National Center for Youth Law

Staff Biographies

Alice Abrokwa

Senior Attorney, Legal Advocacy

Primary Office: Washington D.C.
Email: aabrokwa(at)

Alice Abrokwa is an attorney on NCYL’s Strategic Advocacy team. Prior to joining NCYL, Abrokwa was a Trial Attorney with the Disability Rights Section of the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. Alice previously worked at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law as a Skadden Fellow, where her work focused on representing students with mental health disabilities attending D.C. public charter schools in special education matters. Abrokwa received her B.A. from Princeton University and joint J.D. and Master in Public Policy degrees from Harvard Law School and Harvard Kennedy School. After law school, she clerked for Judge James R. Spencer on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia and for Judge Roger L. Gregory on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

Crystal Adams

Attorney, Legal Advocacy

Primary Office: Washington D.C.
Email: cadams(at)

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
Email: madamson(at)
Phone: (510) 899-6573

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

Attorney, Collaborative Responses to Commercial Sexual Exploitation Initiative

Primary Office: Oakland, CA
Email: mabrimberg(at)

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.

Jasmine AmonsJasmineAmons

Senior Program and Policy Associate, Youth Justice

Primary Office: Oakland, CA
Email: jamons(at)
Phone: (510) 835-8098, x3026

Jasmine Amons is the Senior Program and Policy Associate for the California 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.

Merna Antone

Office and IT Manager

Primary Office: Oakland, CA
Email: mantone(at)

Merna Antone joined NCYL in April 2017. She is Office & IT Manager.  She has 20 years’ experience in the managing of information technology operations including large scale, complex projects. Prior to joining NCYL she was the Associate Director of Information Technology for Healthcare Forum/AHA, a national nonprofit that provides educational programs and services to the healthcare community. She also served as an Information Technology Manager at Pivot Learning Partners, a statewide organization that serves 100 districts to improve student achievement among minority students.

Reymundo Juan Armendariz

Community Policy Associate, Youth Justice

Primary Office: San Jose, CA
Email: rarmendariz(at)

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, FosterEd: Arizona

Primary Office: Tucson, AZ
Email: jaros.thornton(at)

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.

Meghan Arrigo

Director of Policy and Youth Leadership, FosterEd: Arizona

Primary Office: Phoenix, AZ
Email: marrigo(at)

Meghan Arrigo is the Director of Policy and Youth Leadership with FosterEd Arizona. Prior to arriving at FosterEd, she served for six years as the Arizona lead for the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s national effort, the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, partnering with alumni of foster care to improve the wellbeing and outcomes of those who also experienced care. Additionally, she spent six years working with Girls For A Change and Kotex Ô, collaborating with schools and community centers throughout the country to train young people on creating social change in their communities using a body+ lens. Arrigo also served as Director of Community Partnerships at Florence Crittenton where she oversaw the department responsible for delivering Independent Living and Life Skills training to young people aging out of Arizona foster care as well as youth and adults in the behavioral health systems. She received her degree in International Relations and Social Policy from James Madison College, Michigan State University.

Janelle Atienza

Education Liaison, JusticeEd, Santa Clara County

Primary Office: Santa Clara County, CA
Email: jatienz(at)

Janelle Atienza joined FosterEd California in July 2018 as an Education Liaison for Santa Clara County. She earned her B.A. in Sociology and Ethnic Studies at Saint Mary’s College of California in 2017, inspiring her to empower others in creating individual, community, and systemic social change. As a first-generation college student, Atienza devoted herself as a mentor for first-generation and low-income college students, creating community and supporting her mentees in reaching their educational and leadership goals. Additionally, Atienza served as a student activist, organizing her peers to advocate for marginalized students by thinking critically about campus culture, engaging with community members, and successfully impacting institutional changes. After graduating Atienza was motivated to join efforts in disrupting the cycle of reincarceration and taught professional development training to formerly incarcerated individuals transitioning into the workforce. Atienza is thrilled to join the team at FosterEd where she’s able to blend her passions for youth empowerment, education, and disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline. She is especially excited to be serving primarily in East Side San Jose, where she has the opportunity to give back to her hometown and learn about her community with a new lens.

Camille Bailey

Program Manager, FosterEd: California

Primary Office: Contra Costa County
Email: cbailey(at)

Camille Bailey is the FosterEd Program Manager in Contra Costa County. Before joining NCYL, Bailey was the Program Director of a residential treatment program serving youth in foster care with current or past experiences with commercial sexual exploitation. She has also worked as a clinician and case manager in transitional housing programs serving non-minor dependents participating in extended foster care (AB12) and as an elementary school counselor in the Bedford Stuyvesant community of Brooklyn, NY. Bailey holds her LCSW and is a graduate of NYU’s Silver School of Social Work. There, she had a combined focus of clinical direct service with youth and macro policy work with the eventual goal of helping to reform our child welfare system. She completed her B.A. in Psychology at Columbia University and is originally from Sonoma County, CA.

Shelbby Bambrick

Education Liaison, FosterEd: California

Primary Office: Antelope Valley
Email: sbambrick(at)

Shelbby Bambrick is an Education Liaison in the Antelope Valley region of Los Angeles County. Prior to joining the FosterEd 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.

Ruth Barron

Administrator and Program Associate

Primary Office: Oakland, CA
Email: rbarron(at)

Ruth Barron joined the National Center for Youth Law in September 2019 as the Administrator and Program Associate. Ruth is a native of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and attended Duquesne University where she studied Communication and Theatre Media. She offers experience in Office Administration, Customer service, Event Planning, Human Resources & Project Management. Prior to joining NCYL, Ruth was the Office Manager of the Stride Center, a non-profit work force development organization. Prior to that, she was the Project Manager for EmpowerNET California, where she worked with a collaborative of organizations to launch IT training and job placement programs. Ruth is a SHRM-CP Certified HR Professional and a member of Society of Human Resources Management.  

Matthew Bedrick

Equal Justice Works Legal Fellow

Primary Office: Oakland, CA
Email: mbedrick(at)

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.

Taima Beyah

Human Resources Partner

Primary Office: Oakland, CA
Email: tbeyah(at)

Taima Beyah joined the National Center for Youth Law in July 2019 as the Human Resource Partner. Taima 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 serves 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. Taima 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

Senior Attorney,  Legal Advocacy & Juvenile Justice

Primary Office: Madison, WI
Email: hbenton(at)
Phone: (510) 835-8098, x 3051

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.

Shane Carr

Education Liaison, FosterEd: Arizona

Primary Office: Yavapai County, AZ
Email: scarr(at)

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.

Kawena Cole

Program Manager, FosterEd: California, Antelope Valley

Primary Office: Los Angeles, CA
Email: kcole(at)

Kawena Cole is the FosterEd California Program Manager for the Antelope Valley area of Los Angeles County. She was promoted to Program Manager, after serving as a FosterEd Education Liaison from 2015 – 2018. Prior to joining the FosterEd 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
Email: mcontreras(at)

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.

Diane de Gramont

Meselson-Liman Legal Fellow

Primary Office: Oakland, CA
Email: ddegramont(at)

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.

Ashely Dickerson

Education Liaison, FosterEd: Arizona

Primary Office: Maricopa County, AZ
Email: adickerson(at)

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.

Rose Deblas

Education Liaison, FosterEd: Arizona

Primary Office: Phoenix, AZ
Email: rdeblas(at)

Rose Deblas is an education liaison 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 DesaiNehaDesai

Attorney, Director, Immigration

Primary Office: Oakland, CA
Email: ndesai(at)
Phone: (510) 835-8098, x 3048

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.

Molly Dunn

Attorney, Director, FosterEd: Arizona

Primary Office: Phoenix, AZ

Molly Dunn is the Deputy Director of FosterEd: Arizona. Deeply influenced by her own early experience as a foster child, Dunn has dedicated her career to improving the education outcomes of system-involved youth. She has engaged in this mission at all levels. As a direct services provider, with Legal Services for Children and the San Francisco Public Defenders’ Office, Dunn advocated on behalf of hundreds of youth in special education and school discipline matters. As a clinical instructor at Stanford and Loyola law schools and as a supervisor with Legal Advocates for Children and Youth, she has mentored and guided other advocates to serve system-involved youth. As a policy advocate with the Alliance for Children’s Rights, Dunn sought to remove systemic barriers and secure much-needed resources to help youth in foster care achieve success in school and in life. Dunn holds a B.A. from Macalester College and a J.D. from Stanford Law School. She is thrilled to be living near her family in her adopted home state of Arizona.

Michelle Francois

Senior Director, Compassionate Systems

Primary Office: Oakland, CA
Phone: (510) 835-8098, x 3056

Michelle Francois leads the Compassionate 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.

Erica Freeman

Development Manager

Primary Office: Oakland, CA
Email: efreeman(at)
Phone: (510) 835-8098, x 3018

Erica Freeman joined NCYL in August 2018 as the Development Manager. In this capacity, she collaborates with staff across NCYL to submit proposals and communicate impact to stakeholders. Prior to joining NCYL, Freeman was the Development Manager at SupplyBank.Org, where she formerly served as an AmeriCorps VISTA Fellow. She also currently serves as a Commissioner on the Commission for Children, Youth and Recreation for the City of Berkeley. Freeman earned her B.S. in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University with a minor in Law and Society. She is passionate about cross-sector collaborations for poverty alleviation and systems change.

Erin French

Legal Fellow

Primary Office: El Segundo, CA
Email: efrench(at)

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.
Email: sgalanter(at)

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.

Kristen Gast

Education Liaison, FosterEd: California 

Primary Office: Monterey County, CA
Email: kgast(at)

Kristen Gast is an Education Liaison with FosterEd California, located in Monterey Bay. Gast is originally from Sacramento, CA and moved to Boston for college in 2012. She attended Boston University, where she had a double major in Religion and Psychology. During college, Gast worked at an elementary school in Boston and spent time volunteering with nonprofits around the city. After graduating from college, she spent two years working as a college counselor in a Boston high school through AmeriCorps. Gast moved to Monterey in 2018 to begin her work with FosterEd supporting youth experiencing homelessness in the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District.

Adrienne “Bing” Goldsworth

Program Manager, FosterEd: California 

Primary Office: Monterey County, CA

Bing Goldsworth joined NCYL in July 2018 as the Program Manager for FosterEd in Monterey County. Growing up homeless and in foster care for a majority of their life is what lead to Goldsworth’s passion to work with disenfranchised youth across multiple systems of care. Goldsworth began their career in social services when they served as a Foster Youth and McKinney-Vento Liaison at the Santa Clara County Office of Education from 2008-2011. In 2011, Goldsworth became the Education Coordinator for a Refugee Foster Care program in San Jose, CA where they managed the educational needs of approximately 115 K-12 youth. Goldsworth graduated from California State University Monterey Bay in 2005 with a B. A. in Women’s Studies and a minor in Health & Wellness.

Victoria Gonzales

Education Liaison, FosterEd: Arizona

Primary Office: Maricopa County, AZ
Email: vgonzales(at)

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

Policy Attorney, California Youth Justice Initiative

Primary Office: Oakland, CA
Phone: (510) 835-8098, x3068

Dafna Gozani has over a decade of experience working with system-involved youth as an educator and advocate. Before joining NCYL, Gozani was a staff attorney at Bay Area Legal Aid’s Youth Justice Project where she advocated for foster youth, homeless youth, and youth at risk of exploitation by providing wraparound civil legal services, engaging in strategic impact litigation, and partnering with stakeholders to leverage child-serving systems. She also facilitated civil legal services for Alameda County’s Juvenile Mental Health Court working to ensure that youth gain access to trauma-informed services and stay in the community and coordinated Bay Area Legal Aid’s technical assistance project collaborating with public defenders to build capacity for cross-system advocacy. Prior to joining Bay Area Legal Aid, Gozani piloted a post-disposition representation project as an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Fellow with the Colorado Juvenile Defender Center focused on mitigating the collateral consequences of the juvenile delinquency system. Gozani received her J.D. 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 at an alternative high school for system-involved youth inside the Boulder County Juvenile Justice Center for six years.

Rebecca Gudeman de OrtizRebecca Gudeman

Attorney, Senior Director, Adolescent Health

Primary Office: Oakland, CA
Email: rgudeman(at)
Phone: (510) 835-8098, x 3037

Attorney Rebecca Gudeman is a senior attorney specializing in adolescent health care. She directs NCYL’s adolescent reproductive health project and oversees the project’s website,  Gudeman is author of numerous articles and papers on consent and confidentiality law and trains nationally on these issues.  She earned her B.A., Magna Cum Laude, from Harvard University in 1990, and her J.D. from the UCLA School of Law in 1994. She also holds a Master in Public Administration (1999) from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.  Prior to joining NCYL, Gudeman was a Professor of Law at the Universdad de las Americas in Mexico City and volunteered with Ashoka, helping the organization select its Latin American fellows.   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.

Patty Guinto

Director, Marketing, Communications and Brand

Primary Office: Oakland, CA
Email: pguinto(at)

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, California Youth Justice Initiative

Primary Office: Oakland, CA
Email: fguzman(at)
Phone: (510) 835-8098, x 3055

Attorney Francis (“Frankie”) V. Guzman is the Director of the California 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
Phone: (510) 835-8098, x 3003

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, 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
Email: mharris(at)
Phone: (510) 835-8098, x 3006

Attorney Michael Harris works on reducing incarceration and racial disparities in statewide juvenile corrections systems. Currently, he leads NCYL’s campaigns to challenge the “school-to-prison pipeline” in Texas and California. Additionally, he works on the issue of implicit bias, and he has delivered presentations to local and national gatherings on the role implicit bias plays in decision making within the school-to-prison-pipeline and the juvenile justice system. Before joining NCYL, Harris served as Deputy Director of the W. Haywood Burns Institute in San Francisco, working on juvenile justice systems reform. Harris has worked in California and Washington to reduce racial disparities in the juvenile justice system using a collaborative process to effect systemic reform. Prior to Harris’ work at the Burns Institute, he was a Staff Attorney and Assistant Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights in San Francisco where he worked on a broad range of civil rights cases.

Christal Heard

Education Liaison, FosterEd: California

Primary Office: Antelope Valley, CA
Email: cheard(at)

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

Education Liaison, FosterEd: Arizona

Primary Office: Pima County, AZ
Email: jhedges(at)

Jennie Hedges is an Education Liaison 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

Program Manager, JusticeEd, Santa Clara County

Primary Office: Santa Clara County, CA
Email: jhernandez(at)

Joy Hernandez is the FosterEd 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.

Karla James

Senior Director of Finance and Operations

Primary Office: Oakland, CA
Email: kjames(at)
Phone: (510) 835-8098, x 3031

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.

Anna Johnson

Senior Policy Associate, Youth Justice

Primary Office: Oakland, CA
Email: ajohnson(at)
Phone: (510) 835-8098, x 3035

Anna Johnson is the lead policy analyst working on reducing overmedication of foster youth and improving access to community and therapeutic services for youth. With a master’s in public policy from UC-Berkeley, Johnson works with young adults and current foster youth to ensure their voices influence policies affecting foster youth. Passion for this work originated from 6 years of classroom experience in under-resourced schools. Prior to working in policy, Johnson taught at Urban Promise Academy in Oakland Unified School District for four years, at Potter Thomas Bilingual Academy in Philadelphia, and in Madison, Wisconsin serving homeless youth and families in the CASPER program and witnessed how traumatic experiences, stress, poverty, and environmental factors impact children’s development and relationships. Creating and maintaining a safe, supportive classroom environment was the primary focus of their work as an educator. Johnson knows that providing services, care, and attention to youth who live under the daily stress of violence, poverty, and other forms of abuse can help young people build resiliency and thrive in the short and long term. Johnson remains proud of her student’s accomplishments and leadership in their communities. Johnson dedicates NCYL policy efforts toward partnering with youth and young adults to improve the treatment of young people in schools, communities, homes, and neighborhoods. Johnson holds degrees from UC-Berkeley (MPP), UW-Madison (BA-Social Work) and U-Penn (Urban Ed). Follow @AnnaMaureen83 on Twitter.

Poonam JunejaPoonam Juneja

Senior Attorney, Legal Advocacy & Child Welfare

Primary Office: Oakland, CA
Email: pjuneja(at)
Phone: (510) 835-8098, x 3065

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.

Yeji Jung

Compassionate Systems, Senior Program Associate

Primary Office: Oakland, CA
Phone: (510) 835-8098, x3029

Yeji Jung joined NCYL in July 2019 as the Compassionate Systems Senior Program Associate. They were born in Seoul and grew up outside Dallas, Texas. Jung majored in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity at Stanford University, and is a multidisciplinary artist and organizer rooted in racial justice and liberation movements. Prior to joining NCYL, Jung was a program coordinator at the Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford, which supports artists of marginalized identities developing their practice at the intersection of art, culture, and justice movements.

Darya Larizadeh

Policy Attorney, California Youth Justice Initiative

Primary Office: San Jose, CA
Email: dlarizadeh(at)

Darya Larizadeh joined NCYL in 2018 as an attorney for the California Youth Justice Initiative.  Larizadeh’s career as an attorney began at the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office and she later worked on cases through the Private Defender Panel.  After gaining direct legal experience, Larizadeh decided to devote her career to reforming the criminal and juvenile justice systems.  She began this work at the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy at U.C. Berkeley and has since consulted on policy reform and research projects at several other organizations in California.

Larizadeh’s commitment to children’s rights is tightly connected to her passion for women’s rights.  She served as a Commissioner on the San Mateo County Commission on the Status of Women.

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.

Lesli LeGras

Director, Los Angeles Foster Youth Reproductive Access Project

Primary Office: Los Angeles, CA
Email: llegras(at)

Lesli LeGras serves as Director of the Los Angeles Foster Youth Reproductive Access Project, a collective impact initiative with the audacious goal of significantly reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies among foster youth by coordinating efforts to increase their access to reproductive health services and information. Prior to joining NCYL, LeGras directed the Youth Advocate Program, a fellowship program in Oakland for current and former foster youth who provided consumer-driven input to Alameda County DCFS on policies such as AB12 and trained social workers, lawyers, and therapists on best practices for working with system-involved youth. Most recently, LeGras served as Director of Education at the Coalition for Responsible Community Development in South LA, where she led a cross-sectoral team of community partners dedicated to creating an out-of-school to college-completer pipeline for LA’s opportunity youth. She also led efforts to raise over $1M to create, launch, and pilot-test “Project Tipping Point,” a cohort-based academic program designed to accelerate transition-aged foster youth towards postsecondary credentials and family-sustaining wages. A graduate of UCLA and CSU Northridge with degrees in Psychology and Public Administration, LeGras’ laser-focus on galvanizing collective commitment to promoting equity for vulnerable young people is driven by her lived experiences as a woman of Color, born-and-bred South Central Los Angeles resident, and mother to a vivacious toddler.

Tamara Lewis

Senior Program Associate, Education Civil Rights Alliance

Primary Office: Washington, DC
Email: tlewis(at)
Phone: (202) 868-4789

Tamara Lewis is the Senior Program Associate with the Education Civil Rights Alliance. Prior to joining NCYL, Lewis was a law clerk at the American Federation of Teachers. She was also an International Law Fellow at the American Society of International Law. Prior to law school, Lewis worked at the NAF Hotline Fund providing resources and counseling to those seeking reproductive health care options.

Lewis is an alumna of the University of Virginia and graduated from the University of the District of Columbia, David A. Clarke School of Law where she was a Mason Civil Rights Scholar.

Marie Lim

Development Associate

Primary Office: Oakland, CA
Email: mlim(at)

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.  

Marie 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. 

Jacklyn (Jacki) Lusher

Education Liaison, FosterEd: Arizona

Primary Office: Pima County, AZ
Email: jlusher(at)

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.  


Marcos Martinez

Education Liaison, FosterEd: California

Primary Office: Monterey County, CA
Email: mmartinez(at)

Marcos Martinez is an Education Liaison in Monterey County. He is originally from Salinas, California and is ecstatic to bring positive changes to his community. Prior to joining NCYL, he worked for Fresh Lifelines for Youth as a Case Manager for the Court Appointed Friend and Advocate Mentor program, where he helped young people navigate the juvenile justice system through one-on-one mentoring. Martinez attended San Jose State University and graduated with his B.A. in Justice Studies. He is excited to shape the education system while continuing to serve young people in his community.

Jessica Maxwell

Deputy Director, FosterEd: California

Primary Office: Oakland, CA
Email: jmaxwell(at)
Phone: (510) 835-8098, x 3022

Jessica Maxwell joined NCYL in January 2019 as the Deputy Director of FosterEd California.

Prior to joining NCYL, she was at Children’s Aid in New York City. There Maxwell focused on leading the Fostering Youth Success Alliance (FYSA), a statewide coalition she founded to focus on reforming budget, policy and legislation that impacts the child welfare system. Under Maxwell’s leadership, FYSA established a new statute and program, the Foster Youth College Success Initiative, and secured $15 million in state funds to support foster youth attending college in New York. Additionally, she has been successful in advocating for the implementation of several city and state laws and budget items that created new resources and expand access to services for transition age youth. She is the recipient of the New York Nonprofit Media Cause Award in Education for her efforts in education equity advocacy on behalf of foster youth, and the Innovation and Excellence awards.

Maxwell is a New York City native and has a Master’s of Science, in Urban Affairs from Hunter College where her focus was Public Policy and Nonprofit Management.

Andrew Moffett

Product Manager, FosterEd

Primary Office: Oakland, CA
Email: amoffett(at)

Andrew Moffett is the Project Manager for Data and Technology for NCYL’s FosterEd Initiative. He will continue to enhance and expand on our student support data system, EdTeamConnect (ETC).

Prior to joining NCYL’s FosterEd Team, Moffett has worked on large-scale youth-centered initiatives in New York City and the Bay Area. Moffett is also an AmeriCorps – Volunteer In Service To America (VISTA) alumni and actively engages in various volunteer initiatives that promote and advance his passions for the expansion of access to quality supports for disadvantaged children, families and community members.

Andrea Molina

Director of Implementation, FosterEd:Arizona

Primary Office: Tucson, AZ
Email: amolina(at)

Andrea Molina is the Director of Student Supports & System Partnerships with FosterEd: Arizona. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Arizona in 2007. She went on to receive her graduate degree in education from American University in Washington, D.C. where she was a teacher for six years. Molina has worked with and mentored children of all ages and has deep roots in the Tucson community. The fact that she is bilingual and bicultural has assisted her in bridging gaps within the communities where she has worked. Her understanding of the achievement gap in education and her desire to see an end to it, has led her to become a FosterEd Education Liaison in 2013.

Jessica Montoya

Education Liaison, FosterEd: Arizona

Primary Office: Maricopa County, AZ
Email: jmontoya(at)

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.

Jaron Neal

Education Liaison, FosterEd: Arizona

Primary Office: Maricopa County
Email: jneal(at)

Jaron Neal is an Education Liaison with FosterEd: Arizona. Previously, he was an Independent Living Specialist II with Arizona’s Children Association (AZCA) where he helped foster youth aging out of care build life skills ranging from opening bank accounts and renting apartments to preparing for college. Prior to AZCA, Neal was a Mentor Program Coordinator for Aid to the Adoption of Special Kids. Neal’s previous experience also includes serving as a Residential Advisor for HomeBase Youth Services, which offers transitional living services to homeless youth ages 18-24. He obtained his B.A. in English from the University of Phoenix in 2013, and his M.A.Ed. from Northern Arizona University in 2017.

Allison NewcombeAllison Newcombe

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

Primary Office: Los Angeles, CA
Email: anewcombe(at)

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, FosterEd: California

Primary Office: Oakland, CA
Email: molmos(at)
Phone: (510) 835-8098, x 3022

Margaret Olmos joined NCYL in 2017, returning to her home state to serve as State Director for FosterEd 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.

Edward Opton

Of Counsel, Child Welfare

Primary Office: Oakland, CA
Email: eopton(at)
Phone: (510) 835-8098, x 3014

Edward Opton is of counsel to NCYL. He is the first attorney to work long-term with NCYL after retiring from full-time practice. Since January 2007, he has been working principally with Senior Attorney Bill Grimm on Child Welfare issues. A graduate of UC Berkeley School of Law, Opton was an employment and labor lawyer for the University of California from 1981 to 2006. Earlier, in his first post-law school job, he was an associate at Morrison & Foerster in San Francisco. Law is Opton’s second career. A graduate of Yale, he received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Duke University. He did research on psychological stress at UC Berkeley in the 1960s and ‘70s and was Associate Dean at The Wright Institute, a graduate school of psychology in Berkeley.

Sandra Ortega

Education Liaison, FosterEd: Arizona

Primary Office: Maricopa County, AZ
Email: sortega(at)

Sandra Ortega 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. Ortega 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, Ortega 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. Ortega is fluent in Spanish.


PerryMiranda Perry

External Relations Coordinator

Primary Office: Oakland, CA
Email: mperry(at)
Phone: (510) 835-8098, x 3046

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.

Freya Pitts

Attorney, Legal Advocacy

Primary Office: Oakland, CA
Email: fpitts(at)
Phone: (510) 835-8098, x 3070

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.

Giselle Ramos

Education Liaison, FosterEd: California

Primary Office: Antelope Valley, CA
Email: gramos(at)

Giselle Ramos is as an Education Liaison in the Antelope Valley region of Los Angeles County. Previously, Ramos worked for almost 9 years as a Wraparound team member, where she was able to work one-on-one with youth to create goals and support them to meet those goals. Ramos has worked with youth in the community as a football president for a non-profit and cheer coach for younger and high school aged youth. Ramos has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and currently is completing a Master Degree in School Counseling. Ramos hopes to continue be a voice for youth.

Haley Reimbold

Development Director

Primary Office: Oakland, CA
Email: hreimbold(at)
Phone: (510) 835-8098, x 3008

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.

Felicitas Reyes

Program Associate

Primary Office: Oakland, CA
Email: freyes(at)

Felicitas Reyes joined NCYL in August, 2019 as a Program Associate with the LA Reproductive Health Equity Project for Foster Youth. She graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in American Studies & Ethnicity, where she worked on several youth-centered projects. Wanting to continue her work on youth issues, she joined Just in Time for Foster Youth. In her role, she oversaw three programs for transition-age youth that focused on college and career planning, housing, mentorship, and health. She spent the year prior to her tenure at NCYL teaching English and working with migrant women and children in Mexico as a Fulbright scholar. Her interests and work lie at the intersections of the juvenile, immigrant, education, and foster care system. Her goal is to continue to be an advocate for system-impacted youth through policy, advocacy, and community engagement.

Joanne Rodriguez

Education Liaison, FosterEd: California

Primary Office: Antelope Valley, CA
Email: jrodriguez(at)

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 FosterEd, 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.
Email: mrollin(at)

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, JusticeEd, Santa Clara County

Primary Office: Santa Clara County, CA
Email: jsaldana(at)

Janette Saldana joined the NCYL team in July 2018 as an Education Liaison for FosterEd 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, Research & Program Support, FosterEd

Primary Office: Oakland, CA
Email: dsenter(at)
Phone: (510) 835-8098, x 3025

Daniel Senter provides legal and programmatic support for FosterEd primarily in the areas of juvenile 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.

Kira Setren

Paralegal, Legal Advocacy

Primary Office: Oakland, CA
Email: ksetren(at)

Kira Setren joined NCYL in January 2018. Previously, she worked as a Litigation Paralegal at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP where she maintained a large pro bono practice focused on immigrants’ rights, the unlawful use of sealed records, human trafficking, and educational rights. Setren has also worked with various nonprofits, government agencies, and volunteer organizations to provide aid and direct service to underserved communities. Setren graduated Brandeis University in 2015 with a B.A. in International and Global Studies and minors in Business and Hispanic Studies.

Brenda Shum

Senior Directing Attorney

Primary Office: Washington D.C.
Email: bshum(at)

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.

Colleen Smythe

Fiza Quraishi Legal Fellow

Primary Office: Washington D.C.
Email: csmythe(at)

Colleen Smythe is a Fiza Quraishi Legal Fellow working with the Litigation Team. She works on cases involving the financial challenges youth face in the juvenile legal system, as well as the rights of children with disabilities to be educated with their peers for a full school day. During law school at the University of Michigan, Colleen advocated for children facing suspension and expulsion through the Student Rights Project and worked in the Pediatric Advocacy Clinic, where she represented the families of children with disabilities in landlord-tenant disputes, child custody proceedings, and special education cases. Colleen was a summer intern at Mental Health Advocacy Services in Los Angeles and in the Educational Opportunities Section of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. She also earned her B.A. in Sociology from the University of Michigan, where she wrote her thesis about the relationship between adults with Down syndrome and their non-disabled siblings.

Jason Sutton

Business Manager

Primary Office: Oakland, CA
Email: jsutton(at)
Phone: (510) 835-8098, x 3020

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

Attorney, Juvenile Justice and Education

Primary Office: Oakland, CA
Email: auppal(at)
Phone: (510) 835-8098, x 3066

Atasi Uppal is an attorney on NCYL’s Juvenile Justice and FosterEd teams. She leads program and policy advocacy to improve the education outcomes of youth in the juvenile justice system, and much of this advocacy aims to support youth who are living in the community and supervised by Probation. Uppal also provides training and support to off-site FosterEd staff, who provide direct services to system-involved youth, and she assists with juvenile justice-focused litigation.
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 parents 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 services organizations focused on child welfare, special education and juvenile justice.


Rachel Velcoff Hults

Attorney, Director, FosterEd

Primary Office: Oakland, CA
Phone: (510) 835-8098, x 3052

Attorney  Rachel Velcoff Hults is an attorney and Chief Operating Officer for NCYL’s Foster Youth Education Initiative (FosterEd). She previously spent two years serving as Project Manager for FosterEd: Santa Cruz County.

Prior to joining NCYL, Velcoff Hults worked at Bay Area Legal Aid, where she focused on public benefits, health access, and youth issues, including foster care benefits and access to education. Previously, she was a litigation associate at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP in Washington, D.C.

Velcoff Hults received her B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in 2005 and her J.D. from Stanford Law School in 2008. At Stanford, Velcoff Hults was a clinical student in the Youth and Education Law Project and co-president of Stanford StreetLaw, a legal education program for incarcerated and at-risk Bay Area youth.

Jules Villanueva-Castaño

Education Liaison, JusticeEd, Santa Clara County

Primary Office: Santa Clara County
Email: jvillanuevacastano(at)

Jules Villanueva-Castaño joined the NYCL team in July 2018 as one of the Education Liaisons for FosterEd in Santa Clara County. Before joining NCYL, Villanueva-Castanño worked at FLY (Fresh Lifelines for Youth) as the Program Manager and also as a Case Manager. While there, he trained and matched volunteer mentors with youth involved in the juvenile justice system in Santa Clara County to help the young people in the program identify with a positive support person in their lives to increase pro-social behaviors and decrease recidivism back into the juvenile justice system. Before his work at FLY, Jules spent nearly a decade working with Eastfield Ming Quong (now UPLIFT) as a Case Manager working in Santa Clara county to support youth with mental health crises at school, home and in the community.

Villanueva-Castaño was raised in Santa Cruz, CA where he grew up avidly reading, running and surfing. At the age of 17, he acquired a scholarship to UC Irvine for cross country and track field and graduated from UCI with a B.A. in Sociology in 2003. Villanueva-Castaño’s devotion to working with youth in the juvenile justice system was born from his formative experiences growing up in a social environment where he saw his peers fall into patterns of incarceration, addiction, and violence due to what he saw as a lack of “adults who cared.” He hopes to personally be that “adult who cares” for young people in the juvenile justice system as well as to continue to leverage his years of experience supporting young people to be bigger than their past mistakes by advocating for them in an educational setting to spur systemic, individual, and lasting change.


Kate Walker Brown

Attorney, Director, Collaborative Responses to Commercial Sexual Exploitation Initiative

Primary Office: Oakland, CA
Email: kwalker(at)
Phone: (510) 835-8098, x 3050

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.

Valentine Wanjiku

Education Liaison, FosterEd: California

Primary Office: Contra Costa County, CA
Email: vwanjiku(at)

Valentine Wanjiku is the FosterEd Education Liaison for Contra Costa County. Wanjiku is a children’s rights advocate and strongly believes that the success of children is a strong indicator of a thriving community. As such, Wanjiku has worked in various capacities in service to children/youth and their families, most recently as a Program Manager at an autism treatment company. She is excited to continue to work with children and families, she is also thankful for the opportunity to shape systems that will improve educational outcomes for youth.

Leecia WelchLeecia Welch

Attorney, Senior Director, Legal Advocacy & Child Welfare

Primary Office: Oakland, CA
Email: lwelch(at)
Phone: (510) 835-8098, x 3023

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.

Briana Zweifler

Fellow, California Youth Justice Initiative

Primary Office: Oakland, CA
Email: bzweifler(at)
Phone: (510) 835-8098, x 3054

Briana Zweifler is a UC Presidential Public Service Fellow working on NCYL’s California Youth Justice Initiative. Her passion for youth justice stems from her own involvement with the juvenile and criminal justice systems as a youth and young adult.

Zweifler worked with several Bay Area and Northern California organizations during law school, including the ACLU of Northern California, the Prison Law Office, the Juvenile Division of the Alameda County Public Defender’s Office, and the Yurok Tribal Court. She also interned at the W. Haywood Burns Institute, where she conducted extensive research on youth diversion programs. She earned her B.A. from UC Berkeley in 2013 and J.D. from the UC Davis School of Law in 2018.