Meet Our Fellows
The Youth Justice Leadership Institute is now in its fifth year, and we’re thrilled to introduce our newest 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.
Bios and Interviews
Rene Casas | Salinas, CA
Rene Casas comes from Salinas CA, and has carried the flame of movement building within him since he was a young boy, fostered by a family history of multi-generational organizing. Rene earned his Criminal Justice B.A. degree from California State University Chico. Now following in his fathers’ footsteps, he is the program coordinator and strategy analyst for Motivating Individual Leadership for Public Advancement (MILPA), where he is tasked with connecting dots throughout Monterey County in regards to authentic community stakeholder collaborations. Previously, he was at the United Farm Workers Foundation, where he was a community outreach coordinator, helping families organize to get government assistance. (Check out our interview with him here.)
Advocacy Project Summary – Developing and implementing a community curriculum to build capacity for system advocacy for youth justice.
Carlos H. Cruz, Jr., is the court liaison and chaser for Learning Works in California. Carlos who is a former high school dropout has been focused on helping at-risk youth who come from the same background and struggles as he did to attain their high school diplomas. He was selected to be a panelist for Education/Nation at its Inaugural Student Town Hall, which was featured on MSNBC. Carlos Cruz is someone who strives for a better world for the next generation than the one he was brought up in, and he believes with more people actively participating in the community, the better world of tomorrow would be within our grasp. (Check out our interview with him here.)
Advocacy Project Summary – Campaign to establish a policy requiring timely transfer of educational and medical records of returning youth.
Garien Gatewood has worked on juvenile justice issues his entire career, advocating for prisoner rights, access to education, sentencing reform and constitutional rights for youth. He currently works for the Children’s Law Center, where he focuses on youth returning to society from youth or adult facilities, residential treatment facilities, or youth aging out of foster care. Garien works on individual and systemic changes to better serve these young people through statewide advocacy. Prior to joining CLC, he clerked for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Juvenile Justice Project and the Mississippi Innocence Project, and currently serves as the youngest member of the Board of Trustees of Lighthouse Youth Services. (Check out our interview with him here.)
Advocacy Project Summary – Creation of a youth reentry best practices manual to be distributed and administered throughout the state of Ohio.
Dustina Gill is currently the Project Director of Aliive Roberts County, a youth-based non-profit in NE South Dakota. Dustina established The Young Ambassadors Program, a juvenile justice reform diversion program geared towards Native American Youth. Dustina was the former Legislative Aide to the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribe. She is also an Ambassador Alumni of the American Indians for Opportunity Ambassador Fellowship. (Check out our interview with her here.)
Advocacy Project Summary – Creation of a statewide juvenile justice reform NGO association.
Amy Garyuam Huang received her Master of Social Work from the University of Washington in June 2012. Amy has direct service and clinical experience in the mental health, chemical dependency and healthcare setting advocating for immigrant and refugees, youth and families of color. Amy is currently a youth development counselor for the City of Seattle Human Services Department. Every day, she is awed by her youth's vigilance and resilience as they work towards overcoming homelessness, violence, poverty and the juvenile justice system. Amy is a Mayoral Appointed Seattle Human Rights Commissioner--leading the Committee Taskforce of Bringing Human Rights Home, including education. Amy also serves as a Board of Director for Powerful Voices--a Seattle non-profit, social justice organization serving adolescent girls in middle school and the juvenile justice system. (Check out our interview with her here.)
Advocacy Project Summary – Increasing access of returning youth to community based services to increase success during probation.
Marion Andrew Humphrey, Jr. advocates for social justice through youth leadership development, civic engagement, and community organizing. He currently serves as the fellowship program manager at Young People For (YP4), a program of People For the American Way Foundation that works to provide 150 young people each year with resources and skills training to effect sustainable change in communities across the nation. Marion hails from Little Rock, Arkansas, where he attended the historic Little Rock Central High School. Marion is a proud alumnus of Rockwood Art of Leadership: Racial and Human Rights Leaders, a mentor in Washington, D.C. public schools, and the membership chair of DC’s chapter of Black Youth Project 100.
Advocacy Project Summary – Campaign for increased job opportunities for returning youth including media efforts and system advocacy.
Rodd Monts is the field director for the ACLU of Michigan. He is responsible for cultivating support for ACLU issues and overseeing community organizing and coalition building in communities across Michigan. His duties also include working with public sector officials to address policy reforms needed to protect and preserve civil rights and civil liberties. Major areas of focus for his work are anti-discrimination/human rights, the school-to-prison pipeline, education inequities, juvenile justice reform, and addressing mass incarceration issues. He earned a master’s degree in organizational communication from Wayne State University, and a master’s degree in social justice from Marygrove College.
Advocacy Project Summary – Carry out a campaign to change Zero Tolerance discipline policies in Michigan and bring about the use of restorative justice in school situations.
Ashley C. Sawyer is Stoneleigh Emerging Leaders Fellow at the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania, where she advocates for the special and general education rights of Pennsylvania’s incarcerated youth. She serves as the co-chair of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Legal Rights of Children Committee and is committed to advocating for marginalized groups of people, children and youth. A 2014 graduate of Howard University School of Law, Ashley is deeply committed to the community lawyering model and elevating the voices of disenfranchised people in all areas of her work.
Advocacy Project Summary – Partnering with a community organization to increase capacity for system advocacy by community members.
Jeree Thomas joined the JustChildren Program of the Legal Aid Justice Center in Virginia in the fall of 2011 as a Skadden Fellow. She currently represents students with special education needs and incarcerated youth experiencing education and treatment issues. She received her law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law in 2011. A member of the Virginia State Bar, she has served as the co-chair of the Young Lawyers Conference Commission on Women & Minorities in the Legal Profession. She also served as the 2013-2014 Chair of Madison House Board of Directors, a non-profit that coordinates over 3,000 UVA student volunteers.
Advocacy Project Summary – Statewide divestment campaign through a broad coalition to channel resources to community based programs and keep youth out of the system.
Tracey Tucker | Columbia, SC
Tracey Tucker received a Bachelor of Science in Education from the University of Georgia and Master of Social Work and Juris Doctorate degrees from the University of South Carolina. Tracey’s past work experience includes serving as the Youth Justice Advocate with the ACLU of South Carolina, as well as work as a teacher and social worker. As a teacher, Tracey taught social studies and special education at the elementary, middle and high school levels. As a social worker, she has worked with at-risk populations at the South Carolina Departments of Health and Environmental Control, Mental Health and Juvenile Justice. Presently, she is working on a campaign to combat the school-to-prison pipeline and other juvenile justice issues in South Carolina.
Advocacy Project Summary – Implement policy changes that prioritize use of community resource centers for social and psychological evaluations of troubled youth.