Student Spotlight: Celine Zhu ’23

Root-Tilden-Kern Public Interest Scholar

Celine Zhu
Celine Zhu ’23

Tell us about your experience in the Civil Rights Clinic.

The Civil Rights Clinic was by far my favorite educational experience in law school. Not only did I get to work on a range of topics—from abortion work to challenging racially discriminatory redistricting and infrastructure projects—but I also got to do it under committed supervisors, alongside peers who supported one another, and with clients and communities who taught me more than I can describe. Whether it was seeing how we could best serve existing communities in their ongoing fights against injustice, or working with others to craft strategy and a path forward that centers the priorities of the most vulnerable stakeholders, this clinic taught me not only how to be a versatile civil rights lawyer but also a compassionate advocate.

Tell us about your parole advocacy work.

I will always be grateful I had the opportunity to work for the Ending the Prison Industrial Complex’s (EPIC) Parole Advocacy Program. With training and guidance from the student leadership, and in partnership with Appellate Advocates—a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing representation to indigent individuals convicted of crimes— student pairs work with someone currently incarcerated in a New York state prison to assist them with their parole hearings. 

My partner and I worked with our client to help him prepare for his (ultimately successful!) parole hearing, and then we helped raise funds and secure housing for him following his release. We even got to pick him up from the train station and escort him to his new home. I am so thankful to EPIC for giving me the opportunity to meet my client, and I am reminded of that each time I hear a new update about his life or see a picture of him—smiling, with his loved ones, living the life he dreamed about.

What lessons or takeaways have you gained from your experience as a Root-Tilden-Kern Public Interest Scholar?

The most important and meaningful work in your life will not be paid. Being an advocate means being a part of your community, and not just as their lawyer. Show up, give freely, and receive with care—it is a privilege to be entrusted with the stories and lives of others, so make sure you are prepared to rise to the responsibility it demands.

What do you enjoy most about being in New York City?

3 a.m. takeout! Food just tastes better when you're deliriously sleep deprived.

Posted on April 11, 2023