Executive Director

Antonette N. Smith was appointed Executive Director of JTB – APO in September 2017. She brings with her over 20 years of experience working in legal association management, diversity & inclusion and youth mentoring. Most recently she served as the Associate Director of Educational Programs for the American Bar Association Section of Real Property Trust & Estate Law. While there she successfully organized and executed several Community Outreach Programs with over 50 national and local minority bar associations across the country. These programs were successful in providing not only free continuing legal education to minority lawyers so that they could in turn better serve their communities, but they also created long lasting relationships between the bar associations and their members. Antonette developed & managed the Section’s in-house eLearning program tripling program production and revenue in under 2 years. Antonette has also served as a Diversity & Inclusion speaker to incoming law students at New York Law School.

In 2008 while serving as Schiff Hardin LLP’s Manager of Professional Development and Diversity for the firm’s nine offices, Antonette had her first contact with JTB-APO. She credits that single day of working with students in the Chicago Summer Legal Institute as igniting her “JTB Spark.” That interaction was the catalyst for her increased involvement in youth mentoring in Chicago, work for which she is the proudest. She has been a youth mentor/counselor with the Teen Esteem program for almost 10 years, serving as organizer and lead coordinator for two. Antonette’s expert project management skills and work in the legal community coupled with passion and proven commitment to youth mentoring positions her perfectly to lead JTB – APO.

Antonette has lived in Chicago for almost 25 years with her husband and their three children. She received a BS in Political Science from Tennessee State University in Nashville, TN. She is an active member of her community and currently serves as Scholarship Chairman for her local alumni association and is Corresponding Secretary for the Monarch Awards Foundation, Inc.

Antonette may be reached at .

Director of Engagement


Aprill Hawkins, a native St. Louisan, is an education and non-profit professional who has dedicated the last 11 years to providing exposure, college-access resources and career mentorship to Chicago’s youth in an effort to increase diversity in higher education and the workforce. After obtaining her B.A. in Communications from Alabama A&M in 2005, Aprill relocated to Chicago to complete a graduate degree in Higher Education at Loyola University.

Aprill began her career as a co-teacher at Sacred Heart Schools while also volunteering as a tutor/mentor with GEAR-UP, working within Dunbar High School. In 2008, Aprill began serving as Program Director for the Visitation Scholarship Program in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, developing and implementing college-preparatory curriculum and programming for 9th-12th graders. Most recently, Aprill served as Career Program Manager for The Posse Foundation, a college access and leadership development program. During this time, she created partnerships with Chicago-based companies and organizations committed to providing career opportunities for Posse Scholars; she also provided career coaching and mentorship to recipients and Alumni. In addition to youth development and Aprill’s work experience also includes: volunteer recruitment and engagement, staff development, operations, event planning, facilitation and program strategy and evaluation.  Aprill is an active volunteer and has previously served on the junior board of the Chicago Public Library Foundation and as a mentor for Chicago Scholars. Currently, she volunteers with iMentor and is learning to play the guitar.

Aprill may be reached at .


Program Director

Cristina Figueroa has a personal connection to the mission of JTB and wholeheartedly believes that those in the legal field, as advocates of justice and equality, should be demographically representative of the population they serve. She understands that in order to accomplish a more diverse legal field, scholars from all socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds need exposure to legal education and careers as early as possible. Cristina Figueroa is excited to merge her background in law and education to help JTB “light the spark” in scholars to pursue and succeed in legal professions.

Cristina graduated from Northern Illinois University College of Law in 2015. She worked as a judicial intern at the Cook County Circuit Court and was an intern with the Zeke Georgi Legal Clinic. She also worked for NIU LAW’s Health Advocacy Clinic conducting outreach to low-income community members in need of legal assistance. Cristina has experience in the classroom as a lead teacher in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood and as an English teacher in South Korea. She thrives when working with diverse students and is committed to ensuring that all students, regardless of their ethnic or socioeconomic background, have the ability to continue higher education and are exposed to legal careers.

As Program Director for JTB, she is looking forward to cultivating an interest among young scholars to pursue legal professions while helping law students navigate the field. Cristina loves to travel and is a big fan of Hamilton: The Musical.

Cristina may be reached at.


Development and Operations Associate

Jenna Feldman brings energy, drive, and passion to Just The Beginning-A Pipeline Organization. Jenna is currently working toward her dual Master’s degree for Multicultural Communication and Organizational Communication with an interdisciplinary focus in Diversity, Equity, and Identity Politics at DePaul University. She is experienced in the field of diversity and inclusion and integrates that experience along with her scholarly work into practice as she continues her work with this organization.

Jenna’s experience pulls from a wide range of disciplines. Her passion for public service first began with her work in Healthcare as an Environmental Services Technician in the Operating Room and Pre/Post Operation Unit of Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital. She then transitioned into the field of local government, attaining the position as Press Intern with the Chicago Mayor’s Office of Press and Communications. During this time, she was attending DePaul University in Chicago and obtained a BA in Relational Communication.

Jenna began working with Just The Beginning in 2015, first as an Executive Intern and later as the Assistant Program Director. She wholeheartedly believes in the mission of Just The Beginning, and especially enjoys the opportunity to guide and mentor youth throughout programming. She spends her free time taking care of her dogs, volunteering with Chicago Humanities Fest, and training for her upcoming race.

Jenna may be reached at .