Danika Swanson (Class of 2004)
Three years ago I was an Initial Response Coordinator for Catholic Charities, running an emergency relief program for Hispanics in South Boston. My clients were often people struggling with myriad personal obstacles, and I helped them secure health care, homes, food and winter clothing. While these gestures of help were always greatly needed and appreciated, however, they provided immediate assistance, not long term solutions to the more fundamental problems my clients were facing. To become a more effective community advocate, I decided to apply to law school.
Today, I am a third year law student and continue to be inspired working with similar populations. In May 2003, I was hired as a legal intern with the Youth Advocacy Project; the juvenile branch of the Public Defender's office in Roxbury, Massachusetts. I participated in all aspects of defending kids, from interviewing youths accused of committing serious crimes, to conducting arraignments at the surrounding juvenile courts and securing social services for the families of the accused. When I asked my supervising attorney if he would allow me to continue as his intern for the fall semester, I was excited when he agreed. I was able to receive course credit for the internship by enrolling in the school's Administrative Law Clinic, since a great deal of the work relates to Administrative Law and governmental agencies.
In addition to my work at the Youth Advocacy Project, I worked in the Public Interest area through the school's Public Interest Law Association (PILA). In my second year of law school, I assumed primary responsibility for organizing and running the school's Public Interest auction. With the money we raised, we were able to provide a number of summer grants for New England students who obtained public interest positions in the summer of 2003.
In retrospect, I realize the opportunity I had operating the emergency relief program for people in crisis taught me the value of being assertive, organized, and the importance of sincerely believing in the necessity of my work. Much more significantly, however, listening to my client's stories of frustration, hunger, desperation, and their fight to survive and to protect their families, I gained priceless insight into the inequities that exist in our immediate communities. After graduating in May, I hope to continue representing these people as an attorney for Legal Services or as a public defender