Staff

Get to know the people who've made AFJ a success.
Judith Evans Smith, Angel Rodriguez, Nelson Valentine
Chief Operating Officer Judith Evans Smith, Executive Director Angel Rodriguez, and Senior Court Advocate Nelson Valentine

STAFF

Angel Rodriguez, Executive Director For over four 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, Chief Operating Officer & Chief Financial Officer 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, Operations Manager 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 30 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. 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 facilitating 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. Before joining AFJ, Elsie worked in the medical field with several years as a Pharmacist Technician at a national drug store chain and at a school-based health clinic at Washington Irving High School on the Lower East Side. In 2009, Elsie achieved a long-term vocational goal and received her Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from the ASA Institute. Currently Elsie is taking night classes at John Jay College and will graduate  with her Bachelor’s Degree. We 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 / Activities & Volunteer Coordinator 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.

Gamal Willis, Manager of Court Advocacy and Outreach Gamal joined the AFJ team in October 2018, with an extensive background at CASES as a Job Developer, Director of Career Exploration, and Director of the Parole Restoration Project. He also brings relevant experience from his time at the Fortune Society. Gamal is responsible for managing a team of Court Advocates and ensuring effective outreach to new clients. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Washington and has completed the Criminal Justice Training Institute at CASES.

Weston Muench, Social Media and Data Entry Specialist Weston joined the AFJ staff in September 2018. Weston holds Bachelor’s degrees in both Spanish and Education from Colby College. Weston is responsible for managing AFJ’s social media accounts, and coordinating AFJ’s data collection. His educational background gives him a unique ability to connect with our youth and portray their second chance stories on our social media platform.

VOLUNTEERS

Photography Marty Umans

Art Program Director Cindy Ruskin

Art Program Assistants Carey Dunne

WEBSITE

Developer and Webmaster Roger Manning

Designer
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Drupal consultants Lullabot 1-877-585-5226

Digital consultant Michael Small

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.