When reflecting on my Brandeis education and the copious amount of information that I have learned as part of a liberal arts curriculum, it is easy to identify material that I have utilized during my internship. As a legal studies minor, I have gained an incredible foundation and understanding of the law, which has helped me effectively teach legal subjects to the Summer Law Institute (SLI) students. However, my motivation to help these students succeed in their academic and professional careers stemmed from what I learned in Sociology of Health, Community, and Society, taught by Professor Siri Suh. In this course, we discussed education as a social determinant of health, which has proven to be incredibly relevant to my internship. Education is one of the most influential determinants, as people with higher levels of education are more likely to live healthier and longer lives. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
“They [children from low-income families] are less likely to get safe, high-paying jobs and more likely to have health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and depression.” (Healthy People 2030, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).
Due to a variety of factors, children living below the poverty line are less likely to graduate high school, and are therefore likely to remain below the poverty line. However, this disparity in education accessibility is inevitably influenced by race. Figure 1 (below) shows the percentage of people, by race, that have attained various levels of education.
While white Americans are likely to obtain a bachelor’s or professional degree at some point in their lives, the majority of Latino adults receive less than a college degree due to a lack of education accessibility. This puts minority populations at a perpetual disadvantage, not only regarding health outcomes but economic success overall.
Motivating underserved and underrepresented students to overcome these statistics is the driving force behind Legal Outreach. Of the twenty eighth-grade students in my Summer Law Institute at Cardozo, every single one wants to go to college. However, the majority of them would be first-generation college students. Some of them would be the first in their family to graduate from high school. This inevitably leaves them with questions about how to apply to college, how to study for the SAT, and whether or not they can afford a college education. Legal Outreach’s College Bound program, a four-year high school program that students join upon completion of the SLI, helps underserved students overcome these unjust barriers. The College Bound Program provides students with academic and college advisors, free test prep, writing courses, internship opportunities, and college scholarships.
I am so honored to be part of an organization with such a targeted and important goal, and it is inspiring to see the motivation that the students have gained in just the past two weeks. These young women of color are gaining confidence in themselves and their ability to overcome the barriers that stand in their way. They want to become lawyers, even if no one in their family has ever reached that level of education before, and they know that they will be able to achieve that goal with hard work and the help of Legal Outreach. Learning about the benefits of an education and the obstacles these students face in obtaining it has allowed me to see this program in a new light. Their aspiration to succeed is the most inspiring aspect of this internship.