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Ciolfi Plans to Use Powell Fellowship to Help Students Get Back on the Diploma Track


Alumna Angela Ciolfi ’03, currently a law clerk to Judge Reginald C. Lindsay of the District of Massachusetts, was recently awarded the Law School’s Powell Fellowship, an honor for a graduate or clerk entering a public service career. Created in honor of the late Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr., the Fellowship is designed to improve the delivery of legal services to the poor. First awarded in 2002, it provides a fellow’s salary of $35,000 for one year with the expectation that it will be renewed for a second year.

“The Powell Fellowship is a wonderful opportunity for our students who want to provide legal services to indigent clients,” said Public Service Center Director Kimberly Emery ’91. “It is a very generous fellowship and it has the distinct advantage of being limited to Virginia students.”

Ciolfi, a Warrenton, VA, native, plans to return to Charlottesville to work for the Legal Aid Justice Center’s JustChildren Program, where she worked as a clinical student and later as a volunteer while at the Law School. She coordinated with JustChildren attorneys to formulate her new job, which will focus on helping students who have been diverted from the standard diploma track into alternative education or GED programs to improve the school’s overall performance ratings.

“I think part of my goal is to make parents and students aware of their educational rights.” She said schools have an affirmative duty to let kids know they can receive educational services until age 20.

Ciolfi also wants to issue reports on her findings, although using specific statistics may be difficult because of poor state reporting of such information. She said states in general underestimate dropout rates and overestimate graduation rates, and even count GED students as graduates rather than as dropouts or in a separate category. She said one study estimates that Virginia's graduation rate could be as much as 5 percent lower than the official state statistic.

During the summer of 2001, Ciolfi worked as a research assistant for Law Professor James Ryan, an expert on law and educational opportunity. “It is hard for me to imagine any student more qualified for or deserving of this fellowship,” he said. “I have counseled and come to know a number of impressive students interested in public service. But none comes close to Angela in terms of her commitment and dedication.”

Ciolfi is no stranger to honors. As a second-year law student, she received the Linda Fairstein Public Service Fellowship, awarded to students who have demonstrated commitment to public service and promise in that field. At graduation, she received awards honoring her general character and her trial advocacy skills. In 2003 she won the Virginia State Bar's Oliver White Hill Law Student Pro Bono Award for her service in helping meet the legal needs of low-income children and families.

“I am delighted that such a star public service alum is coming back to Charlottesville,” Emery said. “I hope to have her speak to our students and supervise pro bono volunteers when she is back with us next fall.”
• Reported by M. Wood

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