My internship with Legal Outreach has undeniably put me out of my comfort zone. I moved to New York City, started my first 9-5 job, and was forced to learn the ins and outs of the moody office coffee maker. But more importantly, I was confronted with topics that I had never discussed before—the most prominent being the racial injustices of the education system. Legal Outreach is a non-profit educational organization that seeks to bridge educational gaps by providing underserved and underrepresented students from the NYC area with skills they are usually deprived of, but are necessary for future success. Legal Outreach provides students with opportunities to develop these skills via tutoring, test prep, and extracurricular opportunities such as a mock trial team.
Their best-known program is the Summer Law Institute, which I am working with this summer. The SLI is a 5-week program for rising ninth-grade students, focusing on criminal law and taught by law students. This program, which is incredibly selective, pushes students to see themselves as future lawyers and provides them with the skills they need to one day succeed in the legal field. There are six individual institutes within the SLI, with each one taking place at a different law school in NYC. Every week, the students take tests and submit essays, converse with guest speakers, visit law firms and courthouses, and compete in a cumulative mock trial competition at the end of the program.
I chose the position as a Coordinating Intern for the SLI because I have developed a passion for non-profit legal organizations, stemming from my first legal internship with the Volunteer Lawyers Project. Most of the full-time employees of this organization are lawyers who have chosen to trade in their legal careers to be mentors and advocates for students that have dreams to become professionals, but have faced incredible obstacles in their education that prevent these dreams from coming true.
As a Coordinating Intern for the Cardozo School of Law SLI, my main responsibilities are to assist the Legal Teaching Fellows with grading student essays and tests, along with preparing and teaching one academic skills workshop a week. These lessons vary from plagiarism and citations, to essay-writing and public speaking, and so on. Additionally, it is my responsibility to reach out to attorneys and judges to serve as guest speakers and field trip hosts for the program, and to schedule and organize their visits.
This summer, I am going to support Legal Outreach and their mission by sharing the valuable information, tools, and skills that I have gained throughout my own education with the students. I want to be an outlet for students to describe the areas of education that they have been wrongfully deprived of, with the hopes that I can supplement these gaps.
At Legal Outreach, progress is seeing the SLI students gain confidence in themselves and their abilities after the program. Progress is them deciding that their dream to be a lawyer is within reach, and dedicating themselves to achieving that dream.