Two months ago, when I was packing up my belongings to move to New York City for the summer, I faced a fear that most college students face: the so-called “real world.” The real world that I would face this summer, as my dad explained, would hit me like a ton of bricks. I was scared that I wasn’t prepared or experienced enough to take on a full-time job as a teacher at a non-profit organization, and didn’t have as much faith in myself as I should have. So, this is what I wish I knew when I started: when you enter the world of work, or the real world, you might not feel ready, but you will learn along the way. If you dedicate yourself to your work and are passionate about what you are doing, the evidence of your efforts will be clear.
The first three weeks of my internship served as a preparation period, where I was joined by five other interns and twelve teaching fellows. We created lesson plans for the upcoming Summer Law Institute (SLI), organized student files, learned how to be effective teachers, and coordinated with our individual law schools that would be hosting our institute.
Training was incredibly overwhelming. Learning how to be a teacher in three weeks when most people have an entire degree in education seems like an impossible task. Looking back, it only seems impossible until you’re doing it. After wrapping up our final week of SLI at Cardozo School of Law, I can confidently say that my eighteen students have left a lifelong impact on me. Our daily lessons went far beyond their criminal law curriculum; they taught me about the educational barriers they faced as young women of color entering the public high school system in New York City, and I imparted the knowledge I have acquired on how they can overcome these barriers. I helped them research scholarships that they could apply for as first generation college students, internship programs targeted toward underserved students, and even clubs at their high schools that would give them a sense of community. I’ve spent countless hours outside of the classroom reading applications, essays, and study materials. I’ve developed close relationships with every single one of the young women in my institute, and I know that we will stay in contact far beyond the end of SLI.
When I think of my overall impact on Legal Outreach as an organization, I can’t think of much. However, thinking about my impact on my eighteen students makes me feel an immense sense of pride. Throughout the summer, I was learning alongside them and figuring out what worked and what didn’t. I didn’t know which teaching methods worked for me or which activities would be engaging, and I certainly didn’t know how to be a mock trial coach. However, after watching my students compete in a mock trial competition in front of a real judge at Thurgood Marshall Courthouse in Manhattan and being praised for their confidence, I am reminded of the classroom full of silent students that I walked into on the first day of SLI who could not speak loud enough for me to hear their names.