Meet Kenny:

Over nine years ago, Kenny came to Queens Defenders as a participant in our very first Youth Program. He was arrested for stealing a phone, and joined Queens Defenders as part of his plea deal. Kenny reflects on his experience that summer and says, “Although I didn’t know it then, this is when my life began to change.” Kenny was among twelve other young people in similar situations who came to Queens Defenders to learn positive decision-making skills, as well as participate in some fun field trips along the way. That summer on a field trip to Brooklyn Boulders, he fell in love with rock climbing. Following the program, with the help of staff at Queens Defenders, Kenny returned to school (which he had previously given up on), and ended up graduating with his GED as the program’s Valedictorian for the entire state that year. Now, almost ten years later, Kenny is a husband, a father, a home-owner, and an entrepreneur. Queens Defenders is lucky to have Kenny on our staff as a Credible Messenger, serving as a mentor to young people in similar situations. 


Meet Judisa:

Judisa was in our first cohort of youth in the Jamaica Youth Program out of our Jamaica Justice Center. During her time in the program, Judisa worked towards her high school diploma, and ended up graduating early! She then developed a passion for helping young people navigate the college application process. The staff describes Judisa as ‘determined’ and ‘focused.’ Her skills have set her apart and earned her a spot as a Credible Messenger in our Mentoring Program. She works to inspire her peers, helping with professional development, program activities, assignments, and mentoring youth on their next steps. 





Meet D’Carlos:

D’Carlos has always been a leader, and when he joined Queens Defenders, he was able to use his leadership skills in a meaningful way. Prior to joining, D’Carlos was not making decisions he was proud of. But when he became a Young Adult Leader, D’Carlos was empowered to join in on many initiatives to help his community and peers. He served as a mentor to younger adolescents in the community, he was an advocate for his fellow Young Adult Leaders, and he worked together with other Leaders to initiate and facilitate weekly young men’s groups. Now, D’Carlos is close to finishing college and just got promoted to Manager at his current job. 





Meet Fatu: 

Fatu was the very first client in our Credible Messengers Mentoring Program out of the Jamaica Justice Center. Fatu was born in Africa and came to the United States with her mother when she was 10 years old. When Fatu was 16, her mother left. Fatu was moved into a foster care group home, and she eventually joined a gang. Later, she was arrested on three different felony assault and robbery charges. She was represented by Queens Defenders, and her attorney, Anthony Martone immediately saw the light in her. He introduced her to the rest of the staff, and everyone agreed that Fatu had so much more to offer the world. With the help of Queens Defenders, Fatu now has a job, a GED, and people to call family. Fatu says, “I owe everything good in my life to Mr. Martone and Queens Defenders.” She hopes to someday become a lawyer like Mr. Martone – someone with a big heart who is committed to getting the best for his clients. 



Meet Hector:

Hector stumbled upon Queens Defenders in the summer of 2018 when we were moving into the Rockaway Outreach Center. When he heard about the programs Queens Defenders had to offer, he was immediately intrigued. At the time, Hector shared that he was making poor life decisions and hanging around with the wrong crowd. Hector wanted to do better for himself and his family, so he started to volunteer for Queens Defenders. After several months of volunteering, Hector was hired as a Young Adult Leader. During his time at Queens Defenders, Hector has grown into a responsible young man who is devoted to helping his community. He represents Queens Defenders at various community meetings and events, and advocates on behalf of youth in the community. Hector is a leader among his peers, and encompasses the phrase, “Far Rock Strong.”




Meet Alliyah:

Alliyah started volunteering for Queens Defenders through the Youth Justice Court program at the Far Rockaway Library for Teens. Immediately, the staff at Queens Defenders could see how bright Alliyah was and how committed she was to helping her peers. After years of volunteering, Alliyah was hired as a Young Adult Leader in the Rockaway Outreach Center. As one of the Leaders, Alliyah has been actively giving back to the Rockaways through community engagement with other youth. She is particularly passionate about helping her peers become college-ready. In partnership with Queens Defenders and our supporters, Alliyah lead a College Readiness Event for the youth of Queens where she facilitated a panel discussion about what they need to know for college – all while being a student at St. John’s University. Alliyah is a sociology major and intends to become a lawyer and open her own nonprofit aimed at empowering youth.



Meet Alex:

When Alex first came across Queens Defenders, he was about to age out of the foster care system. Now, he is a Young Adult Leader that specializes in advocacy and foster care services. During his time at Queens Defenders, Alex has supported food justice initiatives in Far Rockaway and Jamaica, as well as adult services. Additionally, Alex assisted several CUNY students when their rights were being infringed on. A consummate professional, Alex recognizes the value in community advocacy and engagement. The sky is the limit for what is in store for the community with Alex involved! 





Meet Lastra:

At the start of her junior year at Scholars Academy, Lastra walked into our Rockaway Outreach Center to see what it was all about. From the moment she walked in the door, our staff could see her passion for helping the community. When Lastra was asked if she was interested in volunteering, Lastra took a moment to think about what she could meaningfully contribute to the Center. She ultimately decided that she could offer tutoring services, as she had been tutoring her peers for years. A week later, she had the tutoring program up and running with multiple youth coming in daily for homework help. And now, three years later, the tutoring program is thriving and continues to support many children in the community. Lastra is currently studying Applied Mathematics at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, all while helping her peers and younger children at the Outreach Center. 




Meet Andre:

Andre first got involved with Queens Defenders through the Youth Justice Court program while he was a student at Frederick Douglass Academy VI High School. He started off as a volunteer 3 years ago, and is now an active youth mentor on the team. Andre decided to be a volunteer at Youth Court and other Queens Defenders programs because he saw it as a great way to stay out of trouble and help the youth of the community. He proclaims, “What inspired me about being a volunteer with Queens Defenders was it kept me out of trouble and helped me learn life-changing things. Volunteering with Queens Defenders helped me change my mind set in life and to stay on the right path and guide others to do the same.” After graduating high school, Andre became an official employee of Queens Defenders. In the years he’s worked for Queens Defenders, Andre has made a tremendous impact on the community, and he continues to serve as a role model for his peers and younger kids in the Far Rockaway. 


Meet Tamara:

Tamara is our newest Young Adult Leader and is described by all staff as a hard worker willing to go above and beyond to help. With the help of the Queens Defenders team, Tamara is learning administrative skills that go hand in hand with our Housing and Food Justice initiatives. She has become an invaluable team member that believes in helping – so much so that she has volunteered her time on several Saturdays to give back to the community at cleanups and the Rockaway Youth Summit. Tamara always wants to help in any way she can. Her work ethic has inspired others with an approach to work until the job is done.  





Meet Jaden:

In the Summer of 2020, Jaden joined the Queens Defenders team as a member of the Summer Youth Employment Program. From the very beginning, Queens Defenders staff recognized something special in Jaden. At the end of the summer, Jaden was offered a position at the Rockaway Outreach Center as a Homework Helper. Since then, Jaden’s growth has been tremendous. Through hard work and connections made through Queens Defenders, Jaden completed his Eagle project in which he built a beautiful community green space in Edgemere Park. This project involved raising money for supplies, and working tirelessly to complete the space. In recognition of his hard work, Jaden was awarded with two citations: one from NYS Assembly Member Khaleel Anderson, and the other from NYC Council Member Selvena Brooks-Powers. Jaden continues to work towards his goal of helping his community, and he ultimately plans to attend an ivy league college where he will study law and eventually become a politician. 


Meet Amari:

Amari started working for Queens Defenders during Summer Youth Employment. There, he stood out as someone who was always willing to help – no matter what. Amari was then hired as a Young Adult Leader, and has continued to give back to his community ever since. Amari is not afraid to learn a new skill if it means he can help more people. He has tutored younger kids, coached basketball teams, assisted clients apply for housing, helped community members complete their taxes, and the list goes on. Amari has more skills than most young men his age, and he completes every task with a smile on his face. Queens Defenders is proud to have watched Amari grow as a Young Adult Leader, and we are lucky to have him on our team. 




Meet Benita:

Benita was in Queens Defenders’ first cohort of Young Adult Leaders. She was hired after working for Queens Defenders during Summer Youth Employment. Benita started the summer as a quiet young woman, and by the end of the summer, she had come out of her shell. The staff at Queens Defenders were amazed by her growth and kindness, and knew she had to be a member of the team. During her time at Queens Defenders, Benita worked on many projects. She was pivotal in growing our mentorship program. She was a mentor to both freshmen in high school as well as young basketball players. Benita always leads by example, and her growth throughout the years is extraordinary. Now, Benita is in college during the school year, but returns to Queens Defenders over breaks to help the community in any way she can. 




Meet Jermaine:

Jermaine was first introduced to Queens Defenders when he was attending high school at Queens High School for Information, Research, and Technology. He was interested in the programs Queens Defenders had to offer at the Far Rockaway High School Campus. Jermaine traveled to Washington DC with Queens Defenders for the “March for Our Lives.” It was there that his passion for advocating for young people flourished. Shortly thereafter, Jermaine worked for Queens Defenders through Summer Youth Employment, and was ultimately hired in our first cohort of Young Adult Leaders. Since then, Jermaine has graduated high school, started college, and developed into a leader in the community. Jermaine helps in any area he’s asked, and always leads by example. 




Meet Mike:

When Mike first participated in Queens Defenders Youth Justice Court, he described his life as “kind of crazy,” and he was hanging out with the wrong crowd. Through the help of the Rockaway Outreach Center and mentors at Queens Defenders, Mike was given direction by giving back to his community through volunteering. Now, he works with the Youth of Queens and every day pushes forward with his goal of putting Far Rockaway on the map.






Help Queens Defenders support more young people in the community by donating here.