Leadership & Staff
Joanna Allison has been the Executive Director at Volunteer Lawyers Project since 2015. Prior to that she practiced as a supervising attorney in the areas of landlord and tenant, consumer debt defense, foreclosure prevention, bankruptcy, unemployment insurance, and more. She attended law school at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.
April Jones graduated from Johnson & Wales University in 2000 with a B.S. in Accounting. She specializes in nonprofit accounting and enjoys doing jigsaw puzzles and spending time with her family. April comes to VLP in 2021, as our Director of Finance and Operations.
Cindy TK Palmquist is the Managing Director at VLP and has been with the organization since 2014. Cindy was previously a solo practitioner with a small private practice where she represented clients in family law matters including domestic violence issues. Cindy enjoys mentoring and is a member of the Family Law Steering Committee at the Boston Bar Association.
Zalima Oliver joined VLP as the Director of People and Culture. Zalima has over twenty years of experience in the human resources field. She most recently worked for a non-profit specializing in serving opportunity youth.
Barbara Siegel is the Director of Compliance and Technology and the Project Manager of Senior Partners for Justice. Barbara’s legal career began in 1989 with a clerkship in the Massachusetts Appeals Court and an associate position in a law firm. In 1992, she entered legal aid and has not looked back. Prior to joining VLP, she served as a senior staff attorney at the Disability Law Center and Assistant Legal Director at the Community Legal Services and Counseling Center. Barbara is a graduate of Brown University (B.A. 1982) and Boston College Law School (J.D. 1989).
Emelia joined VLP in March of 2021. Prior to VLP, she served two years with AmeriCorps NCCC in Baltimore MD, and AmeriCorps State and National here in Boston serving at a youth mentoring organization. Most recently, Emelia worked as a Senior Partnerships Manager at Boston Partners in Education, an academic mentoring organization that supports students in the Boston Public Schools. Emelia is excited to continue supporting volunteers as they provide access to justice for clients. She is originally from Kansas City MO and graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Wingate University in NC.
Amy Anthony has been a legal services attorney for eight (8) years with a focus in housing and foreclosure law, and is the Supervising Attorney for housing and appeals at VLP. Amy is a graduate of Columbia University and American University Washington College of Law. Amy grew up in the D.C. area and her favorite part of being a lawyer is working with our amazing, tenacious clients.
Rosana Arriaza graduated from the University of Massachusetts in Spring 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and minored in Women and Gender Studies. Rosana eventually plans to enhance her education experience with a focus in forensic psychology. In her spare time, Rosana likes to partake in outdoor activities like yoga and hosts planner workshops for anyone seeking to enhance their organizational skills.
Monique Aziza joined VLP as a long-term temporary Staff Attorney in March 2020. As part of the COVID Eviction Legal Help Project (CELHP), she represents landlords that occupy and own two or three multifamily homes. Monique interned at VLP while in law school as an alternative spring break project. She is a graduate of the University of Delaware and American University Washington College of Law.
Grace Brockmeyer is a Staff Attorney at VLP where she practices in the Consumer Law and Bankruptcy Units. Since 2020, Grace has volunteered with VLP as a Pro Bono Attorney. Grace has experience working in the public and private sector of law practice, including with Project Citizenship, Conn Kavanaugh, The Gillette Company, The United States Attorney’s Office, and the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. Grace has mentored and advised law students and legal professionals at Suffolk University Law School, as well as law students at Boston University School Of Law. Grace graduated from Northeastern University School Of Law and has a B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Political Science from Gordon College.
Ruby Carlon graduated from Brandeis University in 2020 and joined VLP after working as a housing law paralegal. Ruby is originally from San Diego, CA, and loves to be outdoors when she gets the chance. Ruby came to VLP in 2021 as our newest Family Law and Guardianship Paralegal.
Yesenia is a life-long Bostonian and she received her Associates in Criminal Justice from Bay State College. Yesenia recently graduated from Drexel University with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and started working at VLP in November 2020.
Laura graduated from Pine Manor College with a BS in Social & Political Sciences and a Minor in Criminal Justice. Laura worked at the Somerville District court as an Administrative Assistant to the Probation Department. She has also worked for an Immigration Firm in which she served as an interpreter and as a Legal Assistant. Laura joined VLP in 2022 and is excited to join the Eviction Legal Aid team as a Bilingual Paralegal. In her spare time, Laura enjoys playing soccer, riding motorcycles and shopping.
Edo graduated from The Fashion Institute of Technology and co-founded a jewelry brand that focuses on preserving her native Khmer arts and culture. She joined VLP’s COVID Eviction Legal Help Project in March 2020 on a consulting basis. She is looking to give back and make a difference for underserved communities and to help those most affected by the pandemic.
Maya graduated from Bates College in 2020, after which she worked as a Tutor Advocate with the New York State Migrant Education Department. There, she supported low-income migrant families with navigating the public education system. Maya joined VLP in the fall of 2021 as the Multi-Unit Paralegal. In her spare time, Maya enjoys baking, going for walks, and trying out new restaurants.
Sovannseila (Seila) Chuop graduated from the George Washington University Law School in 2018. She specializes in General Law and has a strong passion for justice and working for seniors as well as community members in underserved communities in her spare time. Sovannseila (Seila) Chuop came to VLP in 2022, as our Eviction Legal Aid Paralegal.
Alana is a Part-time Staff Attorney at VLP where she practices in the areas of housing and employment law. Before joining VLP, Alana was a Fellow in the Employment Unit at Greater Boston Legal Services and a Law Clerk for the Rhode Island Superior Court. Alana is a graduate of Simmons University and Boston College Law School.
Adrián Coss is a graduate of Arizona State University and University of New Hampshire Law School. Before law school, Adrian was VLP’s pro bono coordinator. At UNH Law, he received a graduate award for his dedication to social justice and public service. Most recently, he served as a Law Clerk for a criminal trial judge in St. Paul, Minnesota. Outside of VLP, Adrián enjoys literature, anime, comics, video games, history, and spoiling his dog Sammi (a VLP office favorite).
Nicole joined VLP as a Bilingual Intake Specialist. Nicole graduated from the University of Massachusetts Lowell with a master’s degree in Community Social Psychology and a bachelor’s in Psychology with a minor in Disability Studies. They have a strong passion for the non-profit sector and working within the community to create accessible resources that are representative of the community. Nicole spends their free time researching, volunteering, and being as involved within their community as possible.
Elaine Dias attended Bunker Hill Community College and graduated in 2021. She has a passion for helping underserved individuals and is excited to join VLP in 2022 as a Bilingual Paralegal in the Consumer and Bankruptcy unit. Elaine is also a Real Estate specialist and practices in her free time.
Jennifer Ferrer feels privileged to be a part of the Volunteer Lawyers Project’s paralegal team. She was born and raised in the neighborhoods of South Boston and attended Boston Architectural Mass Art and Leslie University. She values every aspect of the capital of her residence as it is steeped in U.S. history. Jennifer feels blessed for the opportunity to assist Massachusetts residents.
Geraldine Gruvis-Pizarro has been a legal services attorney for seven (7) years with a focus on family law matters and is the Supervising Attorney for the Family Law and Guardianship Unit at VLP. Geraldine is also the Language Chairperson at VLP and represents the agency at the statewide Language Access Coalition and the Race and Equity Coalition. Prior to VLP, Geraldine worked in immigration law, housing, and disability law in addition to her work with family law and victims of domestic violence.
Paula graduated from Universidad La Gran Colombia with a degree in Law and Political Science. In Colombia, Paula was a certified conciliation officer. She attended Boston University, where she received her paralegal certification. Paula came to VLP in the fall of 2021 as an AmeriCorps Legal Advocate. Paula has a passion for working with individuals who have been impacted by human rights and immigration issues and she is looking forward to learning more at VLP.
Colin has been a Staff Attorney at VLP in the Consumer and Bankruptcy Units since August of 2018. His practice focuses on debt collection, eviction defense, and affirmative consumer litigation. Colin graduated from Suffolk University Law School in 2016, where he served as Editor-in-Chief of the Suffolk Transnational Law Review. His first two years of law practice were with AmeriCorps Legal Advocates of Massachusetts, where he served at Rosie’s Place and Greater Boston Legal Services.
Attorney Rochelle Jones graduated from New England Law | Boston. She has years of experience working with low-income individuals and families particularly in the housing and family law arena. Rochelle has also gained litigation experience as a civil litigation associate handling complex insurance defense cases. Rochelle has a passion for fitness and travel in her spare time. She currently works in VLP’s Housing unit as a Staff Attorney.
Camille graduated from Middlebury College in the Spring of 2021 with a BA in International and Global Studies, with a focus on the Middle East. She is from the Greater Boston area where she loves to hike the nearby trails and to volunteer in the community helping people gain access to services and advocacy. She started as the newest paralegal, for the DotHouse and Wills Units, in the Fall of 2021.
Ilene earned a JD from Cleveland State University Marshall School of Law and a Bachelor’s degree from Queens College in New York. She was a Clinical Law Professor at New England Law Boston for 31 years, teaching and mentoring law students in their in-house civil litigation clinic. Ilene has extensive experience in public interest law, family law, social security disability law, and health law. She has done a lot of volunteer work with her students at the Lawyer for the Day Program, the Court Services Center, VLP, Saheli Boston and mentored new attorneys through the Women’s Bar Foundation. Additionally, Ilene developed a course in Elder Law and taught an Elder Law Seminar at New England Law/Boston for over 20 years.
Sarah H. Lee is a Staff Attorney at VLP, practicing Family Law and 209A. Prior to VLP, she worked in family law (representing domestic violence survivors), restraining order cases, post-foreclosure summary process defense, child welfare law, immigration, and consumer law. She is a graduate of The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law and Wellesley College.
Natasha Lewis is the Call Center Supervising Attorney and has been with VLP since 2016. Natasha has been a legal services attorney for five (5) years with a focus in bankruptcy and unemployment insurance. She has also enjoyed working in various areas within VLP, including our Family Law and Guardianship Clinics and on our 209A Abuse Prevention Project. Natasha is VLP’s delegate on the Statewide Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council through MLAC. Natasha graduated Fitchburg State College, magna cum laude with a major in political science and minor in criminal justice. She earned a JD from New England Law|Boston in 2016. Natasha was born and raised in Massachusetts and finds her work to be doubly rewarding, in that she gets to educate herself so as to educate clients so that they may avail themselves of their rights.
Rafael joined VLP as a Bilingual Intake Specialist. He graduated from the College of Charleston with a Bachelor’s degree in Women’s and Gender Studies. Rafael has experience working with underserved communities, assisting individuals to overcome health barriers. He has a strong passion for LGBTQIA+ rights, particularly trans youth rights.
Elizabeth joins VLP as a Staff Attorney in Unemployment and Wage & Hour. She earned her JD from Northeastern University School of Law and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Oberlin College in Ohio. Elizabeth has many years of experience representing clients and working on employment and wage and hour cases as an attorney in the Law Offices of Paul Merry and her own law practice, Mason Law.
Chris initially joined VLP as a Legal Advocate in late 2017. He is a Boston native and he holds a BA in Sociology from the Catholic University of America and a certificate in Paralegal Studies from Boston University. His favorite part about managing the ERLI intake program is that he gets to work closely with an amazing team at the call center ERLI; where they provide the highest quality of information, referrals, and advice to our clients.
Ludmila joined VLP as a Bilingual Intake Specialist. She graduated from Bennington College with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Anthropology. Ludmila has experience working as a Spanish interpreter as well as counseling refugees and asylees to achieve economic independence.
Danelia Ramirez Aguilar graduated from the University of Massachusetts Lowell with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and Sociology. She is a proud first-generation student who values community service and education. Danelia also founded the 14 Stars Foundation, which seeks to help kindergarteners in Honduras who are the first in their families to attend school. In joining VLP, Danelia is excited to learn, grow and work alongside the dedicated members of the VLP Family!
Claudia Rivera-Gruvis joined VLP as a Legal Advocate in the summer of 2019. She works at our call center where she provides legal advice and information to clients seeking help with Housing, Family Law, domestic violence and protective orders, and much more. Claudia graduated from Clark University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Claudia also loves to travel and aspires to visit all seven continents at least once in her lifetime.
Steve Russo is a VLP Staff Attorney. He has over 19 years of experience in the delivery of intake, advice, and referral services to legal services programs and over 21 years of experience as a legal services and private practice attorney. Steve has been a panelist on several continuing legal education and community trainings and has also served as a moderator for the CORI section of Massleglaservices.org. His prior experience includes immigration, family, and criminal records sealing. Steve is also fluent in Spanish. Steve is currently assigned to the DotHouse and Wills Units, and he also is a member of the SJC Standing Committee on Pro Bono Services.
Aidelena worked as a case manager/housing specialist for eight years at Pine Street Inn and Vinfen corps, where she helped clients navigate housing issues. She is excited to work with VLP, mainly because the pandemic has disenfranchised so many people, and Aidelena wants to provide as much support as possible to those in need.
Kenji Yacsavilca graduated from the University of Massachusetts in Boston in 2012. He specializes in technology support in administrative settings and has a background in IT management.
Yewellyn comes to VLP from MIRA Coalition, where she served as an AmeriCorps member. As an AmeriCorps member, Yewellyn assisted clients with naturalization forms, green card renewals, and other immigration forms, as well as conducting outreach, preparing materials, and registering clients for clinics. She has also worked as a Spanish interpreter and has a certificate in teaching English to speakers of other languages. Yewellyn graduated from Suffolk University with a BS in Communications and Journalism is eager to continue learning about the intersectionality of journalism and the legal field.
Sydney Thomas joined VLP as the Economic Fairness Project Coordinator in the Spring of 2021. Sydney graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 2020 where she studied Political Science and Social Policy and then worked at Boston Centers for Youth and Family before coming to VLP.
Caitlyn joined VLP in October 2021 as a CELHP Housing Attorney and transitioned to a HILA Housing Attorney in January 2022. In May 2022, Caitlyn was hired as the VLP Housing and Appeals Staff Attorney. Caitlyn earned her J.D. in 2021 from Suffolk University law School and was a member of Suffolk’s Accelerator to Practice Program Housing Clinic, focusing her work on housing discrimination in the Greater Boston area. Caitlyn earned her B.A. in Public and Community Service from Providence College and she is excited to continue her work in public service as a Housing and Appeals advocate with VLP.
Kevin Walsh joined the VLP in 2022 as a Temporary Staff Attorney. He practiced law in a few law firms for nearly forty years, handling civil litigation matters such as landlord/tenant cases, business disputes, and contract claims. He earned his B.A. from the University of Notre Dame in 1979, and his J.D. from the Notre Dame Law School in 1982.
Debra Wilmer comes to VLP after working in the Covid Eviction Legal Help Project at Greater Boston Legal Services for a year and is excited to be working with the VLP team as an Eviction Legal Aid attorney for the coming year. A UMass Law School graduate (Spring 2020), Deb has had internships in housing, employment and immigration. Deb is a member of the National Lawyers Guild and often serves as a Legal Observer at protests. As a mid-life career changer, Deb is looking forward to this new phase of life, fighting for justice both in and outside the courtroom. In her spare time, Deb is learning Spanish.
Ilana Zeltser joined Volunteer Lawyers Project in April 2019. Ilana earned a BS in Business Management and an MBA from the University of Hartford. Before joining VLP, Ilana spent six (6) years working in higher education.