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Equal Justice Works Blog

March 9, 2017

This is a guest blog post from justice AmeriCorps Fellow Charity Ramsey ('15), of Kids in Need of Defense in Seattle, Washington.

My name is Charity Ramsey, and I am an AmeriCorps member serving at Kids in Need of Defense in Seattle, through the justice AmeriCorps program. AmeriCorps has facilitated my dream job. I became an attorney because I care deeply about social justice issues and wanted to do something about things like trafficking, genocide, and domestic violence. I wanted to be equipped to stand up as a voice for those who do not have a voice, for the oppressed and the downtrodden, for those with educational and language barriers keeping them from standing up for their rights, oftentimes at the cost of their lives. Because of justice AmeriCorps, I get to do just that—stand up for voiceless children in our immigration system.

March 9, 2017

This is a guest blog post from justice AmeriCorps Fellow Stephanie Lubert ('15), of HIAS Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

There were many uncertainties in my life after graduating from college, but one thing was very clear – I wanted to better my community by assisting those most vulnerable. I chose to participate in a year of service with an AmeriCorps affiliated program, and during this time working with immigrants and refugees in Houston, Texas, I decided to continue on a path of service and advocacy. I went to law school with the goal of dedicating my career to legal aid. After graduation I once again turned to AmeriCorps, and in April 2015 joined HIAS Pennsylvania as an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow. I am now entering my third year as an AmeriCorps Fellow, and I’m beyond grateful that AmeriCorps has provided me with the opportunity to work in a field I love, and to advocate for the most vulnerable in the community.

March 8, 2017

This is a guest blog post from Disaster Legal Corps Fellow Yoona Lim ('16), of New York Legal Assistance Group in New York, New York.

I am an AmeriCorps Fellow in New York City with the New York Legal Assistance Group, working for their Storm Response Unit. This unit tackles a wide range of disaster-related legal issues such as administrative FEMA and state recovery program appeals and hearings, flood insurance claims and reexaminations, foreclosure prevention, and consumer issues. I spend my workdays conducting case consultations, providing direct representation, and engaging in education and outreach in order to holistically serve clients.  

March 8, 2017

This is a guest blog post from Employment Opportunity Legal Corps (EOLC) Fellow Zane Johnson ('16), of Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (PLSE) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

This may sound cliché, but I became an attorney because I wanted to help people. More specifically, I wanted to help communities that are traditionally underserved and overlooked. It was this urge to serve that ultimately led me to my Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Fellowship at Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (PLSE). PLSE is a nonprofit legal aid organization working towards just outcomes for low-income individuals who have had contact with Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system. As an Employment Opportunity Legal Corps (EOLC) Fellow at PLSE, my mission is to help people overcome the barriers to employment created by their criminal records.

Employers often use criminal history records as a proxy for predicting future job performance. Unfortunately, instead of using this information as a single factor when considering a job candidate, employers often choose to disqualify all candidates with a criminal history regardless of its relevance to the position for which they are applying. The result is that people are unfairly excluded from job opportunities they are otherwise qualified for. Many times these charges are ones they were never convicted of, or years-old mistakes that they are trying to put behind them.

March 7, 2017

This is a guest blog post from Veterans Legal Corps Fellow Benjamin Butler ('15), of the Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc. in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

I am currently in my second year of service as an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Fellow with Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc. My fellowship began in Oklahoma City in September 2015 as a program designed to assist veterans and their families. Since the program’s inception, several partnerships have been formed with other organizations in the community to help identify and serve local veterans in a more effective manner.

I chose to join AmeriCorps after spending a year in private practice. Through that experience, I realized that I wanted to spend my career helping individuals who may not have the necessary resources to hire an attorney. I was also very drawn to the idea of helping veterans – my grandfather served in the Marine Corps during Vietnam, my sister served in the Navy, and I have many friends who have served in the military. When I heard about the opportunity to serve both veterans and individuals facing obstacles in accessing the legal system, I knew I had found a program in which I would be passionate and successful.

March 7, 2017

This is a guest blog post from Veterans Legal Corps Fellow Richard Morris ('15), of Legal Aid of West Virginia in Morgantown, West Virginia.

After graduating from West Virginia University College of Law in the spring of 2015, I was searching for an opportunity that would allow me to help people who were most vulnerable in my community. I had moved to West Virginia from Wisconsin not only to attend law school, but because I felt a deep connection to the people in this area, and I wanted to use my abilities as an attorney to help make my new home better. That’s what drew me to this position as an AmeriCorps Equal Justice Works Veterans Fellow: not only has this position expanded my knowledge as a young attorney, it has also given me the opportunity to make a difference in my community. By working with veterans who would otherwise not have any legal recourse, I know the difference I’ve been able to make, and the lives I’ve been able to change. The work that I’ve done as an AmeriCorps Equal Justice Works Fellow is exactly the type of work I envisioned for myself before attending law school, and it’s been better than I could ever have imagined.    

March 7, 2017

This is a guest blog post from VISTA Tenant Engagement and Community Economic Development (TECDev) Fellow Keith Syler ('16), of Legal Aid Society of Southwest Ohio in Cincinnati, Ohio. 

I am fortunate to serve as an Equal Justice Works Americorps TECDev Fellow in Cincinnati. My project is hosted by the Legal Aid Society of Southwest Ohio, which has a long and impressive record of protecting and preserving public housing.

TECDev, one of two AmeriCorps VISTA programs administered by Equal Justice Works, is short for Tenant Engagement and Community Economic Development. One thing I can say with deep conviction is that the tenants here are already engaged. Public housing is undergoing a transition thanks to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Rental Assistance Demonstration (another acronym: “RAD”) program, which harnesses private funds to bring necessary repairs and improvements like new roofs, plumbing, better security, and paint, to public housing. This is happening all across the country and, right now in Cincinnati, five high-rises full of elderly residents and individuals with disabilities are currently being targeted.

March 7, 2017

This is a guest blog post from VISTA Affordable Housing Preservation Project (VAHPP) Fellow Tatyana Manning ('16), of Legal Services of Greater Miami in Miami, Florida.

The AmeriCorps VISTA Affordable Housing Preservation Project (VAHPP) dispatches attorneys and tenant organizers to help save low-income, project-based Section 8 housing from losing their contracts. My job, more specifically, is to enter properties with poor living conditions and notices of non-renewal. I organize the tenants and help them increase capacity by providing them with team-building skills and legal support. I inherited two tenant associations from a prior VAHPP Fellow, and started another on my own. I also preserved an entire building, and organized a lawsuit against a property within the first six months of my Fellowship. Needless to say, I am learning a lot. It was purely by chance that I ended up in Miami, serving at Legal Services of Greater Miami, for AmeriCorps VISTA. I applied knowing I could end up in any of five states, but Miami called and I came running. I applied to serve with VAHPP, a program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and AmeriCorps. At the time, I knew nothing about housing, but helping the underserved community was something that I had always been passionate about. It didn’t matter what area of law, as long as I was helping people.

March 6, 2017

This is a guest blog post from Elder Justice AmeriCorps Fellow Rachael Delehanty ('16), of Alaska Legal Services Corporation in Fairbanks, Alaska. 

As an AmeriCorps Elder Justice Legal Fellow at Alaska Legal Services Corporation (ALSC), I am one of 25 Fellows throughout the U.S. who take on abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation cases for adults aged 60 and older.

At just ten years old, I knew I wanted to become an attorney: to grow up, learn about the law, and use that knowledge to help others less fortunate than myself. I became an AmeriCorps member to use my law degree to help low-income people. I wanted to give a voice to people whose voices usually go unheard. 

When I took the job in Fairbanks, it was with full knowledge that there was no elder legal program. Not only was the Elder Justice program new to AmeriCorps, it was also new to Alaska. However, my co-workers at ALSC and especially my supervisor, Melony Lockwood, were so welcoming and very helpful in getting this native Californian acquainted with Fairbanks. The first two months working at ALSC, I spent the majority of my time driving all over Fairbanks and the surrounding villages, introducing myself to senior service providers, the local police, adult protective services, and any other organization that had a connection with elders. During this time I also gave presentations about the Elder Justice grant, and the kinds of cases I could take on.

March 6, 2017

This is a guest blog post from Elder Justice AmeriCorps Fellow Mara Casseday ('16), of the Legal Aid Justice Center in Richmond, Virginia. 

I always knew I wanted to live a life of public service. After spending ten years in the military, I became a civil rights and then a legal aid paralegal, eventually going on to law school. There I continued doing public interest work, both as a volunteer during the academic year and as a summer associate. The opportunity to join AmeriCorps presented itself shortly after graduation, and I jumped at the chance.