Public Interest Law Center

Current Scholars

Class of 2017

Jean-Luc Adrien
Sinsheimer Service Scholar

Jean-Luc was born in Haiti and moved to south Florida when he was eleven years old. In 2012, Jean-Luc graduated from the University of Florida with a double major in Political Science and Anthropology, coupled with a minor in Spanish. As a graduating senior, he was inducted into the University of Florida Hall of Fame.

At the University of Florida, Jean-Luc’s interests included community empowerment, mentorship, and education. Following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Jean-Luc co-founded and served as Treasurer to Gators United for Haiti, an organization that fundraised to address relief efforts in Haiti.  As a recipient of the University of Florida African American Studies Program Excellence Award, and troubled by the overrepresentation of people of color as offenders in the criminal justice system, he interned at the Gainesville Public Defender’s Office. There, Jean-Luc witnessed firsthand the devastating effects that a lack of educational opportunities had on a segment of Gainesville’s youth. This realization led to his desire to mentor at-risk students and served as the inspiration for his senior thesis concerning the effects of the New Orleans charter school movement on African American students’ educational achievement.

After college, Jean-Luc joined Teach for America and taught high school Spanish in Dumas, Arkansas, a small town in the Mississippi Delta. At Dumas High School, he founded the Dumas Knights, a mentorship group which provided ACT tutoring, community service opportunities, and college visits to 11th and 12th grade boys. He also specialized as the kicking coach and assisted in coaching the defensive line for the football team.

After his first year of teaching, Jean-Luc completed a fellowship with the Mississippi Center for Justice’s Education Division. As a fellow, he presented advocacy options to parents whose children had been unfairly disciplined by their schools. He also led a community workshop to update parents and educators on new educational laws that were passed in the Mississippi legislature. As an attorney, Jean-Luc will work to provide civil legal services to those who cannot otherwise afford them.  

Zawadi Baharanyi

Starr Foundation Scholar

Zawadi is a native of Auburn, Alabama, with paternal roots in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  She attended Columbia University intending to focus on human rights issues in sub-Saharan Africa, but after interning at the Orleans Public Defender’s office and later Common Justice, a New York- based alternative to incarceration and restorative justice program, she felt compelled to shift her focus to the rampant human rights violations occurring within the United States criminal justice system.
After graduating magna cum laude from Columbia University with a bachelor’s degree in political science, she returned to her home state to work on sentencing and prison reform issues as a post-undergraduate fellow with the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) of Alabama, an indigent defense organization based in Montgomery, AL. During her three years at EJI, Zawadi investigated officer-on-inmate violence in Alabama’s prisons, helped formerly incarcerated clients transition to life outside of prison, and bolstered EJI’s public education work around mass incarceration and its historical antecedents.

After law school, Zawadi hopes to strengthen protections for the incarcerated and challenge the various legal barriers to successful re-entry for the formerly incarcerated.

Hugh Baran

Coben Scholar

Before coming to NYU, Hugh spent four years as a community and political organizer in Connecticut and Rhode Island, working with UNITE HERE Locals 34, 35 & 217 to train emerging community leaders, build broad student/labor/community coalitions, and ultimately win sweeping political changes in the City of New Haven. He then spent a year at BerlinRosen Public Affairs, coordinating media outreach for a variety of organizations – most notably on behalf of the New York branch of the Fight for 15, which recently secured a $15/hr minimum wage for 160,000+ fast food workers, and Gay Men’s Health Crisis.

Hugh spent his 1L summer at the National Employment Law Project, conducting research, drafting legislation and providing other technical assistance to support advocates for low-wage workers in their campaigns around the country to combat wage theft and pass higher minimum labor standards. On campus, he serves as co-chair of the Public Interest Law Students Association, social co-chair of OUTLaw, and as a board member of Law Students for Economic Justice.

Jahnavi  Bhaskar

Filomen M. D'Agostino Scholar for Civil Rights, Civil Liberties and/or Criminal Justice

Jahnavi was raised in Maryland by parents who immigrated from India.  She graduated from the University of Chicago in 2010 with an honors degree in mathematics.  While there, Jahnavi co-led a student group, the Chicago Justice Initiative, and with that organization began a tutoring program for formerly incarcerated men and women working towards their high school diplomas on Chicago's West Side.

After college, Jahnavi worked as an investigator at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia (PDS) for four years.  She found and interviewed witnesses, assisted in trial preparation, and testified in court in all levels of criminal cases, both juvenile and adult, from misdemeanor to first-degree murder.  Jahnavi saw massive injustice in the criminal legal system during her time at PDS.  But she also bore witness to the inspiring resilience and unstoppable life-force of the clients, families, and communities being targeted by that system, and was honored to join in their resistance.  Jahnavi will use her legal training to stand in the way of systems that marginalize, dehumanize, and terrorize poor people of color, whether that be incarceration, deportation, or mental institutionalization.  She intends to practice as a public defender.

Eboni Blenman

WilmerHale Scholar

Eboni was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and attended Howard University in Washington, DC. At Howard, she majored in Spanish and Political Science and graduated with honors.
Throughout college, Eboni worked as a clerk at the Department of Justice, Civil Division. This opportunity peaked her interest in the legal field, but her volunteer experience would help Eboni develop a passion for public service. As an Intake Volunteer at the Visitors’ Services Center (now Voices for a Second Chance), Eboni helped inmates and former offenders obtain social services, apply for jobs and reconnect with estranged family members. Eboni also served as a Volunteer Resident Assistant at N Street Village, a shelter for indigent females.  These volunteer experiences left Eboni wondering what might be the best solution to the ongoing cycle of incarceration and homelessness.  She believed the answer might be a solid education.

After college, Eboni joined Teach for America and taught in Newark, NJ. There she started Girls with Goals (GWG), a school-based group to help young girls develop their self-esteem and professional goals. Eboni is excited to return to New York to complete law school. At NYU she hopes to further explore the intersection between the education and criminal justice systems.

Viviana Bonilla López

William and Mary Sterling Scholar

Viviana is a San Juan, Puerto Rico native focused on mental health and disability justice. She is interested in how better policies can provide people with mental illnesses greater access to resources and how the law can ensure the protection of their rights and autonomy. In particular, Viviana is concerned with intersectionality and how people with mental illnesses who belong to other marginalized groups, such as people of color, are impacted by their various identities.

In 2014, she graduated from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, earning a BA in journalism with a minor in entrepreneurship. As an undergraduate, Viviana was certified as an Online Counseling and Suicide Intervention Specialist and worked in the mental health system as a volunteer, intern, and research assistant. In 2011, she co-founded Rethink: Psychiatric Illness, a student organization aimed at raising awareness about mental illnesses and increasing help-seeking behaviors among students. In this role, she spearheaded the creation of the university’s first-ever mental health advocacy training, which has attracted over 600 students and earned the organization the 2012 Diversity Award. In the journalism field, she has experience as a writer, photographer, videographer, researcher, translator, and editor. Her storytelling focused on health issues and the experiences of people with disabilities.

During her 1L year, Viviana continued to focus on mental health, presenting on her work with Rethink at USC Gould School of Law’s Saks Institute for Mental Health Law, Policy, and Ethics’ Spring Symposium. The following summer, Viviana interned at MFY Legal Services’ Mental Health Law Project, aiding low income clients with mental illnesses in accessing and securing housing and government benefits.

Viviana currently serves as a member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ Young Adult Advisory Group and the STAR Center’s National Advisory Caucus, Co-Chair of NYU Law’s Mental Health Law and Justice Association, All-ALSA Representative on the student-faculty Diversity Working Group, and Co-Leader of NYU Law’s Coalition on Law and Representation (CoLR). During her 2L year, she is interning at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest as a Schulte Roth & Zabel Fellow working at the intersection of immigration and health justice.

Mitchell Brown

Doris C. and Alan J. Freedman Scholar

Mitchell Brown was born in Fredericksburg, VA and he is a second year law student at New York University School of Law. Mitchell serves as the President of the Black Allied Law Students Association (BALSA), and is a staff editor for the Review of Law and Social Change. Mitchell is a 2012 graduate of North Carolina A&T State University, earning a Bachelors of Science in Business Economics and a Minor in Philosophy. Mitchell interned with Common Cause-North Carolina during college, registering students and members of the community to vote. As a Common Cause intern, he helped to promote the collegiate voice in the fight against the 2011 Voter ID Bill in North Carolina. It was during this struggle that he recognized his call to enter the legal profession.  As an attorney, he intends to fight injustices in our legal system that are still being perpetrated against many sectors of our society. Mitchell is very passionate about this pursuit, because “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. His passion continues forth as he worked at the Brennan Center For Justice in the summer of 2015, working on voting rights, fair courts, and money and politics.

Mitchell served as a 2012 Teach For America Corps Member, teaching 8th grade special education at KIPP Central City Academy in inner city New Orleans, LA. Mitchell’s inspiration for entering the legal field originates from a biblical and community standpoint. He believes that he has been called to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, to defend the defenseless, and to empower those who feel powerless. Mitchell will strive to do this by working as a legal advocate in the civil rights arena, aiming to ensure that the United States lives up to its promises made in our Constitution.

Mitchell’s favorite quote is: “If purpose is present, then nothing can stop the determined individual from his/her rendezvous with destiny” (Anonymous).

Antonio Changanaqui

Andrew W. Mellon Scholar

Antonio graduated with honors from the College of William and Mary in 2011 with a degree in Sociology and Economics. Realizing his passion for social justice, Antonio was particularly alarmed by the unfair treatment experienced by indigent defendants in the criminal justice system, and the widely understood yet unaddressed systemic factors which cause it. This knowledge led Antonio to the DC Public Defender Service (PDS), where after college he completed an internship and fellowship before assuming the role of staff investigator.

At PDS, Antonio led investigations from the initial stages of an arraignment through the final stages of a jury trial for both juvenile and adult defendants. He also led investigations aimed towards gaining positive appellate results for defendants convicted at the trial level, including several individuals convicted of murder. In addition, Antonio was heavily relied upon to investigate the cases of Latino defendants who lacked English fluency. His experiences in this role made him critically aware of the severe cultural and linguistic barriers to fair treatment confronting Latino defendants, and the unsatisfied need for measures to erode these barriers.

During his two and a half years at PDS, Antonio worked alongside talented and dedicated public defenders on multiple felony cases that resulted in trial victory or dismissal. These outcomes reinforced Antonio's considerable trust in the power of passionate advocacy. Guided by this trust, he desires to use his legal degree in order to confront and undermine the entrenched obstacles faced by indigent defendants seeking fair representation in the criminal justice system.

Olivia Gibbons

Jacobson Public Service Scholar for Women, Children, and Families

Olivia is passionate about immigrant and refugee rights, in particular as they intersect with historically vulnerable groups such as women and children. A native of Seattle, she graduated with highest honors from the University Honors Program at Seattle University with a degree in Spanish and International Studies, with minors in Philosophy, Latin American Studies, and English. Olivia led a spring break immersion program for college students to better understand the realities of migrant workers and undocumented families in Washington’s rural Yakima Valley. While in college, she was able to pursue different internship opportunities, among them working as a legal intake counselor for the ACLU of Washington, as a legal assistant for the Defender’s Association, an organization that represents children and teenagers accused of crimes, and as a development intern for Washington New Americans, a nonprofit promoting immigrant integration and pathways to citizenship. She was also a campaign intern and later a constituent services intern for Washington’s Senator Maria Cantwell, managing the immigration and border protection caseload. While studying abroad in Puebla, Mexico, Olivia volunteered for a legal clinic serving indigenous women seeking legal counsel about intimate partner violence and other family issues.

After finishing her undergraduate degree, Olivia returned to Mexico to work as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant, where she taught classes to undergraduate and graduate students in English and intercultural studies at the University of Guadalajara. She also created a feminist workshop with a theoretical foundation and applied lessons on self-defense, sexual health, and relationship violence. As an attorney, she hopes to combine her commitment to immigrant communities with her passion for advocacy and furthering just protection and empowerment for women and their families.

Angela Groves

Filomen M. D'Agostino Scholar for Civil Rights, Civil Liberties and/or Criminal Justice

Angela, a proud native of Cleveland, Ohio, is driven by a passion for social justice. Angela graduated with honors from Princeton University with a BA in the Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs and a Certificate in African American studies. Upon graduation, Angela received the Harold Willis Dodd Prize for clear thinking and moral courage. While at Princeton, Angela served in leadership positions in Class Government, the Black Student Union, the Princeton Association of Black Women, Community Action, and Mathey Residential College, among others. After studying abroad in South Africa, she co-founded the social enterprise Ubomi Beads, which aims to empower women in South Africa. Angela’s senior thesis evaluated the impact of the Promise Neighborhoods Initiative, a community-based approach to urban education reform, on social capital.

Motivated by the deep educational inequalities examined in her senior thesis, Angela spent the past two years teaching Social Studies at Miami Central High School in Miami, Florida as a Teach for America corps member. Following her service at Miami Central, Angela served as the Dean of Students at Aspire, an academic and leadership program for high-achieving girls with limited academic resources. Her experiences as an educator in underserved communities solidified both her belief in the power of communities and her desire to serve as a civil rights advocate. She will pursue a legal career in community-centered civil rights advocacy and impact litigation, specifically focusing on issues impacting marginalized youth.
Angela is currently serving a four-year term as a Trustee of Princeton University.  

Ajani Husbands

Filomen M. D'Agostino Scholar for Civil Rights, Civil Liberties and/or Criminal Justice

Ajani is passionate about social entrepreneurship, Africa, and access to legal resources. His goal is to combine these passions into a career where he can invest in African entrepreneurs while simultaneously funding organizations that provide legal services for marginalized groups in the United States. During his 1L summer, Ajani worked at the Georgia Legal Services – Farmworkers’ Rights division, which provides legal services to Mexican and American farmworkers.

Ajani is also a Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellow. Prior to law school, he served in the U.S. Department of State as a Foreign Service Officer (U.S. diplomat) for seven years. During that time, he worked in Eritrea, Haiti, Pakistan, and South Sudan. As a diplomat, Ajani focused on a range of projects including human rights reporting, using music as a vehicle to generate dialogue on women’s rights, incorporating social media into long-term messaging strategies, and promoting youth access to the arts.

At the law school, Ajani is co-chair of the African Law Association, vice president of the Mock Trial Team, and is involved with the Black Allied Law Student Association and the SBA Student-Faculty Committee. Ajani is also a Staff Editor on the NYU Review of Law and Social Change.

Ajani is married and has one son. Outside of law school, Ajani enjoys watching cartoons, cooking, photography, and making morning cups of coffee for his wife. He holds an M.A. in International Development from American University and a B.A. in International Relations from Stanford University.

Oscar Londoño

Filomen M. D’Agostino Scholar for Women or Children

Born and raised in Miami, Florida, Oscar is committed to working collaboratively with grassroots community-based organizations in low-income communities of color. As a community and movement lawyer, Oscar hopes to provide legal and policy support to organizers, activists, and community residents on issues of racial and economic justice.

During his 1L summer, Oscar was an Ella Baker Intern and Ford Foundation Public Interest Fellow at the Community Justice Project, Inc., where he helped provide legal and policy support to the Dream Defenders, the Miami Workers Center, and the New Vision Drivers Association on issues of police brutality, housing justice, and workers’ rights. Oscar will spend his 2L summer at the Community Activism Law Alliance, where he will collaborate with grassroots organizations, including the ​Centro de Trabajadores Unidos, Enlace Chicago, the Sex Worker Outreach Project, and Organized Communities Against Deportation, and help provide general civil legal services to low-income residents in the South and West sides of Chicago through neighborhood-based clinics and workshops.

While in law school, Oscar has interned at Make the Road New York, the Door’s Legal Services Center, and the Legal Aid Society. He is a Special Projects Editor on the N.Y.U. Review of Law and Social Change, a Co-Leader of the Coalition of Law and Representation, an All-ALSA Representative on the Diversity Working Group, and the former Political Action Chair of the Latino Law Students Association. Prior to law school, Oscar graduated summa cum laude from Cornell University and worked at various non-profit organizations in Miami, including City Year Miami, Public Allies Miami, and the Children’s Movement of Florida. 

Kartik Sameer Madiraju

Sullivan & Cromwell Scholar

Kartik was born in Montreal, Canada. Since the age of 13, he has structured his pursuits around environmental protection. Kartik was trained as a chemical and bioresource engineer at McGill University (BEng in 2012, and MSc in 2013) and conducted research in renewable energy and wastewater treatment since 2004.

While at McGill, he engaged in a rigorous study of environmental policy reform. In 2010 Kartik worked in India with Greenpeace in a campaign to improve nuclear safety laws, and later with renowned lawyer M.C. Mehta to successfully stay hydroelectric dam projects along the Ganges, that were approved without impact assessments.
For one year starting June 2013, Kartik served as the Insight Collaborative Fellow and trained in conflict management, principled negotiation and effective communication with the non-profit Insight Collaborative. He applied his skills with several environmental conservation groups around the world, including Navdanya in India, Palau Conservation Society in Palau, and Friends of the Earth Middle East in Israel, Jordan and Palestine.

Kartik hopes to use his legal education and his prior training to bring innovative reform to environmental regulations in North America, especially through the use of dispute resolution.  Kartik is also interested in assisting startups in developing clean technologies.

During his 1L summer, Kartik worked on environmental regulatory issues and community conservation ordinances at the Environmental Law Institute.

In his spare time, Kartik is a vocal environmental advocate, contributing to academic, creative and popular publications. Since 2008, after representing Canada at international science fairs, Kartik has been a member of Youth Science Canada and mentors high school students in their science projects. He is an avid badminton player and fan of the Montreal Canadiens.

Jessica Moldovan

A native of New York City, Jessica graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Yale University in 2011 with a degree in history. At Yale, Jessica devoted herself to furthering women's rights and reproductive justice, serving as Co-Director of Community Health Educators, Yale's largest student volunteer organization, and the Reproductive Rights Action League. Her interest in law was sparked by her internship at the ACLU's Women's Rights Project and her examination of the seminal sex discrimination case EEOC vs. Sears, Roebuck and Company, for which she was awarded Yale's Steere Prize in Women's Studies. After college, Jessica was awarded a George Mitchell Scholarship for postgraduate study in Ireland, through which she pursued an MPhil in Gender and Women's Studies at Trinity College Dublin. While working towards her MPhil, Jessica interned at the Irish Family Planning Association. Following her year in Ireland, Jessica worked at the Center for Reproductive Rights in Washington DC. There, she worked to help introduce and promote the Women's Health Protection Act, a piece of legislation designed to end harmful state-level restrictions on abortion, and to broaden access to abortion coverage for Peace Corps Volunteers.

At NYU, Jessica is a student advocate in the Family Defense Clinic, Co-President of NYUI Law Women, a board member of Law Students for Reproductive Justice, a research assistant for Professor Erin Murphy, and a Staff Editor on the N.Y.U Review of Law and Social Change. She spent her 1L summer at the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Educational Opportunities Section and will be at the Center for Reproductive Rights during her 2L summer. After law school, she plans to continue her work in women's rights advocacy and hopes to use her law degree to effect boarder policy changes.

Oluwadamilola (Dami) Obaro

Lindemann Family Public Service Scholar

Dami is very excited to begin her legal education at NYU. She first became interested in justice issues while volunteering as a medical advocate for rape survivors in Chicago. In addition to her work with rape survivors through the YWCA and the Chicago Rape Crisis Hotline, she also worked as a case manager for asylum seekers through the Heartland Alliance. Her frequent interactions with the legal system through these experiences kindled an interest in legal work, and so after graduating from the University of Chicago in 2012 she accepted a job as a legal advocate with the Homeless Advocacy Project (HAP) in San Francisco, where she has worked for the past two years. At HAP, she helped people who were homeless or at risk of homelessness apply for disability benefits, appeal parking ticket citations, and solve other various legal issues.  She also assisted attorneys with their eviction defense cases. Cognizant that law and lawyers are only a part of the fight for social justice, she volunteered with the San Francisco Tenants Union and Causa Justa, two housing rights organizations that utilize many tools and strategies in addition to legal ones.

During her two years in the Bay Area, she lived in an intentional social justice community, which was a wonderful way to learn from others and live on a tiny budget. She hopes that the Root community will also be a space where she can be both challenged and heard by others. She intends to pursue a career in legal aid, and is looking forward to exploring her budget managing skills in the city with only the second highest rent in the country (the first would be San Francisco).   

Astha Sharma Pokharel

Filomen M. D’Agostino Scholar for Women or Children

Astha is from Kathmandu, Nepal and grew up in Rome, Italy. She graduated from Durham University in 2012 with a degree in Politics. She is interested in civil rights, women’s rights, and international law. During and after law school Astha is interested in understanding how inequalities are maintained by legal systems and frameworks – national and international – and how this can be disrupted and reformed.

In 2012 Astha moved to Kathmandu to work at the Forum for Women, Law and Development. She started by doing research on the exclusion of historically marginalised groups in the constitution-drafting process in Nepal. She also did research on the implementation of legislation on human trafficking. She became increasingly convinced of the importance of complementing legal reforms with community mobilisation in order to effect transformative social change. She left FWLD and moved on to GalliGalli, an organisation working to improve citizens’ access to information on government services. At GalliGalli she focused on examining the structures of power within District Administrative Offices – local quasi-judicial bodies.

In Kathmandu, Astha has been involved in starting Chaukath, a network of feminists who engage critically with socio-economic, political and cultural issues in Nepal.

Kate Taylor

A Chicago native, Kate graduated from Brown University in 2010, with a dual BA in History and Africana Studies. She completed her undergraduate honors thesis in Africana Studies, examining historical and modern forms of racial injustice, particularly those manifested in the criminal justice system. Her research, which included interviews with wrongfully and formerly incarcerated people and survivors of police torture in Chicago, sparked and deepened her interest in issues of incarceration and racial justice.

After college, Kate was an Emerson National Hunger Fellow, working on poverty-alleviation in both Minnesota and Washington, D.C. Kate’s experience culminated in her publishing a report on public defense systems and the intersection of poverty and mass incarceration. After the Fellowship, Kate joined Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), a nonprofit sentencing reform organization in Washington, D.C. As FAMM’s case research director, Kate identified, investigated and wrote FAMM’s profiles – real stories of people and families impacted by harsh mandatory sentencing laws – for use in FAMM’s advocacy and public education efforts.

During her 1L summer, Kate interned at the Federal Defenders in Chicago. As a 2L, she is participating in the Equal Justice and Defender Clinic, working with a man on Alabama’s death row on his post-conviction challenge. Kate remains passionate about advocating for greater fairness and compassion in the justice system, and for those impacted by it, and plans to pursue a career in public defense after law school.

Erica Washington

I am on a journey towards freedom, freedom of mind, body and soul. In every sense, my liberation is intimately linked to the liberation of others. Thus, I aspire to be a freedom fighter. I know that turning my back will only cheapen and dilute the freedom that I seek. ~ Erica

Erica grew up in Washington, DC, and is interested in issues involving the U.S. criminal justice system, particularly systematic reforms to address mass incarceration and the Prison Industrial Complex. Erica graduated from the University of Virginia (UVA) in 2012, with a degree in Political Philosophy, Public Policy, and Law; and African and African American Studies. While there, she focused her studies on the relationship and impact of the Criminal Justice System on communities of color.
Erica served as President of the UVA’s Chapter of the NAACP and under her leadership the organization raised issues with the University and the greater Virginia community concerning racial and socio-economic disparities in incarceration and Virginia’s felon disenfranchisement laws. For her efforts, she was awarded the 2012 Student Humanitarian Award and graduated with honors after completing her thesis work focusing on the consequences of increased prison privatization. After graduating from UVA, Erica spent two years working in DC as a paralegal for the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs (WLC). While there, she conducted intakes and performed research into a range of legal concerns including fair housing, the rights of disabled prisoners, and section 1983 claims for police misconduct. In addition, she worked alongside WLC co-workers and The ACLU of the Nation’s Capital, to help organize a series of neighborhood forums focused on racial disparities in arrests in the District of Columbia.

Now, in her second year at New York University School of Law (NYU), Erica serves as Public Interest Co-Chair for NYU’s Black American Law Students Association, staff editor of NYU’s Review of Law and Social Change, and a committee volunteer with the National Lawyers Guild’s Parole Preparation Project. She is also a member of NYU’s Equal Justice and Defender Clinic, where she travels between New York City and Montgomery, Alabama, providing assistance to indigent death row inmates.

Ke Wu

Deeply influenced by the progressive public education she received in Tucson, Arizona after immigrating from China, Ke traveled around the world during her undergraduate years at Arizona State University investigating education initiatives. Her research abroad ultimately inspired her to deepen her understanding of issues in domestic education.
For the last six years, Ke has focused on education issues in the United States, learning from people who use different tools and forums to provide quality education resources and opportunities to students in public schools. Her goal is to get all students access to a quality education. 
Ke started down this path in South Los Angeles, where she taught high school chemistry for two years. There, she witnessed the devastating effects of large budget cuts after school reconstitution on student morale and achievement. While she loved hands-on teaching work, she believed at the time that she could do more for more students by getting out of the classroom and into policy. This led her to Cambridge, where she studied education policy, and then to NYU for legal coursework. At NYU, Ke is focused on understanding the ways in which race and poverty unjustly affect the most vulnerable children involved in the legal system. She hopes to equip herself with tools to work on the systemic education issues impacting low-income students.

Class of 2018

Keith Barry

Keith is passionate about providing legal services to forgotten people - namely working people and the poor. This passion was ingrained in him while growing up in a low-income household and working as a laborer in the Teamsters Union. While working in the union Keith saw that working people were being left behind and had to face daily injustices purely because of their class. This solidified his belief that he had a personal and moral duty to advocate for such people.

As an undergraduate at Brandeis University, Keith was dedicated to college debate and along with his partner became the most successful debate partnership in university history. During these years he also worked at the Brandeis Innocence Project doing research on cases of possible wrongful conviction. Following graduation Keith was the campaign manager of a legislative race in New York where he successfully organized an underserved community to advocate for political and social change. Following that race Keith transitioned to the education sector where he has been assisting US schools in developing models of sustainable international education and teaching debate to students from around the world. Following law school Keith hopes to work in public defense and to continue teaching.

Elizabeth Caldwell

Filomen M. D'Agostino Scholar for Civil Rights, Civil Liberties and/or Criminal Justice

Beth is from Augusta, Georgia and graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Brown University in 2012. Her history honors thesis explored the use of credit in the antebellum United States and, particularly, the use of slaves as collateral in financing the expansion of slavery into the southwestern frontier. Outside of the classroom, Beth worked closely with the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless to advocate for several pieces of legislation on foreclosure prevention, affordable housing, and the rights of homeless individuals in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

As a member of Brown’s Student Labor Alliance and Student/Farmworker Alliance, she also worked on campaigns to protect low-wage workers’ access to healthcare, living wages, and just working conditions. For the last three years, Beth has worked in Durham, North Carolina at MDC, a nonprofit focused on economic justice in the America South. At MDC, she has helped to launch a local partnership to ensure that young adults who grow up in Durham find living wage work and benefit from the region’s thriving economy. Beth is excited to join NYU’s public interest community. After law school, she intends to return to the South and work on issues of racial and economic justice.

Brandon Davis

Brandon Davis graduated from Princeton University with a degree in anthropology in 2013.  In college, Brandon was involved in Palestine solidarity activism and journalism.  He interned with the Bethlehem- based Ma'an News Agency, and wrote his senior thesis about the relationship between US LGBT culture and Israeli tourism.  He remains active with the New York chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, a Palestine solidarity and anti-racist organization of Jewish activists.  

Since graduation,  Brandon has worked as a paralegal in the housing division of MFY Legal Services where he assists tenants obtain repairs from their landlords and prevent eviction.  His time as a union delegate, Local 2320 of the UAW, was especially formative in developing his interest in the administration of legal services nonprofits.  Brandon hopes to utilize the law school education to improve and expand the provision of legal services in New York City and the US at large.

Terry Ding

Terry graduated from Harvard University with a degree in Applied Mathematics and Economics. During college, he worked with a student group that mentored and provided year-round academic programming to immigrant and refugee high school students in the Greater Boston area. He also led several spring break trips to the Mississippi delta to contribute to post-Katrina rebuilding efforts. Immediately after college, Terry taught high school math at a Chicago charter school serving young African-American men.

For the past two years, he has been a paralegal at the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project in New York, where he has supported attorneys on litigation seeking to protect and expand the rights of immigrants. He has worked on cases involving discriminatory state and local anti-immigrant laws, the due process rights of Central American asylum-seekers, and abusive practices of immigration enforcement agencies. He is excited to continue working with immigrant communities during law school, and to use his law degree to represent asylum-seekers fleeing persecution and violence, as well as to advocate for a more just and humane system of immigration laws in this country.

Zoe Engberg

Filomen M. D'Agostino Scholar for Civil Rights, Civil Liberties and/or Criminal Justice

Zoe comes to NYU from three years as a Staff Investigator at the Orleans Public Defender’s Office (OPD). While at OPD, she helped establish the office’s capital defense practice and spent two years doing fact and mitigation investigation for clients facing the death penalty in New Orleans. While putting together the capital division, Zoe studied and implemented the highest national standards of capital representation. She also used her experience to train attorneys and investigators in Louisiana and elsewhere on providing zealous, client-centered defense investigation. Zoe’s passion for public defense and prisoner’s rights emerged from a background of social justice organizing and academics.

She graduated with First Class Honours from McGill University, where she studied Sociology, Sexual Diversity Studies, and World Religions. She served as an associate editor for Sprinkle, the undergraduate journal of feminist and queer studies, and took part in many social justice organizations, including the McGill Anti-Racist Coalition, the Queer McGill’s Allies Program, and Books to Prisoners. Zoe plans to use her education at NYU to help indigent clients caught in the criminal justice system. She is a proud native of Pittsburgh, PA.

Angela Galdamez

Angela is excited to join the Root-Tilden-Kern community and serve as a staunch legal advocate for the traditionally underserved. Angela was born and raised in Albany Park, one of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods of Chicago. Her passion for public service began with a desire to help people like her family receive accessible legal services.

Angela graduated with an honors degree in International Studies from the University of Chicago. While in school, Angela received the Gilman International Scholarship that allowed her to study abroad in Barcelona for one year. In Spain, Angela focused her studies on Catalonian history and culture during the Spanish Civil War.

After graduation, Angela worked as a legal assistant at a toxic tort litigation firm in Chicago. Angela was also a paralegal at the ACLU of Northern California in San Francisco, where she focused on immigrants’ rights, racial justice, LGBT and education equity issues. Angela oversaw the client intake program of the organization and conducted Spanish-langue intakes with community members and immigration detainees. In her spare time, Angela volunteered as a Spanish legal translator for Social Justice Collaborative, a non-profit in Oakland that specializes in immigration and criminal defense for low-income individuals.

After law school, Angela aspires to be a legal advocate that promotes a restorative justice and holistic approach to the criminal justice system. In the long-term, Angela hopes to advance social justice causes by becoming an impact litigation attorney.

Dany Greene

Filomen M. D’Agostino Scholar for Women or Children

Dany grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and graduated summa cum laude from Washington University in St. Louis in 2014 with degrees in Psychology and Gender & Sexuality Studies. As a student, Dany advocated for the LGBTQ community through peer education, academic research, political activism, and direct service and was honored for these efforts with the 2013 James Holobaugh Award for LGBTQ leadership. While teaching a tri-weekly class at the local women’s jail in St. Louis, Dany developed a passion for criminal justice and prison reform and gained insight into problems plaguing these prejudiced systems. Out of a desire to advocate for low-income people in the legal system, after graduation Dany worked at the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) in the Family Law Unit. In conducting interviews and assessments with domestic violence victims, Dany has seen that victims’ intertwined and complex needs are often inadequately addressed by the current legal remedies, which utilize punitive and discriminatory policies. Dany’s long-term goal is to provide holistic defense to indigent women, youth, and LGBTQ people who are targeted, prosecuted, and sentenced by our criminal justice and child welfare systems. As a Root-Tilden-Kern Scholar, Dany intends to build the skills needed to most effectively address the variety of issues faced by these marginalized populations.

Ilana Herr

Coben Scholar

Ilana was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. She graduated summa cum laude from Tufts University in 2012 with a double major in Architectural Studies and Art History. Her passion for social justice was nurtured from an early age by her parents, who dedicated their lives to the pursuit of equality. Ilana grew up in a bilingual household, and while in college, taught weekly English classes for the Tufts’ Latino janitorial staff. After graduation, Ilana served in New York City with AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps. Through AVODAH, she was placed at Sanctuary for Families, a leading service provider for victims of human trafficking and gender-based violence. For nearly three years, Ilana worked in the Anti-Trafficking Initiative as a case manager for women and children who primarily came from Central and Latin America. Ilana worked alongside immigration attorneys to assist undocumented clients in obtaining legal immigration status and other benefits. After law school, Ilana hopes to continue supporting immigrant communities and addressing human rights abuses. As a result of her work at Sanctuary for Families, she is particularly interested in issues of access to public benefits, affordable housing and health care. Ilana hopes to address the systemic injustice to which her former clients are routinely subjected.

Daniel Loehr

WilmerHale Scholar

Daniel is concerned with inequities and excesses in American policing, deportation, and eviction practices. Before coming to law school, Daniel worked as a criminal defense investigator for The Bronx Defenders. During his time studying Political Science at Middlebury College, Daniel went to Tunisia to cover the constitution-writing process for Tunisia Live, provided basic services to migrant farm workers in rural Vermont, and received a grant to bike across the country and document the experiences of people living with PTSD for the War InVoice project. Before that, Daniel lived at a house of hospitality serving undocumented immigrants in El Paso, TX. Daniel is the 2013 Truman Scholar from his home state of New Hampshire and is currently a Truman Democracy Fellow. After law school, Daniel hopes to use legal services, city policy, and community organizing to improve the daily quality of life for low-income New Yorkers.

Viona Miller

Jacobson Public Service Scholar for Women, Children, and Families

Viona is passionate about advocating for children and families in communities impacted by educational injustice and economic disparities. Her passion derives from witnessing educational inequities first hand and from her experiences teaching in Detroit.  
While attending the University of Maryland, Viona was disappointed in the lack of diversity, particularly within the engineering program. Thus, she became heavily involved in tutoring and mentoring programs including a summer program where she developed and implemented a robotics introductory programming course to minority students. Upon graduating, she joined Teach for America and spent the past two years teaching middle school math at a charter school in Detroit. There she organized the school’s first Student Government Association, became the advisor of the National Junior Honor Society, and served on the school improvement team where she assisted in designing the school’s reform plan. To gain a better understanding of the complex issues within the educational system, Viona obtained her master’s in Educational Studies and Urban Pedagogy from the University of Michigan.
Viona’s long-term goals are to use the law to advocate against inequality and help build a future where everyone, regardless of their background or area code, has a fighting chance for success.

Narisa Silver


Narisa graduated cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of California, San Diego in 2011 with a major in Sociology – Social Inequality and minors in International Studies and African Studies. During her undergraduate years, Narisa devoted herself both in and out of academics to understanding how the current state of the world was reached, and what can be done to effectively change it. This led to experiences from mentoring college-bound students living on the US-Mexico border to working as a graduate-level research assistant for the African and African American Studies Research Center. These experiences strongly contributed to her decision to pursue a career in public service.

Narisa was born and raised in California, but her interest in exploring other ways of life took her to the East Coast and Mexico after graduation. She served as a Citizen Schools National Teaching Fellow in Massachusetts after graduating from college, and then worked as an international instructor for Save the Children in the indigenous community of San Mateo Ozolco, Mexico. Afterward, she worked as a bilingual paralegal for the Immigrant Victims Representation Project at Catholic Social Services of Fall River, where she wrote, translated, and edited original affidavits for use in court, referred clients to community resources for basic needs such as mental health treatment and adequate housing, and managed the entire immigration department's intake system. This experience showed her how effective and culturally sensitive legal services work can transform the lives of those most in need, regardless of age, gender, background, or country of origin.

During her time at NYU Law, Narisa hopes to contribute to the school's tradition of effective client advocacy and academic excellence. Her broad legal interests include criminal defense, international work, sentencing policy reform, advocating for multicultural victims of domestic violence, and improving America's public transportation systems. Her greatest inspirations to help the disadvantaged and victimized through the legal field are her own upbringing and personal life experiences. In her spare time, she enjoys watching documentaries, traveling, cooking, bicycling, and studying foreign languages.

Lindsey Smith

Filomen M. D’Agostino Scholar for Women or Children

Lindsey is from Houston, Texas. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2012, where she studied political theory and Arabic and was a student co-founder of the Jefferson Center for Core Texts and Ideas, which aimed to provide a space for meaningful student-led discussion of ethics, justice, and politics. As an intern for over two years at the Texas Civil Rights Project, she researched and wrote Human Rights Reports on prison health care reform, banned books in prisons, and inequitable funding of education among schools in Austin’s public school district. Lindsey spent 2012 to 2013 in Cairo, Egypt as a Fellow at the Center for Arabic Study Abroad and a Fulbright Student Scholar, completing a project on the intersection of Western classical theory of liberalism and modern Egyptian political discourse. For the last two years, she has worked as a paralegal at Children’s Rights in New York supporting impact litigation on behalf of children in foster care.

Lindsey is currently exploring how legal advocacy skills can be used to dismantle the dehumanizing us-and-them frameworks that define large areas of both domestic and international law, whether in criminal law reform, environmental justice, or  human rights both within the United States and abroad. Lindsey is especially interested in movement legitimacy and decisional autonomy as they relate to advocacy on behalf of marginalized or otherwise vulnerable populations.

Heather Stoloff

Lindemann Family Public Service Scholar

Heather first encountered the civil legal needs of people living poverty while interning at a suicide crisis hotline in her native New Jersey and again while volunteering at a social organization for people with mental illness in Be’er Sheva, Israel. Those experiences focused her lifelong passion for public service on direct civil legal representation.

Upon graduating summa cum laude from Brandeis University in 2013, Heather served two years as an AmeriCorps Paralegal in two legal aid offices. In her role she explored a variety of practice areas while also exposing herself to an array of access to justice issues including literacy, language, age, race, gender, and sexuality. She advocated for clients with public benefits cases and performed intake for the Lawyer of the Day program at the Lowell Session of the Northeast Housing Court of Massachusetts. She also drafted a variety of pleadings and motions for victims of domestic violence with family law cases. Heather is attending law school in order to broaden and maximize the impact of her advocacy. Heather’s ultimate goal is to deconstruct the legal barriers that prevent low- income individuals and families from obtaining healthy, safe, and sustainable lifestyles. Along the way, she hopes to become involved with impact litigation, community lawyering, and holistic legal representation.

Marshall Thomas

Sullivan & Cromwell Scholar

Marshall Thomas is interested in criminal justice reform as a key dimension of the fight for racial equality in America. Before entering law school, he worked as a paralegal at the ACLU's Criminal Law Reform Project, supporting attorneys engaged in litigation and advocacy to reform police departments, indigent defense systems, and drug and sentencing laws, among other issues. His work also included correspondence with inmates seeking legal assistance and preparation of clemency petitions for individuals serving life sentences for nonviolent drug crimes.

A creative writing major as an undergraduate, Marshall also enjoys reading and writing poetry. Writers of color like Amiri Baraka, Gwendolyn Brooks, Claudia Rankine, and Terrance Hayes provide him with poignant reminders of the urgency of social and legal reform. Marshall hopes to become a public defender after law school, and more broadly, an advocate for changes to our racially discriminatory and overly punitive criminal justice system.

Kayla Vinson

Andrew W. Mellon Scholar

A native of Atlanta, GA, Kayla graduated from Yale University in 2011 with the a B.A. in Sociology and African American Studies. While at Yale, Kayla was a Mellon Mays Research Fellow whose research focused on the public school experiences of students of color. She was particularly interested in the efficacy of long held theories around "acting white" and fear of school success in explaining the academic achievement of Black students. Outside of the classroom, Kayla was heavily involved in the Education Network of Yale's Dwight Hall Center for Public Service, through which she managed the undergraduate organizations that served the New Haven Public School System. She also completed the course work for Yale's Teacher Preparation Program. Through all of these experiences, Kayla found that the underachievement of Black students is significantly impacted by structural realities in schools, more so than self-defeating attitudes of the students.

After Yale, Kayla followed the traditional pathway to a career in teaching by completing an M.S.Ed in Secondary Education at the University of Pennsylvania. After earning her teaching certificate, she first taught at a transfer high school for over-age, under-credited youth in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn. Here she saw that school "stopped working" for most of her students in middle school. This is what led her to her current position as a middle school teacher at the Harlem Children's Zone's Promise Academy II.

Starting in the fall, Kayla is pursuing a JD form NYU in conjunction with an MPA from the Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. The most lasting impression the school system has left on Kayla is the innumerable people for whom the system persistently does not work. She plans to use her legal and policy training to change this reality.

Tyler Walton

Doris C. and Alan J. Freedman Scholar

Tyler grew up in St. Louis, Missouri where he developed an early interest in international service through several service trips to Mexico. Later, while studying at the University of Missouri, he continued to explore service opportunities. He worked as the director for a weeklong day camp for youth living in poverty in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. He also became a volunteer through the Columbia Health Department working on youth health outreach. With a focus on sexual and developmental health, he strived to augment the abstinence only education that is mandatory in Missouri schools, and provide young students with all the information they needed to make healthy and informed decisions. In addition he worked on HIV prevention with at-risk populations in prisons and colleges throughout Missouri.

Following graduation from the University of Missouri, Tyler moved to Malawi in southern Africa where he served for two years as a health extension worker through Peace Corps. While living in Malawi he continued his work with HIV prevention among youth, as well as economic development work with people living with HIV and projects to create safe water access in remote villages. In addition to his local work, he also worked at the national Peace Corps office as the Diversity Committee Training Coordinator. Through this position, he was able to work with local Malawian staff members on issues of diversity. One special focus area that he developed and implemented trainings on was LGBT awareness and support. Helping local staff gain a better understanding of LGBT issues and engaging them on a topic full of so many taboos in their local culture was a highlight of his service. As Tyler enters NYU Law, he hopes to develop knowledge and skills to prepare for more effective global service. He plans to continue to explore his two passions of international human rights and LGBT issues; and develop a career pathway that serves the LGBT population in the developing world.

Poy Winichakul


Poy Winichakul is passionate about civic engagement and ensuring full access to the political process for all.

Prior to law school, Poy was the Co-Director of LaunchProgress Political Action Committee, an organization that works to recruit and support young progressives running for state and loca office, especially young people from underrepresented backgrounds. She previously served as Special Assistant to the President at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, where she helped oversee the day-to-day operations of the think tank and public interest law firm that works to reform our electoral and judicial systems. While pursuing her B.A. at Oberlin College, she found Helping Oberlin Maintain Equity (H.O.M.E.), a nonprofit dedicated to improving the impact of the home foreclosure crisis in northeast Ohio. She has worked on multiple issue and electoral campaigns and has previously worked with Senator Tammy Baldwin and with Senator Russ Feingold's Progressives United PAC.

After law school, Poy hopes to work on election reform issues like voting rights, campaign finance reform, and redistricting at the federal level and in her home state of Wisconsin.

Audrey-Marie Winn


Growing up in a working-class home, Audrey Winn witnessed the ways in which labor injustices can affect workers and their families. Because of her experiences, she is passionate about protecting workers’ rights and promoting corporate social responsibility.

Before joining the Roots-Tilden-Kern community, Audrey majored in Chinese, Philosophy, and Non-Fiction Writing at the University of Pittsburgh. She organized migrant workers in China while on the State Department Critical Language Scholarship, helped the ACLU develop programs to protect limited-English proficient workers in the Pennsylvania Court System, and traveled to Amsterdam with the Humanity in Action Fellowship in order to gain a greater understanding of international human rights and workers’ rights issues. Her research, both through college and through the United Steel Worker's IGLHR, has explored the unconscionability doctrine, corporate espionage, and the impact of outsourcing on low-income communities.

Beyond domestic labor issues, Audrey is especially interested in labor and human rights issues involving China, and is always looking to improve her Mandarin. In the future, she hopes to have a career where she gets to work in plaintiff-side appellate litigation, large unions, and labor policy roles within government and IGO's in order to find progressive solutions for addressing the tension between workers and companies.

Victoria Yee

Sinsheimer Service Scholar

Born and raised in the heart of Little Saigon in Westminster, CA, Victoria Yee graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University in 2013. She received a MA in Sociology, a BA with Honors and University Distinction in Asian American Studies, and a minor in Chinese. As a student, Victoria was involved in grassroots organizing, student activism, and community outreach. She helped lead Stanford's 2010 Living Wage Campaign and served as an Eva Lowe Fellow for Social Justice at the San Francisco Chinese Progressive Association. Victoria is also an alumna of the UCLA Law Fellows program and the Public Policy, International Affairs, and Law Junior Summer Institute.

After graduation, Victoria interned at the Orange County Public Defender's Office and worked as a legal assistant at Sanford Heisler Kimpel, LLP. Victoria then served as a U.S. Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in rural Taiwan at an elementary school of largely low-income students from the indigenous Beinan tribe. Victoria hopes to learn new tools in law school to help achieve justice for low-income immigrant communities and restructure systems of inequity.

Sidra Zaidi

Filomen M. D’Agostino Scholar for Women or Children

Sidra is an aspiring healthcare transformer. Born in Pakistan, she calls Joplin, Missouri home. In 2011, a catastrophic tornado destroyed one-third of her hometown. These events exposed Sidra to lived realities faced by vulnerable communities, and fueled her passion for public interest law, with a focus on healthcare reform.

Sidra first explored barriers to accessing affordable healthcare as a student journalist: She investigated healthcare reform as an editor and columnist for the #1 non-daily college paper in the U.S. and as an intern for NPR. She then landed in the Big Apple, where she lent programmatic support to women’s health advocacy nonprofits. Her passion for amplifying positive health outcomes also led Sidra to Kenya. While in Nairobi, she served as a health educator for disadvantaged adolescent girls. Additionally, she helped local lesbian/bisexual/transgender/intersex rights activists author the first study on Kenyan lesbian women’s health.

Seeking to more deeply understand the U.S. patient perspective, Sidra also worked for Oscar Health, an Obamacare insurer. She resolved complex medical billing mysteries, and helped patients navigate their plans and the broader American healthcare system. This role built upon her graduate coursework: Sidra holds an MA in Human Right Studies from Columbia University, where she researched non-discrimination policies in California health law.

Through her legal education at NYU, Sidra aims to contribute to innovation efforts for healthcare governance in the Obamacare era. She desires to promote clearer and more direct health standards that emphasize patient protection, value-based care, and cost transparency.

Class of 2019

Tovah Ackerman

Tovah Ackerman grew up in Eden Prairie, Minnesota and attended Amherst College, where she became interested in criminal justice and interned for the New England Innocence Project. After college, Tovah worked at the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Manhattan, then returned to school to get her MPhil in Criminology at the University of Cambridge on a Gates Cambridge Fellowship. Tovah then received her M.A. in Rhetoric as a Regents Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, focusing on the public discourse surrounding crime and punishment in the United States. Before coming to NYU, she worked as an investigator for the Habeas Corpus Resource Center, a death penalty appeals organization in San Francisco, where she conducted both trial and penalty phase investigation for California state capital habeas corpus proceedings.

After law school, Tovah plans to continue her work in prisons, fighting to reduce sentences, provide legal and educational services, and improve conditions of confinement for incarcerated men and women.

Patrick Angulo

Patrick Angulo is from Atlanta, Georgia. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame majoring in Political Science and International Peace Studies. He participated on the Notre Dame Debate Team and studied abroad in Santiago, Chile. While at Notre Dame, he was involved in numerous service programs through the University’s Center for Social Concerns. These programs included teaching in classrooms in underserved communities throughout the United States and in Chile. After graduating from Notre Dame, Patrick joined Teach for America and taught in Alamogordo, New Mexico. In Alamogordo, he taught middle school special education and coached the 7th grade basketball team (go tigers!). After completing Teach for America, Patrick moved to Boston and worked as an English Language Learners Specialist at KIPP Academy Boston. He also taught English for adults during evening classes, and founded the KIPP Academy’s Debate Team. While in Boston, Patrick also served as a Citizenship Intern at the Irish International Immigrant Center, a nonprofit that supports clients from underserved communities as they prepare for naturalization. As an attorney, Patrick hopes to continue serving similar communities including children and immigrants.

Mariela Cisneros-Carmona

Filomen M. D’Agostino Scholar for Women or Children

Mariela Cisneros received a cum laude diploma from the University of California, Berkeley in 2014 where she studied Political Science and minored in French. The daughter of Mexican immigrants, she grew acutely aware of the need to represent vulnerable communities, particularly immigrant women and children. During college, she worked for a small immigration firm in Oakland, CA. There, while meeting with asylum seekers and victims of violent crime, she had her first experience with the complexities and shortcomings of the U.S. immigration system. This frustration eventually led her to the White House where she interned for the Domestic Policy Council, Office of Immigration Policy under President Obama. She was entrusted with the task of helping the President further his vision for a more just immigration system amid growing national anti-immigrant sentiment and institutional constraints. She spent the last year in Turkey as an English Teaching Assistant through the Fulbright program. Her contact with a mixture of Turkish, Syrian, and Yemini students broadened her scope of understanding of immigration issues from a domestic to an international scale. She has come to realize the grave importance of upholding refugees’ rights no matter the context. After NYU, Mariela hopes to continue serving immigrant communities throughout the U.S. She will push for comprehensive policy changes to fix our broken system. She fundamentally believes that our collective history as immigrants is the most important aspect of our identity as a nation. She is a native of Salem, Oregon and a Gates Millennium Scholar.

Sean Eagan

Sinsheimer Service Scholar

Sean joins the NYU law student body after three years working in direct social services as a wrap care coordinator. In this role, Sean served the ten highest need students at a Washington, DC middle school, guiding them and their families through wraparound, an intensive case management and care planning process. Using a “families know best” approach, Sean worked with a variety of DC agencies, systems and mental health providers to ensure that children and their families received appropriate interventions, made progress toward their life goals, and avoided further sanctions from school, juvenile justice, and child welfare systems. Sean was first inspired to pursue a career in direct service while serving as a City Year AmeriCorps member. Working at the same school he would later serve in as a wrap care coordinator, Sean worked as a teacher’s assistant during the school day, a mentor during lunch time, and a tutor afterschool. Prior to joining City Year, Sean earned his B.A. in Political Science and Economics, magna cum laude, from the University of Massachusetts. As an attorney, Sean will continue in a direct service role, working for clients who need but cannot afford representation in civil legal matters. Through this work, he will continue to fight for his country’s poorest citizens, ensuring their voices are heard and their needs are met. Sean hopes to one day take these experiences into the policy arena, advocating for a broader social safety net that is created by and responsive to the citizens it seeks to protect.

Molly Griffard

Starr Foundation Scholar

Molly Griffard was born and raised in Saint Louis, Missouri. She got her start as an activist and organizer as a teenager by volunteering on campaigns to stop the use of the death penalty in Missouri. In 2009, she graduated from Macalester College, where she majored in Political Science. As an undergraduate, she spent many hours outside of the classroom campaigning for progressive candidates and causes like voting rights for students and low income people and higher education affordability and access. Most recently, Molly worked at the ACLU as a State Advocacy Strategist on the LGBT-focused Out for Freedom Campaign. In this role, she worked on legislative, ballot, and public education campaigns to advance policies including marriage equality and LGBT-nondiscrimination, while fighting back against anti-LGBT measures. Prior to joining the ACLU's Out for Freedom Campaign, Molly worked on numerous LGBT state campaigns, including the 2012 ballot campaign in Maine and legislative campaigns in Washington, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Utah. Molly looks forward to gaining advocacy skills and a deeper understanding of the legal system to put to use for social change.

Emily Harris

Lindemann Family Public Service Scholar

Emily is passionate about improving outcomes for individuals and families touched by the criminal justice system. Prior to joining the NYU Law class of 2019, Emily worked with community groups seeking to end gun violence as a Paralegal in the Community Justice Unit of the Legal Aid Society of New York. She has also served as a Policy Analyst for the Council of State Governments Justice Center where she worked with courts and judges to improve mental health courts and pretrial policies nationwide. Emily has also worked to advance holistic defense with public defender offices across the country through the Community-Oriented Defender Network while at the Brennan Center for Justice and with the National Legal Aid and Defender Association. Emily received her B.A. in Religious and Political Philosophy from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University. She plans to use her law degree to continue her career working with communities and providers to improve the reach and provision of innovative and holistic public defense services and to end collateral consequences of criminal convictions.

Nia Holston

Nia is originally from Philadelphia, PA. She graduated from Yale in 2014, earning a BA in Political Science and African American Studies, with distinction in both majors. She spent much of her time in college involved in the black community, serving as the Political Action Chair for the Black Student Alliance, and a board member for the Black Solidarity Conference. She also served as Democratic Co-Chair for New Haven's Ward 1 community, helping to organize local political campaigns and serving as one of the youngest delegates to the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Nia is most passionate about using collective power to organize and advocate against mass incarceration, particularly as it impacts various and intersecting forms of oppression. Following her college graduation, she spent two years at the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, AL, where she helped to manage intake protocols and practices, supported clients returning from prison, investigated abusive conditions at Alabama prisons and jails, and assisted with community outreach and research for EJI's Race and Poverty Project. Although Nia believes, as Coretta Scott King said, that "struggle is a never ending process," she remains steadfast, and wholly committed to that struggle. 

Paul Leroux

Andrew W. Mellon Scholar

Paul Leroux grew up in Bakersfield, Vermont. He comes to NYU from the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C., where he served as Program Director for two years. In this role, Paul worked to help mayors interact with each other and the federal government in order to address city needs. Paul managed the Conference’s multi-year collaboration in the U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund and the Menino Survey of Mayors. He also handled a broad international portfolio, ensuring U.S. mayors’ representation on the world stage and organizing historic missions to the nations of Qatar and Cuba. Over the last year, Paul worked with the organization’s top staff and elected leadership to create the “Invest and Protect” agenda for the 2016 Presidential Election and supported Flint Mayor Karen Weaver in her efforts to get relief for her city in its ongoing water contamination crisis.

After law school, Paul hopes to work with mayors again at the intersection of national and local government in order to restore marginalized constituents’ faith in the political process and help city leaders secure resources for their communities.

Paul holds an honors degree in Social Studies from Harvard University, where he wrote his thesis on how mayors can relate to the federal government. In college, he directed programs that provide civics lessons to youth, and taught essentials of government in schools and summer camps throughout Greater Boston. Paul also served on the Harvard University Institute of Politics Student Advisory Committee, advised first-year students as a Peer Advising Fellow, and worked for three years at the Widener Library Circulation Desk. He spent his summers with the Phillips Brooks House Association’s Summer Urban Program, Vermont Health Care for All, and the Conference of Mayors.

Grace Li


Grace was born in Beijing, China and grew up in Media, Pennsylvania. In 2014, she graduated from Princeton University, where she studied in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Program in Finance. At Princeton, she volunteered as a tutor and student leader in the Petey Greene Program, an organization that provides supplemental academic support for incarcerated students. Her experience working in prisons and with incarcerated individuals in central New Jersey led her to co-found and lead Students for Prison Education and Reform (SPEAR), a student group whose projects have included public education events about solitary confinement and an ongoing campaign calling on Princeton University to stop considering prospective students’ criminal histories in their applications for undergraduate admission. After graduation, Grace worked to expand Petey Greene Program to New York City as a Charles W. Puttkammer ’58 Reentry Fellow. She created and ran programs bringing university students to tutor high school equivalency and adult basic education students in federal jails in New York City as well as high school students on Rikers Island. During her second year with the fellowship, she worked in monitoring and evaluation for Petey Greene. She intends to use her legal training to work as a public defender or to work to empower confined people through rights litigation.

Ryan Mendias

Ryan was born and raised in the South Bay of Los Angeles but relocated to the East Coast for college. He graduated cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Yale University with distinction in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and American Studies majors. Ryan was a leader in several LGBTQ student groups and an active member of the feminist, Latino, and Jewish communities on campus. For the last two years, Ryan has worked as a paralegal in the Public Policy Litigation and Law department of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. At PPFA, Ryan aided attorneys engaged in high impact reproductive rights litigation in state and federal courts across the country. Outside of PPFA, Ryan advocates for reproductive freedom through his volunteer work as an intake case manager with the New York Abortion Access Fund, where he secures financial assistance for low-income people seeking safe and legal abortion care. The arrest of a close family member in his sophomore year of college forced Ryan to confront the due process abuses that plague the criminal justice system, and, coupled with his activist commitments, spurred an interest in the practice of law. As a Root-Tilden-Kern scholar, Ryan hopes to build the skills necessary to be an effective advocate for progressive social change.

Sharmeen Morrison

William and Mary Sterling Scholar

Sharmeen believes that environmental litigators have an important role to play in protecting the public’s access to safe food, clean water, and breathable air. She has seen how people of color and limited means bear a disproportionate burden of environmental harms, and she has seen how these harms can translate into health outcomes that upend lives.

As a paralegal on the litigation team of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sharmeen helped realize justice for people shouldering environmental burdens. She worked on cases targeting the presence of the carcinogen hexavalent chromium in drinking water and the reproductive toxicant BPA in consumer products; she also helped with matters aiming to curb air pollution from coal-fired power plants and the overuse of antibiotics in livestock. Prior to joining NRDC, she studied substance use and youth cultures at the Institute for Scientific Analysis, a sociological research non-profit. While working toward her B.A. in sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, Sharmeen completed a research program evaluation of Playworks, the national organization that aims to reduce the incidence of school bullying, and tutored inmates at San Quentin State Prison. While her experiences throughout her native San Francisco Bay Area have been diverse and varied, freedom from environmental toxicity remains central to Sharmeen’s vision of social change. After her time at NYU, she hopes to advance environmental justice through impact litigation.

Jason Pedraza


Jason was born and raised in northern New Jersey. He graduated from Princeton University with a bachelor's degree in political science in 2011. In 2016, Jason received a master’s degree in higher and postsecondary education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Jason was primarily raised by his mother and grandmother. Despite her illiteracy, Jason’s grandmother proved to be the foundational force that pushed the family forward. She constantly emphasized the importance of education as the key to unlock a better life. Jason’s mother was the first in the family to graduate from college. Seeing the role that education played in advancing his own family, Jason has worked to expand educational opportunities for other disadvantaged students and families. Before attending NYU Law, Jason taught for two summers at the North Star Academy Charter School in Newark, New Jersey; worked as a social and emotional skills facilitator with the Princeton-Blairstown Center in Trenton, New Jersey and Harlem, later serving on the organization’s Board of Trustees and Advisory Council; coordinated operations for a college readiness company that provided access to its programs regardless of a family’s ability to pay; supported overall programming for the Harlem Chapter of Say Yes to Education, which provides wrap-around support services aimed at leveling the playing field for disadvantaged students and families in pursuit of a college degree; and assisted fundraising initiatives at Teachers College. Jason strongly believes that education can disrupt the passing of disadvantage from generation to generation. In order to address the structural nature of inequality and drive genuine social and institutional change, he will approach these issues from a legal and policy perspective at NYU Law. Jason will fight to ensure that no matter people’s circumstances, they will have an equal opportunity to an education that will unlock a better life.

Aubrey Rose


Aubrey Rose is a former investigator focused on providing better legal protections for the mental ill and other vulnerable populations in the criminal justice system. Before joining Root, Aubrey worked as a mitigation specialist for pre-trial indigent defendants facing the death penalty in Louisiana. In this position, Aubrey developed witnesses and records to be presented at the penalty phase of capital trials and wrote psychosocial histories on issues that shaped the clients’ lives including mental illness, childhood trauma, addiction and complex PTSD. Aubrey was trained as an investigative fellow at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, where she worked on adult felony and juvenile cases. Aubrey graduated summa cum laude with a B.A in Law & Society in the American University Honors Program. During her undergraduate studies, Aubrey worked as a communications assistant at the Capital Litigation Communications Project, an intern at the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, and a research fellow in the Justice, Law and Criminology Department. As a research fellow, Aubrey published social science articles on the death penalty, specifically structural impediments to abolition and the court’s approach to execution volunteers, and presented research on prisoner disenfranchisement at the EuroCrim International Conference in Budapest, Hungary in 2013. After graduation, Penn Undergraduate Law Journal published her Honors Thesis, which advanced a legal argument for greater due process protections for capital defendants with intellectual disabilities. After law school, Aubrey hopes to use impact litigation to challenge and reform unfair legal practices and procedures in the South.

Molly Rugg


Molly is broadly interested in issues of racial and socioeconomic justice. Prior to joining the Root-Tilden-Kern community, she worked for three years as a paralegal with the Voting Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). In that capacity, she was part of an active impact litigation team that brought voting rights cases across the country. She was the trial paralegal for Missouri NAACP v. Ferguson-Florissant School District, a challenge to the district’s at-large system for electing school board members, which dilutes the voting strength of the Black community. Molly also played a key role in unionizing the ACLU’s New York-based paralegals.

During her first year out of college, Molly worked as a paralegal for Children’s Rights, a national nonprofit organization that reforms failing child welfare systems through federal class actions on behalf of children in state care. Her past experience also includes interning with the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project, NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut, and the United States Senate Judiciary Committee.

Molly’s research for her 2012 bachelor’s degree in psychology at Yale University focused on gender ideology and its impact on interpersonal relationships. She was born and raised in Burlington, Vermont, and now lives in Brooklyn with her spouse, writer/comedian River Clegg, and their cats, Liberty and Justice.

Nora Searle


Nora graduated from Barnard College in 2012. During college, she interned at the Goddard Riverside SRO Law Project, supporting tenants in organizing to preserve affordable housing, and at the Correctional Association of New York, where she contributed to monitoring of conditions in state prisons in the interest of policy change, public education, improved prison conditions, and alternatives to incarceration. From 2012 to 2014 Nora worked as a paralegal with the Federal Defenders of New York in the Eastern District, assisting attorneys at all stages of federal criminal cases. In 2014, she returned to Berkeley, California, her hometown, to work as a litigation assistant with the Prison Law Office. There, she corresponded with and interviewed people in prison and engaged in monitoring and advocacy related to conditions in California state prisons and county jails including issues concerning medical care, mental health care, physical disabilities, and developmental disabilities. She also worked with an attorney at the Prison Law Office to develop a project to reach out to transgender people in California state prisons and learn of the struggles faced by this group and their visions for change. As an attorney, Nora plans to continue working alongside incarcerated people.

Rachel Sommer


Originally from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Rachel graduated from Middlebury College with a degree in international studies. Rachel also earned a Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School. During and after divinity school, Rachel worked as a chaplain in a variety of settings, including a retirement home in Queens and a trauma center in North Philadelphia. For the past several years, Rachel served as the communications director for a Pennsylvania-based non-profit organization engaged in international relief, development and peacebuilding work. Rachel is passionate about working for justice for our society’s most marginalized members and looks forward to learning new skills to do so as a Root-Tilden-Kern scholar.

Carmen Tellez


Carmen grew up in Northern California and graduated from Occidental College in 2014 with a degree in Politics and a minor in Urban and Environmental Policy. While in school, Carmen served as the executive director of Occidental College’s branch of Women and Youth Supporting Each Other, a curriculum-based mentoring program for middle school girls. In this role, she oversaw curriculum development for the program and led sessions on issues such as race, identity, and sexual decision making. On campus, Carmen served as a peer educator for Occidental’s sexual assault prevention organization. She has also worked as a community organizer for Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE), a South Los Angeles tenants’ rights group. At SAJE, she worked with residents to secure much-needed improvements to their apartments. Carmen spent eight months externing for the First Assistant United States Attorney for the Central District of California. While at the United States Attorney’s Office, Carmen was called on to draft a presidential pardon memo, transcribe victim interviews, and execute a mutual legal assistance treaty request. After graduating from Occidental, Carmen worked as a JusticeCorps Graduate Fellow in Downtown Los Angeles. As a Fellow, she led workshops on family law issues and guided self-represented litigants through their requests for restraining orders. Carmen’s career goals have been profoundly shaped by her study of community lawyering. She believes that effective public interest lawyers see themselves not as saviors of marginalized communities, but rather equitable partners in creating change. As a result of her work mentoring students, Carmen hopes to use her law degree to provide client-centered and collaborative representation to young people in delinquency court.

Shaina Watrous


Shaina Watrous graduated with honors from Princeton University in 2014 with a degree in public policy and certificates in African American Studies and South Asian Studies. Her independent undergraduate work centered around poverty policy and incarceration, focusing on abusive prison conditions and the impact of incarceration on poor urban communities. Prior to attending college, Shaina participated in Princeton’s inaugural Bridge Year Program, through which she spent a year living in Varanasi, India. In Varanasi, she worked with Guria, a grassroots organization of attorneys and activists who combat sex trafficking through education initiatives, rescue operations, and legal interventions. She later returned to India to direct Specks of Dust, a documentary film about Guria’s work. At Princeton, Shaina spent all four years of college tutoring men and women in New Jersey prisons through the Petey Greene Program. She was a co-founder of Students for Prison Education and Reform (SPEAR), which engages the Princeton community in conversations about the criminal justice system through on-campus events and campaigns. Shaina has worked both with Legal Services of New Jersey and the National Legal Aid & Defender Association. Most recently, she established the Petey Greene Program’s Washington, DC and Maryland office, and ran the program there for two years.

Jane Wang Williams

WilmerHale Scholar

Jane is joining the NYU community after two years as a mitigation specialist and investigator for the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center (LCAC) in New Orleans, LA. At LCAC, Jane conducted investigations around the state of Louisiana in defense of indigent individuals charged with murder and threatened with the death penalty. Prior to LCAC, Jane worked as the Programs Fellow at the national office of the American Constitution Society in Washington, DC, where she organized national events and the 2014 ACS Convention. Jane graduated from Harvard College in 2013 with a concentration in Philosophy and a secondary in African-American Studies. During her summers in college, Jane served first as a Senior Counselor and later as Director of the Phillips Brooks House Association's Mission Hill Summer Program, a community-based educational summer day camp for at-risk youth in Boston. For her project focusing on food justice in Mission Hill in the summer of 2012, Jane was awarded a Harvard Presidential Public Service Fellowship. Between high school and college, Jane taught English in China and worked as Legal Assistant to the Chair of the Legal Redress Committee of the North Carolina NAACP. Jane is a proud native of Chapel Hill, NC.

Christina Wright

Jacobson Public Service Scholar for Women, Children, and Families

Christina was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. After Hurricane Katrina destroyed her home and city, Christina developed an intimate understanding of complex societal differences and the underlying systemic inequalities that afflict marginalized communities. While studying at the University of Texas at Austin, Christina participated in numerous programs that focused on addressing inequalities in a national and global context. Volunteering with the Texas After Violence Project, an organization that focuses on documenting oral histories regarding capital punishment and murder in Texas in an effort to create dialogue and solutions to combat violence; the Arc of Greater New Orleans, a nonprofit that provides services to assist people living with intellectual disabilities; and Blackland Community Development Corporation, a nonprofit that provides transitional housing for low income families, Christina assisted in creating a voice for marginalized communities in order to address systemic inequalities in the South. Christina also completed a Maymester in Accra, Ghana, where she constructed a weeklong series of seminars conducted with a group of Ghanaian women that addressed leadership development and women empowerment. As a junior at the University of Texas at Austin, she also participated in the Bill Archer Fellowship Program, through which she was able to intern in Washington, D.C., with the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

After recognizing the opportunities that result from a quality education, Christina became interested in the ways that education could be used as a tool to create economic mobility and strengthen self-advocacy amongst members of disenfranchised groups. Thus, after graduating from college, Christina joined Teach for America, where she taught first grade for two years in College Park, Georgia, and spent one summer as a school operations manager. After two years of teaching, Christina pursued a MSc in Public Policy and Administration and graduated from the London School of Economics and Political Science in December 2015. Christina also spent six months teaching English in Colombia, South America. Through her experiences teaching, and studying education, Christina realized that more than being a civil right, education is a fundamental human right that all should have access to, regardless of a person’s background.