Meet Our Team

It takes a devoted group of likeminded people to create change. Our team includes a bipartisan group of experienced advocates and public officials working together to make a difference. Get to know the faces behind our mission.

CEO & Founder

James Dold

James Dold is the Founder & CEO of Human Rights for Kids (HRFK). James oversees all of HRFK’s programming and operations work. Under his leadership HRFK has solidified itself as the national expert on human rights issues impacting children in the United States. He is the principal author behind The Fight for Our Soul: A Legislative Blueprint for Changing the Way the Criminal Justice System Treats Children, as well as HRFK’s Annual National State Ratings Report which assesses how well or how poorly states are protecting the human rights of children in the criminal legal system. These reports have inspired policymakers and advocates from across the country to pass laws to bring their states into compliance with human rights standards.

Prior to launching HRFK, James served as Advocacy Director and Chief Strategy Officer for the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth where he developed and implemented the advocacy strategy that led to the quadrupling of states that ban life without parole sentences for children in the U.S. Hundreds of people who were told as children that they would die in prison have been released due to his efforts. James also served as Senior Policy Counsel at Polaris Project where he led successful state legislative campaigns resulting in the passage of 40 new anti-human trafficking laws across the country. A survivor of child labor trafficking and sexual abuse himself, James was also the architect behind Nevada’s AB 146 in 2013 which criminalized involuntary servitude of a minor which was based on his experiences as a survivor.

James received dual baccalaureates in Criminal Justice and Psychology from the University of Nevada Las Vegas and graduated Cum Laude from the University of Maryland School of Law. He is licensed to practice law in the state of Maryland and is a member of the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States. James was a 2016 Halle Scholar with the Aspen Institute’s Justice & Society Program. He was also a finalist for the 2020 Grinnell Prize and 2021 Echoing Green Fellowship. In 2021 James was selected as a winner of the Paul H. Chapman Award by the Foundation for the Improvement of Justice and the Social Innovation Pitch Prize by Echoing Green and Barclays.

Director of Advocacy & Government Relations

Emily Virgin

Emily Virgin serves as Human Rights for Kids’ Director of Advocacy & Government Relations. In this role, Emily advocates for HRFK’s priority legislation in the states and at the federal level and assists James in strategic litigation.

Prior to joining HRFK, Emily served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. She was elected to the state legislature in 2010 and reached her term limit in 2022. During her legislative tenure, Emily was elected by her peers to be the House Minority Leader.

During her time in the House of Representatives, Emily received awards and honors from Freedom Oklahoma, ACLU of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, the Oklahoma Bar Association, and the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy.

Emily became passionate about human rights issues impacting children during her legislative career and began working with James and HRFK. She became a board member of HRFK and introduced Sara’s Law and other important legislation to improve the way kids are treated in the juvenile justice system in Oklahoma.

Emily attended the University of Oklahoma for both her undergraduate degree and law degree. She graduated magna cum laude from OU in 2009 with a degree in political science and a minor in criminology. Emily was also selected as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She graduated with distinction from OU Law in 2013 and was also a member of the Oklahoma Law Review.

Emily serves her home community of Norman, Oklahoma as a board member of Bridges of Norman, a non-profit providing housing to high school students. She is a past board member of Thunderbird Clubhouse, an organization serving those recovering from mental illness, and the Norman Arts Council.

Stoneleigh Fellow

Sara Kruzan

Sara is an American. A mother. A friend. An advocate for resilience and moral values. She is inspired to create works and share light upon and alongside the shadowed voices of individuals who identify with experiencing moral injuries and crimes against humanity. Through and alongside creative expressions, she hopes to uplift these beautiful voices to the forefront of policy, community development, and institutions with a deep hope and faith that forgiveness and how people are treated, seen and heard over all, is reimagined to reflect safety, grace, compassion and love.

Child Rights Researcher

Aiden Lesley

Aiden Lesley is the Child Rights Researcher for Human Rights for Kids. In this role, Aiden leads Human Rights for Kids’ research and statistical endeavors, providing education and resources for the broader child rights field, legislators and other stakeholders. He also provides some assistance to staff in operational tasks.

Growing up just a few miles from our Nation’s Capital, Aiden was raised with a strong commitment to the value of service and advocacy. Both his mother and father worked as civil servants in government before moving into the nonprofit field to fight for public policy issues important to cancer research and children’s health, respectively. His grandmother was a teacher, women’s rights advocate and fierce believer in the value of every person’s potential to be extraordinary with the right support. He hopes to carry those values with him, helping realize HRFK’s goal of a country that provides support to every child in America.

Aiden attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison for his undergraduate degree. While in college, he helped provide an assessment and policy recommendations to Racine County, Wisconsin regarding their Youth Care Facility Operations Manual. He graduated in 2022 with a double major in Political Science and Legal Studies from the Letters and Sciences Honors College.

Policy Counsel

Teresa Kominos

Teresa Kominos serves as Policy Counsel for Human Rights for Kids. In this role, Teresa advocates for HRFK’s priority legislation and supports the team’s legal work.

Prior to joining HRFK, Teresa spent 16 years with The Legal Aid Society Juvenile Rights Practice representing children in NYC Family Courts. During her tenure, Teresa represented child and teen clients in a wide range of matters including Abuse and Neglect, Custody, Visitation and Juvenile Delinquency cases. Teresa has worked with thousands of children as they navigate the legal system while keeping trauma-informed and client centered approach. Teresa is deeply committed to empowering our most
vulnerable and ensuring children’s voices are heard.

Teresa pursued her undergraduate studies at Northeastern University, where she majored in political science. During her time at Northeastern, Teresa was a member of the Pi Sigma Alpha honor society. Teresa attended St. John’s University School of Law and is licensed to practice law in New York. While in law school, Teresa served as an Editor of the St. John’s Journal of Legal Commentary.

Teresa also volunteers with New Neighbors Partnership in her home community of Brooklyn, NY.

Board of Directors

Representative Barbara Rachelson

(D-VT)

Representative V. Lowry Snow

(R-UT)

Assemblyman John Hambrick

(R-NV)

Delegate Dana Stein

(D-MD)

Fmr. Delegate John Ellem

(R-WV)

Senator Missy Irvin

(R-AR)

Representative Greg Leding

(D-AR)

Representative Rebecca Petty

(R-AR)

Representative John Mizuno

(D-HI)

Fmr. Senator AJ Griffin

(R-OK)

David Stewart, M.A.

Suzanne La Pierre, J.D.

Johanna Olivas Benavides, M.A.

Tony Torain, II, J.D.

Douglas Overbey, J.D.

Representative Jazz Lewis

(D-MD)

Adam Pollet, J.D.

Valena Elizabeth Beety, J.D.

Advisory Board

  • Elizabeth Barnert, M.D.
  • Michael Mendoza
  • Daniel Mendoza-Jacobo
  • Ashlie Bryant
  • Mel Wilson
  • Patrice Smith
  • Ron LeGrand
  • Nate Balis
  • Maggy Krell
  • Maheen Kaleem
  • Jane Narich
  • Jessica Trease

Partners & Advocates

Our partners are essential to our impact. We work with a variety of partner organizations and individuals to advance human rights for kids across the country. Want to help make a tangible impact? Learn how you can become a HRFK partner today.