Circle Keeper

Dorchester, MA

Janet Connors comes to OurRJ as a long time community and social justice activist in Boston, targeting neighborhoods most affected by violence and social injustices.  She brings over 40 years experience working with youth and families in community based organizations including her important work as a Survivor Support Coordinator at the Louis Brown Peace Institute, a Community Fellow and Trainer with the Center for Restorative Justice at Suffolk University, and her membership in the Massachusetts Restorative Justice Collaborative, Mothers for Justice and Equality, “Legacy Lives On” Survivor Support Organization, the Leadership Team of the Family Advisory Committee for the Department of Children and Families, and is a Survivor to Survivor Support and Program Consultant to the Homicide Support Services Program at the BIDMC Violence Prevention and Recovery Center. A survivor herself, Janet lost her son, Joel, to homicide.  Her own personal journey brought about a change in policy practice to Massachusetts, offering victims the option of participating in Victim-Offender Dialogue. She has met in restorative dialogue with two of the young men who killed her son and their mothers. Janet has particular experience in keeping circles with families to promote healing from grief and trauma, to assist families with decision-making, peace-keeping efforts, and preparation for the court process.  Janet brings restorative justice practices to schools as alternatives to suspension and as a means to build positive relationships and a strong community by engaging in meaningful dialogue through the Circle Process.

 

Circle Keeper

Roxbury, MA

Genie Curry comes to OurRJ with substantial experience in advocacy and community healing. In 2000, Genie lost her son to an act of violence. Since that time, Genie has committed herself to assisting and advocating for families that feel voiceless in the wake of the loss of a loved one due to violence. Through her work with Healing and Encouragement/Survivor of Homicide Ministry as well as Mothers for Justice and Equality, Genie has not only brought awareness to the impact of crime on victims, but also to the healing that must occur on a community level and to the dangerous opportunities luring  inner city youth to crime. Having lost her son to knife violence, Genie became well versed on the issue and successfully lobbied the Boston City Council for a knife ordinance that reduced the accessibility of knives to youth in their communities, thus preventing interactions with the juvenile justice system. Genie strives to provide awareness of the impacts of crime on the community as a whole and to empower youth to become successful adults and community leaders.

Circle Keeper

Boston, MA

Veola comes to OurRJ as a survivor of the challenging foster care system. Veola confronted first-hand the overwhelming challenges faced by youth in foster care. As someone who has transformed her difficult childhood into an opportunity to inspire similarly-situated youth, Veola is an asset in reaching difficult to engage youth. A mom of three, Veola is an independent child welfare practice consultant, who has a background in public health. Veola holds a MS in mental health counseling from Springfield College.Veola also has personal experience in the trauma that violence causes: her mother, brother and nephew were all murdered in the City of Boston in three unrelated homicides. Veola’s perspective on her own life, that a person can never be summed up by their story, encourages victims, the community, and the involved youth to engage deeply in the restorative justice process. Veola is dedicated to issues of social justice, specifically helping to strengthen families, systems, and youth to develop to their full capacity.

 

Circle Keeper

Cambridge, MA

George Halfkenny comes to OurRJ as a survivor of the school to prison pipeline. George entered the pipeline at age eight and then spent the next thirty years of his life extricating himself from it. George has personally experienced the negative living situations and unsuccessful human service provision that plague so many inner city youth. He has survived teen parenthood, foster care, group care, youth and adult incarceration, treatment centers, and homelessness. He is currently an outreach worker for North Suffolk Mental Health Association. As an adult with a positive lifestyle, reunified family, consistent work, and the head of a household, George is a beacon for troubled youth stuck in the darkness of hopelessness. He uses both his training and personal experiences to educate youth and their communities about restorative justice, the antecedents to the school to prison pipeline, and mass incarceration.  

 

Lowell, MA

Kenneth Reed comes to OurRJ with a passion for teaching others to stop and notice the previously unnoticed. A graduate of Lowell High School and Middlesex Community College, Kenneth excelled beyond his peers through countless hours of study, observation, paying close attention to detail and to his earlier life failures. His experiences as both a business owner and a teaching aid in college has given him a unique ability to understand challenges from a youth perspective as well as develop the skills needed to make plans to overcome those challenges successfully. As a graphic designer, Kenneth uses his talents in fine arts to encourage everyone to view their world from a different perspective and he is able to connect with youth on a different level as a result of this. Kenneth strives to empower youth with the strengths he himself exhibits: creativity, responsibility, critical thinking, self-motivation, and how to positively adapt to life’s challenges.

Circle Keeper

Lowell, MA

Rafael Santana comes to OurRJ with a wealth of experience and knowledge in engaging troubled youth and motivating them to become productive and successful adults. Rafael works with youth on a daily basis as a construction trainer for the YouthBuild Program. He has excellent communication skills with this population and has a tremendous ability to make strong connections with the young people he works with. Rafael is currently working on his Associate Degree from Middlesex Community College. He uses his experience and training to reach young people on their level and successfully divert them to lead productive lives.

Circle Keeper

Boston, MA

Carla Sheffield comes to Our RJ with a rich background in the legal and organizational arenas. Her previous work experience includes providing support to the Senator of the Ways and Means (SWM) Committee on Beacon Hill, the Committee charged with creation of the Massachusetts budget.  She is a graduate of West Roxbury High School and has attended Aquinas College, UMass Boston, and Suffolk University. She holds a Masters in Criminal Justice from Suffolk University. As a mother of five, Carla has a strong sense of family and a keen understanding of successfully interacting with and empowering youth. Carla’s areas of focus in working with youth include building positive relationships, preventing precursors to homelessness, and encouraging the youth she works with to become active role models in their communities.  Carla strives to assist youth and young adults who are serious about putting their lives back on track, heal their community, and overcome their mistakes. 

 

Circle Keeper

Boston, MA

Clarissa Turner comes to OurRJ with significant experience in working with families during important transitions in their lives. Clarissa has worked as a doula at Boston Medical Center, a counselor at A Woman’s Concern, a parent educator and counselor at St. Mary’s Home/Shelter, and a family partner and counselor at Children Services of Roxbury. Her own personal tragedy, the loss of her son to violence in 2011, has given her both a special perspective on youthful offending as well as a deep understanding of the long lasting impact of crime on communities as a whole. A mother of six, Clarissa formed "Legacy Lives On," an organization dedicated to supporting the entire community during times of loss. Clarissa has turned her heartbreak into a mission to encourage, empower, educate, and support youth who find themselves caught up in the juvenile justice system. Clarissa strives to provide youth and their affected communities a sense of understanding, resilience, compassion, and empowerment to move productively past serious trauma.