Sara ZierSara Zier ’10 is one of 18 people nationwide to receive a 2011 Soros Justice Fellowship from George Soros’s Open Society Foundations. Zier will use her fellowship, which includes a stipend of $74,000 to $108,750 over 18 months, to implement a project focused on helping young people with mental illnesses to avoid incarceration by facilitating their access to community-based mental health care services. Reducing the negative impact of criminal justice policies is a primary aim of the Open Society Foundations.

In her project, Zier will work with TeamChild, a nonprofit civil legal aid organization in Washington State that aims to reduce juvenile court involvement by improving access to education, health care, and housing. Roughly two-thirds of youth in juvenile detention facilities suffer from mental illness, and many of them lack access to mental health care in their communities.

“Both the health care and juvenile justice systems are failing youth with mental illnesses,” said Zier. “With TeamChild, I developed a cross-systems advocacy project to begin to address this.”

A Root-Tilden-Kern Sinsheimer Scholar who graduated cum laude from NYU Law, Zier won the Law School’s Eric Dean Bender Prize for demonstrated commitment to public service, as well as the NYU President’s Service Award. She was an advocate in the Juvenile Defender Clinic, the Medical-Legal Advocacy Clinic, and the Suspension Representation Project, serving as a co-director of the latter.

Zier is the sixth NYU law graduate since 2008 to win a Soros Justice Fellowship. Previous recipients include Samuel Brooke ’06, Caroline Cincotta ’07, Joshua Perry ’07, Billy Sothern ’01, and Jesse Wegman ’05.

Posted on July 11, 2011