Meet the staff
We continue to honor our roots as a community-based program with court advocates and administrators who come from the communities that we serve and who engage those communities in supporting our program participants.
A long-time Lower East Side resident, Angel co-founded a court advocacy program to keep young people out of jail. Incorporated in 1979, Angel expanded the program, opening headquarters inside the Manhattan Criminal Court building and a Community Center on the Lower East Side in the 1980s. In 1999, Angel established a community center in Harlem and in 2018, began to serve hundreds of youth and young adults citywide across all of New York City’s boroughs, providing free court advocacy with our HIRE UP services - online and onsite - for job training, education, and mental health wellness.
Angel was instrumental in assisting the innovative design of the Youth Part currently operating in Manhattan’s Supreme Court. Instead of tossing youth into a system designed for adults, the Youth Part conducts a separate, specialized intake of youth entering the criminal justice system and determines whether an alternative to incarceration would be more appropriate.
Shantel Brooks joined AFJ in 2021 offering over 5 years of experience spanning supportive housing, case management at a family shelter, Mental Health Intake Coordinator at Fortune Society and Housing Advocacy Case Manager at University Settlement Society of New York. In addition to working with those impacted by issues of mental health and homelessness, she has worked with individuals who were incarcerated, helping them re-enter into society. Shantel holds a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Samantha joined AFJ in 2021 with 10years of experience working with high-risk youth, homeless youth and alternative children's education programming. She has worked in program implementation, management and evaluation at multiple NY non-profits including Young Survival Coalition, New York Cares, Nontraditional Employment for Women and iMentor. Samantha provides exceptional programming geared towards the professional and personal growth of AFJ’s Participants. With a focus towards certifications, Samantha has helped increase AFJ’s programming menu to include more OSHA, CPR, and Food Handler workshops. Always looking to shape our Participants wholly, she is on the lookout for more opportunities to help lead our clients to safer and brighter futures. Samantha received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Affairs with a minor in Nonprofit Leadership and Biology from Seattle University and serves on the GOLD Council for her alma mater.
Elsie joined the AFJ staff as a Lower East Side Court Advocate in June 2010. Before joining AFJ, Elsie worked in the medical field with several years as a Pharmacist Technician at a national drugstore chain and at a school-based health clinic on the Lower East Side. Elsie has a Bachelor's of Science in Criminal Justice from John Jay College. We are especially proud of her as a 1999 graduate of our program, a recipient of the Andrew Glover Program's Outstanding Youth & Second Chance Award in 2008,and a Robin Hood Heroes award recipient in 2022.
In 2020, Liz was selected by AFJ’s Board to become COO after 14 years at AFJ. As COO, Liz oversees the agency's financial wellbeing, fundraising, and administrative operations, board development, programmatic expansion and codification, participant data collection and impact evaluation, in addition to providing leadership and direction in long-range organizational and program planning. For three fiscal years, 2020 through 2022, Liz has led AFJ in attaining modest, but healthy surpluses by securing new foundation grants, diversifying AFJ’s government grant portfolio with City Council discretionary grants, cultivating individual donors, working with the board onboard-driven campaigns, initiating a return to in-person events and enhancing year-end appeals.
She holds a Master of Arts from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice with a specialization in Juvenile Justice. In 2021, she was selected for Columbia Business School’s Programs in Social Enterprise – Developing Leaders Program For Nonprofit Professionals. In 2022, she was selected to join a team of executive professionals for the Cause Effective Fellows Program: Advancing Leaders of Color in Fundraising.
Nora joined AFJ as an licensed social worker with extensive involvement in advocacy and trauma-informed care serving individuals affected by incarceration and interpersonal violence. Her experience includes providing crisis intervention for survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence in Los Angeles, performing mitigation on death penalty appeal cases and interning with The Bronx Defenders as a social worker in their Criminal Defense Practice. Nora currently leads AFJ’s Mental Health Umbrella of Initiatives for our Participants—implementing a curriculum of psycho-education workshops and coordinating with mental health resources providers to now provide counseling to youth and their families directly through AFJ. She also coordinates a Fall and Spring series of classes where participants can earn certificates in topics such as Effects of Trauma in the Body and Mindfulness with community partners. She is trained and certified in Trauma-Informed Cognitive-Behavior Therapy (TF-CBT), crisis intervention, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)group therapy. She holds a Master’s of Science in Social Work from UT Austin and a Bachelor’s in Gender Studies from UCLA.
Weston joined the AFJ staff in September 2018 and holds Bachelor’s degrees in both Spanish and Education from Colby College. Weston has overseen the development and growth of AFJ’s social media platforms and was an integral part in the overhauling of AFJ’s website. In partnership with the Program and Development teams, Weston manages our new client data collection database and will continue to be the liaison with the developer. Through data collection, social media content, writing weekly newsletters and more, Weston is essential in helping AFJ tell its story to our supporters.
Tiffany has provided case management to court-involved youth with group and individual mentoring at the Brooklyn Mental Health Court. Prior to this experience, she was a case manager for Project Renewal’s Fort Washington Men’s Shelter, SCO Family of Services in Woodside and Jamaica, Queens, and At Praxi Housing Initiatives. Tiffany earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies of Education and Psychology at Touro College.
Brian has brought years of experience working with NYC students to his work at AFJ. Over the last 10 years, Brian has served as a writing tutor, a basketball coach, and an after-school art teacher with a focus on hip-hop. He has also run a center for teens that engaged Brooklyn youth in anti-violence work, college and job readiness, and sexual health classes. Brian's unique capability to connect with and understand our participants has made him an asset to the AFJ team.
Edison Taborda brings five years of experience with security, facilities management, and customer service to the AFJ team. Having joined the AFJ team in 2020, Edison was instrumental in keeping our centers and Participants safe during the pandemic.
Nelson has been working at AFJ for over 30 years. Having grown up in the Lower East Side, Nelson understands the daily pressures our youths face and he serves as a role model for making a positive life out of early hardships. Nelson provides counseling to the youth and their families, always emphasizing that the youth must take moral responsibility for his/her life. Living in the same neighborhood as some of his clients makes him incredibly accessible to our LES participants and vital to AFJ. El Diario La Prensa profiled Nelson in the March 2015 issue of their “Buena Gente” (Good People) weekly section because of his drive to improve the quality of life for his fellow Lower East Side residents.
In addition to having a full caseload, Gamal supervises the work of the Court Advocates, along with the Activities and Facilities Coordinators, who are most closely engaged with Participants. By providing program and activities management, Gamal assures quality of service, successful Participant outcomes, and adherence to court advocacy requirements. Between 2020 and 2022, Gamal was instrumental in helping the agency serve the largest number of court-involved and new participants in its 40-year history, exceeding all program goals. He directed the Summer Youth Employment Program in 2021 and 2022.Gamalholds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Washington and completed the Criminal Justice Training Institute at CASES where he worked prior to joining AFJ in 2018.