. After serving in the U.S. Army, Carr obtained a B.A. in Criminal Justice from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. Carr spent 5 years working in law enforcement before moving to Arizona where he worked for 6 years with the Arizona Department of Child Safety as an Investigator and then as a Case Manager for the Young Adult Program. For the past 5 years, Carr has worked with students and families in the Tucson and Marana Unified School Districts as a Drop-Out Prevention Specialist and as a District Social Worker. Working with foster youth and helping them to graduate and be successful members of the community has always been his passion.

Mulia Clark


Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Mulia Clark joined NCYL in July 2020. She is a Bookkeeper for the operations team. Prior to NCYL, she worked as an Accountant at a startup company and CPA firm. She received her B.A. in Economics with an Accounting minor from the University of California San Diego. During her undergraduate, she studied abroad at London School of Economics. Clark is very excited to be a part of the NCYL team!

Kawena Cole

Senior Program Manager, Compassionate Education Systems California, Antelope Valley

Primary Office: Los Angeles, CA

Kawena Cole is the Compassionate Education Systems California Program Manager for the Antelope Valley area of Los Angeles County. She was promoted to Program Manager, after serving as a Compassionate Education Systems Education Liaison from 2015 – 2018. Prior to joining the Compassionate Education Systems team, Cole worked for the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) as a Children’s Social Worker (CSW) for nearly 7 years. During the last 2 1/2 years with DCFS, Cole worked in the Foster Youth Education Program. She provided services to youth in high school, created individualized education case plans and advocated for youth to access services they needed to ensure positive educational outcomes. While transitioning from her role as a CSW, Cole also spent time as a substitute teacher. Cole earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s in Social Work, with a sub-concentration of children and families in the school setting. She hopes to use her education and experience working with youth involved in the child welfare system to ensure the educational needs of system-involved youth are being met on an individual level, but also impact systemic change.

Maria Contreras

Program Associate, Collaborative Responses to Commercial Sexual Exploitation

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Maria Contreras is the Programs Associate for the Collaborative Responses to Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children team. Prior to joining NCYL, Contreras worked as a Youth Advocate at WestCoast Children’s Clinic, serving Alameda County foster and probation youth where she used her experiences as a former foster youth, academic, and professional to advocate with and on behalf of system involved children and youth. This role incorporated direct service and policy advocacy where she partnered with Alameda County’s Department of Children and Family Services on a variety of projects focusing on strategies to center the voices of individuals with lived experience. She graduated with a Master’s in Public Policy from Mills College in 2019.

Alejandra Davila

Education Liasion, Santa Clara County

Primary Office: San Jose, CA

Alejandra Davila joined the NYCL team in July 2020 as one of the Education Liaisons in Santa Clara County. Before joining NCYL, Davila was a PPIA Fellow at the Goldman School of Public Policy and a HACU Scholar for the FDIC’s Office of Legislative Affairs. While those experiences solidified her interest in pursuing a career in law, Davila’s interest in education policy stem from her experience working with the Young Queens in Politics (YQP) program, an afterschool educational enrichment program in San Bernardino. During her time at YQP, Alejandra facilitated discussions with femme-identifying high school students on federal, state, and local politics and supported students through the college application process.

Davila received her B.A. in Politics from Pomona College in 2019, where she was mentored by professors who authentically cared for students and fiercely advocated for inclusive educational environments. Davila’s commitment to challenging unfair educational systems comes from her experience attending an underfunded public high school in her hometown of San Bernardino, CA, where she was taught by dedicated educators, but also saw the consequences of zero-tolerance policies on low-income students of color. As an Education Liaison, Davila hopes to authentically care and fiercely advocate for her students and their families, just as her previous educators did for her.

Diane de Gramont

Meselson-Liman Legal Fellow

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Diane de Gramont is an attorney and Meselson-Liman Fellow with NCYL’s Immigration team. She litigates on behalf of immigrant children in federal detention facilities, with a particular focus on the needs of children with disabilities. Before joining NCYL, de Gramont served as a law clerk to the Honorable Stephen A. Higginson on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and the Honorable Sarah S. Vance on the Eastern District of Louisiana. She earned her J.D. from Yale Law School in 2017, where she served on the Clinical Student Board and participated in the New Haven Legal Assistance Immigrant Rights Clinic and the Landlord/Tenant Legal Services Clinic. Prior to law school, de Gramont worked on international development policy at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. She received her B.A. from Harvard College in 2010 and a master’s degree in comparative politics from Oxford University in 2014.

Rose Deblas

Program Manager, FosterEd: Arizona

Primary Office: Phoenix, AZ

Rose Deblas is a Program Manager with FosterEd: Arizona. While she is originally from Texas, she has lived in New Mexico, Arizona, and spent a year teaching in South Korea. These experiences have given her a strong cultural competence that she brings to NCYL, along with her passion for social welfare. After graduating from the University of Arizona with a B.S. in Public Management and Policy in 2012, she worked with Arizona’s Children Association (AZCA) as a bilingual behavioral health case manager, where she gained an understanding of the state’s behavioral health systems and needs of families within our communities. She then transitioned into child welfare as an Independent Living Specialist II, where she taught teens in the foster care system life skills and assisted them in their transition out of care. Deblas enjoys working with youth and strives to empower them to dream big and reach their full potential.

Neha Desai

Attorney, Director, Immigration

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Neha Desai is the Director of Immigration at the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) where she leads NCYL’s litigation and policy efforts on behalf of immigrant children.  For more than a decade, she has been working with and on behalf of children, including youth in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, as well as immigrant children in federal custody.  She began her legal career at the Juvenile Law Center where she represented children in dependency proceedings, drafted amicus briefs to federal courts, and served as a member of the legal team litigating the infamous “Kids for Cash” scandal.  Desai has also represented children in federal immigration custody including victims of child trafficking and child asylum seekers.  Additionally, Desai has worked abroad at NGOs focused on the human rights of women and children.  Desai is a 2006 graduate of Berkeley School of Law and a 2002 graduate of University of Chicago.

Ashely Dickerson

Education Liaison II, FosterEd: Arizona

Primary Office: Maricopa County, AZ

Ashely Dickerson is an Education Liaison with FosterEd: Arizona. She is a proud Arizona native and attended the University of Arizona where she studied the Social and Cultural Foundations in Public Education while focusing on Adolescent Development, Ed Policy and Africana Studies. Dickerson has extensive experience both in and out of the traditional education field and has worked with various nonprofits including serving as an elementary school teacher, completing four terms as an AmeriCorps member in her community, and launching her own leadership and empowerment program for girls of color. She is passionate about creating an equitable and just education system in Arizona, which has led her to FosterEd: Arizona.

Valeria Esparza

Education Liaison, Compassionate Education Systems, Santa Clara County

Primary Office: Santa Clara County, CA

Valeria Esparza is an Education Liaison in the JusticeEd program serving the students of Santa Clara County. Her passion is to advocate for young people and empower them and their families. She uses her lived experiences to make informed decisions that best serve her students in changing the trajectory of their lives and setting goals.

Esparza is from Oakland, CA and has extensive experience in working with youth from various ages and intersectional backgrounds. Most recently she worked as an Autism Technician with children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and gained her Board Certified Autism Technician (BCAT) certification. It was in this role where she realized her passion to be direct-service work. She holds an A.A. in Communications, A.A. in Sociology, and A.A. in Social and Behavioral Science from Berkeley City College. She is currently enrolled at San José State University pursuing a B.A. in Social Work. She is excited to be a part of the NCYL staff and to continue helping young people!

Michelle Francois

Senior Director, Compassionate Systems

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Michelle Francois leads the Compassionate Education Systems work at the National Center for Youth Law which includes FosterEd, an initiative in four states to help young people who come into contact with public systems to graduate high school with a wide array of possibilities for their future.  Prior to coming to NCYL, she served as the Associate Director of Child Welfare with the Stuart Foundation, where she led a major initiative to improve education outcomes for foster youth across California. Her life’s work has been focused on helping young people realize the vastness of their potential and supporting systems change efforts that put the needs of youth at the center of policies and practices. Francois’ life and work experience span a broad spectrum: as an artist, stage director, community activist, strategic planner and program director – all the while as a passionate advocate for young people and families. Her superpower is finding out what is uniquely awesome about people, lives in San Francisco with her amazing husband, Cliff and step-son Theo and holds a Bachelor of Arts from Macalester College in Minnesota.

Erin French

Legal Fellow

Primary Office: El Segundo, CA

Erin French is a legal fellow for NCYL’s Collaborative Responses to Commercial Sexual Exploitation Initiative. French received her J.D. from UCLA School of Law, with specializations in both Public Interest Law & Policy and International & Comparative Law, in 2019. During law school, French worked with International Justice Mission in India, where she supported the organization’s mission to combat child sex trafficking. She also worked for the California Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General, Appeals, Writs and Trials Section. Prior to law school, French worked as a legal analyst for public-interest law firm, Strumwasser & Woocher LLP, and the US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Civil Rights. French received her undergraduate degree with highest honors from UC Berkeley in 2013.


Seth Galanter

Attorney, Senior Director, Legal Advocacy

Primary Office: Washington D.C.

Seth Galanter is an attorney who will be litigating on behalf of vulnerable children, across diverse areas, including education, juvenile justice, child welfare, reproductive health, and commercially sexually exploited children.

Before joining NCYL, Seth worked in the Obama Administration in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights in a variety of roles, including as Acting Assistant Secretary and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary. In those positions, Galanter oversaw the development of policy, administration of enforcement, and the collection of the Civil Rights Data Collection with regard to race, sex, and disability discrimination in education. Prior to that, Galanter was a Of Counsel at Morrison & Foerster where, among other things, he argued two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and was named Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year (2008) by the District of Columbia Bar. And in his first job, Galanter served in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, where he argued more than 40 cases in the federal courts of appeals.

Galanter holds a B.A. from Columbia College (1990) and a J.D. from University of Pennsylvania Law School (1993). After law school, Galanter clerked for the Honorable Dolores Sloviter on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and then served as a Bristow Fellow at the Solicitor General’s office at the U.S. Department of Justice.

Nandi Gamboa

Administrative Coordinator

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Nandi Gamboa joined NCYL in November 2019. She is an Administrative Associate for the operations team.  She has worked in non-profit for the last 5 years as the Operations Manager for one of the first public Montessori Schools in Oakland. She recently graduated with her Bachelors degree in Human Services, and strives to work in organizations that directly serve communities similar to what she grew up in. On her off time, she loves to spend time with her partner, family and a lot of outdoor activities. Gamboa is very excited to be apart of the NCYL team!

Crystal Garcia

Compassionate Systems Program Coordinator

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Crystal Garcia joined NCYL in June 2020 as the Compassionate Systems Program Coordinator. Through this role, she supports the work of the Compassionate Systems (CS) team, provides project management for CS fundraising and operational efforts, contributes to CS Learning, Research and Evaluation projects, and manages the CS student data software program –EdTeamConnect (ETC).

Prior to joining NCYL, Garcia provided targeted school-based mental health services at a Title I elementary school in San José, CA through Seneca Family of Agencies. Prior to this, Garcia worked on earning her Master of Social Work, during which time she served as a school social worker in Sunnyvale, CA and as a Learning and Evaluation Program Associate at PIVOTAL, a Bay Area non-profit that supports youth in foster care with their college and career aspirations. Garcia also brings four years of experience supporting research and evaluation projects aimed at improving policies and programs for children, youth, and families across the U.S. as an Education Research Analyst at SRI International.

Garcia is a Bay Area native and holds a Master of Social Work (MSW), and California Pupil Personnel Services Credentials in School Social Work, and Child Welfare and Attendance from San José State University. Garcia also holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of California, Berkeley.

Yvette Gomez

Senior Education Liaison, Compassionate Education Systems: CA

Primary Office: Monterey County, CA

Yvette Gomez is a Senior Education Liaison in Marina and Seaside High School. Ms. Gomez earned her B.A. in Collaborate Health and Human Services from California State University of Monterey Bay in 2014.  Ms. Gomez previously worked as a Case Manager for Downtown Streets Team. As a Case Manager, Ms. Gomez helped homeless people throughout Monterey County seek and utilize resources effectively to reach their goals and exit homelessness. Ms. Gomez also provided support to teen girls in a group home. She assisted people in practicing techniques to cope with mental illnesses, substance use relapse prevention, and independent living skills. Ms. Gomez is excited to continue to work in her community and advocate for students and families.

Victoria Gonzales

Education Liaison, FosterEd: Arizona

Primary Office: Maricopa County, AZ

Victoria Gonzales is an Education Liaison with FosterEd: Arizona. Gonzales has worked in the education and behavioral health fields for over 10 years. Previously, she worked for Valley of the Sun United Way as a Destination Graduation Coordinator where she case managed high school students and ensured that they were on track to graduate. She is an active advocate for youth, and as a licensed foster care provider. She is experienced and passionate in delivering and supporting positive change to all children, families, and community members.

Dafna Gozani

Senior Policy Attorney, Youth Justice Initiative

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Dafna Gozani has over a decade of experience working with youth as an educator and advocate. Gozani’s advocacy draws on her personal and professional experiences with system-involvement and focuses on building healthy communities by centering the voices of those most directly impacted. As a policy attorney with the Youth Justice Initiative team she helps lead YJI’s policy advocacy, including drafting and implementing legislation, collaborating with NCYL’s litigation team, while also working with communities to advance policies rooted in positive youth development. Gozani is leading YJI’s effort to develop a new statewide project in Colorado aimed transforming the state’s juvenile justice system towards a community-driven, public health approach to youth.

Prior to joining NCYL, Gozani was a Youth Justice Attorney at Bay Area Legal Aid advocating for system-involved youth, homeless youth, and youth at risk of exploitation by providing wraparound civil legal representation, engaging in strategic impact litigation, and partnering with stakeholders to leverage youth-serving systems. Gozani received her law degree from Loyola Law School at Los Angeles with a concentration in Public Interest Law and International Criminal and Human Rights Law. Before attending law school, Gozani taught high school inside the Boulder County Juvenile Justice Center for six years.

Rebecca Gudeman de OrtizRebecca Gudeman

Attorney, Senior Director, Adolescent Health

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Rebecca Gudeman is Senior Director of Health at the National Center for Youth Law. Gudeman specializes in issues of health equity and access for youth, including adolescent consent, confidentiality and information sharing law. Prior to joining NCYL in 2001, Gudeman was a lecturer at the Universidad de las Americas in Mexico City. She began her career with the Children’s Rights Project at Public Counsel in Los Angeles, where she created Public Counsel’s Teen Legal Clinic program. The program was one of the first school-based legal assistance programs in the country.  In 1997, she was named the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyer Child Advocate of the Year. In 2016, she received the National Chapter Recognition award from the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. She holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from Harvard and a law degree from UCLA.

Patty Guinto

Director, Marketing, Communications and Brand

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Patty Guinto is the Director, Marketing, Communications and Brand at the National Center for Youth Law. She leads the organization’s Marketing and Communications efforts from strategic planning through day-to-day implementation. She has 15 years of experience in media relations, content development, social media and marketing. Prior to joining NCYL in June, 2019, she held positions at the Alzheimer’s Association, American Cancer Society and City of Hope Cancer Center. She holds an M.A. in Strategic Public Relations from the University of Southern California.


Frankie Guzman

Attorney, Director, Youth Justice Initiative

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Attorney Francis (“Frankie”) V. Guzman is the Director of the Youth Justice Initiative at the National Center for Youth Law. Frankie leads a team of attorneys, policy advocates, and community organizers working to eliminate the practice of prosecuting and incarcerating children in California’s adult criminal justice system, reduce incarceration and justice system involvement, and increase developmentally-appropriate services in communities for youth.

Raised in a poor, mostly immigrant community plagued by crime and drugs, Guzman experienced his parents’ divorce and his family’s subsequent homelessness at age 3, the life-imprisonment of his 16-year-old brother at age 5, and lost numerous childhood friends to violence. At age 15, he was arrested for armed robbery and, on his first offense, was sentenced to serve 15 years in the California Youth Authority. Released on parole after six years, Frankie attended law school and became an expert in juvenile law and policy with a focus on ending the prosecution of juveniles as adults.

Through partnerships with community organizations and advocacy groups, Guzman has helped lead California’s effort to reduce the number of youths prosecuted as adults and serving time in adult prisons by passing legislation that established Youth Offender Parole Hearings, reformed Juvenile Transfer Hearings, and eliminated prosecutors’ direct file authority. More recently, Frankie helped lead statewide efforts to eliminate California’s practice of prosecuting 14 and 15-year-olds as adults, prohibit the incarceration of children under age 12 in the juvenile system, and secure approximately $60 million dollars to expand pre-arrest diversion programs and developmentally-appropriate, culturally-relevant community-based services for youth in CA.

Jesse Hahnel

Attorney, Executive Director

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Jesse Hahnel is Executive Director of the National Center for Youth Law. Hahnel previously served as Founder and Director of FosterEd, a nationally recognized initiative that improves the educational outcomes of students in foster care. Hahnel has served as a public school teacher in Washington DC and New York City, as Senior Analyst at the KIPP Foundation, and as an attorney representing at-risk children and youth. He is a recipient of the prestigious Skadden and Mind Trust fellowships. He is father to two wonderful children and husband to an amazing wife.

JenniferHarrisJennifer Harris

Education Liaison II, FosterEd: Arizona

Primary Office: Tucson, AZ

Jennifer Harris is an Education Liaison with FosterEd: Arizona. She attended the University of Arizona, majoring in Family Studies. Her interest in child welfare began when she interned with Child Protective Services and continued to develop through her work at Casa de los Ninos children’s shelter. In 2003, Harris began her service in the United States Peace Corps in the Pacific country of Vanuatu as a Youth Development Volunteer, working with youth in rural communities to develop programs around gender advocacy, sexual and reproductive health, and education. She remained in Vanuatu after her service, working at a local NGO as Research Manager and Youth Center Manager for 8 years before returning to Tucson. Harris’ 18 years of experience in multi-cultural settings working with at-risk children and youth has given her insight in working with children in the foster care system and the unique challenges they face.

Michael Harris

Attorney, Senior Director, Legal Advocacy & Juvenile Justice

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Michael Harris is Senior Director for Juvenile Justice and Legal Advocacy at the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL).  At NCYL, Harris has worked on abolishing fees and fines imposed on young people in the court system, litigating unconstitutional probation practices, reducing racial disparities in statewide juvenile corrections systems, and on cases that challenge the “school-to-prison pipeline” in Texas, Connecticut, and California. Additionally, he works on litigation to address all forms of bias against young people, and he has delivered presentations to local and national gatherings on the role structural racism and implicit bias play in decision-making within the criminal and juvenile justice systems as well as the school to prison pipeline.

Ashely Hart

Human Resources Representative

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Ashley Hart joined the Operations Team as a Human Resources Representative. Hart’s most recent work entails working at a family owned heavy equipment rental company as a Human Resource Specialist. In that role, Hart worked heavily in customer service, benefit administration, on/off boarding, worker’s compensation, personal leaves’, and implementing new policies and procedures. Hart is excited to implement an employee centered experience with HR and abiding by the basic law of humanity. Hart believes in providing servant leadership and taking the opportunity to provide every human being with the best experience possible.

Hart graduated from Hampton University with a BA in Communications and a minor in Psychology. There, Hart worked as a content creator for the newspaper and in Student’s accounts in the Business Office.

Hart loves the outdoors, spending time with my husband and kids and visiting the local farmer’s market.

Christal Heard

Education Liaison

Primary Office: Antelope Valley, CA

Christal Heard is an Education Liaison in the Antelope Valley region of Los Angeles County. Prior to joining NCYL, she served as a Student Interventionist in the Palmdale School District. There, she collaborated with administrators, parents, students and site Social Emotional Learning Specialists to decrease suspensions and produce positive behavioral practices. Heard is a proud mother and mentor who firmly believes that every child has a purpose and potential to greatly impact others. This belief drives Heard’s passion to uplift, guide, protect and serve the disadvantaged.

Jennie Hedges

Program Manager, FosterEd: Arizona

Primary Office: Pima County, AZ

Jennie Hedges is a Program Manager with FosterEd: Arizona. Originally from New Jersey, she moved to Tucson to study Psychology at the University of Arizona and graduated in 2013 with a B.A. in that field. Hedges has experience working with underprivileged youth in rural communities of Arizona. She also has an extensive background working with local non-profits and behavioral health networks. As a foster parent herself, Hedges wants nothing more than to aid system-involved youth in their journey to success as each and every child is capable and deserving of such.

Joy Hernandez

Senior Program Manager, Compassionate Education Systems, Santa Clara County

Primary Office: Santa Clara County, CA

Joy Hernandez is the Compassionate Education Systems Program Manager in Santa Clara County. Before joining NCYL, she worked with Fresh Lifelines for Youth (FLY), a local community-based organization, as the Evaluation and Learning Manager, where she supported the advancement of their Theory of Change and evaluation efforts. Also with FLY, she served as a Case Manager in Santa Clara and Alameda counties, where she supported young people in navigating the justice system and achieving their goals. Prior to working with FLY, Hernandez worked with several local law enforcement agencies and community based organizations, supporting adults and youth engaged in the justice system. She holds an undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice from San Francisco State University. Motivated by the challenges she witnessed in her home town of Vallejo, CA, she comes to NCYL with a deep passion for supporting justice involved youth and reducing recidivism.

Stephanie Horwitz

Equal Justice Works Fellow, Juvenile Justice

Primary Office: Los Angeles, CA

Stephanie Horwitz is an Equal Justice Works Fellow on NCYL’s Juvenile Justice team, sponsored by the Morrison and Foerster Foundation. Her fellowship project centers on supporting students of color with disabilities who are facing pushout to, or are receiving an inferior education in, alternative education settings. Through this work, Horwitz will support NCYL’s efforts to end the school-to-prison pipeline and ensure equitable education opportunities for low-income youth of color. Horwitz is a graduate of Harvard Law School, where she was a Senior Editor for the Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review and on the board of the Prison Legal Assistance Project. During law school, she clerked for Public Counsel’s Education Rights Project, externed at the Center for Law and Education, and represented asylum clients through her school’s Immigration and Refugee Clinic. Prior to attending law school, Horwitz was a special education teacher and administrator for eight years in low-income schools in the San Francisco Bay Area. She received her B.A. in Philosophy from Rutgers University.

Karla James

Deputy Director of Finance and Operations

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Karla James is the Director of Finance & Operations. Prior to joining NCYL she was the chief financial officer and chief operating officer at the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment, a nonprofit that supports organization working for public health, consumer and environmental protection. She also served as the program director for several grantmaking funds at the Foundation including the Consumer Privacy Rights Fund, Consumer Products Fund and the Northern California Environmental Grassroots Fund. Her experience in small business management includes founding and managing a whitewater raft company in Montana. She previously taught high school in Ohio, and has an extensive volunteer background with grassroots social and environmental nonprofits, including Copwatch, a police accountability organization in Berkeley, California. James has a B.S. in Political Science from Texas A&M University.

Taylor Jones

Equal Justice Works Fellow, Legal Advocacy

Primary Office: Washington, DC

Taylor Jones is an Equal Justice Works Fellow, sponsored by Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, on NCYL’s Legal Advocacy team. Jones’ fellowship project aims to ensure that children experiencing homelessness have access to a free and appropriate public education, including the services, supports, and accommodations to which they are entitled to under local and federal laws. Jones earned her J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School in 2020, where she was a student attorney with the Child Advocacy Law Clinic, as well as the Juvenile Justice Clinic. During law school. Jones was a summer clerk at NCYL where she worked on the Juvenile Justice team. Jones also interned at the ABA Center on Children and the Law. Prior to law school, Jones served as an assistant site coordinator with Eastern Michigan University Bright Futures, where she worked with economically challenged school districts to ensure the academic success of at-risk children. Jones received her B.A. from the University of Michigan where she majored in Political Science and Psychology with a minor in Music.

Poonam JunejaPoonam Juneja

Directing Attorney, Legal Advocacy & Child Welfare

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Poonam Juneja is a staff attorney focusing on reform of child welfare systems. She previously worked at Public Counsel and the Southern Poverty Law Center, where she fought to end unconstitutional and abusive conditions of confinement in juvenile detention centers and punitive, unlawful school discipline practices. Juneja clerked for the Honorable Marsha S. Berzon of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Honorable Claudia Wilken of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

Juneja received her B.A. in 2005 from the University of California, Berkeley, and graduated with highest distinction in general scholarship and the departmental citation in legal studies. In 2006, Juneja received an M.Phil in Criminology from the University of Cambridge. Juneja earned her J.D. in 2009 from Yale Law School, where she was a member of the school’s Immigration Legal Services and Advocacy for Children and Youth clinics.

Darya Larizadeh

Senior Policy Attorney, Youth Justice Initiative

Primary Office: San Jose, CA

Darya Larizadeh is a Policy Attorney with the National Center for Youth Law’s California Youth Justice Initiative. Her work is focused on reducing the incarceration and justice system involvement of youth as well as increasing their access to developmentally appropriate services and supports in the community. Larizadeh’s policy reform work began at the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy at U.C. Berkeley where she co-authored a report documenting wrongful convictions in California and performed an evaluation of LA County’s juvenile defense system.  Larizadeh began her career as an attorney at the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office and later worked on cases through the Private Defender Panel.

Larizadeh brings a background in education and women’s rights to her work.  She spent eight years working in various educational settings with children with disabilities, first generation college students, and youth from immigrant families.  She served as a Commissioner on the San Mateo County Commission on the Status of Women and also worked abroad in Haiti and India documenting human rights violations and advocating for governments to include women’s voices in decision-making.  Larizadeh received her J.D. from the University of San Francisco School of Law. She holds a M.A. in political science from the City University of New York, Graduate Center and received her B.A. in politics from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Hong Le

Attorney, Legal Advocacy & Juvenile Justice

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Hong Le is an attorney on NCYL’s Juvenile Justice and Legal Advocacy teams. Le works on impact litigation to eliminate juvenile fines and fees as part of the national Debt Free Justice Campaign.

Le is a refugee from Vietnam. She started out her career as a public defender at the Santa Clara Public Defender Office and later transitioned to the Youth Justice and Economic Justice teams at Bay Area Legal Aid. Le earned her J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. She is licensed to practice in California and Louisiana. 

Marie Lim

Development Manager

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Marie Lim joined NCYL in July, 2019 as a Development Associate supporting the Development team. In her role, she manages grants and donations in order to secure funding for the organization’s various campaigns. Prior to NCYL, she was a community organizer serving monolingual, low-income tenants in San Francisco. She focused on housing rights advocacy and building resident leadership.  

Lim received her B.A. in Political Economy from the University of California, Berkeley. She also minored in Education and Asian American Studies. During her time in undergraduate school, she was heavily involved in working with elementary school youth, high school youth as well as immigrant women. She is dedicated to social justice issues across many areas. 

Kendra Lizardo

Program Associate, Los Angeles Reproductive Health Equity Project

Primary Office: Los Angeles, CA

Kendra Lizardo joined NCYL in November 2020 as a Program Associate, supporting the Reproductive Health Equity Project for Foster Youth. She earned her Bachelors and Masters in Social Work from Long Island University in Brooklyn, New York. Lizardo started her career as an intern on Rikers Island, where she facilitated programs for the adolescent population. Upon graduating, she then joined NYC Health & Hospitals as a Community Liaison and advocated for equitable health services on behalf of young people in the NYC jail system. Prior to joining the NCYL team, she transitioned to community programming as a Trauma Support Manager for a restorative justice organization. Lizardo applies her intersectional experiences and educational background to her role and is particularly passionate about providing alternative methods to healing within the community.

Jacklyn (Jacki) Lusher

Education Liaison II, FosterEd: Arizona

Primary Office: Pima County, AZ

Jacki Lusher  is an Educational Liaison with FosterEd: Arizona. After completing her B.A. in Human Development at Sonoma State University in Northern California, she moved to Phoenix, Arizona to join Teach for America in 2013. In Phoenix, Lusher taught as a Special Education teacher and earned her Master of Special Education from Arizona State University. Since then, she has worked extensively with at-risk and unaccompanied young adults in Pima County with a focus on supporting students as they work towards high school graduation and their college and career goals. Lusher is driven by her passion to support young adults as they navigate their future, so they can be as successful as possible. She is committed to supporting system-involved students recognize and capitalize on their strengths and skills to overcome obstacles and reach their goals.  

Rebecca Magnuson

Paralegal, Legal Advocacy

Primary Office: Washington, DC

Rebecca Magnuson joined NCYL in April 2020. She previously worked as a paralegal at Lewis & Lewis, P.C. where she focused on personal injury litigation. Magnuson also worked as an Americorps paralegal at Legal Assistance of Western New York, where she provided support for low-income individuals regarding family court, domestic violence, and housing matters. She has volunteered with various community organizations to promote women’s rights and racial justice. Magnuson graduated from Marist College in 2015 with a B.A. in Political Science, concentrated in International Relations, and minors in Music and Global Studies.

Allyson Miller

Program Associate, Immigration

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Allyson Miller joined NCYL in October 2019 as the Program Associate for the Immigration Team. In her role, she provides administrative support, assists with external communications, and collaborates on other team projects. Miller graduated with a B.A. in International Relations, Spanish & English from Drake University where she focused her studies on Latin America, specifically political history and trends within the region as well as health outcomes for indigenous women in Central America.

Jessica Montoya

Education Liaison, FosterEd: Arizona

Primary Office: Maricopa County, AZ

Jessica Montoya is an Education Liaison with FosterEd: Arizona. Montoya attended Northern Arizona University and graduated with her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. Prior to working as an Education Liaison, Jessica interned for the Department of Child Safety in Flagstaff and soon after began working permanently with the Department. Montoya’s goal is to see all children, especially those in foster care, succeed and she knows that it takes all of the systems involved in our foster youth’s lives, working together, to make that a reality.

Soraya Morales Nuñez

Litigation Assistant, Legal Advocacy

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Soraya Morales Nuñez joined NCYL in July 2020. She previously worked as a Project Analyst at Mintz, a general-practice law firm headquartered in Boston, MA. At Mintz, she provided Spanish translation, factual research, and document management support to a pro bono caseload spanning post-conviction relief advocacy, tenants’ rights, asylum, and impact litigation focused on immigrants’ rights. Morales Nuñez received her B.A. from Princeton University in 2018.

Allison Newcombe

Attorney, Associate Director, Collaborative Responses to Commercial Sexual Exploitation Initiative, Los Angeles

Primary Office: Los Angeles, CA

Allison Newcombe, JD is an attorney and Associate Director of the Collaborative Responses to Commercial Sexual Exploitation Initiative at the National Center for Youth Law. With a background in direct legal services within the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, Newcombe brings on the ground experience to inform local and statewide policy development to improve the systems that interact with young people and families affected by commercial sexual exploitation. Based in Los Angeles, Newcombe helps to lead the team’s work in the County, including partnerships with county agencies and community-based providers. Newcombe works to develop and implement several innovative, collaborative protocols intended to improve identification, specialized service delivery, and long-term planning and outcomes for youth. Prior to joining NCYL, Newcombe worked at the Alliance for Children’s Rights in Los Angeles, where she built a program that partnered with specialized delinquency and dependency courts (STAR Court and DREAM Court, respectively) to provide direct civil legal services to children and youth who have been commercially sexually exploited (CSE), with a primary focus on access to education. Allison received her undergraduate degree, cum laude, from Drexel University. She received her J.D. from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law, with a specialization in Public Interest Law & Policy, and was the recipient of the Skadden Fellowship following law school.

Margaret Olmos

Director, Compassionate Education Systems California

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Margaret Olmos joined NCYL in 2017, returning to her home state to serve as State Director for Compassionate Education Systems California. Prior to joining NCYL, Olmos was the Assistant Superintendent of Student Programming for the Recovery School District in New Orleans, LA. In her role, Olmos expanded career-pathways to bridge K-12, Community College, and industry partnerships aimed at serving at-risk youth. Prior to joining the RSD, Olmos served in the Obama Administration, first serving in the White House as the Deputy Director of Research, and then moving to the U.S. Department of Education as the Chief of Staff for the Office for Civil Rights. Olmos began her career as an AmeriCorps NCCC member. She earned her B.A. in Political Science from Haverford University, with a minor in Special Education, and earned a Masters in Comparative Politics from Queens University in Northern Ireland, where she was trained as a mediator.

Kimia Pakdaman

Senior Program Associate, Reproductive Health Equity for Foster Youth

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Kimia Pakdaman (she/her) is Senior Program Associate for Reproductive Health Equity Project for Foster Youth (RHEP). Her work focuses on expanding the positive effects and impacts of Los Angeles RHEP to the rest of California, in collaboration with foster youth, caregivers, healthcare providers, and county and state agencies. Prior to joining NCYL, Pakdaman held positions both internationally and in California that created connections between impacted communities and those in power. She has worked both inside and outside of government to advocate for systemic change and reform. She received her Masters in Public Policy from U.C. Berkeley and her Bachelor of Arts in International Development from George Washington University.

PerryMiranda Perry

External Relations Manager

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Miranda Perry joined NCYL in June 2012. She earned her B.A. in Geography in 2006 and B.A. in Political Science in 2008 from Humboldt State University.

Before working for NCYL, Perry provided administrative support to non-profit organizations including the League of Women Voters of California and Alameda County Meals on Wheels. She remains active with both organizations; serving as a board member for LWV Oakland and a volunteer for Meals on Wheels. Perry also enjoys volunteering her time as a youth literacy tutor and as a workshop facilitator for incarcerated youth.

Izzy Phan

Development Associate

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Izzy Phan joined NCYL in June 2020 as a Development Associate, supporting the Development team in processing grants and donations. She is a recent graduate of Scripps College, where she received her B.A. in English Literature. At Scripps, Phan led the college’s student Phonathon team in conducting cold calls to parents and alumni in support of the Scripps Fund. She has also held internships in education at Khan Lab School, Pomona Hope, and The Primary School, and is particularly interested in exploring innovative approaches to education.

Freya Pitts

Senior Attorney, Legal Advocacy

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Freya Pitts is an attorney on NCYL’s Legal Advocacy team.  Before joining NCYL, she was an Arthur Liman Fellow and a staff attorney at Disability Rights Advocates, where she represented young people in impact cases challenging discrimination against children and youth with disabilities.  Pitts is a former law clerk to the Honorable Judith W. Rogers of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and the Honorable Jon S. Tigar of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.  Before law school, she served as a middle school teacher in Fulton County, Georgia.  She received her B.A. in 2008 from Yale University and her J.D. in 2013 from Yale Law School, where she was a member of the Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic, the Immigration Legal Services Clinic, and the Advocacy for Children and Youth Clinic.

Sandra Preciado

Education Liaison, FosterEd: Arizona

Primary Office: Maricopa County, AZ

Sandra Preciado is an Education Liaison with FosterEd: Arizona. Her educational background in social work and experience in working with vulnerable populations allows her to identify and address a multitude of systemic barriers facing students in foster care. Preciado strives to make the public education system a more equitable one. She received both her BSW and MSW with a concentration in Planning, Administration, and Community Practice from Arizona State University. Outside of her role as an Education Liaison, Preciado promotes social justice by increasing civic engagement within the social worker community.  She volunteers her time with a local non-profit organization in an effort to make the political landscape more diverse and inclusive. Preciado is fluent in Spanish.

Haley Reimbold

Development Director

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

As NCYL’s Development Director, Foundation Relations, Haley Reimbold partners with staff across the organization to create and implement strategies to access resources that advance the rights of youth across the country. Prior to joining NCYL, Reimbold was a Senior Resource Manager at Rockwood Leadership Institute and a Planning Analyst in the Government Innovation Department at the Vera Institute of Justice. Having served as a member of the Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice, Coalition for Juvenile Justice Board of Directors, and the New York State Juvenile Justice Advisory Group, Reimbold brings expertise in youth justice grantmaking, policy, and advocacy and a commitment to reforming child welfare, education, health, and justice systems. Reimbold has an MPA from Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, MPP from the Hertie School of Governance, and BA in Women’s Studies from Hamilton College.

Joanne Rodriguez

Education Liaison II, Compassionate Education Systems California

Primary Office: Antelope Valley, CA

Joanne Rodriguez is an Education Liaison in the Antelope Valley of Los Angeles County. She received her B.A. in Liberal Studies at California State University Northridge. She comes to NCYL with extensive experience in trauma informed practice and strength-based work. Prior to joining Compassionate Education Systems, she was a Wraparound Facilitator and worked with high-risk, system-involved youth to develop family-centered, needs driven plans and provided 24/7 crisis intervention. Her ability to connect with youth and help them identify their strengths is a skill she utilized in her previous role and looks forward to using as an Education Liaison to help youth achieve their greatest potential. She is excited to continue to work with youth and hopes to inspire young individuals to set goals and be motivated for their future.

Miriam A. Rollin, J.D.

Attorney, Director, Education Civil Rights Alliance

Primary Office: Washington D.C.

Miriam A. Rollin, J.D., has been seeking improvements in policies and practices affecting vulnerable children, youth and families for three and a half decades. Rollin most recently served for 16 years in leadership positions for the Council for a Strong America, a national non-profit that unites five organizations – Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, Mission: Readiness, America’s Edge, Shepherding the Next Generation, and Champions for America’s Future . Rollin also recently helped to launch the Fight Crime: Invest in Kids – Police Training Institute, that has developed and is piloting a training system for in-service police officers that covers the topics of adolescents’ brain development, unconscious bias, and cultural differences, as well as specific operationalized approaches that police can use to facilitate de-escalation in police interactions with young people. Rollin is an attorney, and has practiced both as a Guardian Ad Litem for abused and neglected children, and as an Assistant District Attorney, prosecuting juvenile, family violence, and child abuse cases.  She received her bachelor’s degree from Yale University, and her law degree from Catholic University of America.

Janette Saldana

Education Liaison II, Compassionate Education Systems, Santa Clara County

Primary Office: Santa Clara County, CA

Janette Saldana joined the NCYL team in July 2018 as an Education Liaison for Compassionate Education Systems in Santa Clara County, supporting young people who are system-involved. Prior to NCYL, Saldana worked in south Santa Clara County, directly supporting low-income families and young people by providing them access to a wide array of services, including counseling, food assistance, medical services, and housing services. Working with the local school district, Saldana was able to identify students and families in need of support and then match that need with available and appropriate resources.

Saldana comes from a small rural town nestled in California’s central valley, which is home to migrant workers and low-income families alike. She is one of three siblings and is a first-generation college graduate. Saldana earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Child Development from San Jose State University in 2014. Her passion for supporting underprivileged and underserved populations is fueled by growing up in a similar landscape and by watching her parents make great efforts to provide their family with a better life. Saldna hopes to expand her ability to support young people and their families with meeting their goals, creating possibilities, and becoming powerful self-advocates.

Daniel Senter

Deputy Director & Counsel, Compassionate Education Systems

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Daniel Senter provides legal and programmatic support for Compassionate Education Systems primarily in the areas of youth rights, special education, and education technology legal issues such as privacy and IP rights. Prior to NCYL, Senter served as an intellectual property attorney at Donahue Fitzgerald LLP, founded and directed the Education Advocacy Project at the East Bay Children’s Law Offices, and was a special education teacher in OUSD. Senter is the recipient of the Irmas Fellowship and Jefferson Award. He was named Outstanding Young Lawyer by the National Association of Counsel for Children (2014). Senter is a graduate of Harvard College and USC Gould School of Law.

Brenda Shum

Senior Directing Attorney

Primary Office: Washington D.C.

Brenda Shum is an attorney with the Legal Advocacy team who will focus on impact litigation to enforce the rights of children and youth in the areas of education, juvenile justice, child welfare, and immigration. Brenda has served in leadership positions at a number of legal advocacy organizations and has an impressive track record of challenging all the ways in which discrimination impacts children and families – including issues related to education, economic instability, criminal justice, and access to mental health services.

For eight years, Brenda served as the Director of the Educational Opportunities Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law where she worked to ensure that all students have access to equitable educational opportunities regardless of race, socioeconomic status or disability. Before her time at the Lawyers’ Committee, Brenda provided direct legal services to children and youth in the foster care and juvenile justice systems; offered training and technical assistance to juvenile court professionals to reduce the amount of time children spend in foster care; and served as a clinical instructor at Stanford Law School where she worked with law students to represent students with disabilities and students facing school disciplinary proceedings.

Jean Strout

Attorney, Child Welfare & Legal Advocacy

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Jean Strout is an attorney specializing in child welfare. Strout earned a B.A. in Gender and Sexuality Studies from Swarthmore College in 2010 and graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School in 2014, where she was a member of the Board of Directors of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau. As a Zubrow Fellow at Juvenile Law Center, she served as co-counsel for Henry Montgomery in the Supreme Court’s juvenile life without parole case Montgomery v. Louisiana, co-directed a youth advocacy program, and helped draft Pennsylvania’s college tuition waiver for foster youth. Strout was next selected as an Equal Justice Works Fellow at Support Center for Child Advocates in Philadelphia, where she represented older youth transitioning out of the child welfare system. Strout clerked for the Honorable Judge Carmen C. Cerezo of the District of Puerto Rico and has published legal scholarship on topics including children’s rights and reproductive rights. She is also passionate about animal rescue.

Jason Sutton

Senior Controller

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Jason Sutton joined NCYL as the Business Manager in May 2016. He has over twenty years experience working with a variety of nonprofits around the bay area including: Earth Share of California, Housing Trust of Santa Clara County, LSB Leakey Foundation, and the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment. Sutton has a B.S. in Conservation and Resource Studies from UC Berkeley.

Atasi Uppal

Senior Policy Attorney, Juvenile Justice and Education

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Atasi Uppal is an attorney on NCYL’s Juvenile Justice team and also supports the Education Civil Rights Alliance and FosterEd initiatives. She leads advocacy to enhance educational opportunities for low-income youth and youth of color and works to eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline. Uppal also engages in litigation to uphold the civil rights of children in the education and juvenile justice systems. Finally, she supports NCYL’s “JusticeEd” program and policy work on behalf of youth in the juvenile justice system. Uppal has played a critical role in NCYL’s efforts in Arizona, California, Michigan and New Mexico, as well as on the federal level. Prior to joining NCYL, Uppal was a Trial Attorney at the Committee for Public Counsel Services in Massachusetts, where she represented low-income children and adults involved in state custody, termination of parental rights and status offense cases. Uppal received her B.S. in Brain, Behavior and Cognitive Science and her J.D. from the University of Michigan. At Michigan Law, Uppal was an Executive Editor for the Michigan Journal of Race & Law and worked at legal advocacy organizations focused on child welfare, special education and juvenile justice.

Jessica Valadez

Equal Justice Works Fellow, Collaborative Responses to Commercial Sexual Exploitation Initiative

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Jessica Valadez is an Equal Justice Works Fellow, sponsored by California ChangeLawyers and Salle Yoo & Jeff Gray, on NCYL’s Collaborative Responses to Commercial Sexual Exploitation Initiative. Her project aims to support tribal communities and child welfare systems to prevent, identify, and address the commercial sexual exploitationof native youth in California through legal advocacy, education, and collaboration. Prior to beginning her fellowship, Valadez clerked for two judges in the Unified Family Court at San Francisco Superior Court. Jessica earned her J.D. from UC Hastings College of the Law, where she participated in the Individual Representation Clinic, served as co-President of the Hastings Association of Youth Advocates, and was a founding member of Hastings’ First Generation Professionals program. During law school, Valadez also served as a judicial extern to the Honorable William Alsup in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, clerked at the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office, and externed at NCYL. Valadez received her B.A. from Loyola Marymount University in Political Science and French Language and Literature.  


Rachel Velcoff Hults

Senior Equity and Access Attorney, Health

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Rachel Velcoff Hults is a senior equity and access attorney on NCYL’s Health Team, based in Sacramento, California. Currently focused on children’s mental health issues, Velcoff Hults has worked on a variety of health, education, and child welfare projects. Before joining the Health Team, she was an attorney with NCYL’s FosterEd Initiative, where she developed and directed collaborative, multi-agency programs to improve the educational experiences and outcomes of students in foster care, students with juvenile justice system involvement, and students experiencing homelessness. She previously represented youth and families on public benefits, health access, and education issues at Bay Area Legal Aid, and was a litigation associate at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton in Washington, D.C. Velcoff Hults received her B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania summa cum laude in 2005 and her J.D. from Stanford Law School with distinction in 2008.


Kate Walker Brown

Attorney, Director, Collaborative Responses to Commercial Sexual Exploitation Initiative

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Attorney Kate Walker Brown is the Director of Child Trafficking at the National Center for Youth Law. Her career has been devoted to examining the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) in the U.S. and its intersection with the child welfare system. She currently serves as Project Director for California’s CSEC Action Team charged with improving the services and supports for exploited and at-risk children. She has partnered with several counties to develop and implement interagency protocols to effectively serve CSEC, including Los Angeles’ Law Enforcement First Responder Protocol. Walker Brown was the primary author of, “Ending the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children: A Call for Multi-System Collaboration in California.” She has provided training throughout the country and participates in national coalitions to address this issue. She received her undergraduate degree in Public Policy Analysis from Pomona College and her J.D. from University of Iowa College of Law.

Leecia WelchLeecia Welch

Attorney, Senior Director, Legal Advocacy & Child Welfare

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Leecia Welch is an attorney and the Senior Director of Child Welfare at NCYL, specializing in child welfare, mental health, and education issues. She has litigated numerous cases in California, Washington, and Utah that have resulted in substantial victories for children.  She was lead counsel on David C. v. Huntsman, a class action lawsuit in Utah that resulted in significant improvements to Utah’s foster care system. She  was also on NCYL’s litigation team in Henry A. v. Willden, which resulted in a $2 million settlement for youth in the Clark County (Las Vegas) foster care system. In addition, Welch oversees several projects to improve the educational opportunities of youth in foster care in the Bay Area, including the training of law students at UC Berkeley School of Law to become educational representatives for youth in foster care. She has also taught a class at Berkeley Law focusing on child welfare reform through impact litigation. Welch was awarded the 2007 Child Advocacy Award by the ABA Young Lawyers Division. Prior to joining NCYL in 2004, Welch was an associate in the litigation department at San Francisco’s Morrison & Foerster LLP, and spent three years focusing her time nearly exclusively on Williams v. State of California, a class action aimed at improving California’s public school system. Welch earned her J.D. Magna Cum Laude from Loyola University Chicago School of Law in 1996. She was an editor of the Loyola University Chicago Law Journal, and the Children’s Legal Rights Journal. She earned her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University with distinction and Phi Beta Kappa.

Mishan Wroe

Senior Attorney, Immigration & Legal Advocacy

Primary Office: Oakland, CA

Mishan Wroe is a Senior Attorney on NCYL’s Immigration and Legal Advocacy teams. Wroe’s work focuses on litigation and policy efforts on behalf of immigrant children. Prior to joining NCYL, Wroe was a trial attorney at Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila LLP. While there, she maintained an active pro bono practice including a secondment at the ACLU of Northern California where she focused on reproductive justice litigation.
Wroe received a B.A. in Public Policy from Stanford University and her J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School where she worked in the Federal Criminal Justice Clinic.