The Standing with Our Neighbors™ program places a staff attorney and a community advocate directly in Atlanta Public Schools. This way, parents and residents can find quick, accessible legal help with housing issues.
Since launching the Standing with Our Neighbors program in September of 2016, Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation has accomplished a lot. Starting in one school, in one neighborhood, we’ve now expanded to eight schools. At Thomasville Heights Elementary School, the pilot school for the program, AVLF contributed a 36% reduction in enrollment turnover in its first year, from a five-year average of 39% to 25%.
This amazing growth and these impressive results are due to our staff that work in neighborhoods, schools, and community centers day-in and day-out. Our staff works to identify housing stability, build trust and long-lasting relationships in communities, coordinate volunteers, and often take on cases themselves.
In our three program sites – Carver Cluster, NPU-V, and the Westside – our staff members work in the following schools: Thomasville Heights Elementary School, Dunbar Elementary School, Gideon’s Elementary School, T.H. Slater Elementary School, Hollis Innovation Academy, Barack & Michelle Obama Academy, Price Middle School, and Carver High School.
Staff Attorney, Carver Cluster
Ayanna is a staff attorney with AVLF’s Standing with Our Neighbors Program. She works primarily in the Carver Cluster, working in Thomasville Heights Elementary School, Slater Elementary School, and Price Middle School.
Ayanna obtained her B.A. in history from Clark Atlanta University. After obtaining her degree, she worked in education for the next four years. Ayanna attended Emory University School of Law before working for the nonprofit Georgia Legal Services Program for seven years. In that position, she worked closely with low-income communities in North Georgia and tackled unemployment, public benefits, subsidized housing, domestic violence, and elder care.
Community Advocate, Carver Cluster
Nekesha usually goes by Kesha. She’s a Community Advocate for AVLF’s Standing With Our Neighbors Program based in Slater Elementary and Price Middle School. This is part of AVLF’s focus within Atlanta Public Schools’ Carver Cluster.
Previously a family advocate at an early childhood education center, Kesha worked with families experiencing homelessness to find resources that lead to family stability: jobs, legal help, childcare, certification programs, health clinics, and, of course, housing. Originally a native of southern California, she moved to Georgia in 2009 to pursue a degree in criminal justice and sociology from Clark Atlanta University. While juggling school, Kesha also ran cross country and track. She also holds a Masters in Social Work from Georgia State University.
Community Advocate, NPU-V
Nikki is a SWON Community Advocate based out of Gideons Elementary School, Dunbar Elementary School, and Barack and Michelle Obama Academy.
Nikki developed a strong sense of devotion to the nonprofit sector while working in an educational setting. The experience ignited her passion for helping children and families improve their lives.
As an “army brat,” Nikki was born in Germany and moved to Atlanta in 1997. She received a B.A. from Clayton State University. In her free time, Nikki enjoys traveling, reading, and spending time with her family and friends.
Community Advocate, Carver Cluster
Shamyya – also known as “Mya” – is a Community Advocate at Thomasville Heights Elementary School in the Carver Cluster.
As a native of Atlanta, Mya has been an advocate for children and families for over ten years, serving in low-income communities. She is committed to and passionate about enlightening, educating, and supporting her community. Mya is dedicated to being a voice – and an agent of change – for the people.
Mya is a devoted mother to her four-year-old high-energy son, Karter. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, shopping, and spending time with her family.
Staff Attorney, Neighborhoods of NPU-V
Lauren is a staff attorney with AVLF’s Standing With Our Neighbors program. She is based in the neighborhoods of NPU-V and works primarily in Gideon’s Elementary School, Dunbar Elementary, and Barack and Michelle Obama Academy.
Lauren previously worked at Thomas Kennedy Sampson & Tompkins LLP and R. Gary Spencer, P.C. She received her J.D. from the University of Georgia School of Law where she was an active participant in various student organizations. Prior to practicing law, Lauren participated in the Teach for America 2010 Corps where she taught English, step, and dance.
When she is not working, Lauren enjoys visiting museums and participating in dance classes.
Community Advocate, Neighborhoods of NPU-V
LaKeta is AVLF’s Community Advocate based in NPU-V, an area of town she and her family have lived in for ten years. She works in Dunbar Elementary, Gideon’s Kindezi, and Barack and Michelle Obama Academy.
LaKeta has a deep passion for her local community and has served on the Annie E. Casey Community Investment Fund Board for three years. She brings over 13 years of advocacy for income-stricken populations and social work to the position. In her spare time, LaKeta enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her family.
Staff Attorney, Westside
Erik is a staff attorney with AVLF, where he specifically focuses on housing issues in the neighborhoods on Atlanta’s Westside. Prior to coming to the AVLF, Erik spent 15 years in the financial services sector. Most recently, he was a Senior Fraud Investigator with SunTrust Bank. His banking career includes time spent in Mortgage Sales, Branch Management, Bank Operations, and Corporate Training.
Erik earned a JD from Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School. There he was awarded the Outstanding Graduate Award and the Renata Turner Public Interest Scholarship, in addition to other accolades. Erik has a BS in Marketing and an MBA with a concentration in Management. He resides in Gwinnett County with his wife and 4 children.
Community Advocate, Westside
Shameka is a Community Advocate for AVLF’s Standing with Our Neighbors program. She serves the neighborhoods of Atlanta’s westside and is based out of Hollis Innovation Academy.
Born and raised in west Atlanta, Shameka has worked in social services for a decade. She also previously taught preschool for nine years. She received her B.A. from Fort Valley State University. When she’s not helping families in Vine City, English Avenue, and Ashview Heights, you can find Shameka trying new restaurants and working on Pinterest projects.