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Posted April 29, 2009

PILA Provides Record $378,000 in Grants

Rebecca Vallas

The Public Interest Law Association distributed a record 81 grants worth $378,000 to law students working in public service jobs this summer, according to PILA organizers.

“This year’s applicants’ commitment to public service and enthusiasm for public service was just incredible,” said PILA President Rebecca Vallas. “Choosing from among those candidates was one of the hardest tasks any PILA board has ever had to undertake.”

Nine more students will receive grants this year than did last year; 15 second-year law students will pocket grants of $7,083 and 66 first-year law students will each get $4,123.

Vallas said a record number of students applied for the grants this year, which she attributed to an increase in the number of students interested in public interest careers, and the current state of the economy.

Students who apply for the grants complete a lengthy application and an interview with the PILA Board. To be eligible, first-year students must have completed 10 public service hours; second-year students must have completed 25 hours.

“This year was just incredible — the number of people who not just met, but exceeded the minimum requirements. We had applicants with as many as 200 and 300 public service hours completed prior to the deadline, 1Ls included,” Vallas said. “The PILA board was just blown away by the public service hour requirement.”

The money PILA awards in grants comes from several major fundraising campaigns, including an annual auction, used book and study guide sales, and a large game tournament. Typically, the Law School Foundation matches PILA’s funds, but Vallas said the foundation was especially generous this year.

“The Law School Foundation has been even more generous this year, exceeding its one-to-one match, allowing us to extend grants to a greater percentage of the applicants,” Vallas said.

Grant recipients will undertake a variety of public interest internships this summer, some working internationally while others remain in the United States to work in areas such as civil legal services, public interest organizations and state, local and national government.

Jeree Harris
 
Jeree Harris

First-year law student Jeree Harris will use her PILA grant to work for JustChildren, a Legal Aid Justice Center program that works to improve Virginia’s public education, juvenile justice and foster care systems.

“Child advocacy and juvenile justice is really my passion and I’ll say that this job with JustChildren is like getting my dream job for the summer,” Harris said.

In her first year of law school, Harris worked with JustChildren through the Law School’s Pro Bono Program and also through the Black Law Students Association. However, Harris’ interest in the organization began before she even became a law student, when she was a senior at the College of William and Mary.

“My senior year, I came here for the annual Conference on Public Service and the Law, and I had the opportunity to meet some of the folks who work at JustChildren,” Harris said. “I realized I really wanted to go to law school at UVA, and that I wanted to be involved with JustChildren.”

If it weren’t for her grant from PILA, Harris said she’s not sure if she would be able to accept an unpaid internship for the summer.

“The grant made it feasible. It made it possible, because I still have to pay rent. I’m really grateful to PILA,” she said.

Erin Crowgey

Erin Crowgey

Erin Crowgey, a second-year law student, will use her PILA grant to intern at the Colorado Springs Public Defender’s Office. Because she holds a third-year practice certificate, she will represent her own clients.

“I want to work hard for something I care about and am passionate about,” Crowgey said. “This summer I’ll get experience in the courtroom and I’ll get experience with the clients by going to jail and doing the interviews and dealing with the caseload in a public defender office.”

Crowgey wants to work as a public defender after graduation, and hopes to provide services for children. Prior to law school, she worked with victims of domestic violence providing advocacy and counseling, and became interested in combating inequalities in the criminal justice system.

“I’ve always had an internal sense of justice and fairness, and there’s such injustice in the criminal system for people who don’t have money,” she said.

Jesse Stewart
 
Jesse Stewart

Jesse Stewart, a first-year law student, will use his PILA grant to work for the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. He will work with attorneys who represent juveniles.

Stewart’s interest in working with children began before law school when he was a legislative aid for New York City Councilor Eva Moskowitz, who chaired the Council Education Committee. He then taught first grade at a public school in Newark, N.J., through Teach for America.

“When I got into the classroom, I saw the disparities in education,” Stewart said. “I realized that success isn’t just about going to school and working really hard. It’s also about being lucky enough to have good teachers and high standards set for you.”
Now, because of PILA’s grant, Stewart will have the chance to explore the juvenile justice system.

“When kids get caught up in the justice system at such an important part of their lives both educationally and socially, and they’re often being pulled out of nurturing environments and just sort of stuck in the system,” he said. “My interest in kids, my interest in social justice, draws me to this type of work.”

2009 PILA Grantees

Civil Legal Services
Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation  Brooklyn, N.Y. Sara Wood
Central Virginia Legal Aid Society   Kasey Levit
Central Virginia Legal Aid Society Charlottesville, Va. Megan Poitevint
Greater Boston Legal Services, Mental Health Law and Elderly Law Divisions Boston Beth Zweig
Legal Aid Justice Center, JustChildren Charlottesville, Va. Jeree Harris
Legal Aid Justice Center Charlottesville, Va. Joseph Bailey
Legal Aid Justice Center, Civil Advocacy Program Charlottesville, Va. Jessica Vormwald
Legal Aid Justice Center, Immigrant Advocacy Project Charlottesville, Va. Kristin Weissinger
North Penn Legal Services Williamsport, Pa. Brian Wright
Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation Springfield, Va. Brian Colas
Clinics
Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic Durham, N.C. Katherine Hart
Federal Government
Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights Washington, D.C. Rob Sherman
Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights Washington, D.C. Melanie Stuart
Department of Justice, Child Exploitation & Obscenity Section Washington, D.C. Sally Handmaker
Department of Justice, Civil Division Washington, D.C. Elspeth England
Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Employment Litigation Section Washington, D.C. Alexandra Morgan
Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Appellate Division Washington, D.C. Julia Snyder
Department of Justice, Domestic Security Section Washington, D.C. Neepa Mehta
Department of Justice, Environmental Defense Section of the ENRD Washington, D.C. Ryan Carra
Department of Justice, Federal Tort Claims Act Division Washington, D.C. Alex Blanchard
Department of Justice, Office of Prosecutorial Development, Assistance & Training Washington, D.C. Dan Perell
Department of Justice, Tax Division Washington, D.C. Virginia Bruner
Department of Justice, Tax Division Washington, D.C. Tommy Krepp
Environmental Protection Agency Washington, D.C. Veronica Knapp
Federal Public Defender, Western district of Virginia Roanoke, Va. Kaitlin Bottock
Federal Trade Commission, Bureau of Competition Washington, D.C. Megan Peloquin
National Labor Relations Board Washington, D.C. Matthew Turner
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Washington, D.C. Matthew Donaldson
U.S. Army JAG, Africa Command Stuttgart, Germany Mike Wakefield
U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia Washington, D.C. Adam Schulman
U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia Washington, D.C. Helen Sim
U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts Boston Troy Lieberman
U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York Brooklyn, N.Y. Christopher Cariello
U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia   Cameron Kynes
U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Ashley Wilkinson
U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York New York Mark Littmann
U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Michigan   Dan Morgenstern
U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of North Carolina/Legal Aid Justice Center in Richmond, VA Richmond, Va. Brent Schultheis
U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Ravi Sharma
U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Virginia Roanoke, Va. Jonathan Brent
U.S. Small Business Administration Washington, D.C. Rachel Paul
U.S. Small Business Administration Washington, D.C. Priya Roy
international
Asylum Access Ecuador Patricia Cooper
Human Rights Law Resource Centre Australia Whitney Blair
Institute for International Law & Human Rights Washington, D.C. Erin Houlihan
International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda Tanzania Gary Lakowski
International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda Tanzania Benjamin Lee
International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda Tanzania Erik Risendal
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia The Hague, Netherlands Emily Higgs
International Criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia The Hague, Netherlands Rajat Rana
International Criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia The Hague, Netherlands Charles Shin
International Justice Mission Uganda Thomas Peyton Smith
Justice and Peace Commission Liberia Sam Schultz
Lawyers Centre for Legal Assistance Sierra Leone Estelle Hebron-Jones
public defender
Alaska Public Defender   Kathleen Doherty
California Appellate Project San Francisco Kristina Wilson
Cambridge Superior Court Office of Public Defenders Cambridge, Mass. Jeffrey Thibault
Colorado State Public Defender Colorado Springs, Colo. Erin Crowgey
Cook County Public Defender's Office Chicago Christopher McCoy
D.C. Public Defender Service, Civil Legal Services Division Washington, D.C. Paul Feinstein
D.C. Public Defender Service, Juvenile Division Washington, D.C. Jesse Stewart
Washoe County Public Defender Reno, Nev. Veronica Bath
public interest organizations
American Council of Education Washington, D.C. April Nicole Russo
American-Arab anti-Discrimination Committee Washington, D.C. Jordan Lane
Compassion Over Killing Washington, D.C. Sumner Drew Givens
Conservation Law Foundation Portland, Maine Jacqueline Leonard
Defenders of Wildlife Washington, D.C. E. Rebecca Gantt
Electronic Piracy Information Center Washington, D.C. Nichole Rustin-Paschal
Fair Trial Initiative Durham, N.C. Peggy Nicholson
Future Leaders for America Arlington, Va. Anthony Napolitano
Goodbye Minimally Adequate South Carolina Daniel Hervig
Human Rights First, Latin American Defenders New York Alexa Taylor
Public Citizen Litigation Group Washington, D.C. Kristin Russell
Southern Environmental Law Center   Travis Pietila
Virginia Capital Representation Resource Center Charlottesville, Va. Caroline Donovan
Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression Charlottesville, Va. Susan Kruth
public interest organizations / state and local government
Southern Environmental Law Center/Commonwealth's Attorney's Office of Prince William County Woodbridge, Va. Rianna Barrett
state and local government
Cambridge Public Schools Legal Counsel Cambridge, Mass. Claire Blumenson
Chesterfield County Commonwealth Attorney's Office Chesterfield, Va. S. Mario Lorello
New York State Department of Environment Conservation Albany, N.Y. Caitlin Gregg
North Carolina Attorney General's Office Raleigh, N.C. Kristin Uicker
Prosecuting Attorney's Office in Thurston County, WA Olympia, Wash. Melanie Smith
San Francisco District Attorney's Office San Francisco Daniel Ross
Suffolk County District Attorney's Office in Boston Boston Benjamin Cooper

 

• Reported by ashley matthews