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.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.
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.Anna Kurien, Legal Director, Civil Rights and Racial Justice
Anna Kurien worked for over a decade as a Public Defender at the Atlanta Judicial Circuit, Office of the Public Defender where she represented poor people charged with felonies in jury trials and appeals. While there, Anna used the participatory defense model to partner with her clients and their communities to shift the balance of power in the courtroom. A strong believer in the power of organizing and movement lawyering, Anna was a founding member of two grassroots organizations in Atlanta that advocated to reimagine public safety and build the power of communities impacted by our criminal punishment system. Anna is a proud graduate of and trainer with Gideon’s Promise and believes that we need to invest in strengthening public defense to combat the power of the police and prosecutors. Anna serves on the legal committee of the ACLU of Georgia and the Indigent Defense Committee of the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Before attending law school at Emory University, Anna studied English and French at Wellesley College. Anna was born and brought up in India and is fluent in Malayalam and Hindi. Anna lives with her partner, her toddler, a small bad dog and in her free time tries to keep her indoor plants from perishing.
Luis Oyola, Director of Organizing
(Charlottesville) Luis has over a decade of organizing experience, including coordinating the community response to the Unite the Right rally and anniversaries, building a multi-racial coalition against ICA’s private immigration detention center in Farmville, pressuring City officials to increase efforts to investigate the disappearance of Sage Smith, demonstrating in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, advocating for a living wage at UVA, and much more. At LAJC, he led our De-ICE Virginia campaign, helping to bring an end to local government contracts with ICE, exposing the Norfolk sheriff’s secret contract with ICE, passing legislation paving the way to inspect Farmville, and supporting mutual relief efforts at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.Elaine Poon, Deputy Director for Advocacy
(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.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. He specializes in federal civil rights litigation on behalf of immigrants, and has led cases of nationwide impact challenging immigration detention of adults and children. Simon co-directs the Immigration Litigation Clinic at the George Mason University School of Law. In 2017, Simon was named an “Up & Coming Lawyer” by Virginia Lawyers Weekly, and won the Wynn Newman Equality Award from Americans for Democratic Action. 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 C. LaRue Munson prize for excellence in clinical practice.
Nareen Scott, Director of People Operations
(Charlottesville) 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.Kyna Thomas, Director of Finance & Operations
(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.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.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. 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 and resources 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, General Counsel, Falls Church Office
(Falls Church) Clay began working as a volunteer at the Legal Aid Justice Center in June 2019. 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.
CHARLOTTESVILLECierra Anderson, Finance Manager
Cierra joined Legal Aid Justice Center as the Finance Manager in August 2021. Cierra brings over 8 years of Accounting/Finance experience from several industries, including telecommunications, healthcare, and manufacturing. Cierra completed her studies at Liberty University with a master’s degree in Management and Leadership and a bachelor’s degree in Accounting, in 2017. Additionally, Cierra completed her associate’s degree in Business Management from Dabney S. Lancaster Community College in 2007.Kristin 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, Senior Supervising Organizer/Race Equity Coordinator
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. Emily work has contributed to leadership development among often under-represented people, and resulted in expanding secure and affordable housing, as well as increasing public awareness of the impact of displacement in Black neighborhoods. Emily coordinates LAJC’s internal Race Equity planning and also supervises LAJC’s Rent Relief Program.
Chris Florez, Technology Manager
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.
Harold Folley, Senior Supervising 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 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 these 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.
Jess Gabbay, Executive Assistant
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.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, Senior Supervising Immigrants' Rights Attorney
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.Teresa Hepler, Attorney, Civil Rights & Racial Justice Program
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.
Sandra Kitembo, Office Manager/Paralegal
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.Caroline Klosko, Senior Supervising 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.Raenell Lockley, Development Associate
Raenell joined LAJC in October 2020 as the first Development Associate. Raenell previously worked at The University of Virginia’s Human Resources Office as a content support specialist where she assisted in developing new and innovative ideas, supporting the University’s overall brand and identity. In 2017, Raenell joined the Charlottesville Office of Voter Registration where she played an intricate part as an election officer helping the City of Charlottesville prepare for election season. She believes that her work ethic comes from knowing the importance of teamwork and understanding that having a strong team makes the vision a success.
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, Senior Litigation Attorney
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, Senior Supervising Paralegal/ACA Coordinator, 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 helps in coordinating 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.Frank Valdez, Organizer, Youth Justice Program
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.
Amy Walters, Senior Attorney for Clinics
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.Moriah Wilkins, Skadden Legal Fellow
Moriah was a summer intern with the Legal Aid Justice Center during law school and joined the Legal Aid Justice Center full-time as a fellow in September of 2021. She focuses on housing and racial justice achieved through community lawyering in partnership with low-income and public housing coalitions. Before law school, she worked as a paralegal for the United States Department of Justice working on cases concerning corporate mortgage, securities, and financial fraud. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia and a 2021 graduate of Northeastern University School of Law, where she was a Public Interest Law Scholar with concentrations in Poverty Law and Economic Justice as well as Law and Development.June Yang, Grants Manager
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.
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
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.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.
Kathy Nuñes Arebalo, Legal Assistant
Kathy joined Legal Aid Justice Center in 2021. Previously she worked as a paralegal at an immigration law firm. As an undergraduate student, Kathy worked with other student organizers to build coalitions to further advance the needs of underserved students. She will receive her B.A. in Global Affairs with a minor in biology from George Mason University in May 2021.Nady Peralta, Senior Supervising Attorney, Economic Justice 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
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, Immigrant Advocacy Program
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, Senior Supervising Immigrants' Rights Attorney
Becky Wolozin joined the Legal Aid Justice Center in September 2015 as an Equal Justice Works Fellow with the JustChildren program. Now Becky is a Senior Supervising attorney with the Immigrant Advocacy Program and directs the George Mason Law School Immigration Litigation Clinic. Becky primarily works advocating for immigrant children and families in immigration and civil rights cases. Becky is a graduate of Cornell University, Harvard Law School, and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She focused her graduate work 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.Libby Fulcher, Office Manager/Paralegal
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.Manuel Gago, Senior Supervising Farmworker Organizer
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.Christopher Rashad Green, Community Organizer
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!
Cecilia Hernandez, Community Organizer, Virginia Justice Project for Farm and Immigrant Workers
Cecilia Hernandez came to LAJC in September 2020. Originally from Mexico, Cecilia knows first-hand what it is to lack worker protections, and since her arrival to Eastern Shore in 2007, she has been engaged in her community. She volunteered with SPARK (Shore People Advancing Readiness for Knowledge), the objective of which was for parents to spend quality time with their children in nature walks. She volunteered in the public school system and at Eastern Shore Community College where she promoted the Spanish GED program. She was a host on Radio La Fabulosa where she reported on community events and the local schools. Cecilia also is certified as a Zumba instructor; through her classes she motivates women to be healthy and develop positive self-image. Cecilia is an active member of the Dos Santos Ministry which provides food to 150 families. Before being hired by LAJC, she volunteered for three years with the Virginia Justice Project for Farm and Immigrant Workers. She has participated in interviews with NPR, Telemundo, Al Jazeera, and the Smithsonian Institute.
Victoria Horrock, Senior Supervising Attorney, Economic Justice Program
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
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.
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.
Pat Levy-Lavelle, Senior Intake Attorney
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.Brionna 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, Senior Organizer for Training & Onboarding
Tonya joined the Legal Aid Justice Center in the fall of 2014. Prior to 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 to 2017, as part of LAJC, she mentored youth organizers at 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 in Richmond affected by the prison system. As an artist, she explores the intersection of theater and social justice. Tonya conducts outreach activities statewide through the Virginia Justice Project for Farm and Immigrant 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.
Lucy Parks, Communications Associate
Lucy grew up in the rural Shenandoah Valley of Virginia 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.Cassie Powell, Attorney, Youth Justice Program
Cassie joined the Legal Aid Justice Center’s Youth Justice 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, Senior Intake Attorney
Louisa Rich is an attorney at Legal Aid Justice Center with the Economic Justice Program. She primarily focuses on subsidized housing cases in the Richmond and Petersburg area. In addition, she directs the Pro Bono Housing Unit in the Richmond office and oversees the intake system across all offices. 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.Wyatt Rolla, Senior Movement Attorney
Wyatt joined Legal Aid as the Lewis F. Powell fellow in 2013. Wyatt originally focused on housing law, providing both individual legal representation and legal support to tenant organizations. In their role as Housing Team Coordinator, Wyatt 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, Wyatt 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, Wyatt 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.
Miguel Tejero, Community Organizer, Immigrant Advocacy Program
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.
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.