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2013 Youth Justice Leadership Institute Fellows

Meet Our Fellows 

The Youth Justice Leadership Institute is now entering its third year, and we’re thrilled to announce the a new cohort of fellows. They come from all over the country and are working on an exciting array of issues in juvenile justice reform. We know they’re set to accomplish great things for youth in trouble with the law—please join us in welcoming them.

Nick Allen | Seattle, WA

Nick Allen is a staff attorney in the Institutions Project at Columbia Legal Services (CLS), a non-profit law firm that advocates on behalf of low-income persons in Washington State, including those confined in and returning from adult and juvenile correctional and detention facilities. Nick began at CLS as an Equal Justice Works fellow, whose two-year project focused on addressing the legal barriers to legal financial obligations (LFOs) – the fees, fines and restitution imposed by the court as part of a criminal judgment and sentence. As a staff attorney, he continues to work on LFOs as well as other issues, including juvenile life without parole in Washington State. 

 » Read our interview with Nick here!

 » Advocacy project


Natalie Collier | Jackson, MS

Natalie A. Collier is the regional youth organizer for the Children's Defense Fund Southern Regional Office and is dedicated to seeing young people learn life lessons quicker than she did. Before working in the world of non-profits, she made her living for several years as a writer and editor. Whether professionally or personally, it doesn't take long to discover her true passion: serving people. She is a Millsaps College alumna, has studied at Reformed Theological Seminary and completed a writing fellowship at Northwestern University. 

» Read our interview with Natalie here!

» Advocacy project

Kelly Gilbreth | Albuquerque, NM

Kelly Gilbreth is an inheritor of the Anishinaabe culture. Ms. Gilbreth’s great-grandmother, Clara Pemberton, was born on the White Earth Indian Reservation and moved to Chicago during the Relocation Program. Ms. Gilbreth is currently an Independently Licensed Mental Health Therapist (LPCC) and has co-created a culturally appropriate behavioral health program to work with the Incarcerated Native youth in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Ms. Gilbreth’s perspective is culture as therapy, and she infuses the importance of balance, restorative justice, and traditional teachings into her therapy practice. Ms. Gilbreth’s program also offers cultural infusion through sweat lodge ceremonies and cultural experiences within the facility and off-site transports for the Native youth. Ms. Gilbreth is a recent alumni of the Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO) Ambassador Program from 2010-2012. Ms. Gilbreth was also the artistic director of Red Path Theater Company in Chicago from 2001-2006. Ms. Gilbreth seeks to integrate her cultural knowledge and her creative spirit to foster and inspire hope and growth.  


» Advocacy project

LaShunda Hill | Washington, D.C.  

LaShunda Hill is a native Tennessean committed to advocating for our nation’s most vulnerable children. She currently serves as a state strategist for the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth (CFSY), where she works on reforming state sentencing laws for youth who commit serious crimes. Specifically, she provides technical assistance and strategic guidance to advocates who are seeking to bring their state into compliance with the recent Supreme Court decisions in Miller v. Alabama and Graham v. Florida. She has an educational and professional background that spans the worlds of education, child welfare, and juvenile justice. Before joining CFSY, she worked as a family intervention specialist for Youth Villages in Chattanooga, TN. LaShunda holds a BA in International Studies, BS in Public Policy and a BS in Sociology from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She also has an Ed.M. in adolescent prevention science and practice from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. 

» LaShunda on growing leaders in juvenile justice reform (video)

» Advocacy Project

Elissa Johnson | Jackson, MS

Elissa is a staff attorney in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mississippi office. The Mississippi office focuses primarily on systemic reform related to juvenile justice, education, criminal justice, and mental health systems. Elissa currently advocates on behalf of incarcerated children to address unconstitutional and abusive conditions in juvenile detention centers. Elissa also represents families and students in education matters related to student discipline and special education. She received her B.A. in English and sociology from Fisk University. Elissa received her J.D. and M.S.W. from Loyola University Chicago.

» Read our interview with Elissa here!

» Advocacy project


Sabrina Leshore | Raeford, NC

Sabrina Leshore was born in Hempstead, New York. At the age of 15, she relocated with her mother and six siblings to Charlotte, North Carolina, where she finished her high school career at Independence High School in 2006.

Shortly after high school, she attended the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and in 2009 graduated with a Bachelor of Science in psychology, a Bachelor of Arts in religion and philosophy, and a minor in criminal justice. In 2010, she attended Campbell University School of Law in Raleigh, North Carolina and graduated with a juris doctorate in 2013. In her down time, she loves to hang out with her family and friends. She also enjoys worshipping, singing, dancing, and making every moment in life count.

» Advocacy project

Usha Maharajh |Stuart, FL

Born in Trinidad and Tobago, Usha Maharajh spent the first 18 years of her life in the small twin island in the Caribbean. She was raised in a Hindu home with strong Christian schooling, including attending a Catholic convent for high school. Her multicultural exposure growing up in an island with mixed races and a tolerance and appreciation for different cultures and background, plus the views of her parents and Christian schooling, provided a firm foundation for many of her views. She left her country in the late '80s for higher education in Florida, and graduated from Florida Atlantic University with honors in economics and a concentration in international economics. Then she went to law school at Florida State University and was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1998. After law school, she obtained a master's in international development at American University in 2000.  In 2001, her daughter was born in Alexandria, Virginia, and shortly after her birth Maharajh moved back to Florida to be closer to family. Since 2006, she has been working at the public defender’s office, representing mainly juveniles in Martin County and advocating for their rights. She has been nominated to the Florida Bar Juvenile Rules Committee and is engaged in the rule-making process in Florida. She has a very strong interest in promoting the rights of juveniles and those that are underserved in general. She also has interests in tai chi, qi gong, Buddhist studies and meditation.

» Advocacy project


Nadiyah Shereff | San Francisco, CA

Born and raised inSan Francisco, California, Nadiyah Shereff obtained her B.S. in political science from California State University, Eastbay.  Her personal struggles living in poverty, growing up in neighborhoods plagued with violence, and her involvement with the juvenile justice system has strengthened her commitment to academic achievement, personal success, public service and social justice. A mentor and activist, Nadiyah is passionate about improving the lives of disadvantaged youth through advocacy and policy change, taking a hands-on approach to supporting youth. Nadiyah has dedicated her life to working with at-risk youth in the juvenile justice system. Nadiyah is particularly interested in creating community-based alternatives to detention for youth and advocating for the rights of girls in the juvenile justice system. She is a member of the advisory committee for the Georgetown Center on Poverty, Inequality and Public Policy, Marginalized Girls: Creating Pathways to Opportunity policy series, where she explores ways that public systems can better serve the unmet needs of marginalized girls – girls who have been involved in the juvenile and criminal justice system, pregnant and parenting teens, and girls who have been victims of sex trafficking or commercial sexual exploitation. Nadiyah enjoys reading, karaoke and spending time with her daughter, who motivates her daily. 

» Advocacy project

Alicia Virani | Long Beach, CA

Alicia Virania is a restorative justice program specialist at The California Conference for Equality and Justice. Alicia graduated from UCLA in 2011 with a J.D. and a M.A. in urban planning. At CCEJ, Alicia created and is implementing a restorative justice project that serves as an alternative to punitive school discipline and the juvenile justice system. Alicia is committed to ending the cycle of violence caused by the criminal (in)justice system by being an advocate and promoting healing for all. Alicia has worked in the Los Angeles community on many projects, including starting Let’s Go! Liberation—a legal clinic for the transgender community—and working with INCITE! Los Angeles, an organization committed to ending violence against women of color. Alicia is also a poet and aspiring yoga teacher.

» Read our interview with Alicia here!

» Advocacy Project


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