As a teenager, Angela Ni, ’17, developed an interest in public advocacy when her father introduced her to the Urban Justice Center in New York. She spent her summer volunteering with the Street Vendor Project. “I wasn’t very aware of the social issues; I just wanted exposure to public advocacy,” says Ni, who utilized her fluency in Chinese to communicate with vendors. “But I met so many people there who were immigrants like I am. I realized that not everyone gets to have the same privileges that have been conferred upon me.” That experience inspired her current work with the organization as an Equal Justice Works Fellow.
Equal Justice Works is the nation’s largest post-graduate public interest fellowship program—and one of the most prestigious. The two-year program matches recent graduates who are passionate about public interest work with organizations that need their talents. Applicants develop project proposals in conjunction with potential host organizations. Then Equal Justice Works operates as a matchmaker that secures funding for top applications from sponsoring law firms, corporations, and foundations.
Rebecca Eisenbrey, ’15, another Equal Justice Works Fellow, is working with the Equal Justice Center’s Fair Chance Hiring Project in Austin, Texas. “The fair chance hiring movement empowers people with criminal records and will affect a culture shift so that employers don’t see people with criminal records as a problematic hiring pool,” she says. Eisenbrey provides outreach and education to employers and ensures they understand and comply with Austin’s new Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance. She also works to enforce Title VII and the Fair Credit Reporting Act with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidance on the consideration of arrest and conviction records. “It is validating to know that the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, which is sponsoring me, agrees that this type of work needs to be done and trusts that I am the person who can make that change,” she says.
For Ni, the Fellowship, sponsored by Greenberg Traurig LLP, brings her full circle. “This is a cause incredibly close to what I’m about as a person. I feel satisfaction by giving back to the community that fostered me to become the person I am.” —JP