Leon Smith, Executive Director


Leon Smith started as CfJJ’s executive director in February 2019. A 1995 graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio and a 1999 graduate of New England School of Law in Boston, Leon worked as a trial attorney in the juvenile justice system for 11 years. Leon began his career in 2001 as a juvenile court public defender, first in Providence, Rhode Island and later at the Committee for Public Counsel Services in Roxbury, Mass. He subsequently managed his own law practice devoted to juvenile and criminal court advocacy in the Massachusetts Juvenile, District and Superior courts. He then moved on to at the Vera Institute of Justice in New York City, working on youth- oriented local and national public policy issues.

Leon comes to CfJJ from the Connecticut-based Center for Children’s Advocacy. Previously the director of the Alternative Schools Project, he advocated reforms to improve services for Connecticut’s alternative school students and to prevent drop-out.  In 2013, the project helped to change state law, providing better oversight of alternative schools. In 2015, the project drafted additional legislation which offered further protections upon is passing, including a requirement that students in alternative education receive “as nearly equal advantages” as students in traditional public schools.

Leon also served as the director of the Racial Justice Project, leading a team providing legal representation to youth of color subjected to harsh school discipline, illegal school push-out, and unconstitutional targeting by law enforcement. Through legislative advocacy, litigation and collaborative work with communities and state agencies, the project advanced reform. He was also the lead facilitator and co-chair of Racial and Ethnic Disparities (RED) committees, which addresses disparities in the juvenile justice system in three Connecticut cities, and an appointed member of the Connecticut Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Criminal Justice System.


Sana Fadel, Deputy Director

Sana Fadel serves as Deputy Director and is primarily responsible for CfJJ's legislative advocacy and is the lead organizer of the statewide Massachusetts Juvenile Justice Reform Coalition. Prior to joining CfJJ, Sana was the Director of Public Policy at Rosie’s Place, a sanctuary for poor and homeless women in Boston where she led campaigns on access to substance abuse treatment, strengthening families involved with the child welfare system, and improving services for customers applying for and receiving public benefits. She was responsible for advocating at the state-level on issues affecting Rosie’s Place guests as well as empowering them through voter mobilization and advocacy trainings. Sana holds a Masters in Public Administration from Columbia University, New York and a Bachelors of Fine Arts from Augusta State University, Georgia.

Naoka Carey, Special Projects Director


Naoka has been with CfJJ since 2011, serving first as a Senior Policy Associate, then as Executive Director from July 2013 to December 2017, and currently as Special Projects Director. During her time at CfJJ, she has worked on campaigns to expand juvenile court jurisdiction to include seventeen year olds, eliminate school-based arrests, promote community-based alternatives to the justice system, prevent child welfare-involved youth from entering the system, and address the racial and ethnic disparities in the system, to name a few. Prior to CfJJ, Naoka worked to abolish life without parole sentences for youth as a coordinator of the Massachusetts Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth and as a consulting attorney for the national Campaign. She has worked in private practice as a civil litigator and represented young people and families in juvenile justice, child welfare and education proceedings. Prior to becoming a lawyer, she was a youth organizer and trainer in Seattle and Boston. Naoka has a law degree from New York University and a Master's Degree in Education from Harvard.


Alex DanescoDevelopment Director

Alex joined CfJJ in November 2017. His work has included direct service, program management, board management, capacity building and resource development at three community based, youth serving organizations in Boston. After graduating with a degree in Philosophy from Boston College in 1997, he worked for the West End House Boys and Girls Club in Brighton, where he served as Associate Executive Director. In this role he managed all operations of the organization’s positive youth development programming, through six core areas as developed by the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. He then served as Executive Director of the Commonwealth Tenants Association expanding services to the youth and families of the Commonwealth Housing Development. From 2012 to 2017, he served as Development and Program Director and at MissionSAFE, a Roxbury based, teen-serving organization, where he focused on corporate and individual philanthropy, and program management. Alex holds a Master’s Degree in Youth Development Leadership from Clemson University in Clemson, SC.


Joshua Dankoff, Leadership Forum Project Director

Joshua joined CfJJ in May 2015 to staff the Massachusetts Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Leadership Forum. As a qualified Results Based Facilitator, Joshua engages state-wide leaders to work together toward equity-focused interagency systems improvement. Prior to joining CfJJ, his work focuses on justice for children, child protection systems building, and rule of law in both the United States and internationally. He worked with UNICEF, most recently as Child Protection Specialist (responsible for Child Justice and Birth Registration) in Sierra Leone where he helped facilitate the launch of the Child Justice Strategy 2014-2018. He has previous experience with the Ministry of Justice in Côte d’Ivoire while on a Fulbright-Clinton Public Policy Fellowship; the Firelight Foundation in California; and as a consultant with Child Frontiers, Civil Registration Centre for Development, and others. Joshua is a graduate of Wesleyan University, and Loyola University Chicago School of Law, where he earned a Juris Doctor and certificates in ChildLaw and Public Interest law. He also has a Masters in Development Practice from the University of Queensland, Australia. In 2014, he taught a masters-level course entitled "Child Rights, Protection, and Development" at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany. 

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Jennifer Feeley Hyzer, Director of Operations

Jenn joined CfJJ in December 2017 and brings a wealth of experience working with non-profit and for-profit entities to improve operational processes, to develop procedures and compliance programs, and to navigate statutory requirements.  A graduate of Cornell University, Jenn earned a J.D. from Vermont Law School. She began her career as a corporate attorney helping clients set up non-profit corporations and achieve 501 c 3 status.  She also worked for 8 years at State Street Bank and Boston Beer Corporation as internal counsel focusing on legal, compliance, HR, and procurement projects.  For the past five years, Jenn has been advising non-profit Board members and school staff on general corporate and human resource based legal matters, confidentiality/privacy, and conflicts of interest.


Kate Lowenstein, Multisystem Youth Project Director

Kate joined CfJJ in December 2014. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Kate earned a joint J.D/M.S.W from the Catholic University of America. She began her career as part of a team implementing a court-ordered mandate to reform the juvenile justice system in Washington, D.C. She then spent time working in the abuse and neglect system in Washington, D.C, before moving into the field of international human rights and victim rights. For the 13 years prior to coming to CfJJ, she was co-director of Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights where she had extensive experience organizing and advocating for victims and murder victims' family members. She co-authored an amicus curiae brief on behalf of victims' family members to the Supreme Court in the high-profile case Roper v. Simmons.


Lee Nave, Community Engagement Coordinator

Lee joined CfJJ in June 2015. He began his nonprofit career during his junior year of high school almost a decade ago in St. Louis, MO, where he worked with inner-city youth to develop leadership and team building skills at Urban Future. Before joining CfJJ, Lee was the Co-Founder and Director of Development and Operations at Student Voice. With Student Voice, he led the creation of an all student run organization that advocated for students to have a say in their own educational future. Lee's work with Student Voice led to major partnerships with corporations and foundations such as Microsoft, The Hewlett Foundation, and Dell. He has spoken on panels for Cengage Learning, Dell, NBC Education Nation, and SXSWedu in Austin, Texas, advocating for student rights. Lee holds a dual Masters in Public Administration and Diplomacy & International Relations from Seton Hall University, and a Bachelor's Degree in History and Communications Arts from Ottawa University (Kansas).


Lena Shapiro, Development/Program Assistant

Lena Shapiro joined Citizens for Juvenile Justice in October of 2017. She is a recent graduate of Wellesley College, where she studied political science and wrote her senior thesis on restorative justice programs in the Boston Public Schools. Prior to graduating, Lena worked in the Trauma Advocacy department at Equal Justice USA, where she researched trauma-informed practices in schools, courts, and police departments. She is a trained restorative justice circle keeper and has been a volunteer with Fenway Health in Roxbury.

CfJJ Staff with Congressman Kennedy at the 2018 Leadership Celebration.

CfJJ Staff with Congressman Kennedy at the 2018 Leadership Celebration.