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Headshot of Calleigh Higgins

Calleigh Higgins

  • Hosted by New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG)
  • Sponsored by Mayer Brown LLP, Spotify
  • Service location New York, New York
  • Law school Yale Law School
  • Issue area Disability Rights, Education/Special Education
  • Fellowship class year 2023
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Calleigh (she/hers) provides direct legal representation, community outreach, and policy advocacy on behalf of students with disabilities who are being impacted by the literacy crisis in New York City.
Before the pandemic, less than half of all New York City students read proficiently, which signaled a literary crisis in the city; this number is significantly lower for students with disabilities. The literacy crisis has also had a disproportionate impact on students of color. Nearly two thirds of Black and Hispanic students are not reading proficiently, and students of color are disproportionately represented in New York City’s special education system.
East New York and Brownsville are two communities with a demonstrated need for increased literacy supports. Both neighborhoods serve predominantly Black and Hispanic students and have an above average percentage of students in special education. Only 10% of students with disabilities living in these two neighborhoods have achieved reading proficiency.

Fellowship Plans

During her Fellowship, Calleigh will partner with community organizations in East New York and Brownsville to provide Know Your Rights trainings to families who have a student in the special education system. She will provide direct representation to students in these communities who have been harmed by the city’s failure to provide them with proper supports to achieve reading proficiency. Additionally, Calleigh will advocate for city-wide policy changes that increase access to literacy.
Calleigh’s commitment to serving students with disabilities is rooted in her experience as a third-grade teacher.

As a former teacher, I know reading is the most important skill a student will learn, and it is unacceptable to concede that students with disabilities will not achieve it.

Calleigh Higgins /
2023 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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Amanda Glass

Host: Arizona Center For Disability Law

Sponsor: Greenberg Traurig, LLP

Teresita Ramos

Host: Disability Law Center

Sponsor: Equal Justice Works Text-to-Give

Margaret Wakelin

Host: Equip for Equality

Sponsor: Greenberg Traurig, LLP

Sarah Bellinger

Host: Advocacy, Inc.

Sponsor: Texas Access to Justice Foundation