LEADERSHIP TEAMAngela Ciolfi, Executive Director
(Charlottesville) Angela began working at LAJC in 2004 as a Powell Fellow, before serving as JustChildren Legal Director from 2010 to 2017 when she became Director of Litigation and Advocacy. During her tenure, Angela has been a prolific and fierce advocate for justice working on and often leading many of LAJC’s signature campaigns and cases, including the Drive Down the Debt Campaign targeting Virginia’s driver’s punitive license suspension statute. She has also litigated significant cases in the Virginia Supreme Court and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. While leading the JustChildren Program, Angela helped to secure and protect state funding for preschool and for positive behavioral supports. She led a successful fight in 2012-14 to require public schools to publish suspension and expulsion data broken down by race, gender, and disability and roll back zero tolerance laws. Those wins set the stage for much of LAJC’s school-to-prison pipeline work ever since. As Director of Litigation and Advocacy from 2017 to 2018, Angela worked to empower LAJC’s organizers and attorneys to take on high impact campaigns informed by and in partnership with community leaders. Angela was the recipient of the Oliver White Hill Award from the Virginia State Bar in 2003 and the Child Advocacy Award from the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division in 2010. Angela was also named the recipient of the 2017 Virginia Legal Aid Award by the Virginia State Bar Access to Legal Services Committee for her work advocating for children’s rights issues throughout the Commonwealth. She is a graduate of The College of William and Mary and University of Virginia School of Law. After law school, she clerked for U.S. District Judge Reginald C. Lindsay.
Edgar Aranda-Yanoc, Senior Lead Organizer, Immigrant Advocacy Program
(Falls Church) Edgar came to the Legal Aid Justice Center in 2007 from a legal internship at the Center for Justice and International Law in Washington D.C. He is a recent graduate of the LLM Program in International Law at Temple University and was a practicing attorney in Peru. He received his undergraduate degree in Political Science and Law from the University of Ancash in Peru “Santiago Antunez de Mayolo.”Brenda Castañeda, Legal Director, Economic Justice Program
(Charlottesville) Brenda was a summer intern with the Legal Aid Justice Center during law school and in 2007 came to Legal Aid from Blue Ridge Legal Services. She is a graduate of Yale University and received her law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law. In January of 2015, Brenda became the first Legal Director of the Economic Justice Program.Jeff Jones, Director of Communications
(Richmond) Jeff joined Legal Aid Justice Center in 2019 to serve as Communications Director handling public relations and external communications as well as organizational marketing and branding. He relocated to Richmond from New York City where he most recently worked as the Director of Marketing for the Community Service Society of New York. Jeff’s earlier nonprofit communications work includes time with the Fortune Society and the Texas Association of Community Health Centers. In addition, Jeff has freelanced as a reporter and producer for public radio, designed sound and composed music for regional theatre, and produced and edited documentary films. He holds an MFA in Theatrical Design from Boston University and attended the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland Maine.Rachael Deane, Legal Director, Youth Justice Program
(Richmond) Rachael joined the JustChildren program in 2016 and became its Legal Director in 2017. Her work has focused on shaping JustChildren’s litigation and policy efforts to end the school-to-prison pipeline and to reform Virginia’s public school funding system. Prior to joining JustChildren, Rachael for Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia (HOME) and the National Fair Housing Alliance, where she developed systemic investigations and impact litigation aimed at eliminating residential segregation and concentrated poverty. In 2012, she received a “Top 40 Under 40” award from the Virginia Housing Coalition for her work as a fair housing advocate. Rachael earned her B.A. from the University of Mary Washington and her law degree from the University of Richmond School of Law, where she participated in the Education Rights Clinic. Rachael interned with LAJC’s JustChildren and Economic Justice programs during law school.
Sylvia Jones, Director of Professional Development, Economic Justice Program
(Richmond) Sylvia joined the Legal Aid Justice Center to address the needs of children and parents in negotiating the educational system in the greater Petersburg area. She has served as an adjunct professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs. Sylvia received her B.A. from Eastern Kentucky University and her law degree from the University of Kentucky.Elaine Poon, Managing Attorney, Charlottesville Office
(Charlottesville) Elaine joined the Legal Aid Justice Center in 2017. Prior to working at LAJC, Elaine worked as a senior staff attorney at Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Inc. before moving to Virginia. There, she represented low-income individuals in a variety of areas including predatory lending, disability rights, heir property, and domestic violence prevention. Elaine is a graduate of Cornell University and Emory University School of Law.Kim Rolla, Interim Legal Director, Civil Rights & Racial Justice Program
Kim joined Legal Aid as the Lewis F. Powell fellow in 2013. Kim originally focused on housing law, providing both individual legal representation and legal support to tenant organizations. In their role as Housing Team Coordinator, Kim witnessed the brutality with which racism and poverty continue to shape the contours of our neighborhoods and impact lives within them. They were also privileged to witness the strength of organized communities and the power of naming and attacking at the root the systems that harm our clients. In 2017, Kim transitioned to the Civil Rights and Racial Justice Program, where they now develop campaigns to combat the criminalization of the poor, people of color, and far too many Virginians. In 2020, Kim took on the Interim Legal Director role. They earned their B.A. from the College of William and Mary and their law degree from the University of Virginia, where they received the Herbert Kramer/Herbert Bangel Community Service Award.
Nareen Scott, Director of People Operations
Nareen joined the Legal Aid Justice Center as the first Director of People Operations in October 2020, Nareen previously spent 8 years working with the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in Management from Old Dominion University and has been a member of the Charlottesville area community since 2004. Nareen has been involved in many community activities and youth & mentoring groups that are focused on empowering and uplifting others.Miriam Torian, Managing Attorney, Richmond Office
(Richmond) Miriam Torian joined Legal Aid Justice Center in 2019 as the Managing Attorney for the Richmond office, which also serves the Petersburg area. She is part of the Economic Justice Program working primarily within the public benefits practice. She also promotes pro bono and volunteer opportunities and builds relationships with potential partners. Prior to joining LAJC, she spent the bulk of her career in non-profit management both in Richmond and in Lynchburg, providing strategic planning and evidence-based program development in the areas of transportation, workforce development, early childhood development, mental health, and violence prevention. Miriam received her BA from the University of Virginia, an MA in clinical & community psychology from University of North Carolina – Charlotte, and an MA in public policy & management and law degree from The Ohio State University.Simon Y. Sandoval-Moshenberg, Legal Director, Immigrant Advocacy Program
(Falls Church) Simon joined the Immigrant Advocacy Program in 2011, and became its Legal Director in 2015. Simon specializes in consumer, housing, civil rights, immigration, and employment litigation in federal and state court. Simon is also LAJC’s Team Leader for consumer law. He was awarded the 2016 Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year award from the Virginia State Bar, and the 2013 LASSY award from the Virginia Poverty Law Center for greatest achievement in consumer law. Simon is a graduate of Columbia University and Yale Law School, where he was awarded the Munson prize for excellence in clinical practice.Kyna Thomas, Director of Finance
(Charlottesville) Kyna joined Legal Aid in May 2015. She moved to Charlottesville in December 2014 from the Virginia Beach area, where she had lived for 16 years working as an accounting manager for a property management and development company. Kyna has more than 35 years of accounting experience and is a graduate of Virginia Tech with a B.S. in finance.Tim Wallace, Director of Development
(Charlottesville) Tim (he/him) joined Legal Aid Justice Center’s development team in January 2014 in a role focused on grant writing and database management. He became Director of Development in June 2016 and somehow still does grants and technology. A beloved donor said it best when she told Tim that “if a nerd can do this job, you’re that nerd.” Tim is proud of having hired a top notch development team and prouder of having, for the most part, gotten out of their way as they’ve built critically important relationships of trust with supporters throughout Virginia. Tim sees his job as making sure that the organization and his team have the tools they need to do their jobs with excellence. Prior to joining LAJC, Tim served as the Director of Development for Cabrini Green Legal Aid, an organization that supports low-income Chicagoans negatively impacted by the criminal justice system. He graduated with an English degree from the University of Virginia in 2004.Clay Warner, Interim Managing Attorney, Falls Church Office
(Falls Church) Clay began working as a volunteer at the Legal Aid Justice Center in June 2019, and he is now serving on an interim basis as the Managing Attorney for the Northern Virginia office. Before he joined LAJC, Clay represented labor unions and employees for more than thirty years. Clay is a graduate of William and Mary and the University of Virginia School of Law. In law school he was a member of the Law Review and Order of the Coif, and he received the labor relations award for his graduating class.Amy Woolard, Director of Policy
(Charlottesville) In addition to representing children in education, foster care, and juvenile court matters, Amy has over a decade of experience in administrative and legislative advocacy, policy research and writing, and coalition-building around court and criminal justice, K-12 education, safety net, health, and poverty policy issues that affect children and families. Prior to her role at LAJC, she spent five years with Voices for Virginia’s Children as the state’s lead advocate on child welfare and foster care policy. Over the course of her time at LAJC and Voices, she has successfully led legislative campaigns to halt the suspension of driver’s licenses for unpaid court debt, curb exclusionary school discipline, broaden access to the Children’s Services Act, extend foster care supports and services to age 21, and improve school stability for youth in foster care, among other efforts. She frequently presents on social welfare and criminal justice policy topics, including briefings for U.S. Senate committees, conferences such as the ABA National Conference on Children & the Law, and guest lectures at the University of Virginia School of Law, University of Richmond Law School, Georgetown University, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Social Work, and elsewhere. In 2015, she was appointed by then-Gov. McAuliffe to the Virginia Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice and Prevention, and she is also a member of the Virginia Bar Association’s Commission on the Needs of Children. Amy is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, where she was awarded the Lewis F. Powell Fellowship in Legal Services. She also holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and an MS in Communications from the VCU Brandcenter (Adcenter). Outside of her work at LAJC, she writes on a broad array of social policy topics for publications such as Slate, The Guardian, Pacific Standard, and the Virginia Quarterly Review, and frequently volunteers for Remote Area Medical clinics held across the Commonwealth.
CHARLOTTESVILLEKristin Clarens, Charlottesville-Albemarle Pro Bono Coordinator
Kristin joined LAJC in 2019 as coordinator of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Bar Association’s Volunteer Lawyer Program. Prior to working with LAJC, she spent thirteen years practicing international law in Washington DC. Kristin graduated from the University of Michigan Law School and has degrees from Northwestern University and the University of Michigan Honors College.
Emily C. Dreyfus, Community Education and Outreach Director, JustChildren Program
Emily joined LAJC in 2000, bringing two decades of experience directing programs and implementing many successful community organizing campaigns with non-profit organizations. She is dedicated to racial and economic justice, and deeply appreciates all she has learned from community members. As a community organizer, Emily connects individuals to our statewide efforts to dismantle the Preschool to Prison Pipeline. She also coordinated efforts to draw attention to the “graduation gaps” in Virginia, ultimately leading to a successful JustChildren campaign resulting in statewide accountability and incentives to increase graduation rates. She championed the need for user-friendly Procedural Safeguards, a document school divisions are required to give to parents of children with disabilities. Due to this campaign, hundreds of thousands of families have benefited by learning more about their children’s rights. Emily also works locally with the Public Housing Association of Residents and with other low-income Charlottesville residents, including members of the Friendship Court Residents Association. These efforts have contributed to leadership development among often under-represented people, and resulted in improved safety, housing security and supportive services for our most vulnerable neighbors, as well as increasing public awareness of the impact of gentrification and the extreme shortage of affordable housing for very low-income people. Emily is a graduate of the College of William and Mary.
Shannon Ellis, Attorney, Civil Rights & Racial Justice and JustChildren Programs
Shannon joined the Legal Aid Justice Center in January 2017. In November 2017, she received the Powell Fellowship in Legal Services for a project designed to provide civil advocacy on behalf of vulnerable court-involved or incarcerated individuals. Before joining LAJC, Shannon practiced family law in Charlottesville and provided pro bono representation for LAJC’s Special Immigrant Juvenile project. Shannon earned her bachelor’s degree and law degree from the University of Virginia.Harold Folley, Community Organizer, Civil Rights & Racial Justice Program
Harold joined LAJC as an organizer in January 2018. He is the Civil Rights & Racial Justice organizer with an emphasis on Police Accountability. He has been working with a Coalition to make law enforcement more accountable and transparent. Harold has been organizing for 15 years in the Virginia and the Charlottesville area. He has worked on federal issues such as Social Security and tax reform and state issues such as restoration of civil rights and health care and important local issues such as Ban the Box and living wages. In all of this efforts, Harold works to get the people to become more aware of what’s going on in the world and more importantly with their surroundings. Harold believes that everyone is a leader; they just have to believe in themselves so that they can lead. He strives to make changes throughout the communities to make them better for the inner-city youth. Harold once coordinated the Westhaven Afterschool Program in the Westhaven community (a low-income African-American community) for eight years. The Afterschool Program created a safe learning environment for the children of the Westhaven community.
Libby Fulcher, Financial and Administrative Manager
Libby joined the Legal Aid Justice Center in 2014. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Libby lived in Tampa, Fla., for 24 years before moving to Virginia in 2013. Libby has a bachelor’s degree in business management and more than 20 years of financial, investment, business administration and management experience. She has also served as liaison and interpreter for the international training of credit union executives.Megan Gildea, Associate Director of Development,
Megan Gildea joined Legal Aid Justice Center in July 2017 as Charlottesville’s Chief Development Officer. In 2020, she was promoted to Associate Director of Development. Megan has a track record of connecting with donors and making philanthropic opportunities and investments possible. Her development career spans twenty years with an emphasis on individual major gifts. Prior to LAJC, Megan was the Director of Development at Rare Book School at the University of Virginia where she instituted a culture of philanthropy and tripled unrestricted fundraising revenues. She is ever grateful for receiving a solid foundation for fundraising at her first job, KQED, San Francisco’s Public Television and Radio Station, and she is proud that she worked in development at Mother Jones Magazine and on the $365M Campaign for the Future at the California Academy of Sciences. Megan earned her BA from the University of Pittsburgh.Sophia Gregg, Attorney, Immigrant Advocacy Program
Sophia joined Legal Aid Justice Center’s Immigrant Advocacy Program in 2016. Previously, she was a law clerk at the juvenile divisions of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia and the Maryland Office of the Public Defender. During law school, Sophia was a Pro Bono Scholar of New York State and dedicated herself to public interest law and advocacy for indigent individuals and their families. She received her B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin and her law degree from Syracuse University College of Law.Caroline Klosko, Attorney, Economic Justice Program
Carrie joined the Charlottesville office of the Legal Aid Justice Center in the summer of 2017. She has represented hundreds of low-income tenants and consumers in state and federal courts throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. Previously, Carrie worked with the Virginia Legal Aid Society in Danville, and Legal Services of Northern Virginia in Fairfax. Carrie was recognized by Super Lawyers as a rising star in consumer law in 2015, 2016 and 2017. She is a native of Charlottesville and earned her B.A. and J.D. from the University of Virginia. She earned her master’s in philosophy from Yale University.Michaela Lieberman, Attorney, Economic Justice Program
Michaela joined LAJC as a legal fellow in 2018. She co-directs the Common Cause Medical Legal Partnership between LAJC and the University of Virginia Health System. Michaela is a graduate of Middlebury College and William & Mary Law School, where she was awarded the Honor Council’s Golden Gavel Award for her positive contribution to the law school, and the Thurgood Marshall Award for outstanding commitment to public service.Kenzie Marier, Accountant
Kenzie joined LAJC as a staff accountant in spring of 2018. Previously she worked in accounting and human resources at a local biotechnology company. Kenzie received her bachelors at James Madison University and is a certified bookkeeper through the American Institute of Professional Bookkeeper.Rachel McFarland, Attorney, Economic Justice Program
Rachel joined Legal Aid in 2015 as a Georgetown Partner Fellow. She originally began as a part of the Immigrant Advocacy Program, but now focuses on housing law in the Economic Justice Program. She received her B.A. from the University of Richmond and her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, where she received a Certificate in Refugees and Humanitarian Emergencies. During law school, Rachel was a summer intern in the Legal Aid Justice Center’s Falls Church office.Molly McShane, Attorney, Child Advocacy Pro Bono Project
Molly joined the JustChildren program in 2013 after serving several years as a career counselor in the Public Service Center at the University of Virginia School of Law and an instructor in the Law School’s Child Advocacy Clinic. Prior to her time at the Law School, Molly represented indigent clients in juvenile delinquency, child protective and special education proceedings in New York City, at the The Legal Aid Society Juvenile Rights Division and Advocates for Children. She received her B.A. from the University of Notre Dame in 1996 and her law degree from New York University School of Law in 2000.Liz Moore, Outreach Coordinator/Paralegal, Economic Justice Program
Liz Moore joined Legal Aid in 1986. Her work with the Economic Justice Program focuses on helping clients obtain public benefits (Medicaid, SNAP, SSI/SSDI, TANF) as well as applying and enrolling for the Affordable Care Act (ACA). She also coordinates the Medical Legal Partnership with the University of Virginia School of Law and UVA Children’s Hospital. Liz received a B.S. from James Madison University.Robert Poggenklass, Attorney, Youth Justice Program
Rob joined LAJC in 2020 to work on the Fund Our Schools campaign as part of the JustChildren Program. Before LAJC, Rob led the Race Equity Project at Iowa Legal Aid, where he focused on reducing barriers to employment, housing, education, and transportation for people with previous criminal legal involvement in his home state of Iowa. He previously worked on criminal justice policy as the Tony Dunn Legal Fellow at the ACLU of Virginia, and spent 3 ½ years as a public defender in Newport News, Va. In 2010, Rob was the Virginia State Bar’s recipient of the Oliver White Hill Law Student Pro Bono Award. He has also served on the Iowa State Bar Association’s Student Debt Task Force and the VSB’s Special Committee on Access to Legal Services. He is a 2010 graduate of William & Mary Law School and earned his B.A. in philosophy from Cornell College.Madeline Starbranch, Attorney, Virginia Justice Project for Farm and Immigrant Workers
Madeline joined the Legal Aid Justice Center in 2019 after years of volunteering with the Immigrant Advocacy and Economic Justice Programs. Prior to working at LAJC, Madeline worked as a public defender, handling more than 1000 criminal cases in general district, juvenile/domestic relations, and circuit courts throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. She represented clients facing consequences ranging from 6 months in jail to life in prison. She’s a member of the Gideon’s Promise Core 101 Program, where she was trained in zealous, client-centered courtroom advocacy. Madeline received her J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law in 2015, where she won the Pro Bono Award for her graduating class. During her time at the University of Virginia she was a member of the Innocence Project Clinic, the Migrant Farmworker Project, and held numerous internships with the Legal Aid Justice Center and public defender offices. As a volunteer, Madeline has worked with immigrants seeking deferred action, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, and asylum. She studied human rights in Buenos Aires and worked with a non-profit dedicated to indigenous access to ancestral lands. She’s a graduate of Mount Holyoke College where she received the Student Leadership and Service Award
Abigail Turner, Of Counsel
Abigail joined the Legal Aid Justice Center in 2006 as an attorney with the JustChildren Program, and became litigation director in 2008. Her 30-year legal career has focused on civil rights and redressing poverty. She is a graduate of Auburn University and the George Washington University School of Law.Amy Walters, Clinic Supervisor and Attorney
Amy joined the Legal Aid Justice Center in the summer of 2014 to supervise University of Virginia School of Law clinic students in the health law clinic and the child advocacy clinic. She previously worked at Maryland Disability Law Center, where she joined the staff as a Skadden Fellow after clerking for U.S. Magistrate Judge F. Bradford Stillman. She received her B.A. and law degrees at the University of Virginia, where she received the Claire Corcoran Award for Public Service.
FALLS CHURCHRuth Alburez, Healthcare and Public Benefits Navigator/Outreach Paralegal
Elena Ruth Alburez is a native-born Spanish speaker and a passionate advocate for helping the community find their access to healthcare. Ruth was raised in South America and developed a passion to help people from a notably young age, as she observed poverty all around her. She has served for four years as a certified Spanish bilingual navigator with Enroll Virginia (in partnership with the Virginia Poverty Law Center) and one year as an Enrollment Specialist with the Inova Health system in the Partnership for Healthier Communities. In this work, she served as a non-partisan, bilingual educator who helped consumers with applications to the Marketplace, health plan selection, appeals, continuing education on how to use health insurance, and applications for Medicaid/FAMIS. Ruth has hosted tables at community events with outreach education, held community healthcare workshops, initiated and established community ACA healthcare outreach, composed flyers and materials for outreach in English and Spanish, and participated in local media interviews to promote enrollment/healthcare education. She also formed partnerships with different community organizations, participated in coalition groups, and formed new relationships with non-profits to further outreach and enrollment efforts. Ruth studied Communication Science at the University of the Republic in Uruguay and remains passionately committed to this life-changing work.
Arnoldo Borja, Community Organizer, Immigrant Advocacy Program
Arnoldo brings a multitude of skills to his work with Latino day laborers. He worked for five years as an outreach coordinator with Neighbors’ Consejo in Washington, and was Professor at the Institute of Agricultural Technology in Guerrero, Mexico, where he also received his degree in Agricultural Engineering.Danna Chavez Calvi, Office Manager/Paralegal, Falls Church Office
Danna joined Legal Aid Justice Center in 2019. Originally from Bolivia, she has lived majority of her life in Northern Virginia. During her undergraduate career at George Mason University, she served as External President of Mason DREAMers, a student organization that continues to foster a more inclusive environment for undocumented students through education and advocacy. Since then, she has worked within Manassas City Public Schools and the Institute of International Education which have enabled her to continue working with and for individuals of diverse backgrounds. She holds a B.A. in Communication with a minor in Spanish from George Mason University and an A.S. degree in Business Administration from Northern Virginia Community College.
Kristin Donovan, Attorney, Immigrant Advocacy Program
Kristin joined LAJC in 2017 as a Gallogly Family Foundation Public Interest Fellow. Her fellowship focuses on providing legal services to immigrant women in Northern Virginia’s cleaning industry. Previously, she worked as an outreach paralegal with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Program in Atlanta, Georgia, where she supported litigation on behalf of low-income immigrant workers in the South. She graduated from American University Washington College of Law as a Public Interest/ Public Service Scholar in 2017. She holds a B.A. in History from the University of Michigan.Krupskaya Elliot, Community Organizer, Immigrant Advocacy Program
Krupskaya joined the Legal Aid Justice Center in January of 2015. She previously worked for Catholic Charities where she managed a complex Citizenship and Instruction grant from USCIS. Krupskaya has BA from Universidad Centroamerica, in Nicaragua and a master’s degree in International Studies with a specialization in Latin American Studies from Ohio University Athens. She has lived in Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Colombia.Astrid Lockwood, Attorney, Immigrant Advocacy Program,
Astrid Lockwood joined the Legal Aid Justice Center’s Immigrant Advocacy Program in March 2020. Astrid is a native of Mexico and herself an immigrant. Previously, she worked for twelve years in private practice for various firms as an immigration attorney in D.C., Charlotte, NC, and Fargo, NC. Astrid graduated from the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh with Honors with a B.A. in Criminal Justice. She completed the Certificate Program in Arbitration Law and Practice from Queen Mary University in London, England. She later graduated from Hamline School of Law in Saint Paul, MN with her Juris Doctor.Nicholas Marritz, Attorney, Immigrant Advocacy Program
Nick joined LAJC’s Immigrant Advocacy Program in 2014. A former coordinator of LAJC’s Unaccompanied Child Refugee project, Nick now practices primarily in the areas of employment law and immigration law on behalf of Northern Virginia’s low-wage workers. He holds a B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh and a law degree from the University of Washington, where he was a William H. Gates Public Service Law Scholar. Prior to joining LAJC, Nick was a litigation attorney at Farmworker Justice in Washington, D.C.Ashley R. Moore, Attorney, Youth Justice Program
Ashley joined the Legal Aid Justice Center’s Youth Justice Program in October 2020. Prior to joining LAJC, she worked as a Staff Attorney at the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia where her practice focused on public benefits (e.g., Medicaid, SNAP, SSI/SSDI, and TANF). Before that Ashley worked as a Senior Policy Associate/Staff Attorney at the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) in Washington, DC. Her work focused primarily on youth justice and education policy matters at the intersection of race and class, in-house legal matters, and pro bono family law matters. Prior to that Ashley worked as a litigation associate at Fried Frank in DC following a clerkship with then-Chief Judge Gregory M. Sleet at the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware. She graduated with a dual B.A. in Psychology and Government & Politics from the University of Maryland, College Park. Ashley received her J.D. from Harvard Law School, where she spent time as a law clerk at the National Center for Youth Law and as a student attorney with the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau working on family law matters.
Nady Peralta, Attorney, Immigrant Advocacy Program
Nady joined LAJC’s Immigrant Advocacy Program as a Fellow in September 2016. Throughout law school, Nady demonstrated her commitment to public interest law as an intern for LAJC and for Legal Services of Northern Virginia. She received her Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of New Mexico, and her law degree from George Mason University School of LawContessa Riggs, Senior Development Officer, Falls Church Office
Contessa joined Legal Aid Justice Center in April 2017. Prior to joining the LAJC team, she was the Planner for Homeless Services for Prince George’s County, MD where she worked extensively with local and Federal government, community stakeholders, and non-profits on strategies to decriminalize and end homelessness. Prior to her stint in government work, Contessa spent 14 years as the Executive Director of a non-profit dedicated to helping DC-area homeless people create stable lives through temporary shelter, employment, education, and emergency supports. She received her B.A. from Goucher College and her M.F.A. from Vermont College of Fine Arts.Kelly Salzmann, Attorney
Kelly joined the Legal Aid Justice Center as a consumer law attorney in 2019. Before LAJC, Kelly worked for the Social Security Administration as the Executive Director of the Office of Appellate Operations and as an Administrative Appeals Judge with the Appeals Council. Earlier in her legal career, she worked on community re-entry and juvenile justice issues for the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia and as a staff attorney primarily focused on public benefits with Harlem Legal Services in New York City. Prior to going to law school, Kelly volunteered as a labor organizer in the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico, and worked as a community outreach coordinator for a domestic violence shelter in Pennsylvania. Kelly is a co-author of “Internal Exile: Collateral Consequences of Conviction in Federal Laws and Regulations” (American Bar Association 2009). Kelly received her B.S. from the Pennsylvania State University and her law degree from the Drake University Law School where she was a public service scholar.
Becky Wolozin, Attorney, Immigrant Advocacy Program
Becky Wolozin joined the Legal Aid Justice Center in September 2015 as an Equal Justice Works Fellow with the JustChildren program. Now Becky works as an attorney with the Immigrant Advocacy Program and directs the George Mason Law School Immigration Litigation Clinic. Becky is a graduate from Harvard Law School and holds a Masters in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she focused her studies on immigration law, education law, and child development.Larisa Zehr, Skadden Legal Fellow
Larisa joined the Legal Aid Justice Center in September 2020. She focuses on housing justice and community lawyering with Northern Virginia’s Latinx immigrant communities. Before attending law school, she worked for several years in Colombia, supporting rural community movements in their efforts to build peace, achieve reparations and social justice, and tell their historical memory. She is a graduate of Eastern Mennonite University and a 2020 graduate of Northeastern University School of Law, where she was a Public Interest Law Scholar with a concentration in Poverty Law and Economic Justice.
RICHMOND AND PETERSBURGOmari Al-Qadaffi, Community Organizer, Economic Justice Program
Community organizer, Omari Al-Qadaffi, works to address systemic issues driving inequity in the City of Richmond. Leveraging past careers in software engineering and sales, Omari is skilled in organizing resources to solve complex problems as well as communicating those concerns and solutions to diverse groups. His belief that the exclusion of communities from public and private resources in specific geographies is the cause of generational poverty, food deserts, and other socioeconomic and health disparities prompted him to found the advocacy group, Leaders Of the New South – Community Council as well as the Richmond Food Justice Alliance. He currently works as a Housing Organizer in Legal Aid Justice Center’s Economic Justice Program tackling housing instability and ensuring legal representation for impacted residents. Omari is a Richmond native and has been recognized as one of Style Magazine’s Top 40 under 40 as well as a Richmond Public Schools Outstanding Parent Of the Year. He holds a Bachelor Degree in Computer Science from Virginia Commonwealth University.
Gloria Crook, Legal Assistant
Gloria joined Legal Aid in 2006 as our administrative assistant and intake specialist, a job she had handled at Central Virginia Legal Aid. Gloria has a background in Richmond’s financial services industry, where she developed efforts to expand services to the region’s Spanish-speaking community.Jennifer Kwon, Attorney, Immigrant Advocacy Program
Jennifer joined the Legal Aid Justice Center in 2018. Her specialties include immigration, civil rights, and education law. Before LAJC, Jennifer worked for a civil rights organization specializing in impact litigation; the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights; and an immigration organization in Arizona, assisting detained immigrants in removal proceedings. She also served as a judicial clerk at the U.S. District Court, Central District of California, and developed and taught a civil rights course at the University of Arizona’s James E. Rogers College of Law. Jennifer received her B.A. from Hampshire College, and her law degree from the George Washington University Law School.
Manuel Gago, Community Organizer, Virginia Justice Project for Farm and Immigrant Workers
Manuel is a journalist originally from Venezuela. He has worked as a TV producer for several channels in Venezuela and the US. Since 2006, Manuel has been involved with Amnesty International Venezuela starting as an activist and then as a campaigner and press officer. In 2013, he moved to Miami to work with Amnesty as the Director of Play 4 Amnesty, a project designed to increase awareness of human rights issues among Latino communities in South Florida. In 2016, Manuel decided to get more involved in organizing the latino communities in Florida and Virginia, focusing on civil and political rights. Now he is part of the Immigrant Advocacy Program with the Farmworker Unit at LAJC, conducting outreach to farmworkers across the Commonwealth.Victoria Horrock, Attorney
Victoria joined LAJC in 2018 as an attorney in the Economic Justice Program. Previously, she was the Co-Director of New Hampshire Legal Assistance’s Fair Housing Project. In that role she primarily represented low income victims of housing discrimination, conducted training on fair housing law, and advocated for strengthening non-discrimination protections before the state legislature. Victoria received her J.D. from Tulane University Law School where she was a clerk at the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, Empire Justice, and a student attorney in the Domestic Violence Clinic. She is a graduate of Oberlin College.
Nikkia Johnson, Senior Development Officer, Richmond Office
Nikkia joined Legal Aid Justice Center in October 2020. Prior to LAJC, she was the Development Manager at Voices for Virginia’s Children. There, she was responsible for managing and assisting with the implementation of development activities, leading fundraising events, and database management, as well as operational management. Nikkia’s career has been centered on nonprofit management and development, relationship building, and empowering marginalized communities. Nikkia is very involved in many community organizations and mentorship groups. She currently serves on ART 180’s programming committee and VAFRE’s programs committee. Nikkia graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a B.S. in sociology.
Pat Levy-Lavelle, Attorney, Economic Justice Program
Since coming to Legal Aid in 2005, Pat’s work has focused primarily on workers’ rights, individual representation of low-income tenants, advocacy on local public housing policy issues, and the rights of homeless citizens of Richmond. Pat graduated from Carleton College and received his law degree from the University of Virginia.Bionna Nomi, Ph.D., Community Organizer, Youth Justice Program
Brionna is the Education organizer in the Youth Justice Program at Legal Aid Justice Center. Prior to joining LAJC, Brionna was a public-school teacher and student. She taught in Richmond Public Schools for a decade before leaving the classroom to pursue her doctorate in Education at Virginia Commonwealth University. While at VCU, her research focused on teachers’ professionalism and agency as explored through their experiences in the classroom and engagement within the community. Brionna has been building coalition with local organizations and individuals in Richmond for several years, and is currently leading LAJC’s statewide education funding campaign- “Fund Our Schools: Every Student, Every Zip Code.”Tonya Osinkosky, Community Organizer, Virginia Justice Project for Farm and Immigrant Workers.
Tonya joined the Legal Aid Justice Center in the fall of 2014. Before that she worked in education and health advocacy with immigrant communities in the Shenandoah Valley for 19 years through the Shenandoah Migrant Education Program, Harrisonburg City Public Schools, and Sentara RMH Medical Center. From 2016-2017 as part of LAJC, she mentored youth organizers in RISE for Youth, a nonpartisan campaign committed to dismantling the youth prison model by promoting the creation of community-based alternatives to youth incarceration. She continues her connection and commitment to youth and families through RISE for Youth in Richmond. As an artist, she explores the intersection of theater and social justice.
Tonya conducts outreach across the state through the Virginia Justice Project for Farm and Immigrant Workers. During summers she lives on the Eastern Shore of Virginia where she collaborates with the local and migrant community in organizing on the rights of agricultural workers. Tonya has lived in Bolivia and Guatemala, and she received her B.A. in English and Secondary Education from Eastern Mennonite University.Maisie Osteen, Attorney, Civil Rights & Racial Justice Program
Maisie joined the Civil Rights & Racial Justice Program at LAJC in October 2020. Prior to LAJC, Maisie was a Public Defender in Columbia, South Carolina. In that role she saw the crushing power of the American criminal legal system and the resiliency and fortitude of people. Maisie earned her BBA from Hofstra University and her law degree from Washington & Lee University School of Law, where she received the Calhoun Bond University Service Award and the National Association of Women Lawyers Award. Maisie is also a graduate of the 2014 Class of Gideon’s Promise Core 101 and she still serves the program as a junior faculty member. Maisie is licensed in South Carolina and has a pending bar application in Washington, D.C.
Luis Oyola, Community Organizer, Immigrant Advocacy Program
Luis joined the Immigrant Advocacy Program in 2018 as an organizer. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, he has been a Virginia resident for over 10 years and has been involved in many grassroots organizing efforts in that time period. These efforts have ranged from immigrant solidarity work, to supporting low-income resident advocacy in Charlottesville, solidarity with Black Lives Matter, and organizing with the Living Wage campaign at UVA.Cassie Powell, Attorney, JustChildren Program
Cassie joined the Legal Aid Justice Center’s JustChildren program in 2019. Prior to joining LAJC, she worked as a Staff Attorney at the Virginia Legal Aid Society in Suffolk, VA, where her practice focused on public benefits and education law. Before beginning at VLAS, Cassie was a Law Clerk at the Family Court of Delaware, one of the few unified family courts in the country. Cassie completed the dual law and Master of Social Work degree program offered by the University of Richmond School of Law and Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Social Work. She was awarded the Nina R. Kestin Award for Public Service upon her graduation from law school. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary, where she received the President’s Award for Service.
Louisa Rich, Attorney, Economic Justice Program/Equal Justice Works Fellow
Louisa Rich is a housing attorney with Legal Aid Justice Center through Equal Justice Work’s Virginia Housing Justice Program. She primarily focuses on subsidized housing cases in the Richmond and Petersburg area. After getting her B.A. from Colorado College, Louisa interned at an emergency youth shelter in Dayton, Ohio. She received her law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law in 2018.Yohance Whitaker, Community Organizer, Civil Rights & Racial Justice Program
Yohance Whitaker joined the Legal Aid Justice Center as an intern in 2019, focused on pre-trial
justice and police accountability. Prior to LAJC, he was the program assistant for a youth
theological institute. In 2020, Yohance transitioned to serve as an organizer with the Civil Rights
& Racial Justice Program, where he struggles alongside community members to dismantle
systems that incarcerate people of color and the poor. Through his experiences, he has developed
a strong faith in the abilities of oppressed communities to shape the law and transform society,
beginning in their neighborhoods. Yohance earned his bachelor’s degree from William & Mary
and the Master of Divinity degree from Virginia Union University, where he received the
Samuel DeWitt Proctor Preaching and Leadership Award.
Jason Yarashes, Lead Attorney and Program Coordinator, Virginia Justice Project for Farm and Immigrant Workers
Jason joined LAJC in 2017 as an attorney for our Virginia Justice Project for Farm and Immigrant Workers. Before LAJC, he served the Commonwealth of Virginia as a judicial officer, practiced tribal law at a private firm in Portland, Oregon, worked at a citizen diplomacy non-profit in Washington, D.C., taught primary school in Honduras, and hitchhiked Central and South America. Jason received his B.A. from the College of William & Mary, and his J.D. from Lewis & Clark Law School, where he received the Pro Bono Honors Award.