April 6, 2023

To Conclude Women’s Herstory Month Avenues for Justice Hosted A Women’s Career Panel

AFJ Participant Heaven (far left) and Court Advocate Tiffany (far right) moderated a career panel featuring five BIPOC women at our Lower East Side community center.  

Photos by Tom Benedict of Carben Photography

In 2023, Avenues for Justice’s (AFJ) focus is to provide a path forward towards income stability for our Participants by offering an array of job readiness workshops. The end goal is for our Participants to have access to more employment opportunities through our HIRE UP program. Spearheading this initiative is Court Advocate, Shantel Brooks, who created an online job portal connecting AFJ Participants with six NYC businesses dedicated to providing justice-impacted young adults with fair employment opportunities. To date, fifteen Participants have been hired as a result of AFJ’s employment referrals. 

To conclude Women’s Herstory Month, AFJ hosted a career panel last week Thursday at our Lower East Side Robert Siegal Center. The panel featured five BIPOC women in industries ranging from tech to cinema. The panel was moderated by AFJ Court Advocate, Tiffany Quelix, and AFJ Participant, Heaven, who works for a medical company administeringCOVID-19 tests. The panelists covered a range of topics, including career and life milestones, employment barriers, imposter syndrome, and the importance of mentorship for success in the job market.   

The event was well attended with over 20 AFJ Participants and their families asking our panelists industry-focused questions.

Felicia Forster brings over a decade of experience in digital media, technology, and organizational operations to her role of Business Development Representative. Prior to joining Building Skills NY, Felicia consulted some of the real estate development industry's top general contractors on top-of-the-line technology solutions. Today, Felicia works with community-based organizations, elected officials, and other key New York City stakeholders to identify life-changing workforce opportunities for some of the City's most historically underserved individuals.

Aman Kaur got her start in tech in 2018 as the 19th employee at a DC-based tech-ed startup. Since then, her career has spanned roles in various industries, including fintech, HR tech and currently as the founding U.S. employee of an Amsterdam based fintech scale-up, DataSnipper. Aman works cross functionally with product, marketing and sales teams to grow revenue and research new verticals. Aman is on Avenues for Justice’s Junior Board.

Amanda Luna is a technology professional with a career spanning multiple industries, including finance, entertainment, and transportation. In her current role, she manages the IT Portfolio Management Team at JetBlue Airways. 

Emelyn Stuart is CEO and owner of Stuart Cinema &Café in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Emelyn is the First Black Latina to own an independent movie theater in NY. Film Festival Founder, Executive Producer and a board member of the New York Women in Film & Television and is also in the process of opening up another movie theatre in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.  

Wendy Webb is the Local 79 Union Recording Secretary. After gaining years of experience building roads and working as a Mason Tender, some of the hardest assignments in a laborer’s jurisdiction, Wendy was ready for the position of Shop Steward. She exceeded expectations and shortly thereafter was asked to become Local 79’s first female Business Agent. In 2002,Local 79’s Apprentice Program was ready to expand in a big way and everyone involved felt Wendy was needed to be a part of that expansion. As Apprentice Co-Coordinator, Wendy helped the program expand from 70 apprentices to today’s430 active and over 1,000 successful graduates. Wendy was honored in 2008 by the executive board and membership for outstanding service to the membership.

Below are some words of wisdom that our panelists shared with our Participants:

“I remember being a little girl and I just wanted to work the register at the supermarket because that’s all I saw. I always felt like I knew I was going to be a leader. I had the drive and determination, but I did not have the opportunity and so I worked really hard. I worked in corporate America and walked away from that. I thought once I get to this position or that position I will be happy, but I still wasn’t fulfilled. Sometimes the things you think you really want, once you get there, you realize that you don’t want that. But the skills that you learn on that journey, you can use them for other things. I was able to transition from corporate America to owning my own business.” ~Emelyn Stuart

“You need to be fearless. We are told as African American people that we cannot be fearless, that you cannot question the status quo, that you don’t have worth. When you walk into a room and are negotiating your salary, most of us won’t even negotiate because we are fearful of rejection. Be okay and uncomfortable with rejection because a lot of life is rejection. Until you finally reach that pivotal moment or goal in your life, always be fearless and know your worth. Do not let naysayers stop you. A lot of people will influence you to do the wrong things, but you have to have a bigger purpose and a vision for your life. You don’t want to be the person who is incarcerated over and over again. You want to be the difference. And in order to make the difference, you have to make better choices. You have to want it.” ~Felicia Forster 

“If you don’t have a cause and you don't have a plan, you’re losing. It’s changing your mindset and getting out of your comfort zone. It’s teaching the brothers and sisters around you how to grow up. It’s painful. I was doing it alone and had to leave all my friends behind. But today, the blessing is that a lot of them were locked up and came home 20 years later. I was able to give them that second chance because I stayed focused.” ~ Wendy Webb  

AFJ has been focused on career longevity since launching our HIRE Up initiative in 2020. We want all of our Participants to complete the program with at least one certification---whether it be digital and financial literacy,OSHA-30, Flaggers, Food Handlers, or CPR training. If you are interested in participating on a career panel, providing internship and employment opportunities to our Participants, or partnering with us on our HIRE UP program, please contact Gamal Willis at gwillis@avenuesforjustice.org.


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