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Get to know the people who've made AFJ a success.
Angel Rodriguez, Executive Director For over three decades, Angel Rodriguez has served as AFJ's Executive Director, working with youth in the community in which he grew up, went to school and still lives today. Part youth worker, part organizational leader, Angel has direct and daily involvement with clients, supervising the most sensitive advocacy procedures and carrying a heavy caseload. A known and respected figure both in the courtroom and on the streets of the Lower East Side, Angel's work continues around the clock as he moves through the neighborhood. Under Angel's leadership AFJ has been the recipient of many awards including: New York State Bar Association's Public Service Award, Manufacturers Hanover's Community Development Award and the Exxon Corporation Community Service Award. For his personal dedication to AFJ, Angel received an honorary law degree from the CUNY Law School at Queens College and in 1994, Angel was selected as one of three outstanding community activists in New York City to receive the Robin Hood Foundation's Hero Award in 1996.
Judith Evans Smith, Associate Director Judith Smith joined AFJ in 1993, after gaining experience working with several philanthropic foundations devoted to helping troubled youths. Judith's responsibilities at AFJ include fundraising and administration; board development; developing and maintaining client statistics critical to evaluating program effectiveness; and providing leadership and guidance in long-range organizational and program planning. During her time with AFJ, she has overseen the agency’s replication into East Harlem and has seen the agency’s budget double. Given her extensive travels and experience living overseas, Judith is particularly skilled in understanding and adapting programs for the complex and nuanced cultures that comprise the Lower East Side and East Harlem.
Elizabeth Frederick, Grants Administrator Elizabeth brings over six years experience as an executive coordinator at Goddard Riverside Community Center to her new role as Grants Administrator at the Glover Program. She is responsible for all the administrative, personnel and development functions , as well as overseeing all government and private funding contracts. She also coordinates all financial and payroll records, the agency audit and maintains the donor database and agency website. In addition, Elizabeth oversees vendor relationships for our community sites. Elizabeth received her Masters of Arts from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Louisa Harrison, Events Planner In May, 2012, Louisa Harrison joined the staff of AFJ as a part-time Event Assistant, and in 2014, AFJ's three events had grown substantially resulting in her position's expansion to full-time. Under Louisa's direction, AFJ's Second Chance Gala dinner raised an all time high of $550,000 in gross revenue in 2014 and the program's two golf events continue to thrive as well. Having served in a long time volunteer capacity supporting AFJ's golf event, Louisa is a welcome addition to AFJ's full-time staff.
Nelson Valentine, Senior Court Advocate Nelson Valentine has been working with youth at AFJ for over 15 years. Having grown up in the Lower East Side, Nelson understands the daily pressures inner city youths face and serves as a positive role model for the kids. Nelson provides counseling to the youth and their families, and works with them to design their own alternative to incarceration, always emphasizing that the youth must take moral responsibility for his/her life. As a Senior Court Advocate, he is on call 24-hours a day and being that he lives in the same neighborhood as some of his clients, he is always accessible to them. El Diario La Prensa profiled Nelson in the March 2015 issue of their “Buena Gente” (Good People) weekly section. Nelson was selected as a result of his amazing work with youth, as well as his positive drive to improve the quality of life for his fellow Lower East Side residents.
Carmen Arroyo, East Harlem Court Advocate Carmen joined the AFJ team in East Harlem in July 2008. Her work experience includes four years at the Stanley Isaacs Neighborhood Center working in various positions including job developer, caseworker, and outreach worker. She grew up in and currently lives in East Harlem and is fluent in Spanish. She is a wonderful addition to our East Harlem program, and has a current caseload of 15 youthful offenders. Carmen leads a weekly RAP session at the East Harlem center and also spends much of her time counseling her clients, conducting home visits and facilitates educational trips and other prevention programs for all East Harlem youth.
Elsie Flores, Lower East Side Court Advocate Elsie joined the AFJ staff as a Lower East Side court advocate in June 2010. For the past 10 years, Elsie has worked in the medical field with several years as a Pharmacist Technician at a national drug store chain and the past few years at a school-based health clinic at Washington Irving High School on the Lower East Side. Since 2006, she’s been going to night school and in 2009, achieved a long-term vocational goal and received her Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from the ASA Institute. We are pleased she has joined our staff and are especially proud of her, since she is a 1999 graduate of our program and recipient of the Glover Program's Outstanding Youth & Second Chance Award in 2008.
Johnny Jara, Lower East Side Court Advocate Johnny holds both a Bachelors and Masters degree in Criminal Justice from John Jay College in New York. During college and up to his joining Avenues for Justice he has worked steadily in the legal field as a records analyst and legal assistant with leading City law firms including Milberg LLP. With this professional work background that spans ten years, Johnny brings superb data management skills to the Andrew Glover program. And very importantly for our work, he grew up and continues to live in the projects on the Lower East Side, contributing insight into the issues our youths face and an ability to quickly establish a life saving rapport.
Nikita Gandhi, East Harlem Court Advocate Nikita holds both a Bachelors and Masters degree in Criminal Justice from John Jay College. During college, she served as a research intern for the Center for Court Innovation, managing intake and face-to-face surveys for a study on alternative sanctions for low-level offenders. Since graduating, Nikita has blended her criminal justice background with youth services, working as Education Coordinator for the Boys and Girls Club in Hicksville, which included designing and implement a new peer mentoring program for at-risk youth; as Teen Education Coordinator for the Boys and Girls Club in Locust Valley, developing and monitoring an out of school program with career preparation and evaluations for teens at risk of dropping out; and as Lead Violence Intervention Specialist at S.T.R.O.N.G. Youth Inc. in Uniondale, providing individual and group counseling to a caseload of 100 teens at risk for gang activity, providing educational and socialization activities, and supervising the agency’s social work interns.
Robert Arroyo, LES Building Supervisor As a former youth offender, Robert is a testimony that youths who get involved with crime can make the change to a constructive lifestyle. Robert serves a positive model and has been in charge of security, youth activities, and upkeep of the Siegal Center since 1990.
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Art Program Director Cindy Ruskin
Art Program Assistants Carey Dunne
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The relaunch of the website in April 2012 is dedicated to the memory of our excellent friend and former Avenues for Justice Board Member Kemp Mandeville.