Home Our Work Youth Justice Leadership Institute: Building a Movement 2019-2020 Youth Justice Leadership Institute Fellows

2019-2020 Youth Justice Leadership Institute Fellows

The Youth Justice Leadership Institute is now in its ninth 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 youth justice reform. 

Bios and Advocacy Projects

Amore Alvarenga | New York, NY 

Lynsey Amore Alvarenga (Amore) is the inaugural Juvenile Justice Coordinator for the New York City Law Department, where she studies trends in juvenile justice to expand New York’s rehabilitative approaches. Her top priority is identifying and recommending methods to support specialized populations, including 16 and 17-year-olds, commercially sexually exploited children, crossover youth, girls, and LGBTQ+ youth. A Los Angeles native and first-generation Latina, Amore obtained her bachelor’s degree in psychology with a double minor in women and gender studies and Chicano studies from Loyola Marymount University (LMU). While at LMU, Amore conducted reform-driven research for investments in community-based resources through LMU’s Psychology Applied Research Center. She has also participated in lobbying efforts for the advancement of women’s rights through the United Nations’ Committee on the Status of Women. And she has worked on community building in partnership with Dolores Mission--an East Los Angeles parish focused on ministries to undocumented immigrant populations--and direct service interventions. Amore founded a variety of programs including “Arte Sin Fronteras” for homeless immigrants, “Community Psychology Based Re-Entry” for incarcerated women, “R.I.S.E.” for survivors of sexual assault and “Plot Twist” for adjudicated youth.

Advocacy Project Summary - The goal of this project is to increase support for LGBTQ youth who come into contact with juvenile justice systems, either as actors or victims, by developing and implementing all-staff training on the complex experiences of LGBTQ youth who are involved in the juvenile justice system; and by implementing policy recommendations targeted at mitigating service gaps for this population in the current practice.

Joshua Branch | Philadelphia, PA

Joshua Branch is a Zubrow Fellow in Children’s Law with the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia. There, his work centers on economic justice and education law where he addresses youth justice issues, including juvenile fines and fees and academic credit transfer issues impacting the educational outcomes of justice-involved and foster youth. Before working at Juvenile Law Center, Joshua graduated from Penn State University—Schreyer Honors College with degrees in political science and sociology, and was selected as his university’s nominee for the Rhodes Scholarship. Joshua taught middle and high school English and language arts in Miami, Florida, before entering Georgetown Law. While at Georgetown Law he was selected as one of eight Public Interest Law Scholars for his commitment to public interest work. He received honors for committing over 175 hours of pro bono work as a law student and won the JJC Public Interest Award for his performance and dedication to juvenile law. In his spare time, Joshua enjoys keeping up on politics and hiking with his dog Winnie. He is a diehard fan of Philadelphia sports and live music.

Advocacy Project Summary - 
This project, entitled “Eliminating Maryland’s Juvenile Costs, Fines, and Fees,” is a state-focused advocacy campaign that seeks passage of legislation that would eliminate juvenile costs, fines, and fees.

Dominique Morgan | Omaha, NE

Dominique Morgan is an award-winning artist, activist, and speaker. As the Executive Director of Black and Pink -  the largest prison abolitionist organization in the United States - Mr. Morgan works daily to dismantle the systems that perpetuate violence on LGBTQ/GNC people and individuals living with HIV and AIDS. Combining his lived experience as an incarcerated youth with a decade of change-making artistry, advocacy, and an extensive background in public health, Mr. Morgan works in spaces of sex education, radical self-care, and youth development to dismantle the prison-industrial complex. He has received the NAACP Freedom Fighter Award; Young, Black, and Influential Award for Advocacy; and the Omaha Chamber Young Professionals Changemaker Award. He is currently completing his capstone project for his studies in the Georgetown University - System Involved LGBTQ Youth Scholar Program.

Advocacy Project Summary - The goal of this project is to activate youth and families to be positioned and supported in advocating for their needs. We will supply education and tools that support youth and families who have been impacted by the juvenile justice system in developing skills for self-advocacy, critical analysis of their power in criminal justice system, and facilitation training/development to implement this work in their own communities.

Jade Morgan | Jackson, MS

Jade Olivia Slaughter Morgan is an attorney and the Community Advocate Outreach Paralegal for The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Three Strikes Project. The goal of the Three Strikes Project is to reduce Mississippi's incarceration population by asking the courts to allow individuals serving mandatory sentences for an opportunity to become parole eligible. Previously, Jade worked as the Litigation Specialist at the ACLU of Mississippi. As a member of the legal team, Jade worked with attorneys, plaintiffs, and witnesses through matter screening, investigation, legal research, and litigation coordination. She worked on civil rights and civil liberties matters involving criminal justice, free speech, and discrimination against persons due to their sexual orientation or disability status. Jade received her Juris Doctorate from Mississippi College School of Law. She is also a graduate of The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, where she earned a degree in women's studies with a specialization in gender and social justice.

Advocacy Project Summary - Counselors Aiming to Restructure Education C.A.R.E will strive to create legislation mandating school counseling in all Mississippi public schools, reduce the number of School Resource Officers (SROs) in Mississippi’s Public-School system, limit the duties and patrol areas of SROs in Mississippi, require data collection about the number of student arrests in schools nationally, and introduce nonpunitive disciplinary measures in public schools to encourage positive behavior and outcomes.

Valerie Salazar | Ventura, CA

Valerie Salazar is a resourceful, dynamic, and proactive professional who, at 39 years old and with three kids, went back to school to pursue her bachelor’s degree in sociology and psychology. In her studies on restorative justice and racial and gender discrimination in the system, Valarie realized she has a passion for working with youth in the system and changing the law and order perspectives of decision-makers. Her personal experience as a minor in juvenile halls, foster homes, group homes, and placements in Los Angeles and Ventura counties gives her a unique insight and vantage point to connect with youth and use her voice to advocate for change. She is currently a Commissioner on the County of Ventura Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Commission, and a Court Appointed Special Advocate for CASA of Ventura County.

Advocacy Project Summary - Utilizing her personal narrative Valerie wants to speak with youth and help individuals feel hope who are currently in the system (Juvenile Facility) or are in a high-risk community; provide awareness to those who make life changing decisions for youth for policy change; continue implementing more restorative justice in her community; and advocate for youth to have unbroken care from facilities to placement to home.

Natasha Santana-Viera | Miami, FL

Natasha Santana-Viera serves as the Program Manager in Miami for S.O.U.L. Sisters Leadership Collective. Natasha has dedicated her career to supporting young people and underserved populations, focusing on creating social change in the realms of educational justice, juvenile justice and social services. Prior to S.O.U.L. Sisters, Natasha dedicated two years with City Year Miami, serving Miami’s underserved youth and communities. Before that, she worked in a Miami-Dade high school as a Site Coordinator with Communities In Schools where she operated a nationally recognized, evidence-based dropout prevention program. Natasha is a trained and certified facilitator and holds a master’s degree from New York University’s Silver School of Social Work. Her studies focused on adolescents, group work, criminal justice and organizational leadership. She has also facilitated an Intergroup Dialogue course on race and has over seven years of experience providing individual and family therapy, group facilitation, individual case management, social justice education, college readiness support, curriculum development, and youth leadership and development. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida in sociology with a minor in theories and politics of sexuality. Natasha has a deep passion for supporting others to heal and strongly believes in the power of young people.

Advocacy Project Summary - The goal of this project, the S.O.U.L. Sisters Leadership Collective (SSLC) Core Curriculum, is to standardize the information participants receive, ensuring that SSLC is equipping its participants with the critical knowledge and skills to bring the vision of SSLC to fruition—for systems-involved black, brown and indigenous girls and non-binary youth to reclaim their lives of authenticity, joy and freedom.

Jennifer Ubiera | Washington, DC

Jennifer Ubiera is the Organizing and Advocacy Associate for the Georgetown Juvenile Justice Initiative advocating to improve the DC juvenile justice system. In this role, Jennifer builds out the community organizing and outreach agenda for the Initiative, as well as enhancing and expanding its presence in the local Washington, DC, area. Before joining the Georgetown University Law Center, Jennifer was the Legal Innovators Fellow at Law 4 Black Lives DC, the legal arm of the Movement 4 Black Lives DC. There, she created a movement lawyer curriculum and conducted a learning series that introduced lawyers, law students, and legal workers to the tenets of movement lawyering and local organizing work. During that time, Jennifer was chiefly responsible for the development of the organizational infrastructure and continues to support the organization in that role as a member. Jennifer also practiced criminal defense and civil litigation in Miami-Dade and Broward County, Florida after serving as the fellow for the Virgil F. Hawkins chapter of the National Bar Association in Florida A&M University School of Law's Poverty and Homelessness clinic. Prior to law school, she served as an AmeriCorps VISTA in the areas of youth and poverty. Jennifer received her B.A. in Philosophy at the University of South Florida in 2008 and her law degree from Barry University School of Law in 2013.

Advocacy Project Summary - This project creates a platform to support and train young advocates who have been incarcerated and/or who have incarcerated parents and loved ones. The aim of the platform is to support the youth voice in leading policy change in the area of juvenile justice and build power via this organizing model.

Jeff Wallace | Davenport, Iowa

Jeff Wallace is the founder and CEO of Vision Leadership and Productions and is the CEO of the Iowa-based non-profit, S.T.E.P. of the Quad Cities. Throughout his life, Jeff has studied the effects of the criminal justice system policies and procedures on at-risk youth - first, as one of them, and then through his undergraduate and graduate degrees in criminal justice. He has also established a career dedicated to supporting vulnerable youth through non-profit advocacy, working inside juvenile detention centers, as a social worker for the Department of Human Services, and as a Crisis Interventionist in conjunction with the Davenport Police Department. Currently pursuing a Ph.D. in criminal justice administration, Jeff draws on his own experience in working toward policies and procedures to help more youth find their true path. He shared his story with the world through two TEDx talks - in Naperville in 2015 and Davenport in 2019. Additionally, Jeff was appointed to a two-year term on Iowa’s Juvenile Justice Advisory Council, which oversees the state’s use of federal Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Act funds.

Advocacy Project Summary - Jefferey’s project, STOP- Separate Teen Offenders in Prisons, endeavors to create legislation to stop youth under 18 in Iowa from being housed with adult prisoners.

Yamanda Wright | Boston, MA

Yamanda Wright is a developmental psychologist, currently serving as the lead Data & Policy Specialist for juvenile justice initiatives at the Crime and Justice Institute (CJI) in Boston. Before joining the CJI team, she worked as the Director of Research for Texas Appleseed and Adjunct Lecturer of Psychology at Texas State University. Yamada is passionate about reforming laws and policies that disproportionately affect underserved youth, such as school district policies that contribute to an overrepresentation of low-income, Black, and Latino students in school-based citations and arrests. When she is not analyzing data for CJI, she enjoys writing about children's understanding of race and gender. Her work has been published in several journals and books, most recently Child Development Perspectives and Advances in Child Development and Behavior, and has received funding from the American Psychological Foundation's Kenneth B. and Mamie P. Clark Fund.  

Advocacy Project Summary - The goal of this project is to create a detailed online resource for grassroots and small non-profit organizations looking to examine local juvenile justice practices through publicly available data from state and local agencies. Smaller organizations frequently have innovative ideas but lack the staff and/or software knowledge to conduct primary quantitative research in support of policy reform.