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Welcome to LAJC’s New Staff!

As we grow our work, we have also been growing our team! Welcome to our new staff members who have started work with us so far in 2021 – you can read more about them here: 

Chris Florez (he/him) – Technology Manager – Charlottesville

Chris joined Legal Aid Justice Center in February 2021. Prior to joining LAJC, Chris worked as an IT consultant and administrator with local non-profits, supporting a variety of operational and programmatic needs. Prior to moving to Charlottesville in 2017, Chris served as the Manager of Digital Learning for Aspire Public Schools in Memphis, TN. In that role, Chris worked with teachers and administrators to ensure all students had opportunities to pursue their goals, leveraging individualized technology programs that fostered confidence and skill-acquisition. Outside of LAJC, Chris is a mentor for 6th-12th grade youth who enjoy learning new skills such as game design and coding. Chris graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education from Western Washington University and a master’s degree in educational technology from Boise State University.

Miguel Tejero (he/him) – Community Organizer – Richmond

Miguel Tejero was born in Temuco, Chile. Since very young, he played the violin. At 17 years old, he moved to Santiago to enroll in the University of Chile where he obtained his music and art degree, while at the same time a member of the Chile Symphony Orchestra. During the following years, he played in countless award-winning music ensembles, string quartets, and orchestras at the local and international levels. Miguel received a scholarship at Loyola University in New Orleans and graduated with his B.A. in Music. Later, he moved to Houston, TX where he mostly worked as a session violinist. In 2014, he settled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwest Virginia. He is a certified medical interpreter and worked for SVCHS and Ballad hospitals, helping particularly the Hispanic community in the area. He is also NASM and an ISSA trainer and current volunteer in the Cancer Center at JMC in Abingdon, VA. Miguel is a nature and animal lover. He owns Tres Carabela Ranch where, among other things, he works rescuing Great Pyrenees all over the U.S. in cooperation with National Great Pyrenees Rescue. In the last few years, he has taken an active role in advocating for minority groups, inequality, and discrimination. Miguel is very proud to join LAJC and he is determined to make the Southwest Virginia community relevant.

June Yang (she/her) – Grants Manager – Charlottesville

June Yang joined Legal Aid Justice Center in February 2021. She brings more than a decade of experience in grant writing and nonprofit resource development across a wide range of sectors, most recently in Washington, D.C. Prior to LAJC, she directed fundraising strategy as Director of Development for the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital and led grants strategy as Grants Officer for Public Justice, a national legal advocacy organization. She also serves on the Advisory Committee of the Arts Forward Fund, which supports arts organizations in the D.C. region as they respond to COVID-19 and advance the movement for racial justice and equity. In addition to working in development, June writes fiction and freelance journalism and is a past recipient of the Nelson Algren Award for Short Fiction. June holds a B.A. in Semiotics from Brown University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Houston.

Jess Gabbay (she/her) – Executive Assistant – Charlottesville

Jess joined Legal Aid Justice Center as the Executive Assistant in 2021. She joined the LAJC team with over ten years of administrative and management experience and has been an active member of the Charlottesville community since moving here in 2015. Jess received her B.S. in Marketing and Management from the University of Mary Washington.

Teresa Hepler (she/her) – Attorney, Civil Rights & Racial Justice Program – Charlottesville

Teresa joined the Civil Rights & Racial Justice Program at LAJC in Spring 2021. She worked as a public defender in New Hampshire for about three and a half years before coming to LAJC. During her time there, she witnessed the heartlessness of the police and prosecutors who refused to see people as human beings, which inspired her to work toward transferring power from the criminal legal system to the people. Teresa earned her B.A. from the University of Maryland, College Park and her M.A. in Humanities from the University of Chicago. She earned her law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law where she was a student in the Housing Law Clinic at LAJC and received the Mortimer Caplin Public Service Award.

Christopher Green (he/him) – Community Organizer – Petersburg

Christopher Rashad Green’s story is one of redemption and hope! Joining the LAJC Team in April of 2021, Christopher brings a wealth of organizing knowledge and experience. As a formerly incarcerated individual of 15 years, he has been blessed to share his testimony of resilience and empowerment. Coming from New Virginia Majority, Christopher has lead several campaigns and initiatives around such issues as the automatic right-to-vote for returning citizens through a constitutional amendment campaign, a court-watch initiative (Court Watch of Central Virginia CWCVA), addressing unfair and discriminatory processes in our courts, and as a community researcher with Virginia Commonwealth University in addressing the social determinants to good health. Through community service and activism, and being blessed with the gift of discernment and empathy, he has been able to articulate distinctly, emotional experiences in the criminal system. Also, among his works, he has taught at various workshops, programs, and panel discussions dealing with such topics as mass incarceration, prison reform, social justice, health equity. disenfranchisement, and education. Christopher continues to advocate for the rights of a better life for all individuals. No matter what race, religion, or ethnicity. And as he has stated many times before, “I’m not a Community Activist, I’m a Brother Striving to stay Active in Our Communities!” The Walk on this Path of Redemption continues!

Lucy Parks (they/them) – Communications Associate – Richmond

Lucy grew up in the rural Shenandoah Valley but has spent time living in New York City, Charlotte, and Atlanta. They are currently located in Richmond. Lucy has worked in communications, community organizing, and youth development and has been part of campaigns around everything from student debt to prison justice to funding public colleges to immigrant rights to climate justice to union membership to LGBTQ+ rights. They hold an individualized study degree in writing and social change and are especially passionate about the power of storytelling to create change. Most recently Lucy worked with the Alliance for Climate Education and prior to that worked at the YMCA of Greater New York. Lucy is an avid outdoorsperson and completed a northbound thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2019.

Frank Valdez (he/him) – Organizer, Youth Justice Program – Charlottesville

Frank joined the Legal Aid Justice Center in the Summer of 2021 as a Youth Justice Program Organizer. Originally from Houston, Texas, he graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in Global Development Studies. During his undergraduate career, he served as the Co-President of the UVA chapter of Political Latinxs United for Movement and Action in Society (PLUMAS), interned with the LAJC Virginia Justice Project for Farm and Immigrant Workers, and also interned with the VA Youth Solidarity for Immigrant/Migrant Workers initiative.

Sandra Kitembo (she/her) – Office Manager/Paralegal – Charlottesville

Sandra joined Legal Aid Justice Center in 2021. Born in Kigali, Rwanda, Sandra is a native speaker of both French and Swahili. Before joining LAJC, she worked with Resilience Education, in partnership with Virginia Department of Corrections managing a program that facilitated Business and Entrepreneurship education of incarcerated individuals, helping reduce recidivism and improving employment success. Following her time with Resilience Education, she provided administrative support for International Neighbors where she guided newly resettled refugees as they began their lives in Charlottesville. Sandra graduated from the University of Massachusetts with a double degree in Political Science and Psychology.

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