“Now I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child—What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.“ -Michelle Obama (Becoming, 2018)
This is a quote I read while doing my daily reading on the Metro. I found it so profound that I had to read it a couple more times, and eventually it caused me to reflect on my brief career path thus far. I originally wanted to be a computer science major, but things have changed.
When I first arrived on the campus of Brandeis University in fall of 2016, I was sure of two things. The first was that I would be need a good winter coat because New England winters are much harsher than what I was used to back home in DC. The second was that I would major in computer science. My high school was heavily STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) focused. Every student had to choose a STEM track of study, as well as completing five math classes and other additional requirements. I chose the information technology track with a concentration in computer science. Throughout my four years I took computer science classes and had some amazing opportunities. I was able to learn about cybersecurity, including obtaining a certification, participating in computer science internships, and learning the basics of coding. Naturally, at Brandeis I believed majoring in computer science would be the path I followed.
However, once at Brandeis, I enrolled in “Wealth and Poverty,” a class offered by the Heller School for Social and Policy Management taught by Professor Tom Shapiro. In this class, I learned about the systems of wealth and how these systems are creating and maintaining inequality in modern society. I always knew these systems of inequality existed because I saw myself and the people around me affected by them. But I didn’t think there was a way I could actively be involved in working to dismantle these systems until enrolling in that class. I then became more interested in policy, and mid-semester decided to drop my computer science class and focus on fulfilling the requirements for my current majors of politics and international and global studies. The person I was in high school would have never dreamed of becoming someone interested in studying law, but that’s who I have become today. I became interested in something because it affected me and the community I come from, so I wanted to become someone that could best serve my community. This summer, I see this same shift happening at Legal Aid Society.
Interning at the Legal Aid Society of the District of Colombia, I have seen how the organization has gone through countless changes to become what it is today. In the past couple of years, Legal Aid has created special projects including the Re-Entry Justice Project and the Immigrants’ Rights Legal Services Project. The Re-Entry Justice Project aims to help individuals facing discrimination as a result of having a criminal record, while the Immigrants’ Rights Legal Services Project helps provide resources to those in immigrant communities. These projects were created because there was inequality happening in the community that needed to be addressed. Legal Aid is also involved in advocacy and, on occasion, cases in the DC Court of Appeals in order to create systematic changes. Although the organization has been around since 1932, it has continued to grow and become new iterations of itself every day in order to fulfill its mission of “making justice real” by working to provide the tools the community needs most.
I was inspired by this mission and the ongoing work that the organization does, and that’s why I choose to intern there this summer. I was expecting it to be a typical legal internship for undergrads. However, I wasn’t expecting to be able to use my skills in HTML to help work on the online intake form. I thought computer science and coding was something I left in the past and I had become someone totally different than my high school self, but I’ve realized that the world of work is not linear. Sometimes it involves twists and turns, or in my case, returning to a skill that one might have thought was long forgotten. As First Lady Michelle Obama said, growing up is not finite. One day we might be one thing, and the next day become something different. I’m excited to see what the rest of the summer reveals to me about the organization’s constant change and the change within myself to, in the short term, become an attorney, but in the long term who knows what the future may bring because we never stop learning and growing.