Ana Laurel

The Project

Ana’s project will employ a holistic approach to address ongoing housing and economic needs from Hurricane Harvey and other disasters faced by low-income clients living in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley (RGV). Though disasters provide opportunities for equitable recovery, vulnerable populations served by TRLA and this project are rarely given a seat at the table, even if their livelihoods and futures depend on the decisions made there. Ana’s goal is to ensure their needs are addressed and their voices are heard.

Ana holds a J.D. from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University (2019). During law school, Ana worked at TRLA as an Equal Justice Works Rural Summer Legal Corps Fellow and in her University’s Indian Legal Clinic, where she represented tribes and tribal members and served on the Clinic’s Native Vote protection team during the 2018 election.

Media

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The Project

My project builds capacity and strengthens and expands legal services to Arizonans facing foreclosures, bankruptcies, and related evictions. I work with volunteer attorneys on client litigation and settlement negotiations. I also provide direct representation of clients and participate in outreach activities to provide training in housing laws to the broader community.

The Inspiration

The Project

Amanda improved access to special education and mental health services for children affected by Arizona’s foster care system.

Though entitled to special education, Arizona foster youth with disabilities are routinely denied services and experience inferior learning environments because they lack consistent educational advocates. Foster youth in Arizona are twice as likely as children in the general population to attend a failing school, as defined by the state’s school accountability system. The dropout rate for foster youth is triple that of students statewide. When foster youth become adults, 25% spend time homeless, 25% experience incarceration and 50% face unemployment. Many of these negative outcomes can be prevented or ameliorated by the implementation of appropriate and timely educational and mental health services.

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship period, Amanda:

  • Provided special education legal services to 75 students impacted by the Arizona foster care system
  • Provided 44 trainings around the state on the laws impacting children at the intersection of foster care and special education, reaching over 1,400 individuals 
  • Engaged in structured negotiations with schools on behalf of foster youth with disabilities that resulted in significant pecuniary and injunctive relief for student clients 
  • Spearheaded a coalition of Arizona public interest organizations to discuss the challenges faced by high-needs students in light of COVID-19 school closures, develop and enact advocacy strategies, and disseminate information to parents and families
  • Collaborated with over 40 groups to put on trainings, reach children in special education, find solutions for individual clients, identify solutions to systemic problems, and advocate for systemic solutions
  • Developed self-advocacy and educational materials for the public about special education law

Next Steps

Amanda stayed on at her host organization, the Arizona Center for Disability Law, as a staff attorney. She continues to provide special education advocacy and representation to Arizona’s children with disabilities, including children impacted by foster care.

Media

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