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Staff

Jessica Berry, Deputy Director, joined the CLCM in September, 2009 as recipient of a Skadden Fellowship. Jessica earned her B.A. from the University of Chicago, graduated magna cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School, and has an M.S.W. from the University of Michigan School of Social Work. Following law school, Jessica clerked for the Honorable Nathaniel M. Gorton of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, and then for the Honorable Diana Gribbon Motz of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. As a fellow at the CLCM, Jessica focuses on representing adolescents in child welfare, education, and mental health matters.

Yajaira Chavez, Administrative Assistant, joined CLCM in April of 2014. A native and resident of Lynn, she is a national certified phlebotomist from North Shore Community College. She is presently balancing a full time and part time job as well as parenting.

Robyn L. Laukien, Staff Attorney/Pro Bono Coordinator, began her tenure at the Children's Law Center in July 1999 as a volunteer advocate. She came on staff in the fall of 1999. Robyn is a graduate of Wellesley College and Boston College Law School. Upon graduating from B.C. Law in 1988, she joined the Boston firm of Widett, Slater & Goldman as a corporate associate. After four years of practicing business law, she left to work part time at Bruker Instruments, Inc. as in-house Corporate Counsel. Robyn worked part time at Bruker for over six years while raising her two children, but still found time to volunteer as a foster care case reviewer, participate in an outreach program through the New England Aquarium with Head Start preschoolers, and serve as President of the Aquarium's Council from 2002-2006. Robyn was Co-Chair of the Aquarium's 30th Anniversary Gala, and is an annual member of the corporate fundraising committee. While President of the Aquarium Council, Robyn served as a Trustee. Currently, she is an Overseer and a member of the Aquarium Development Committee. Robyn's experiences as a parent and volunteer led her to her work with the Children's Law Center.

Sharon Mason, Director of Development, joined CLCM in April, 2015 following six years in the same capacity with Habitat for Humanity’s Merrimack Valley affiliate. A fundraising professional with an extensive background in small business management, corporate and non-profit resource and grant development, communication, and RBS, Sharon is also active in the community, serving on the board of a variety of community organizations and children’s advocacy groups including the Andover Cultural Council, Parent to Parent, and the Andover Special Education Parent Advisory Council. She brings her skills and dedication to meeting the mission and vision of the Children’s Law Center.

Jay McManus assumed the position of Director of the Children's Law Center in March 1999. A graduate of New England School of Law, he previously worked as staff counsel to the state's Department of Children & Families, and as Assistant General Counsel to AFSCME, Council 93, a public employee labor union. Between 1991 and 2007, he also directed the Massachusetts chapter of the IPPCH-Because of the Children Program, a not-for-profit that provided relief to children of Irish political prisoners and to families affected by the conflict in the North of Ireland.

Alex Potts, United Way AmeriCorps member, joined the Children’s Law Center in September 2016. She graduated from Connecticut College in May with a B.A. in International Relations and minors in Hispanic Studies and Dance. Most recently she worked at Girls Inc. of Worcester as a summer staff member for Eureka!, a five year STEM program for 8th to 12th grade girls that empowers them to explore interests and career paths that may otherwise seem unattainable. In the summer of 2015 she interned under the director of TransCultural Exchange, an international non-profit arts organization in Boston, where she helped organize its International Conference in Opportunities in Arts which brought together over 600 artists from around the world and provided a unique space for discussion, networking, and collaboration. Alex is grateful to now serve at CLCM and within the greater Lynn community. She is excited to work with immigrant youth to empower them to succeed in all aspects of their lives.

Melissa M. Raye, Social Work Student Intern, joins the Children's Law Center from Salem State University where she is pursuing her B.S.W. Upon the start of her higher education journey, Melissa began classes within the Challenges, Choices, and Change program at North Shore Community College, a program that supports women that have had many challenges or have had interruptions in formal education. Upon finishing up her time at N.S.C.C. Lynn Campus, Melissa obtained a Mental Health Certificate and an Associate of Science degree as a Human Services Practitioner. Melissa then transferred to Salem State University to pursue her B.S.W. Melissa is a Lynn, MA native, having obtained her GED at NSCC when her daughter was only 3 months old. Melissa has interned at the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, Lynn Economic Opportunity’s Fuel Assistance Department, Washington Street Baptist Church-Free After-School Program, and currently works for Bridgewell as a relief staff. Melissa has two children and one grandchild.

Jessica Rubin-Willis, Staff Attorney, joined the EdLaw Project as a Skadden Fellow in October 2014. Her project focuses on ensuring that young children in the child welfare system have access to Early Intervention and preschool services that will give them a strong foundation for school success. Jessica graduated from New York University School of Law in 2012. After law school, Jessica worked at Advocates for Children of New York, where she provided direct representation to obtain educational services for low-income preschool children and conducted trainings for parents and preschool providers across New York City. She also spent a year serving as a law clerk in the Eastern District of New York before coming to EdLaw. Jessica gained child welfare experience during law school as a student in NYU’s Family Defense Clinic and as a summer intern in the Children and Family Law (CAFL) Division of the Committee for Public Counsel Services in Boston. Jessica earned her B.A. from Harvard University in 2006 and worked for several years at Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association before attending law school.

Michele Scavongelli, Staff Attorney, has been with the EdLaw Project since 2012 when she joined the project as an Equal Justice Works Fellow. Michele graduated Northeastern University School of Law. A recipient of a Rappaport Fellowship at the Massachusetts Office of the Child Advocate and a recipient of a Hennessy Fellowship at the Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee, Michele brings a wide range of experience to the Project. In addition to serving EdLaw, Michele is on the board of Bottom Line, an organization that is dedicated to helping disadvantaged students get into college and on the board of CASA, an organization that recruits, trains and supports volunteers who advocate for abused and neglected children before the Suffolk County.​

Vineesha Sow, Education Attorney, joined CLCM in December 2015 as a staff attorney focusing on education matters, specifically special education rights and school discipline. Vineesha, a Boston-native, earned her B.S., cum laude from Suffolk University and graduated from the University of San Francisco School of Law in 2014. During law school, she demonstrated her commitment to represent underserved communities through internships with the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office as an Equal Justice Works Fellow and Wasacz, Hilley and Fullerton LLP, a small law firm specializing in child welfare cases. She developed an interest in education while interning at the Office of Academics for Boston Public Schools (BPS) where she assisted in developing and drafting a school turnaround plan for an underperforming elementary school. Her focus on the youth and education is also relevant in her personal life as an active member of the Parent Advisory Council at her son’s school and a mentor of students and recent college graduates.

Marlies Spanjaard, Director of Education Advocacy, is responsible for supervising staff attorneys and interns, making program-wide policy decisions, and cultivating relationships with other individuals and agencies in an effort to promote the Edlaw Project mission. Prior to serving as Director, Ms. Spanjaard gained valuable experience as a staff attorney on the EdLaw Project during which time she represented students in school disciplinary hearings, special education team meetings, and administrative hearings before the Bureau of Special Education Appeals. Marlies has provided trainings on education related issues throughout the state and before a wide variety of audiences including parents, youth workers, students and attorneys. In 2007, Marlies began teaching at Wheelock College as an adjunct instructor in the college's Juvenile Justice and Youth Advocacy Concentration. She earned her J.D. and her M.S.W. at Washington University Law School and George Warren Brown School of Social Work in St. Louis, MO.

Claire Valentin, Staff Attorney, joined the CLCM in September, 2013 as a recipient of Harvard Law School’s Irving R. Kaufman Fellowship. Claire focuses on representing immigrant children on whose behalf petitions for guardianship or care and protection need to be filed as a first step to ensuring their safety and well-being. Claire represents youth in state Juvenile and Probate Court as well as federal immigration proceedings. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the Massachusetts Bar Association. Claire earned her B.A. from Brown University in 2006 and J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2011. Following law school, Claire clerked for the Honorable A. Franklin Burgess Jr. of the District of Columbia Superior Court and the Senior Judges of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.


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