I am a senior this year, majoring in Political Science and Legal Studies with the Criminal Justice Certificate. In May of 2018, I plan to graduate and begin law school shortly after. I am humbled to have received the Audrey J Harris Summer Internship Award. Ever since senior year of high school, I wanted to be a criminal defense attorney. I am passionate about the pursuit of justice and soon realized that I had more questions about justice than answers. My freshman year of college, I maintained my passion for criminal defense and wanted to serve my community through public service. I knew I was on the path to become a public defender.
My identity as a Black woman has defined my views of law and justice. I recently ended my term as Chair of the student government, the Associated Students of Madison (ASM). I knew justice was not accomplished by operating within a context designed on the backs of marginalized identities. I began to realize my role on this campus, and therefore in my community. I want to be an advocate for those that are so easily labeled criminals. I do not define a person by their crimes but their character, and I want this to be my pursuit for justice.
This summer, I had the unique opportunity to serve in the State Public Defender office (OPD) in Madison. I was a client services intern. I was able to shadow attorneys in both juvenile and adult courts. In addition, conduct research of mental health issues, interview clients, and write their social histories. Each client had a unique story, and I had the opportunity to get to know them on a personal level. Much like, Bryan Stevenson, I believe individuals are more than the crime they commit. Additionally, there are reasons why people do commit crimes, but that is only part of their story.
I am very grateful to my supervisors at the OPD who gave me the opportunity to learn on my own. They were thoughtful of my workload and helpful whenever needed. Through my determination and experience at the OPD, I knew I could not uphold a system of justice that I did not agree with.
From my undergraduate opportunities, I plan to take these skills and experiences with me to law school. I am very grateful to the Audrey J Harris family. Their generous scholarship has allowed me to have an incredible experience with a career that I am dedicated to. I was able to experience a passion of mine first hand, and this award made it possible. I am also grateful to the Criminal Justice Certificate department, my faculty supervisors, field supervisor, and the OPD staff.