Staff

Marcia Levy, Executive Director, has had a distinguished career in public service, pro bono and academia, most recently as the Director of Externships and Field-Based Learning and a Lecturer in Law at Columbia Law School. Prior to her position at Columbia, Ms. Levy was the Executive Director of Pro Bono Partnership, which provides free transactional legal services to nonprofits in the tristate area.  Ms. Levy’s career included working as Special Counsel for Pro Bono and Director of Professional Development at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, developing and supervising litigation and transactional pro bono opportunities for the firm’s lawyers. Ms. Levy’s experience also includes service for the Legal Aid Society, first, as a staff attorney with the Prisoners’ Rights Project, and then as an assistant federal defender in the Eastern District of New York. She spent over 14 years in legal education, holding academic positions as a Clinic Director and Clinical Law Professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, Rutgers Law School and Hofstra University School of Law. She was Associate Dean of the Office of Career Services and Professor of Professional Development at Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School.   In addition, she was the first Director of the Eric Neisser Public Interest Program at Rutgers. She was Counsel and is now Special Advisor to the Permanent Commission on Access to Justice.

Ms. Levy is a member of the NYC Bar Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service and on Military Affairs, and was a member of the New York State Bar Association’s President’s Committee on Access to Justice and Committee on Legal Aid. She served as Chair of the Association of American Law School’s Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service. In 2015, the New York Law Journal named her a “lawyer who leads by example” for public service.  Ms. Levy was awarded the Robert E. Oliphant Service to the National Institute for Trial Advocacy Award in 2007, and she has been a NYSBA Empire Awardee for Pro Bono Service.

 

Ivia Cardozo, Staff Attorney, Microenterprise Project, received her J.D. from Loyola University New Orleans College of Law and has a B.S. in Marketing from New York University. Her work experience has spanned across public, private and government sectors. Through her prior roles at nonprofits including Kids in Need of Defense, ProBAR and Legal Services NYC, she represented underserved communities in immigration, housing, and public benefits matters. Before joining VOLS, Ivia worked for the New York City Council where she gained invaluable knowledge of government operations and municipal fiscal policy. She is a native Spanish-speaker and is admitted to the New York State Bar.

 

Molly Coe

Molly Coe, Senior Staff Attorney, Immigration Project, has a B.A. in Political Science from Boston University and graduated from CUNY School of Law in May 2014. From September 2014 to September 2016 Molly worked with VOLS’ Dream Not Deferred Initiative as an Equal Justice Works Fellow sponsored by MetLife and Debevoise & Plimpton LLP. Molly’s fellowship focused on providing free legal assistance to undocumented students who are eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) due to parental abuse, abandonment, or neglect. Molly has previously worked with VOLS as a Project Assistant and as Outreach Coordinator with Law Help/NY. Molly has extensive experience working with immigrant youth and conducting community outreach through internships with Brooklyn Defender Services, The Door, and CUNY's Immigrant and Non-Citizen Rights Clinic.

 

Cecilia Cortés VilaCecilia Cortés Vila, Manager, Impact Evaluation & Community Partnerships, has a B.A. in Political Science from Universidad Nacional de Buenos Aires (UBA) and has completed her graduate studies at a joint program between Universita di Bologna and Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero (UNTREF) in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Cecilia has extensive experience in social research focused on political participation, comparative politics, political campaigning, and policy analysis. She has also worked as a consultant for non-governmental organizations (NGOs), government institutions, and brands, in the areas of qualitative research and discourse analysis. As the Project Coordinator for the Immigration Project, Cecilia creates monitors and updates systems to track and report on case management, outreach events and funding. Cecilia translates and interprets complex legal information during hearings, court appearances USCIS interviews and assist clients with affidavits. She maintains and develops partnerships with schools and community based organizations. Plan and manage the logistics for outreach events and legal clinics working closely with partner organizations and clients. Since mid- 2017 Cecilia has also taken some responsibilities pertaining VOLS general operations, leading initiatives to create new systems and processes to implement and professionalize successful volunteer management programs for skilled (non-legal volunteers). Cecilia collaborates with executive and administrative staff to prepare grant proposals and reports, implementing processes, modifications and edits to data management systems as program and funding landscape evolve.

 

 Sara Effron

Sara Effron, Director, Pro Bono & Strategic Initiatives, will in this new role, work to to strengthen our collaboration with law firms and community partners. She was formerly the VOLS Associate Director. Sara has a B.A. in Political Science from SUNY College at Purchase and an M.S. in Urban Affairs from Hunter College. As Associate Director of VOLS, she designed and created innovative projects using an interdisciplinary approach, developed many relationships with law firms and community-based organizations, and was involved in VOLS’ fundraising activities and grants management.  She serves as an adjunct member of the Pro Bono and Legal Services Committee of the New York City Bar Association; is a member of the Pro Bono Coordinators Network of New York State Bar Association; the Advisory Committee of Law Help New York; a member of the Public Interest Pro Bono Association (PIPBA); a representative to  LEAP  (Legal Advocacy Partnership), the New York State Legal Services Coalition, and a member of the  New York Initiative for Children of Incarcerated Parents. Ms. Effron also coordinates the work of the VOLS Children’s Project and the Incarcerated Mothers Law Project. She has over 25 years experience working in legal/social work collaborations and  previously worked as the Director of Training and Technical Assistance for the Community Council of Greater New York and at Municipal Employees Legal Services (MELS) of District Council 37. 

 

Jenifer Guzman, Community Advocate, Immigration Project graduated from CUNY at Hunter College with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Psychology.  At Hunter College she was a member of the school’s Dream Team and a recipient of The Dream U.S Scholarship as well as the Jaime Lucero Mexican Studies Institute Scholarship. She has spent an year as an intern and volunteer at a VOLS partner organization, Mixteca, in Sunset Park where she assisted in fundraising and outreach. She also has experience as a paralegal for an solo immigration practitioner in Queens. Jenifer’s ultimate goal is to become an attorney that advocates for the rights of the immigrant community. 

 

Jon Grabelle HerrmannJon Grabelle Herrmann, Director, Philanthropy & Development, invites you to consider VOLS as part of your charitable giving plans. For over 18 years, Jon has served in roles as a nonprofit executive and repeat entrepreneur with a background in fundraising, communications, strategy, and management. He has been a leader in issue areas spanning education, politics, arts & culture, international affairs, tourism, and now adding legal services. Before joining VOLS, Jon held positions as executive director of USA250, the Philadelphia-based organization making big plans for the USA’s 250th anniversary in 2026; as Southeast PA director of Pre-K for PA, the nonpartisan campaign promoting state investment in early learning; as national field director of J Street, the pro-Israel, pro-peace lobby group based in Washington, DC; and as founding executive director of Campus Philly, the nonprofit connecting Philadelphia-area college students to the local community and economy. Jon has served as board member for causes including: PK-8 education, grassroots philanthropy, peace advocacy, and historic preservation; including most recently as a 2017-18 elected member of NYC's District 1 Community Education Council. He lives in NYC's Lower East Side with his wife, Rabbi Lauren Grabelle Herrmann, and their two children. Jon earned his B.S. in Economics from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He maintains a complicated system of dual loyalties to various New York and Philadelphia sports teams.

 

Arthur Kats

Arthur Kats, Senior Staff Attorney, Microenterprise Project, has a B.A. from Rutgers University with majors in Spanish and Linguistics, and a certificate in legal translation and interpreting. He received his J.D. from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, where he served as a notes editor for the Cardozo Journal of International and Comparative Law, which published his note examining Holocaust Era class action settlements. Before joining VOLS, Arthur was an Associate Attorney at a boutique Brooklyn law firm specializing in commercial landlord-tenant litigation and leasing transactions. In this position, Arthur litigated extensively in city, state and federal courts in commercial and residential contexts. He represented both landlords and tenants on myriad business, real estate, and corporate claims including lease disputes and breaches of contract, cooperative and condominium law, and lien law. He also represented court-appointed receivers in mortgage foreclosure actions. Arthur's pro bono work includes conducting legal research for the New York Civil Liberties Union and assisting in the representation of LGBTQ+ people with housing and political asylum claims at the New York City Anti-Violence Project. He is fluent in Russian and Spanish.

 Peter Kempner, Legal Director & Elderly Project Director, received his J.D. from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University in 2001 and was admitted to the New York State Bar in 2002. He received his B.A. in Political Science from the State University of New York College at Purchase in 1996 and he received an M.A. in Political Management from the Graduate School of Political Management at the George Washington University in 1998. He is admitted to practice in the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York and is accredited to practice by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Pete's work focuses on a population based approach to legal services. He worked in Brooklyn Legal Services' HIV Unit from 2001 until 2011 as a Senior Staff Attorney and Government Benefits Specialist. In May 2011, he help found the Veterans Justice Project, an innovative general legal services practice focusing on veterans, active duty military personal and their families. In April 2015, Pete became the Director of the Veterans Justice Project and Deputy Director of the Housing Unit at Brooklyn Legal Services. In addition, he has served as a member of the Social Welfare Law Committee of The Association of the Bar of the City of New York from 2007 until 2013 and served as the Chairperson of the Committee from 2013 until 2016.  He served on the Advisory Committee to the Brooklyn Veteran Treatment Court from 2012 until 2018, was a member of the New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Veterans from 2013 until 2017. He is also an Adjunct Clinical Professor at New York Law School where he created and has taught their Veterans Justice Clinic since 2015.

Sin Yen Ling, Director, Immigration Project, has a J.D. from the City University of New York School of Law and a B.A. from New York University.  Prior to joining VOLS, she launched the Padilla practice at Queens Defenders (formerly Queens Law Associates) where she was the Supervising Immigration Attorney.  She was the Senior Staff Attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice: Asian Law Caucus where her litigation included GLAHR v. Deal and HICA v. Bentley, challenging SB1070 copycats in Georgia and Alabama. It also included complex litigation involving illegal detention of U.S. citizens, suppression cases in deportation, and challenging material support to terrorism.  She also founded, ASPIRE, the first pan Asian undocumented youth group in the country.  She is a former staff attorney at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) where she spent six years conducting litigation and advocacy in the areas of anti-Asian violence, racial profiling and post 9.11 immigrant detention/deportation. She is admitted to practice in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Eastern and Southern District of New York.   Sin Yen speaks Chinese: Cantonese and Mandarin. She is a member of the New York State Bar, the National Immigration Project, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association.  A native New Yorker, Sin Yen was born in Manhattan’s Chinatown to immigrant parents who worked in garment factories and restaurants.

 

Tess Miller, AmeriCorps VISTA, Microenterprise Project, graduated from SUNY Potsdam with a B.A. in Sociology with concentrations in history and gender studies. She is driven by her passions for human rights, community building, and photography. She has worked with community members and non-profit organizations in upstate New York through her role as a research assistant.

 

Emma Morgenstern, Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow / Staff Attorney (pending admission to the Maine Bar), Immigration Project, received a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and French from Tufts University, a master’s degree in Human Rights from the London School of Economics, and graduated from the Toll Public Interest Scholarship program at the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 2019. She now serves as an Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow working with the Immigration Project at VOLS to provide free legal services to individuals in contact with the immigration system. Prior to joining VOLS, Emma gained experience with the U.S. immigration system through her work with the Transnational Legal Clinic at Penn Law, the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project in Portland, Maine, and Costa & Riccio, LLP in Boston, MA. 

 

Jess Penkoff, Staff Attorney, Elderly Project & Veterans Initiative, received her J.D. from Fordham University School of Law in 2012. While at Fordham, Jess received the Legal Writing Award and the Archibald R. Murray Public Service Award summa cum laude for completing over 1,000 hours of pro bono public service work as a law student. Jess practiced as a Staff Attorney with the New York Legal Assistance Group's Storm Response Unit, where she assisted New York City homeowners with the housing recovery process after Superstorm Sandy. She then went on to represent tenants in Kings County Housing Court as a Senior Staff Attorney at CAMBA Legal Services. Prior to joining VOLS in September 2019, Jess worked for Pro Bono Net as the Pro Bono & Strategic Initiatives Coordinator, exploring and implementing tech-based pro bono delivery tools and service models in partnership with legal service providers. Jess has served as a member of the New York City Bar Pro Bono & Legal Services Committee, and is currently an active member of the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition, as well as an active volunteer with LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York's Homeless/At-Risk Youth LGBTQlinic. She believes in the power of pro bono as a profoundly effective means of striving for equal access to justice. Jess was born and raised in Southern California and received her undergraduate degree in International Development Studies from UCLA in 2007. She is admitted to practice law in New York, California, and the Southern District of New York.

 

Kelsey Ripper

Kelsey Ripper, Director, Microenterprise Project, has a B.A. from Fordham University and a J.D. from Fordham University School of Law. Prior to joining VOLS, Kelsey was a Staff Attorney and Equal Justice Works Fellow at Lawyers Alliance for New York where she designed and implemented a program to provide business and transactional legal services to nonprofit clients addressing food security in New York City. Her project placed a particular emphasis on urban agriculture as a tool for addressing food access, health, education and economic development. During law school Kelsey was a Stein Scholar for the Public Interest  and gained community development experience at Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A's Community and Economic Development Unit and in Fordham’s Community Economic Development Clinic. Kelsey is currently the Chair of the Community Economic Development Committee of the American Bar Association’s Business Law Section and has served as the Secretary of the Nonprofit Organizations Committee of the New York City Bar Association.

 

Gloria Rosario, AmeriCorps VISTA, Elderly Project graduated from Siena College with a Bachelors degree in Political Science and International Studies. She has previously worked with EduCARE an NGO in India. Rosario has done research on indiginous women in Mexico and Guatemala. She is passionate about human rights, anthropology amongst other things and is excited to work with VOLS.

 

 Ellen RosenbergEllen Rosenberg, Family Law Advisor, Incarcerated Mothers Law Project, has a J.D. from City University of New York, School of Law; an MSW from New York University, Graduate School of Social Work; and a BA from Boston University. She provides support and training to pro bono attorneys and law students involved with the Incarcerated Mothers Law Project and participates in monthly legal consultation sessions held at city and state correctional facilities. She coordinates educational workshops on family law for mothers in jail and prison and for formerly incarcerated women and service providers. For over thirty years, Ms. Rosenberg has provided services in areas including child welfare, juvenile justice, domestic violence and parental rights. She also currently serves as Law Program Director at the Women’s Prison Association.  Ellen  was previously an adjunct faculty member at the Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service and a clinical instructor at Brooklyn Law School. She is a recipient of the City Bar Association's Legal Services Award.  Ellen has over 20 years' experience in family law, and has worked for some of the leading organizations in New York in this field, including Sanctuary for Families, and Covenant House. 

 

Alyssa Villareal, Staff Attorney, Elderly Project, received her J.D. from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, where she served as President of the Cardozo Trusts and Estates Association and worked with the Cardozo Guardianship Clinic. Prior to joining VOLS, Alyssa worked for Manhattan law firms specializing in elder law and estate law, where she focused on estate planning, probate and administration, and adult guardianships. Alyssa also served as a long-term volunteer with the New York Legal Assistance Group's Total Life Choices Program. In this position, she worked extensively on advance planning matters, including last wills and testaments, medical advance directives, and powers of attorney, as well as matters pertaining to adult guardianships, guardianship alternatives, and probate and administration.


 Laura Waszak, Office Manager, is a native New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn.  She holds a B.A. from Brooklyn College. Before joining VOLS, Laura worked at Habitat for Humanity NYC as a Volunteer Engagement Coordinator, where  she managed on-site volunteer logistics and implemented recognition events for volunteers. Laura also previously worked as an Operations Specialist at the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for over 4 years.  In that role, she managed a $1 million matching gifts program and assisted with the daily operations for a 60­+ person office.