Advocacy Fellowship

The Reentry Advocacy Fellowship is an innovative program designed for individuals with lived experience navigating the criminal justice system and reentering the community.

Fellows work closely with the Roundtable Executive Committee and consultants to develop their leadership skills and become competent and professional advocates for people with criminal justice system involvement. At the same time, Fellows help build capacity for the Roundtable by providing administrative, communications, planning, coordination, advocacy, and policy support.

The Advocacy Fellowship plays a critical role in supporting the Reentry Advocacy Project (RAP), an affiliated group of people with criminal justice system involvement who meet monthly to provide support and connect to resources utilizing a mutual aid peer support model.

Meet the 2023 Reentry Advocacy Fellow!

Barbara Ornelas

The Reentry Roundtable is very excited to announce Barbara Ornelas as the newest Reentry Advocacy Fellow. Barbara is the Executive Director of RARE Academy. Read the interview below to learn more about Barbara's goals for her fellowship!

To contact Barbara please email

Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I am a woman with a dedication to the work. I am amazed at the advancements that have been made. When I came home I did not know anyone from Austin because I am from San Antonio. It took me a long time to get used to being in Austin and I honestly debated with myself on whether to stay or not. As soon as I made the decision to stay, it pivoted me to a job opportunity that would allow me to build out a program to support people like myself who are facing similar obstacles.

What inspires you to do this work?
My personal journey and struggle is the inspiration for me. When I came home I was unable to find the resources and did not know who I needed to call for support or to cover my basic needs. This experience drives me to make the changes for those coming home now.

What are you hoping to accomplish as the Advocacy Fellow?
I am hoping to be a part of an environment or community that collaborates in order to support those returning home. I want to be a part of ensuring that we have a real one stop shop so that everyone can have all their needs met in one place.

What do you believe you bring to the community?
My impact. I came home to nothing and with no knowledge of the landscape. I bring dedication, willingness, fight, & voice! I want to be able to use my voice to fight for those who need it the most.

Where do you see Reentry Advcocay Project in two years?
I see RAP being the one stop shop for all the services and resources. The place where anyone who is returning to the community can come and find all the things they need.

Spotlight on Past Fellows

Amanda Cassidy-Trejo

The Reentry Roundtable is very excited to announce Amanda Cassidy-Trejo as the newest Reentry Advocacy Fellow. Amanda has experienced the criminal justice system first-hand, and she uses her experiences to serve others in overcoming obstacles in the reentry process. She has been a part of the recovery community for fifteen years.

After her most recent incarceration, Amanda discovered a passion for advocating for people with similar lived experiences. Amanda has completed Recovery Support Peer Specialist Training, served on the planning committee for the Virtual Big Texas Rally for Recovery 2020, and is currently on the Board of Directors of Building Promise USA.

Amanda sees this fellowship as a great opportunity to connect with people within the advocacy world, as well as learn how to be an effective and compassionate advocate. It is her hope and dream to be a part of real and effective change within the justice system.

“I want to learn how to understand how policies work, why they are written the way they are and what motivates the designers of them,” said Amanda. “I want to be a part of designing policies that offer real help for innumerable men and women like me.”


Laurie Pherigo

Laurie Pherigo began her Advocacy Fellowship in October 2018. Laurie has gone on to work closely with Truth Be Told and facilitate the Let’s Get Real program at Lockhart women’s correctional facility but also to enhance the curriculum itself.

Laurie shared the following thoughts on her term as Advocacy Fellow:

In what ways do you think the Fellowship program impacts the Reentry Roundtable?

The Fellowship program allows the Roundtable to put a face to the work they are doing and have a better understanding of what those who are impacted by the system need the most.

What were your major accomplishments as a Fellow? Getting to take part in helping pass SB 15 and gathering the support of the Roundtable.

How did the fellowship prepare you for your future as an advocate? It has helped me to learn more about how to see and how to work to fill the holes in the criminal justice system. I learned how to talk to State Legislators and how to share my story with them without being afraid of them or without worrying about them judging me.

Lauren Johnson

Lauren Johnson served as the first Roundtable Advocacy Fellow starting in 2015. After serving her term, she began working as Criminal Justice Outreach Coordinator at the ACLU of Texas.

She shared the following thoughts on her term as Fellow:

What were your major accomplishments as a Fellow? “Getting to be part of a coalition of other formerly incarcerated people in the fight to win a fair chance hiring ordinance in Austin, and preventing the preemption of it at the state level even in the face of over half of the legislators signing on to the bill as co-sponsors. I am especially proud of having helped formulate the fellowship and create this opportunity for not only the Roundtable but for other people with criminal histories to be able to do this important work.”

In what ways do you think the fellowship program impacts the Reentry Roundtable?  “Not only is the Roundtable walking the walk by incorporating the voices of people with lived experience in the criminal justice system, but we are seeing phenomenal outcomes as a result."

How did the fellowship program prepare you for new roles and employment? “The practical experience that I gained during my fellowship is directly related to some of the work that I do with the ACLU of Texas. I often joke that I have a Ph.D. [in life experience] and this new opportunity is a direct result of the experience that I have built up."

Annette Price

Annette Price started her Advocacy Fellowship with the Roundtable in February 2017. By the second year of the Fellowship, multiple career opportunities began to materialize and in June 2018 she took a position as the Texas Advocates for Justice statewide coordinator with Grassroots Leadership. She now organizes formerly incarcerated individuals, their families, people of all faiths, and allies to build safe and resilient communities through organizing, leadership training, and connections to community resources.

Annette shared some thoughts on her term as Advocacy Fellow:

In what ways did the Fellowship advance your criminal justice knowledge? "It provided me with a deeper insight into the work we have ahead to end mass incarceration and change barriers to successful reentry for those returning to the community with a criminal background(s)."

What were your major accomplishments as a Fellow? "I testified at the Legislature on behalf of  Fair Chance Hiring; I spoke at the Statewide Women’s Reentry Conference;  I was selected by Sheriff Sally Hernandez to sit on the Women’s Jail Advisory Board; and  I participated in the planning of the Roundtable's Housing Guide, which was released  in April 2018."

In what ways do you think the Fellowship program impacts the Reentry Roundtable? "It is important for organizations working on criminal justice reform to collaborate with those directly impacted [by the criminal justice system]. It is because of that relationship that optimal changes are now seen daily. No matter how subtle those changes are, they are happening."

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The Austin/Travis County Reentry Roundtable is collaborative promoting safe and healthy communities through effective reentry and reintegration of formerly incarcerated persons and individuals with criminal histories in Austin/Travis County, Texas.

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