Photo of Kassandra Gonzalez

Kassandra Gonzalez

  • Hosted by Texas Legal Services Center
  • Sponsored by Greenberg Traurig, LLP, Texas Access to Justice Foundation
  • Service location Austin, Texas
  • Law school The University of Texas School of Law
  • Issue area Health Care, Medical-Legal Partnership
  • Fellowship class year 2019
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Kassandra will expand the Austin Medical-Legal Partnership to a school-linked health center and integrate legal interventions to address the long-term negative health effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) on at-risk youth.

“Childhood experiences, both positive and negative, have a tremendous impact on future violence victimization and perpetration, and lifelong health and opportunity,” according to a 2017 study by the Centers for Disease Control. The more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) a child experiences, the more likely (s)he will suffer disrupted neurodevelopment, leading to lifelong susceptibility to chronic disease and illness, poorer outcomes for equal-opportunity conditions, and even early death. ACEs also create barriers to learning and development in school, which perpetuate cycles of poverty and underachievement. But ACEs are preventable. Research shows that through safe, stable, and nurturing relationships and environments, children are better able to avoid negative health outcomes, focus at school, and reach their full potential.

Kassandra first discovered the correlation between health and poverty during her undergraduate study of humanities, medical law, and ethics when she was confronted with bleak statistics: people living in poverty have increased health risks and are more likely to die at an early age. She became determined to volunteer and address these issues.

Fellowship Plans

Kassandra will seek to add legal expertise to the school-linked clinic to address ACEs and builds upon an existing successful medical-legal partnership. Kassandra will focus on providing direct representation and advocacy for vulnerable students receiving or needing individualized education services. Incorporating onsite legal services into the clinic would have measurable impact in two ways. First, Kassandra will address unmet legal needs through education and representation. Second, Kassandra will train legal, medical, and educational professionals on the role of law as catalyst of and intervention for ACEs.

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Krista Selnau

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Sponsor: Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, Walmart