Bavani (she/her/hers) will create an innovative medical-legal partnership addressing the health inequities of Los Angeles’ underserved Asian Pacific Islander (API) population through language access and culturally informed legal services.
In Los Angeles County, approximately 43% of Asian Pacific Islanders are limited in their English proficiency, which can serve as an insurmountable barrier to obtaining basic needs. Language barriers, heightened racism, and generational poverty translate to a high prevalence of negative health outcomes and limited access to justice for the API community. Evidence-based research has proven that such racism and language barriers are fundamental causes of racial health disparities. Although medical-legal partnerships have been successful in addressing the social determinants of health, they often lack a race-conscious lens to account for racial health inequities. This project seeks to improve API health outcomes by improving culturally competent and linguistically accessible practices and reducing institutional barriers to care.
Bavani will create a medical-legal service pathway within the existing healthcare structure of Community Medical Wellness Center and provide holistic legal services to Asian Pacific Islander patients. In addition to direct legal services, she will also conduct legal screening trainings for healthcare staff and host legal clinics. She will employ a race-conscious lens to challenge existing structures of poverty and unequal power within the legal and medical systems.
Health justice cannot be achieved without prioritizing racial justice. It is my firm belief that every individual is entitled to equitable, quality care.
Bavani Sridhar /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow
Natalie (she/her/hers) will reduce youth entanglement in the criminal justice system by providing tools for self-advocacy, empowering system-involved youth, and ensuring pro bono access to reduce barriers.
The project fills gaps in the juvenile justice legal services and resource network in Oregon and creates ongoing supports to benefit youth. Identified by youth who have interacted with the criminal justice system and a recent National Juvenile Defender Center report, these gaps make youth, particularly BIPOC youth, especially vulnerable to more severe consequences resulting from juvenile convictions. The project will reach into Oregon’s 197 school districts, out to the 500 youth incarcerated in Oregon, and to hundreds of acutely impacted youth facing collateral consequences statewide to improve outcomes and provide much needed legal support.
During her Fellowship, Natalie will use a targeted approach to reach youth at different stages of entanglement with the system. She will develop a Know Your Rights app relevant to teen issues, create a pro bono network of attorneys to provide civil legal aid to youth who are incarcerated, and travel the state providing representation and support for tackling collateral consequences like expungement, barriers to housing and education, and fine reduction.
I have witnessed the school-to-prison pipeline from nearly every angle as a teenager myself, a public school educator, and now as a law student gaining clinical experience working with youth who are incarcerated. I am passionate about ensuring youth don’t interact with the system and, for those that do, making sure it does not impact the rest of their life.
Natalie Hollabaugh /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow
Clarisa promotes and enforces immigrants’ rights to access health care in California’s rural Central Valley by providing direct immigration legal services, conducting community education and outreach, and engaging in litigation and policy advocacy.
Immigrant families are often excluded from our health care and public benefits systems, oftentimes due to their immigration status, and other times because of complex eligibility and income restrictions, language access barriers, and fear of immigration consequences for seeking public assistance. Moreover, immigrant families in California’s Central Valley lack access to affordable legal services to inform them of their immigration relief options and health care rights. These access barriers have been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and exclusionary immigration policies, such as the constantly changing “public charge” rules, which have caused otherwise qualifying immigrant families or their US citizen children to disenroll or avoid public benefits for fear of being disqualified from obtaining lawful status.
From her own family’s experiences with the health care system, Clarisa understands that underserved minority patients can suffer poorer health outcomes, and even death, because of discriminatory practices. Her family’s perseverance motivates her to improve health outcomes and access to health care for immigrant families through legal intervention.
Fellowship Highlights to Date
In the first year of the Fellowship, Clarisa has:
- Reached 2,000+ individuals through 50+ community presentations on immigrant rights to health care.
- Provided more than 20 trainings to health, education, and social services providers (i.e., doctors, social workers, promotoras, community-based organizations, school administrators, and educators).
- Engaged in two impact litigation cases, one related to notario fraud and one related to what proof is required for immigrants to obtain Medi-Cal access.
- Represented more than 40 individuals in U visa, VAWA self-petitions, and other immigration cases.
- Provided individual legal consultations and brief services to more than 150 individuals on immigration issues.
In the next year, Clarisa plans to:
- Continue ongoing immigration cases, community education presentations, and training health care and social services providers on immigrant rights to access to health care and public benefits.
- Collaborate with CRLAF’s coalition of legal partners to strategize how to best ensure that some of the reforms that have been implemented during the COVID-19 continue after the pandemic.
- Work with federally qualified health centers and community-based organizations to expand community education and immigration legal services in collaboration with ongoing COVID-19 vaccination efforts.
As the granddaughter of immigrant farmworkers, I endeavor to expose and fight the exclusionary policies discriminately affecting the health of immigrant farmworkers in the Central Valley, and make their stories heard, known, and accounted for.
Clarisa Reyes-Becerra /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow
Kel expanded support for LGBTQ student survivors of gender-based violence and harassment by bridging the gap between Title IX and queer youth justice through direct representation, outreach, and education.
Queer and trans students sit at the dangerous intersection of higher risks of gender-based violence and lower levels of institutional empathy. While the federal Educational Amendment known as Title IX requires schools to respond to allegations of sexual violence, many institutions are failing to meet their obligations under the law. This project increased legal support for LGBTQ students in the Santa Clara Unified School District and California State University system, and created a model for Title IX legal advocacy that can be replicated at schools across the country.
Kel’s Title IX advocacy started in response to their undergraduate institution mishandling sexual violence investigations. As a queer nonbinary survivor of campus violence and a former crisis counselor, they believe that meaningful, trauma-informed school remedies can empower students who have experienced harm and create an effective alternative to the legal system.
During Kel’s two-year EJW Fellowship, they:
- Succeeded in getting Equal Rights Advocates to serve 400% more LGBTQ+ students over the course of their project than in the two years prior.
- Supported federal litigation challenging the 2020 Title IX regulations that successfully struck down provisions excluding essential evidence and forcing nonparties to submit to cross-examination, benefitting up to ~8 million undergraduate survivors.
- Created robust Title IX guides and LGBTQ+ education resources for student survivors and allies that will reach an estimated ~40,000 students online and ~150,000 students in schools over the next year.
- Worked with Sacramento Unified School District to develop a comprehensive Trans and Gender Non-Confirming Student policy that will benefit the district’s ~40,000 students and serve as a model for other districts, as well as accompanying informational materials to assist district staff in educating teachers and parents on the importance of inclusive policies.
Kel will be staying on at Equal Rights as a staff attorney focused on supporting LGBTQ+ students under Title IX and exploring the use of alternative justice models to respond to sexual misconduct. They will expand their work to include survivors of other forms of gender-based discrimination and harassment at work and school, starting with advocacy to oppose legislation across the country that prohibits K-12 students who are transgender from participating on athletic teams that align with their gender identities.
This Fellowship is a chance to be the advocate my friends and I never had.
Kel O'Hara /
Equal Justice Works Fellow
Sara worked with the Southern California Housing Rights Center to defend disabled tenants against eviction proceedings by applying federal and state Fair Housing Acts. Sara educated disabled tenants of the powerful protections afforded them under these Acts, and train other advocates to provide eviction defense where disability discrimination is implicated. Through this multi-pronged approach, Sara empowered both tenants and advocates to reduce disability discrimination in housing.
Equal Justice Works changed my life—it gave me the chance to do my dream job with great mentors and resources.
Sara Pezeshkpour /
2008 Equal Justice Works Fellow
The “One Strike” policy, as currently implemented by HACOLA, allows voucher termination if a family member is involved in a single incident of drug related or criminal activity. Maria’s project, “One Family”, protected low-income families in the Antelope Valley area of Los Angeles County from losing their Section 8 housing due to their children’s involvement in school disciplinary and/or criminal proceedings through direct services, community education, policy advocacy and litigation.
To achieve early education success and systematic reform for young children with disabilities in East Los Angeles, Devon provided direct legal representation to East Los Angeles families with children ages 3-7, held special education information clinics, and trained pro-bono attorneys to provide continuing legal service to this community and train stakeholders so they can comply with the law.
At the National Housing Law Project, I work to enforce survivors’ housing rights under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the Fair Housing Act in the Bay Area. My project focuses on increasing awareness of VAWA’s protections; developing policies that address the needs of survivors; and improving compliance by public housing agencies and subsidized landlords. Through training of advocates, collaboration with housing providers and policy advocacy on the local, state and national level, my goal is to strengthen housing protections for survivors.