2012 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Stephanie Cocce

Stephanie Cocce

City, State: Boston, Massachusetts
Issue area: Children/Youth, Disability Rights Public Benefits/Welfare Reform
Sponsors: Anonymous

The Project

My project will provide legal advocacy to children with disabilities whose Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits have been reduced or terminated in error. I will also partner with other legal services providers to address systemic issues that often result in wrongful benefit reductions or terminations. SSI alleviates the strains of poverty more effectively than other public benefits and provides near-automatic Medicaid coverage. Accordingly, a loss of SSI can result in hunger, homelessness, and lack of medical care. As a result of my direct advocacy, families will keep the financial support they need to maintain stable homes and provide consistent care for their children.

The Inspiration



Barrington, Rhode Island

Law school:

Making the connection:

After college, I worked as a teacher in a low-income community and as a grant assistant for a graduate program to prepare and support teachers working with children with disabilities in urban areas. My work with students with disabilities shaped my law school career. Throughout law school, I pursued coursework and internships focused on advocating for children with disabilities on both an individual and systemic level. Both forms of advocacy are crucial to protecting and promoting the rights of children with disabilities.

Surviving law school:

I thoroughly enjoyed my law school experience. I attended a school focused on public interest. I also took advantage of volunteer opportunities, including my work as a Special Education Surrogate Parent outside of law school. Through this program, I served as an educational advocate for two young girls in the foster care system. I also enrolled in as many clinical classes as possible and made efforts to seek out and maintain mentoring relationships with professors working in my field of interest.

Recommended books:

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - Betty Smith; A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini; anything written by David Sedaris, he's hilarious.

Favorite website(s):

http://boston.com/ - local news, http://www.pinterest.com - a great source for recipes, art, and other inspiration

Words to live by:

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” ― Anne Frank

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