2018 recipient of the Audrey J. Harris Summer Internship Award
Interned with the Cook County Public Defender’s Office, Juvenile Division
I am a junior at UW Madison and I plan on graduating in May of 2020 with a Major in Psychology and certificates in Criminal Justice and Dance Therapy. Post-undergraduate, I plan on attending law school with a focus on public work in civil and criminal litigation.
This summer I was able to work at the Cook County Public Defender’s Office, Juvenile Division, in Chicago. I worked under lawyers in the Child Protection division, meaning that I assisted with all abuse and neglect cases that came into court. I was able to make many great connections and learn from young lawyers starting out in the civil side of the public defender’s office, as well as more experienced lawyers over in the criminal side. My main jobs as an undergraduate law clerk at the office were assisting lawyers in looking through discovery files, taking notes on case files, doing psychological research for complex cases, reading through medical records, and observing in court. I also had the opportunity to tour the Cook County Jail, the Medical Examiner’s Office, spend a day with a probation agent, observe criminal lawyers in court, see a jury trial, attend a graduation event in the Juvenile Detention Center, shadow a lawyer at the adult court at 26thStreet, assist with intake interviews, and attend meetings discussing juvenile clients.
This summer was an absolutely incredible experience. I was able to learn so much about public service in the middle of an impoverished and underprivileged population. I grew up in the northern Chicago suburbs, and had a sheltered upbringing. This experience was very eye-opening, and further ignited my passion for helping families and kids in need. I learned a great deal about different cultures, and was able to teach myself to experience and empathize without trying to relate my cultural upbringing to our clients’. As an individual, I’ve always been known for trying to see the best in people and to look past the present issue into their upbringing and hardships they have experienced. This summer put that skill to good use and allowed me to look past a client’s crime or a parent’s neglect, and to look at the circumstances they were facing financially, socially, and emotionally. It made me realize that being a public servant and a defense lawyer was a perfect fit for me. I learned to love the office dynamic and found nothing but support and encouragement from the lawyers there. I grew to appreciate how the Public Defender’s Office worked with other agencies like Probation and Correctional Services, the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services, the State’s Attorney’s Office, and other social work agencies. I constantly admired the fiery passion the defense attorneys brought to court every day, even for a client that they personally did not like. I learned to look past personal biases and to appreciate the parts of the criminal justice system that work, and work with the parts that don’t.
I am so incredibly grateful to have received the Audrey J. Harris Award. Going into this summer, I was trying to figure out how to manage part-time jobs while also giving my all to my internship. This award allowed me to work full-time at the Public Defender’s Office and take advantage of every learning opportunity that came my way. Because of this award and the extra time it allowed me to spend at the office, I found a career path that stimulates me intellectually and fuels me emotionally. I can use my passion for helping others with my knowledge of psychology and spend my career doing work that allows me to make a difference. I want to thank the Audrey J. Harris family for their generosity and their encouragement of me and my fellow students as we take on real world jobs in the criminal justice field. Because of your generosity, we are able to find our passions and fully participate in the opportunities we are given. Thank you for investing in my education, it will truly shape the rest of my life.