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.


Christine Boyer, Attorney

319-739-5434

Email Christine

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.


Nicole Brighton, Peace Facilitator

319-365-5437

Email Nicole

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. Throughout her career, Nicole has dedicated her time and attention to supporting and advocating for children. Nicole taught in the Cedar Rapids community for seven years, and later provided school-based therapy services for three years prior to joining the Kids First team. In her role as a Youth Peace Project Facilitator with Kids First, Nicole works to help resolve conflicts between students at the elementary school level.

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


Elizabeth Weyer, Attorney
Elizabeth Weyer Davis, Attorney

319-739-5428

Email Elizabeth

Elizabeth received her bachelor’s degree in Political Science with Honors and Highest Distinction from the University of Iowa in 2011. 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 the Iowa State Bar Association Family Law Section. During law school, Elizabeth clerked for the Cook County Public Guardian in the Juvenile Division in Chicago, Illinois. She represented abused and neglected children under a student practice license.

In her free time, Elizabeth loves training for triathlons, painting, and spending time with her five nieces and nephews.


Laura Ebinger, Attorney
Laura Ebinger, Attorney

319-739-5431

Email Laura

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 in high-conflict family law disputes. In addition to her work representing children, Laura designed and created the Kids First Workshops for Children of Divorce. To date, the workshops have helped over 2,500 children in Linn County understand and cope with their parents’ divorce.

Laura is a member of the Iowa State Bar Association, the Linn County Bar Association and the Linn County Bar Family Law Committee. She has served on the Linn County Bar Association 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.


Judy Goldberg, Peace Facilitator

319-739-5427

Email Judy

Judy joined the Kids First team in August 2018 and serves as a Youth Peace Project facilitator, working to help resolve conflicts at McKinley Middle School. 

After graduating from Kansas State University in 1987, Judy worked as a newspaper reporter at the Hawk Eye in Burlington, Iowa. She then attended the University of Iowa College of Law where she graduated with distinction in 1992. While raising a family with her husband, Gordon Parker, Judy represented children and adults for twenty years as a family and juvenile law attorney. During this time, she also served on the Kids First Board of Directors from 2006-2009 and was elected to and served on the Cedar Rapids Community School Board from 2006-2009. Immediately prior to joining Kids First, Judy worked for three years as a civil rights investigator for the Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission.

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


Allison Heffern, Attorney
Allison Heffern, Attorney

319-739-5433

Email Allison

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. 


Jennifer Koester, Workshop Coordinator
Jennifer Koester, Workshop Coordinator

319-739-5432

Email Jennifer

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. For the next 10 years Jennifer worked from home as a full-time parent until she joined Kids First as a mediator. Currently 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.


Laura Martin, Mediator
Laura Martin, Mediator

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

Email Laura

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 uses transformative and problem solving approaches to mediation which encourages parents to change their interactions. She empowers parents to define their issues/topics and assists them in identifying possible resolutions. She is trained in and incorporates many different techniques in her mediations including crisis intervention, motivational interviewing, and cognitive behavioral therapy . These techniques help parents develop a long-term, family-specific plan that improves their coparenting relationship.

In addition to her role as a mediator, Laura 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.


Cheri Mase-Reider, Director of Operations

319-739-5424

Email Cheri

 


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

319-739-5426

Email Jenny

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.

Jenny is an active member of the Linn County Bar Association (LCBA) and the ISBA Family and Juvenile Law Section. She has served as a member of the Iowa Supreme Court’s Family Law Case Processing Reform Task Force Steering Committee and the Sixth Judicial District nominating commission.

In her free time, Jenny loves hiking and camping in the mountains, playing the piano, and swimming.


Negebe Sheronick, Peace Facilitator

319-365-5437

Email Negebe

Negebe joined the Kids First team in September 2020. She serves as a Youth Peace Project Facilitator at elementary 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. 


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

319-739-5429

Email Sarah

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 and improve lives in the corridor. She is proud Kids First supports schools she attended growing up in Cedar Rapids. 

In her free time, Sarah loves hosting her friends and family, checking out new restaurants around the corridor and chasing around her charming English Bulldog Charlie. Sarah also serves on the Associate Board at Tanager Place. 
 


Kelsey Portwine
Kelsey Portwine, Peace Facilitator

319-365-5437

Email Kelsey

Kelsey grew up in Marion, Iowa and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and Child, Adult & Family Service from Iowa State University. Kelsey has dedicated her career to helping others. Prior to joining Kids First Kelsey was a Social Worker with The Iowa Department of Human Services and a Youth Services Worker with Polk County Juvenile Detention. Kelsey enjoys building positive relationships and mentoring kids dealing with conflict.

In her free time, Kelsey enjoys staying active, traveling, spending days at the lake with family, friends and her dog.


Tori Carson
Tori Carson, Peace Facilitator

319-365-5437

Email Tori

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, working with middle school students, 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. 


Madi Schroeder, Attorney

319-739-5466

Email Madi

Originally from the Rockford, Illinois, area, Madi graduated from DePaul University with a dual major in Public Relations and Spanish before attending the University of Iowa College of Law. While in law school, Madi worked as a Spanish translator in the legal clinic and competed in the Baskerville Moot Court Competition. Prior to joining Kids First in 2021, Madi was a private practice family-law attorney at a law firm in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

In her free time, Madi enjoys running, hiking, traveling, and sipping on a good cup of coffee. She lives in the Iowa City area with her husband, dog and cat.

Kids First Law Center

420 6th St. SE Ste. 160

Cedar Rapids, IA 52401

(319) 365-5437

News

Oct 21, 2021, 9:40 AM
Please view our Annual Report to see all the good you did in 2020!