Dear SPWLA Community,
I am very grateful for the unique opportunity I have been able to have, working on social justice issues I am passionate about in two organizations. I spent time working with the ACLU of Southern California and at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) as a legal intern. As a senior majoring in Political Science and a co-terminal master’s in Sociology, this was actually my last summer to have the opportunity to do fellowships, and I am so grateful for the learning experience.
Your generosity contributed immensely to my academic enrichment beyond Stanford, further encouraging me to pursue a public service career rooted in addressing the issues that my community faces. I have a great interest in policy change to improve lives in my community, specifically for marginalized people through impact litigation work like that done at ACLU and MALDEF—litigation to ensure that people have equal access to justice regardless of race, socio-economic status, or nationality.
As someone who was inspired by the work of MALDEF as early as high school when I read the landmark decision Plyler v. Doe, I found that working as a MALDEF legal intern was an invaluable personal and professional experience for me. I had the opportunity to conduct legal research and write memoranda regarding various legal questions and issues concerning employee discrimination, voting rights, and immigrant rights. One of my most rewarding experiences at MALDEF was working with staff attorneys on several cases and knowing that I contributed to the legal research for successful motions. I remember one such victory especially that came in the form of the judge’s denial of the opposing parties’ motion to dismiss.
Through my work at ACLU of Southern California, I’ve learned a lot about what legislative advocacy entails and have been fortunate enough to have worked with passionate individuals organizing in communities across California. As a legal and policy intern, I was able to do legal and data collection research on racial profiling although I’m not a law student yet. Working on an issue that has continued to impact communities across California and the nation was an incredibly gratifying experience. My research memo on racial profiling data collection ultimately was used to inform conversations with other non-profit organizations and the California Department of Justice on racial profiling policy implementation. It goes without saying, my experience with ACLU was also invaluable.
I am incredibly grateful for what I have learned, not only about the incredible organizations I worked with, but also about the law, legislative affairs, research practices, and so on. More than anything, I valued the opportunity to help at ACLU of Southern California and MALDEF while gaining the skills necessary to be more effective in creating positive change for my community. As a first-generation high school, and now, college graduate, what I take away from these learning experiences means so much to me. What I’ve learned about impact litigation and civil rights litigation this summer will be the foundation for my career in public interest law after law school.
Many thanks to the SPWLA community for your generosity and support. I really appreciate it.
Kelly M. Hernandez ’16