Students of ACS

January 17, 2022

Abbie Hibsch (She/Her), Wake Forest University School of Law '22

As an undergraduate intern at my local hospital, I walked into the long-term care unit on a chilly fall day, excited to see my patients. I was a nerdy psychology student, marching through the halls, sporting a pair of glasses that made me feel smart. I was on my way to an informal therapy session with a patient who had recently become paralyzed. It was an incredibly humbling experience to be trusted with this patient's most harrowing mental struggles.

On this day, not long after our session began, my patient revealed that she was severely mistreated by the hospital staff--both physically and mentally. This denial of care was detrimental to her already-diminished health. As an intern with a flimsy paper name tag, I spent the entire afternoon frantically chasing down the correct personnel to ensure her proper care. Many providers refused because my patient was sometimes verbally unruly--but can you blame her? She just became paralyzed! Eventually, I found a nurse who was willing to help, and my patient received the care she desperately needed.

I knew there was much more work to be done. How could I be certain she'd be protected the next day? Or next month, when my internship ends? How many other disabled individuals are also being mistreated and going unheard? Over the next several weeks, I couldn't stop thinking about this patient and others like her. There had to be a better way to help.

I never intended to go to law school; I always felt drawn to the "helping professions" like nursing, counseling, or social work. However, my experience made me realize that legal work is a "helping profession" too. I came to law school to help individuals like my patient. I hope to make a significant change in this area of law, both by preventing abuse and by seeking redress for those who have already fallen victim to it.

The ACS community has been the most incredible platform to advocate for disadvantaged populations of all kinds. It's been an honor to work alongside such brilliant, like-minded students, and I am grateful for the opportunity to stay involved with ACS throughout my career.

If you would like to be featured as a Student of ACS, complete the submission form here.

 

December 6, 2021

Sarah Chase (she/her), Northwestern Pritzker School of Law '23 ​​​​​​

The first job I distinctly remember wanting was that of a lawyer. In elementary school, I was infatuated with the idea of building cases, arguing in court, and fighting for something I believed in. By the time I understood how most lawyers spend their time, the prospect seemed less appealing. Instead, I thought could try to be an oncologist, or if I was lucky, an editor at Rolling Stone (who doesn’t want to write about music and politics?).

But as I became more aware of the world, I saw more clearly how many issues seemed to stem from the law. I watched punitive laws push people struggling with addiction into the criminal legal system. I saw the Ohio legislature strip unions of their collective bargaining rights. Following the financial crisis, I recognized the effects of laws favoring big banks as factories closed and foreclosures spread.

While starting to understand how much harm was rooted in the law, I also came to appreciate how powerful a tool the law could be. After the Affordable Care Act stopped insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, my family was able to purchase health care for the first time since my mom had become disabled a decade earlier. In 2013, organizers in my hometown of Dayton, OH used civil rights laws to force a predominantly white suburb to allow construction of bus stops connecting mostly non-white riders to its affluent shopping mall. Though the organizers pushed for change using a variety of tactics, navigating the law was a key tool at their disposal as they forced the city to comply with Title VI.

I came to law school recognizing that the law is not the answer to inequity. Nonetheless, it is a tool we can use to effect change. At Northwestern, ACS gives students a platform to highlight not just how law shapes our communities but also how the law can be used to improve the practical realities of people who are dispossessed and disenfranchised and further justice for all.

 

November 29, 2021

Brandon Raynes (he/him), University of South Dakota Knudson School of Law ‘23

Martin Luther King Jr. once said that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” I went to law school because I recognized that our nation is in critical need of advocates to give a voice to the voiceless and to represent the underrepresented. I recognized that our system of “Equal Justice Under Law” could not be safeguarded without fighting the inequalities present within our society attacking its integrity. I recognized that MLK Jr.’s vision of a land where all men were truly created equal was in danger. As a result, I saw a calling for myself: to stand up and vigorously defend true and universal justice for all.

Originally, I wanted to serve in the military in the footsteps of my grandfather who, coming from a family of immigrants fleeing Europe during the rise of antisemitism, chose to give back to a country that, for once, gave himself and his family a chance to live peacefully, prosperously, and happily. However, I knew deep down that I had the heart of an advocate who not only wanted to help those who were in my grandfather’s family’s shoes, but also wanted to help all those whose voices were being muted, lost, or ignored within our democratic institutions. So, then came law school, where my desire to become an advocate of justice has only grown stronger each and every day.

In this current academic year, I am the President of our law school’s American Constitution Society Chapter. My overall hope with running the Chapter is to foster awareness, civil discourse, and a productive environment where constructive ideas about bolstering social justice and equal opportunity can turn into meaningful action.

 

November 22, 2021

Sierra Kennedy (she/her) American University Washington College of Law ‘23

Being raised in the heart of Appalachia, my view of the world was closed off and narrow; molded by generations of undereducation and lack of diversity. At 18, I left Appalachia for the first time and moved to Tucson, Arizona for college, the place I consider home to this day. There, my understanding of the world was challenged and I began creating my own ideals of the world around me. I strayed from the safety of my closed universe and surrounded myself in hardships and injustices. The more I learned, the more my view of my future changed. Eventually, I was in my advisor's office changing my major. I added time to my schooling, and debt to my name, but I knew where I needed to be: fighting every injustice I came across. Focusing on domestic human rights and civil rights gave me the broadest scope to help the most people and I have not looked back since.

Life didn't go quite as expected. I finished my undergrad, completed my graduate degree, and soon found myself as a single mother of three after fleeing an abusive relationship. At one point I was homeless and working four jobs while saving every penny I could to take the LSAT.

Now, I’m here—a 2L evening student in one of the top evening programs in the country. My days start at 4:30 a.m. and end at 11 p.m. As a first-generation student, I had so much to learn. In law school, I looked for student groups that shared my passion for justice and viewed themselves as the people who would stop at nothing less. I found ACS and the rest is history.

This year, I’m the President of the American University Washington College of Law’s ACS Chapter. It has been slow-moving this fall due to my own mental health struggles, but my board and I are currently working to make up for it and more in the Spring. I was just welcomed into the Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation ACS Student Task Force and together we hope to bring a voice to those so often silenced among us in our communities. I am working closely with my colleagues and professors to bring a Truth Commission to AUWCL to ensure everyone has a chance to speak out against injustices in a space where they can feel safe and heard so we can begin to ensure no one ever feels the way they have felt again.

With the camaraderie I have experienced thus far through my involvement with ACS, I know the future is no longer bleak. I know these injustices most accept as “just the way it is” will soon be only taught in history books. For that, I am grateful for stumbling upon ACS and the amazing people I have met so far.

 

November 15, 2021

Hirsh M. Joshi (He/Him), University of Missouri School of Law ‘23

I came to law school with the intent to put my zealousness to good use. During the beginning of my law school career, I saw the strength of our democracy tested. I saw attacks on our electoral process. I saw physical attacks on our Nation’s Capital. I saw lawyers threatening protestors with guns then launching campaigns for the U.S. Senate. I saw some of the worst of humanity during my 1L year; and some of the worst of the legal profession. It's pretty easy to get discouraged when you see someone in your future profession do terrible things.

On the contrary, those events inspired me to become involved in Mizzou Law's ACS Chapter. ACS was the perfect place for me to build community and gain skills to become a better attorney. As the current president, I encourage my Chapter to plan programming that demonstrates how to not just become good lawyers but to be lawyers for good. Our Chapter has started a series titled Equity Under the Law which we hope to use to give a platform to underrepresented communities and the policies that affect them.

During my 1L year, my Torts and Criminal Law professor said something that continues to inspire me; while reflecting on a case, he spoke about "the disconnect between the law and reality." My Chapter’s goal through programming is to make that disconnect obvious, and my personal goal in my career is to get rid of that disconnect. Maybe then, I will consider my zealousness to be of good use.

 

November 8, 2021

Toni Stone (she/her), North Carolina Central University School of Law '23

As my mom always says, "You can't do anything by yourself." The community I had before ACS and since ACS helped me to achieve my wildest dream. I have wanted to be a lawyer since I was five years old and would argue with my aunt all the time. I graduated undergrad in 2017 and took some time off to work, but I always had that nagging feeling to go to law school. I had put my dreams on hold, and it was time to get back to them.

I was in the process of looking for a new job when my high school guidance counselor, Sharon, emailed me about an opportunity in D.C. Even though I had graduated almost six years before, she always checked in with me. She told me to look into an organization named the American Constitution Society. They were hiring fellows and she thought it would be perfect for me. I set out that week to research ACS. I read their mission and values and knew it was something I wanted to be a part of. Soon after, I sent in my resume and cover letter. About a month later, I heard back that I was chosen for an interview. Once again, I fell back on the people who had supported me until this point. Sharon and my other high school teachers helped prepare me for the interview. At the time, I was living in New York and decided I would take a bus down to D.C. on the day of my interview, but Sharon would not hear of it. She knew my clothes would be wrinkled, and I would be too tired. Instead, she bought me a train ticket. Two weeks after my interview, ACS called me and offered me the position of Student Chapters Fellow. I stood on the train platform crying because I knew I was that much closer to my dream of becoming a lawyer.

Through ACS I gained a mentor in Peggy Li, who stayed up with me late into the night reading over my personal statement and law school applications. Peggy always reminded me--and still does--of the power I hold. Meghan Paulas encouraged me to participate in more activities and I took the opportunity to attend the Black Pre-Law Conference and Law Fair. At the conference, I decided I wanted to go to an HBCU law school. Molly, Jordan, and Michelle grounded me by continuously checking in when things became too overwhelming. Through ACS I met Dean Dawson which confirmed for me that North Carolina Central University School of Law would be the best place for me. I wouldn't have gotten to where I am without the help, love, and compassion of the folks who believed in me. I am forever grateful to the folks I met at ACS and ACS.

 

November 1, 2021

Julia Rose Aguilera (she/her), Southern Sierra Miwuk, University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law ‘23

My desire to study law has been fueled intensely by my lived experiences as a Native American woman and my aspiration to seek reparations for my people through federal recognition. The American Constitution Society has provided me with the platform to advocate for tribal sovereignty and address current social and legal issues that are the legacy of American colonialism. As a future public interest lawyer, I want to ensure that the most marginalized communities, such as my own Southern Sierra Miwuk Nation, have the information and resources to exercise their democratic rights. I want to advocate for reduced racial and economic disparities by instituting and promoting job training programs, educational opportunities, and health services for those most in need.

I feel strongly about systemic inequalities that disproportionately affect people of color and lower-income communities. I hope to promote job training programs, scholarship funds, and health services to begin addressing the economic disparities found in so many tribal communities. I want to advocate for economic development by ensuring that tribes receive proper funding. In many cases, federal recognition is the first step in eligibility for government assistance. I also want to increase protection of tribal lands and resources through unwavering stewardship and community outreach, combining traditional knowledge with modern technologies.

I am drawn to public interest work because of my parents' careers and because of my desire to give back to my community in Oakland (and other communities like it). My parents worked for labor unions and instilled collective action values in me early on: Use your voice for the greater good and do the right thing. The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement was my introduction to using my voice for a greater purpose - just like my parents on the picket line. I learned more about social movements from volunteering at BLM services and attending rallies, LGBTQ+ protests in San Francisco, and Women's Marches, all of which inspired me to study law and seek a career in public interest law and policy.

I was nominated and twice elected to serve as the President of the revived Arizona Law student chapter of ACS. As ACS President, I have advocated for progressive ideals with a focus on threats to American democracy, including voter suppression efforts such as various programming events and initiatives including a conversation with Gabriela Cázares-Kelly, the first indigenous woman to hold elected office in Pima County.

For me, being a part of ACS is not only a great way to engage with bright law students across the nation, but it is also an opportunity to connect with my ancestors in a way I never have before. Historically, the law has been a force for keeping my ancestors in poverty while robbing them of everything they've ever known. The opportunities I have today were unimaginable for even my grandparents. Because of that, I have a responsibility to harness the power of advocacy and advance the causes they were never able to. Indigenous pride and sovereignty are at the core of my identity, and I want to use my legal training to uplift my communities as we reclaim our culture.

I hope to continue to combine the determination and desire for social justice that my parents taught me with the values of ACS. Doing so will aid me in my goal of serving the public interest, especially among those whose voices and traditions have been marginalized.

 

October 25, 2021

Harley Phleger (He/Him), Pepperdine Caruso School of Law ‘23

At 11:50 a.m. on March 12, 1892, my great-great grandfather, Charles Wilhelm Phleger, was shot to death in a saloon in Sacramento. This is why I'm in law school.

Charles was not a lawyer. He was a farmer from Ohio, then a railroad worker, and eventually a cowboy and prominent ranch superintendent in California's Central Valley. The man who shot him, Hiram Palmer, worked closely with Charles for many years. But when Charles served as a key witness against Hiram in a series of lawsuits which left the latter destitute, Hiram spiraled into alcoholism, eventually ending in the aforementioned murder. The subsequent trials made national headlines and became something of a regional cause célèbre. Witnesses went missing, fights broke out in the courtroom, and there were even two incidents involving vigilante mobs. But once the dust had settled, Hiram was left with a reduced charge of manslaughter (thanks to some brilliant and ferocious attorneys), got shipped off to San Quentin, and all was forgotten. The four children Charles left behind never spoke of the day, and Mary, his widow, didn't either. For more than a century, our family knew none of what I have just told you. But in the spring of 2019, something changed.

I had been talking with my father about some of the old family gossip, and that evening engaged in a curious Google search. The terms "Charles Phleger" and "murder" returned astonishing results. By May, I had amassed more than 229 newspaper articles, news-clippings, and photographs. I collected everything from birthdates, maps, and ranch inventories to specific dollar amounts, middle names, and attorneys' credentials. I found out which direction Charles was facing (northwest) when the shots began, in what sequence they were fired (rapidly, from a distance of two or three feet, the third missing and hitting the wall), and at what angle each bullet made contact with the body. And, in particular, I became utterly absorbed in the legal minutiae--the objections and affidavits, the bails, arraignments, and judges' names--and followed the court proceedings from case to case, arrest to sentencing. The endeavor resulted in a 20-page timeline, a nearly 13,000-word narrative summary, and, most importantly, a fascination with the process of the law.

I did not intend to become fascinated. In fact, for much of my life, I intended to avoid the law. My attraction seemed more the result of gravity than personal ambition. But gravitate I have, and since that discovery, I have only fallen deeper into legal orbit. I am now a 2L at Pepperdine, and the President of our ACS chapter, with particular interests in public defense and indigent legal aid. Law was not my great-great grandfather's life--but it was, in the end, what was left of it. Where the inertia of that legacy will eventually lead me is unclear. But this is where I'm coming from.

 

October 18, 2021

Kenna Titus (She/Her), The University of Texas School of Law ‘23

I have always felt passionate about civil rights. My first exposure to activism was participating in the 2011 Wisconsin protests against the newly passed anti-collective bargaining bill. I spent weeks protesting at the state capital in the hopes that our politicians would listen to the popular will. I found it infuriating that the peoples’ voices could be ignored because the system was rigged through gerrymandering and disenfranchisement. At fourteen, I saw the harm that unjust policies could have.

After college, I moved to Austin, Texas and took a job at the Texas State Legislature. I watched firsthand as the Texas House passed bills defunding abortion providers, allowing businesses to discriminate against LGBT+ people, and further eroding local control of finances.

By this point, I knew I had to spend my career trying to stem the tide of harmful policies, and to help good ones make their way into law. I enrolled at the University of Texas Law School with the intention of going into civil rights policy work. In my time at UT, I have met an incredible community of like-minded, progressive law students.

This year, I serve as the Co-President of the UT Law Chapter of ACS. ACS has provided students like me the opportunity to formalize our commitment to progressive legal work. We have held events including one for Constitution Day, in which Professor Steve Vladeck discussed the recent changes to Texas abortion law and the Supreme Court’s shadow docket. We’ve also hosted an event about the state of labor and unions during Covid-19, and we are co-hosting an “alternative curriculum” series with Law Students for Black Lives to discuss important legal topics that don’t show up in the classroom.

ACS has been an important anchor in my law school experience, helping me build community with like-minded students. I hope to be a part of the progressive movement in this country, pushing just policy and fighting to improve people’s lives. That work starts at law school, inspiring in others a drive for equity and justice that they will carry into their future careers.

 

October 11, 2021

Jaylin D. McClinton (He/Him), Chicago-Kent College of Law '22

Each day, I wake up in my childhood home in Chicago's Roseland neighborhood, a 93% Black community with a $37,242 median income on the South Side -- a community plagued with high unemployment, a lack of economic development, and limited educational opportunities.

In 2009, Roseland garnered national headlines for the brutal beating of Fenger HS honors student Derrion Albert. Derrion's death was a clarion call to action for community leaders, law enforcement, and policy makers to address the ongoing crisis of youth violence in Chicago. Like many young African-American men across the country, Derrion's story resonated with me for a number of reasons. Indeed, his short life represented yet another "dream deferred" for Black men within my community. This experience, and others alike, has fueled my pursuit of higher education, passion for social justice advocacy, career aspirations as a public servant, and my intent to use the rule of law as a means to fundamentally change the material conditions of those populations historically underrepresented and often misrepresented in society.

As a child, I traveled up to an hour and a half outside of my community to attend elementary school and high school, which I always thought was odd, but my mother and grandmother, two phenomenal Black women, wanted to ensure that I gained opportunities that they had only dreamed of. As a result, I attended Saint Sabina Academy, Curie Metropolitan High School, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Now as a law student, I realize that I was -- and still am -- a first-hand witness to the inequities present most notably in communities of color.

Further, as an active student leader of color for the American Constitution Society, I work tirelessly to live out the belief that the United States Constitution is, "of the people, by the people, and for the people." In fact, for everyone reading this, I want to empower you now. I want to challenge you all to get involved in the electoral process whether that means joining a campaign, voting on Election Day, serving as an election judge, doing election protection work, or running for office yourself. Authentic community organizing and engagement is the true way to promote equal opportunity for all.

In closing, I look forward to remaining involved for years to come and living out these words from the late Justice Thurgood Marshall, my personal hero, "Where you see wrong or inequality or injustice, speak out, because this is your country. This is your democracy. Make it. Protect it. Pass it on."

 

October 4, 2021

Jacob Skold (he/him), University of Iowa College of Law ‘23

I’ve wanted to practice criminal law in the public sector ever since I shadowed in juvenile court as part of an assignment in 9th grade. For years I was extremely noncommittal about which side of the “v.” I eventually wanted to land on. The considerations for making that decision always revolved around me: Which would be a better fit for my personality? My work style? My personal life?

A major life event forced me to radically reshape my frame of thought and put me firmly on the path to becoming a public defender. After living in a small-town setting for my whole life, I moved to Minneapolis for my first post-grad job. Less than six months later, I experienced my first seizure and was subsequently diagnosed with epilepsy. Epilepsy is a unique condition to live with in that most of the time it has almost no impact on your life, but every so often you have a bad day and suddenly you can’t do simple things like drive your car for a span of several months. Living in a big metro area, this meant that I had to become a lot more reliant on public infrastructure, rideshares, or the goodwill of a friend for transportation. This cost me a lot in terms of time, money, privacy, and independence. Suddenly the suburbs became unreachable, and housing options were limited. Grocery stores and shopping malls were less accessible. Medical appointments. Municipal offices. The list goes on.

Though these obstacles are temporary for me, my condition has made me much more aware of the systemic barriers that others less privileged than me face every day, and I feel duty-bound to call attention to these barriers. Someone’s life, through no fault of their own, can change drastically for the worse in the blink of an eye, and they might need the compassion and help of the state to get the resources they need to return to stability. I aspire to be a public defender so that I can go to work every day and advocate for these people.

I greatly value the work that ACS members are doing to drive progress within and without the criminal legal system. Fred Rogers taught us all the importance of looking for the helpers, but I feel it’s just as important to look for opportunities to be a helper. I am extremely grateful that this organization provides these in spades.

 

September 27, 2021

Eliane Bejjani (She/Her), Georgetown University Law Center '22

My path to law school was guided by the profound appreciation for institutions, the rule of law, and deliberate social contracting that my multicultural childhood instilled in me. Growing up, I was fascinated with the root causes of the differences in daily life between New York and my father's home country of Lebanon. To better understand how polities are shaped and maintained, I studied politics as an undergraduate in the United Kingdom; I then supported public sector projects as a management consultant in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Across these experiences, I built an appreciation for the law as a tool through which to make aspirations and abstractions a reality.

Once at Georgetown Law, ACS helped me feel at home after nearly eight years abroad. In the organization, I found a diverse group of people passionate about a broad range of issues. Their common interest in progressivism was one I could identify with and share, even if we didn't share the specific interests of governance and corruption. I felt this elusive, thrilling sense of belonging most acutely during the first ACS event I led, a comparative constitutional law conversation with Georgetown's Professor Yvonne Tew and former Lebanese presidential candidate Chibli Mallat. ACS had room for me, while also providing the structure, programming, and network through which I could learn and grow as an advocate, legal thinker, and leader.

I'm thrilled and honored to lead Georgetown's ACS chapter this year with my co-president, Victoria Sheber. Two thirds of the way into law school, I admit an enduring frustration with the presentation of the law as a sterile intellectual universe removed from the very real outcomes it triggers. Instead, our chapter hopes to highlight the choices inherent in legal decisions and the corresponding responsibilities -- and opportunities -- facing our profession. Our goal is to challenge existing paradigms and encourage our peers to think about new ones. We plan to amplify community members through allyship and collaboration, so that the outcomes we discuss are inclusive, creative, and forward-looking. As our Georgetown motto goes, Law is but the means, Justice is the end. I'm humbled at the opportunity to contribute what I can, and eager to work with the ACs network in the future.

 

September 20, 2021

Elisha M. Untiedt (he/him), The University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law ‘22

On January 6th of 2021, I was watching the events of the Insurrection unfold as I sat at my kitchen table trying to focus on my second semester of online classes, which suddenly seemed so secondary. In that moment, I knew I needed to be more involved in the progressive policy movement in any way I could. It was then that I found ACS. Memphis Law’s fledgling chapter had been hurt by the move to online education, holding few events and not having a presence or much engagement with the student body.

I knew this had to change.  I immediately went to work to recruit new members and get a streamlined contact service for members.  We were able to double our membership, elect a new and more diverse executive board, and get much greater engagement with the student body. I was inspired by students who, like myself, were not even part of the prior executive board, but stepped up to help the chapter grow and change. Ultimately, I was elected President for the 2021-2022 school year.

By revitalizing ACS at Memphis Law, we have given progressive students a stronger voice and unwavering representation on campus. Thanks to our location in Memphis, we also have an abundance of progressive policymakers and leaders in the city who have been excellent resources to our chapter as event speakers and guides, showing us how we can grow and make a positive impact on our community. In a state such as Tennessee, there are opportunities abound to fight for progressive law and policy. We are using our growing platform to speak out on topics affecting our neighbors and peers, including Tennessee’s version of Texas’s anti-choice bill, anti-LGBTQ legislation, and oil pipelines that seek to destroy historic communities of color.

We’re also seeking to educate our student body and city about the challenges to progress in Tennessee, including the importance of state and federal courts, the judicial nominations and appointments process, and the impact of bias and impartiality, including in relation to a new state court panel that was recently created in Memphis to hear a number of state constitutional challenges and challenges to the state redistricting process. It may be an understatement to say our hands are full here in Tennessee, but I am proud of our chapter and excited to see how we can aid in the fight ahead!

 

September 13, 2021

Katerina Krohn (she/her/hers), Temple University Beasley School of Law '22

Graduating college during the first year of the Trump presidency helped me reflect on how I wanted to use my education. From the start of his administration, there were clear challenges to the progress our country was making towards equal justice under law.

Those threats to justice and democracy pulled me towards a path in public service. I moved to Philadelphia to work in a small immigrant affairs office to expand outreach and naturalization efforts to the city’s immigrant communities. During my time with the office, I was struck by the wide and varied impact of the attorneys I worked with. I observed the difference that an attorney could make in someone’s life by preparing a citizenship application with them, the power of a city to file injunctions blocking orders that targeted “sanctuary cities,” and the versatile strength that my boss drew from her law degree to advocate for some of the city’s most vulnerable residents.

I came to Temple Law School to become a better advocate for a fair and just society. With these interests, I was naturally drawn to join Temple ACS. Our law school chapter brings together students for discussions on significant constitutional issues that impact justice, equality, and democracy. This past year, our events have focused on topics like qualified immunity, vote by mail litigation, HIV criminalization, and the First Amendment right to protest—just to name a few. Although we were presented with the challenge of virtual programming, our remote events ultimately allowed us to invite amazing speakers from around the country and more easily collaborate with other ACS chapters.

I am proud to serve as President of the Temple Law School chapter and I look forward becoming more involved with the national ACS network as part of the Next Generation Leaders program in the coming year.

September 6,2021

Chandni Challa (she/her/hers), Saint Louis University School of Law ‘22

It was not my first choice to come to law school. Honestly, it was neither my second nor third. I graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in economics and politics with a minor in public health and, instead of going to law school like the rest of my family, headed to Chicago to work as a government healthcare consultant. Throughout my consulting career, I worked with Health and Human Services agencies in Illinois, New York, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and North Carolina, analyzing their business processes and reengineering their internal structure for greater efficiency and productivity—and I fully intended to continue.

However, years of contending with both the complex American bureaucracy and the idiosyncratic administrative law system became incredibly frustrating. One incident with a benefits specialist in Alabama was particularly disheartening. The specialist  explained the agency’s quota system that required specialists to turnaround a certain number of Medicaid, Medicare, and Veterans Administration (VA) applications within a specific time period. If an individual specialist did not meet the quota, they would be reprimanded. Specialists who were reprimanded more than once were let go. In order for this specialist to meet her quota and keep her job, she would take stacks of applications, put them in her desk drawer, and throw them in the dumpster hoping the individuals would re-apply. This was the only way she felt she could meet the quota. I was heartbroken not only for the people whose applications were never  evaluated, but for the country at large. At that moment, I knew that unless policies were changed, my attempt at changing programs was for naught. I realized that while reengineering is a powerful tool, the law is more broad-reaching‒allowing an individual to effect meaningful change on both a small and large scale. Through consulting, I saw the law as a living, breathing entity not only worthy of study, but worthy of life-long dedication.

Fast forward to 2021 and I am currently a 3L law student at Saint Louis University studying health law. Upon graduation, I intend to continue fighting for progressive causes particularly with disenfranchised populations in the Virginia-D.C. area. Last summer I had the pleasure of working at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri where I helped individuals appeal their Medicaid benefit denials where loss of benefits were largely due to the negligence of the state adjudicators. By using my skills as a law student to aid elderly, homeless, and disabled individuals restore their health benefits I feel strongly that my decision to go to law school was the right one. This past summer I also served as a faculty fellow for Professor Ruqaiijah Yearby working with the Center for Disease Control on issues of federal and state pregnancy discrimination.

ACS is vital to ensuring meaningful societal change because the organization  provides both an outlet for discussing progressive ideas, and a means to advocate for those ideas. I am honored to be an ACS chapter leader and Next Generation Leader and look forward to continuing my involvement  well into my legal career.

I am an ACS Student Chapter President and an ACS Next Generation Leader, and have had the privilege of putting my lifelong dedication into practice by coordinating programs on the pervasiveness of structural racism in all aspects of society. I also plan on coordinating health law programs, as health law affects all other progressive causes such as lowering rising healthcare costs, decreasing high recidivism in prison, and managing food deserts in areas of extreme climate change and poverty. As a chapter leader, I aim to elicit a paradigm shift in legal application by demonstrating the power of interdisciplinary analysis.

 

8/30/2021

Natalie Kozel (she/her/hers), Creighton University School of Law '22

Law school is a transformative and unique experience all by itself, add in a worldwide pandemic, and students have had one of the most unique experiences possible.

My time as President of ACS at Creighton Law started in August of 2020 when the world was trying to figure out how best (or how at all) to conduct classes while protecting students and faculty. In the midst of this, ACS (and Zoom!) allowed my Chapter to put on some of the most dynamic, thought-provoking programming for Creighton Law students in the last decade. Our Chapter arranged: a Mayoral Candidate Forum for the entire City of Omaha (which included the most diverse group of candidates ever); had multiple conversations to honor and educate during Black History Month; and engaged Creighton alum--ranging from a former Obama White House staffer to a federal judge whose hardline stance against federal sentencing guidelines was taken up by the Supreme Court, where his decision to forego sentencing was ultimately upheld. We partnered with other clubs and organizations on campus, some of which had written off programming altogether due to COVID-19, and strengthened our collegial relationships by doing so.

The support I had from ACS National was incredible (shoutout to Jordan Blisk!). Our Chapter received encouragement every step along the way, which allowed me to navigate the complex year. I wholeheartedly and vigorously support the mission of ACS. The organization has cultivated a rich group of motivated and caring future attorneys who are not afraid to have difficult conversations and are eagerly pushing for change. Although my career goals have stayed rooted in private practice, I will without a doubt remain active and engaged with ACS and its mission in the private sector. I thank ACS for the opportunity to lead, to have the difficult conversations, to challenge the views of others, and to join such a dynamic and vitally important organization. I remain optimistic that the best is yet to come, both for ACS and for our country.

If you have a story you would like to share through Students of ACS, please e-mail us at campus@acslaw.org.

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