May 2, 2024

Meet AFJ’s Job Developer, Shantel Brooks, Who Is Enhancing Our HIRE Up Job Readiness And Placement Initiatives

Over the past three years, Avenues for Justice (AFJ) has increased our job training and placement efforts to ensure that our Participants receive wraparound services along with assistance with their legal matters. Leading the workforce development charge is Shantel Brooks. In addition to managing a full caseload as a Court Advocate, Shantel spearheaded a new initiative for job training and placement in 2021. This year, Shantel will take on a leading role as AFJ’s new Job Developer to expand on our internship and employment placement efforts.

Shantel started her employment advocacy in 2021 as part of AFJ’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) film internship. At the time, AFJ Participant Aminah had expressed an interest in finding a job after SYEP was over. Shantel encouraged Aminah to come to AFJ’s Lower East Side community center every day after her internship to work on her resume and to apply for jobs. After helping Aminah build on the hard and soft skills necessary for employment, she was hired by a retail shoe store. Aminah’s success led Shantel’s fellow Court Advocates to start sending their Participants to her for assistance with their job applications.  

In 2022, Shantel embarked on a project to connect AFJ with local businesses to provide an employment pathway for our Participants. Shantel emailed hundreds of local businesses - focusing primarily on BIPOC-owned businesses in the neighborhoods where our Participants live and go to school. Two businesses, Buy Better Foods and Stuart Cinema and Café, heeded the call to provide eight-week internships for our Participants. The biggest hurdle in accomplishing this was that neither business had the immediate budget to pay for interns. Through the generosity of our funders, AFJ was able to provide each intern with a weekly stipend for the duration of the internship. All eligible AFJ Participants had to go through a rigorous application process, including being interviewed by Shantel to determine if they were employment ready. Since April 2023, close to 30 local businesses have partnered with AFJ in three cohorts of 37 successful internship placements.

 "AFJ’s job readiness and employment placement is crucial for offering our young people opportunities to expand their horizons and generate income, thus mitigating recidivism that results from financial hardships. Shantel has demonstrated exceptional performance leading up to her new role as Job Developer, adeptly addressing the diverse employment capabilities of our Participants. Her dedication and professionalism in working with both our young people and hiring partners only serves to fortify this new department within AFJ." ~Gamal Willis, Chief Program Officer

Shantel feels called to this work after a childhood friend, who had just been released from a year-long prison sentence, returned home with no employment prospects to support their family. When they asked Shantel for assistance, she immediately helped them write a resume and with interview prep. Shantel reached out to employers who she knew were open to hiring returning citizens and her friend was not only hired, but was subsequently promoted, and served at that job for over four years.

In the year ahead, Shantel will focus on empowering our younger Participants, ages 16 to 17. She understands firsthand how the first job as a teenager can help prevent a young person from the negative influences of making a living through the streets---especially if they have someone dedicated full time to getting them connected with businesses within their communities. Shantel sees the potential in the 500+ Participants who walk through our doors each year and is determined to provide them with a path forward to success.

If you are an employer interested in providing internship and job opportunities for AFJ Participants, please contact Shantel Brooks at


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