Staff

Each member of our staff is committed to providing children with a voice in divorce, custody and other conflicts. Their combined knowledge, experience and dedication has helped hundreds of children.


Alexandra VanDooren, Peace Facilitator

319-365-5437

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Alexandra serves as a Peace Facilitator at Arthur Elementary School where she uses restorative practices to help students resolve conflicts. Alexandra earned her master's degree in elementary reading & literacy from the American College of Education and bachelor's degree in elementary education from Augustana College. Prior to joining Kids First, Alexandra was an elementary educator in eastern Iowa for five years. She loves to support children and their individual journeys as important, unique, and kind human beings. 

Outside of work, Alexandra loves spending time with her husband and young son, visiting with family and friends, and traveling.


Allison Heffern, Attorney
Allison Heffern, Attorney

319-739-5433

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Allison practiced family law in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for more than 30 years prior to joining Kids First Law Center. Allison is a trained mediator and collaborative lawyer. She is a current member and past president of the Linn County Bar Association. She is also a member and past governor of the Iowa State Bar Association.

When she is not working, Allison looks for ways to spend time outside including gardening, cycling, snowshoeing and walking. 


Angelina Ramirez, Peace Facilitator

319-365-5437

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Angelina Ramirez is a Peace Facilitator at Metro High School and McKinley Steam Academy, helping kids navigate conflict in more positive ways. She is a graduate of Coe College, with a B.A. in political science and in social and criminal justice. Angelina previously worked for an organization addressing disparities within K-12 education. She is the co-founder of Our Future, a paid fellowship program that empowers young people to enter public service. Angelina also serves as a board member of the Advocates for Social Justice. 

In her free-time, Angelina enjoys camping with her partner, Harold, and their pit bull rescue, Akoda.


Cheri Mase-Reider, Director of Operations

319-739-5424

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A graduate of Waldorf University with a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership, Cheri has experience in HR as well as project and change management. She loves working in the nonprofit sector. 

Cheri is an enthusiastically positive person and wants you to be just as excited as she is about the work Kids First does in our community. When she is not working, Cheri enjoys time outdoors with family and friends, playing board games, going adventuring and creating. She lives in the area with her husband and two dogs.


Christine Boyer, Attorney

319-739-5434

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Before Christine joined Kids First in 2020, she was in private practice. Her areas of practice included criminal law and family law, consisting mostly of child in need of assistance cases. Christine received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Michigan and her Juris Doctor degree from the University of Iowa.

Christine enjoys time with her family and friends, especially with good food and lively conversation.


Dan Anderson, Executive Assistant

319-739-5427

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Dan earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Iowa and his Juris Doctor degree from Drake University in 2006.  Prior to joining Kids First, Dan worked in private practice, representing individuals who were injured at work.  Dan assists the executive director with day-to-day operations at Kids First.

When not at work, Dan enjoys skiing, Hawkeye football games, and spending time with his family.


Elizabeth Weyer, Attorney
Elizabeth Weyer Davis, Attorney

319-739-5428

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Elizabeth received her bachelor’s degree in political science with honors and highest distinction from the University of Iowa. She earned her Juris Doctor from the University of Iowa College of Law in 2014. She is a member of the Linn County Bar Association and Iowa State Bar Association Family Law Section. Elizabeth previously worked with abused and neglected children at the Cook County Public Guardian in the Juvenile Division in Chicago. 

In her free time, Elizabeth loves painting and spending time with family. 


Jennifer Koester, Workshop Coordinator
Jennifer Koester, Workshop Coordinator

319-739-5432

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Jennifer graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in English and earned her Juris Doctor from the University of Iowa College of Law in 1997. She worked as an attorney with Iowa Legal Aid in Des Moines and Iowa City for several years on a project serving the homeless and mentally ill. She serves as the workshop coordinator for the Kids First divorce workshops.

When not at work, Jennifer enjoys time with her family, cooking and baking, and cheering for her boys at sporting events.


Jenny Schulz, Attorney and Executive Director
Jenny Schulz, Attorney and Executive Director

319-739-5426

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Jenny is the executive director and founder of Kids First Law Center. Jenny has been practicing in the area of family law since she received her law degree from the University of Iowa College of Law in 1998. Jenny previously worked as an attorney at Bread for the City in Washington, DC and at Iowa Legal Aid in Cedar Rapids. In 2005, she opened Kids First to help make children’s voices heard.

In her free time, Jenny loves kayaking, gardening, and playing board games. 


John Blackcloud, Peace Facilitator

319-365-5437

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John graduated from Cornell College in 1995 where he earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology. John is a Peace Facilitator at Roosevelt Middle School using restorative practices to help peers in conflict. John has worked in various social services settings and loves working directly with students.

In his free time, John enjoys long motorcycle rides, sports of any kind, and spending time with his grandson, Ace.


Judy Goldberg, Peace Facilitator

319-365-5437

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Judy serves as a Peace Facilitator at Wilson middle school, mediating disputes between students or between students and staff. Judy graduated from the University of Iowa College of Law in 1992 and represented children and adults for twenty years as a family and juvenile law attorney. Prior to joining Kids First, Judy investigated civil rights violations for the Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission. She served on the Cedar Rapids Community School District Board from 2006-2009. Judy and her husband, Gordon Parker, have two grown children, Adam and Kylie.

In her free time, Judy enjoys running, biking, reading, baking, and adventures with friends and family.


Laura Ebinger, Attorney
Laura Ebinger, Attorney

319-739-5431

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Laura has been working at Kids First since 2007 when she was hired as the first staff attorney. Laura has advocated for hundreds of children and designed and created the Kids First workshops for children of divorce. Laura is a member of the Iowa State Bar Association and Linn County Bar Association (LCBA). She has served on the LCBA Board of Governors and as Past President of the Linn Law Club. She was the 2010 recipient of the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation’s Minnie Rubek Award and 2012 recipient of the Iowa College of Law Recent Alumni Award.

When not at Kids First, Laura enjoys time with her family, cooking and reading.


Laura Martin, Mediator
Laura Martin, Mediator

319-739-5430 (office) | 319-210-1109 (cell) 

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Laura joined the Kids First team in 2015 as a mediator. She is a Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW). Laura earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from Mount Mercy University and a master’s degree in social work from St. Ambrose University. Prior to Kids First, Laura worked as a mental health therapist in the addiction field. Laura also serves on the Community Accountability Board and the Client Services Advisory Committee for the Department of Correctional Services.

In her free time, Laura enjoys spending time with her family, relaxing with a good book or movie, and cheering on the Iowa Hawkeyes and Denver Broncos.


Negebe Sheronick, Peace Facilitator

319-365-5437

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Negebe joined the Kids First team in September 2020. She serves as a Peace Facilitator at Erskine and Grant Wood elemtary schools where she helps students resolve conflicts using restorative practices. Negebe brings with her over 30 years of experience teaching children in the Cedar Rapids area. She earned her master’s degree from Graceland University and her bachelor’s degree from the University of Northern Iowa.

Outside of work, Negebe enjoys her 3 children, reading, and relaxing with friends. 


Nicole Brighton, Peace Facilitator

319-365-5437

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Nicole earned her bachelor’s degrees in psychology from Loras College and elementary education from Mount Mercy University, as well as a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Mount Mercy University. Prior to joining Kids First, Nicole taught in the Cedar Rapids community for seven years and then provided school-based therapy services for three years. In her role as a peace facilitator, Nicole works to help resolve conflicts between students at Hoover and Johnson elementary schools.

In her free time, Nicole enjoys spending time with her husband and three active children swimming, skiing, boating, biking, and traveling.


Sarah van Deest, Development Director
Sarah van Deest, Development Director

319-739-5429

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Born and raised in Cedar Rapids, Sarah has a strong connection to the community. After graduating from the University of Iowa’s Adler School of Journalism & Mass Communication, she returned to her hometown to begin a career in community organizing. Sarah has cultivated strong relationships, advanced mission-driven initiatives, and is dedicated to helping create opportunity in the corridor. 

Sarah enjoys sharing a meal with friends and chasing around her charming English Bulldog Charlie. She serves on the Associate Board at Tanager Place. 


Tori Carson
Tori Carson, Peace Facilitator

319-365-5437

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Tori graduated from Buena Vista University in 2016 where she earned her bachelor’s degree in criminology and criminal Justice with a minor in psychology. Tori is a Peace Facilitator at Franklin Middle School using restorative practices to help resolve peer conflicts. She has worked in various social services settings and has a true passion for helping others. 

In her free time, Tori enjoys trying to keep up with her toddler, reading, being active, and international travel. 



Kids First Law Center

420 6th St. SE Ste. 160

Cedar Rapids, IA 52401

(319) 365-5437

News

Sep 16, 2022, 10:01 AM
KCRG highlighted Kids First's Youth Peace Project and the program's expansion this year.