2015 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Eliza Finley

Eliza Finley

Name of Host Organization: Public Counsel
City, State: Los Angeles, California
Issue area: Education/Special Education, Housing/Homelessness
Sponsors: Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP; Edison International

The Project

Eliza will improve student outcomes through a unique school-legal partnership in East Hollywood that will provide legal services in education, housing, and public benefits to students and their families

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project: 
Students from the high-poverty neighborhood of East Hollywood face problems outside the classroom that affect their ability to thrive in school. The East Hollywood Promise Zone has partnered with local schools to address these problems by providing wraparound services, but the provision of legal services has been very limited to date. Legal issues, such as poor housing conditions, tenuous immigration status, or financial instability, cause chronic stress and impair school performance. These problems are further compounded by harsh discipline policies that push at-risk students out of school. Students living in poverty also often struggle to obtain the academic services they are entitled to, such as accommodations for disabilities and English learner instructional services. This project targets these barriers by providing a full range of legal services and legal education to students and their caregivers through the Promise Zone initiative.
The Right Person For This Project: 
Eliza is the right person for the project because:
• She taught students in low-income communities before law school and learned from them about the obstacles they faced due to poverty and the scarcity of services and resources
• She has acquired experience in several areas of law, including housing, education, employment discrimination, worker’s rights, consumer protection, and community economic development
• She is driven to help hard-to-reach clients through extensive outreach, networking, and organizing efforts
• She is passionate about community empowerment and helping people learn their rights so that they can control the forces that affect their lives
Plans For First Six Months of Fellowship: 
In the first six months, Eliza will:
• Raise awareness of the legal clinic among students and their caregivers
• Begin intakes, screenings, and direct representation in school discipline and special education proceedings
• Foster client referrals by networking with community leaders and organizers, teachers, administrators, Promise Neighborhood staff, and other social service providers
• Reach out to potential pro bono partners, including her sponsors, for referrals
• Begin workshops and trainings to clients and community partners

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