Students of ACS Archive

See past honorees below

2018-2019

5/13 Students of ACS

Brady Williams, University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, ‘19

I came to law school knowing that I wanted to use my law degree as a tool to protect the public interest. There are many ways to do that, but the avenue that has always stood out to me most is consumer protection law. During my law school summers, I worked with government agencies at both the state and federal level to help enforce various consumer protection laws. Through these experiences, I learned first-hand the important role government plays in protecting consumers by ensuring that markets are not only free, but fair.

While in law school, ACS provided unparalleled opportunities to meet like-minded students and attorneys who shared my goals and vision for pursuing the common good. Through my leadership role in Berkeley’s ACS Chapter, I’ve worked with our team to bring a steady flow of progressive programming to the law school. By tapping into the ACS nationwide network, our chapter has hosted dozens of events featuring some of the leading progressive advocates in the country on topics ranging from consumer protection to voting rights, gun safety, and more.

I will always be grateful to ACS for the support and resources it has provided me while in law school, and I look forward to continuing my relationship with ACS as I enter the next stage of my legal career as a practicing attorney.

5/6 Students of ACS

Claire Cahoon, SMU Dedman School of Law, ‘20

I’ve wanted to be a lawyer for almost as long as I can remember, barring my most stubborn elementary school years when all I wanted was to be a Dixie Chick. But like every law student before me, 1L shook out all my idealism until I forgot why I wanted to be a lawyer in the first place.

What ultimately grounded me was a series of nerd-outs. Joining SMU’s Science and Technology Law Review, and later becoming Editor-in-Chief, led me to my love of data privacy and cybersecurity. Working at the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute reminded me of the importance of being a voice for the voiceless. And currently, working as the Policy Director for the Miguel Solis campaign for the Mayor of Dallas has shown me how powerful a J.D. can be in shaping policy to move closer to genuine equality in our communities, country, and world.

But perhaps what grounds me most is being President of SMU ACS. When I can’t remember why I’m reading contract law at 9 PM on a Friday, Monday brings an inspiring ACS event. When the news makes me want to throw my TV out the window, our executive board’s group text is ready with memes and solidarity. And the ACS Student Convention last February reminded me that while anyone can advocate and make a difference, advocating as an attorney bears a special responsibility and importance.

Activism is critically important and I seriously love doing it. In the last two years, I served on the Women’s March Youth Advisory Council, spoke at gun control rallies and marches alongside the students from Parkland, and became an Obama Foundation Peer Advisor. But at the end of the day, I’m a wonk. What tethers me emotionally, and what led me to go to law school in the first place, is a deep hunger to learn as much as possible and use that knowledge to change the world.

I want to thank ACS for the friends and professional relationships it’s given me and for the opportunity to grow as both a future lawyer and human being. But most importantly, thanks for reminding the second grader in me that as disappointing as it is that I’ll never be a Dixie Chick, being a lawyer is going to seriously rock.

4/29 Students of ACS

Berlinie St-Fort, Florida A&M University College of Law, ‘20 

As the first U.S. born of my Haitian roots, there was never any question in my family environment as to what my obligation was. The goal was unequivocally set for me as early as I started to understand right and wrong. Academic success was always the tune, and I was afforded no break from listening to it beginning in my early childhood. The choice was never mine. In fact, Haitian parents culturally measure academic success starting with a diploma in one of a small set of majors they historically see as a path to a successful professional life. A law degree, being one element of that set, was always number one in my mind. I knew from a very young age that I wanted to become an attorney. To me, the goal is two-fold: becoming a successful attorney and supporting those in need here and abroad. The current political climate increased my interest in pursuit of this degree that weighs so heavily to help protect fundamental rights.

I consider myself a goal oriented, passionate individual who can sometimes be too passionate about issues that affect me, and people like me. Therefore, from the day I set foot on the Florida A&M University College of Law campus, I wanted to know how I could leave my mark and what I needed to do to be involved. Fortunately, one of my mentors introduced me to ACS. Given that I never heard of ACS before, I was very curious to know the organization’s vision and mission. Right after attending the Gavel Gap panel discussion that my school hosted, I couldn’t wait to join the organization. In a very short time, my interest in ACS led me to become the president of my law school’s chapter. Given my professional career plans, joining ACS is one of the best decisions I made. Being president of my ACS chapter has really pushed me out of my comfort zone because I’ve had to reach out to lawyers and judges that I’ve never imagined reaching out to. The time when I was somewhat introverted is now history and I feel that my leadership role in ACS has developed my confidence and set me on the path to be the leader that I have dreamed of becoming.

4/22 Students of ACS

James Mayer, New York University School of Law, ’19

Prior to law school, I served as head of communications for the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, where I worked with marginalized groups to amplify their voices in order to support cultural sustainability. I collaborated with curators, community leaders, and tradition-bearers to share stories with the public. Practicing community-based advocacy at the Smithsonian inspired me to go to law school to better understand how law and policy impacts cultural heritage.

During my time at law school, I have explored how racial, political, and economic discrimination often operate together, compounded by cultural inequalities that further marginalize communities. People in law school have approached these issues from  academic and theoretical perspectives, but often do not investigate how these issues really impact communities. Through my involvement with ACS, I have found a network of students, practitioners, professors, and policymakers who think about justice like I do: as both an intellectual issue and a practical imperative.

ACS has inspired me by helping me develop a progressive vision of how the law can serve marginalized communities. Learning from my fellow ACS members has reinforced the importance of a progressive understanding of the Constitution for creating a truly equitable rule of law. I’m honored to contribute to the work that the NYU ACS Student Chapter does to further this vision of the law. 

4/15 Students of ACS

Bess Boever, University of Minnesota Law School, ’19

I have wanted to become a lawyer my entire life, starting in earnest when I was ten years old. It was the year 2000, which marked the first major election cycle I was able to follow and comprehend. The Bush administration immediately became a defining factor of my adolescent existence in my conservative rural Minnesotan town, spurring on my interest in equal justice and civil rights. My propensity to argue combined with hardline convictions made me a natural target for the overtly bigoted bandwagon at school. Perhaps my classmates thought bullying and name-calling would keep me quiet—if so, their plan backfired. I became an activist, fought the school administration on civil rights issues (and won), and daydreamed about storming around the White House like they did in “The West Wing.”

I knew it was possible to become a lawyer specifically to help people and fight for a cause, but it was overwhelming to think about what steps I would have to take toward accomplishing that goal. As a result, I put off the LSAT and went into the service industry after college. My three years as a baker in restaurant kitchens taught me many unexpected lessons. One amusing example was the indispensable workplace lingo we used, combining Spanish, Arabic, and English. But over time, as I worked alongside my new friends from around the world, I also learned how easily people were able to take advantage of and manipulate them as non-citizens. It settled the unrest in my mind over law school—it was time to study immigration law.

I left kitchens behind to start law school, where I discovered ACS my 1L year. I met our local lawyers’ chapter, took on a leadership role, and attended conventions—and my confidence skyrocketed. I discovered that networking doesn’t have to be scary and amorphous because ACS made it easy—all I had to do was chat with people I admired and bond over our shared passion for progressivism in the law. My incredible support network within ACS has given me endless encouragement, letters of recommendation, and advice—not to mention how ACS helped open the door to that career in public interest law that I found so unattainable as a kid. I will be working Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid’s Immigration Law Project next year: a literal dream come true.

4/8 Students of ACS

Peter Gonzales, Notre Dame Law School, ’19

“Be the very best you can be.” My father told me that phrase each morning as he dropped me off at military school, where I’d earned a scholarship and was one of a few minority students. We both worked hard so our family could earn the opportunity to benefit from our first college degree. It may have been 6:00 in the morning, but that’s what Midwestern Americans do – we work hard. He worked as hard as he could until he could do no more, so I promised I would too.

These experiences taught me that privileges don’t come easy and that we can’t take opportunities for granted – we must fight to preserve them for all people in this amazing country to achieve the American dream. At Notre Dame Law School, ACS fights for policies that protect the right to pursue and actualize that American dream.

We take the responsibility to fight for all people very seriously. We are honored to be the privileged beneficiaries of a legal education, and we plan to advocate for progressive policies that benefit each and every member of our society.

ACS provides us the incredible opportunity to do just that by advocating for progressive views of the Constitution. Instead of treating constitutional interpretation as a mere theoretical issue, we realize each judicial decision, congressional action, or presidential act has real consequences for real people. We demand serious discussion so we can advocate for the best liberal policies.

ACS is an incredible network of like-minded legal professionals that share this passion. Particularly, our Notre Dame Law School ACS team of Norris Bishton, Dean Nell Newton, Professor Jay Tidmarsh, Allison Lantero, Paula Ortiz Cardona, Bill Green, Heather Pearson, Kim Vo, Robert Hart, Elias Ayoub, Sohail Khan, and Andrew Henderson inspire me every day. I could not be more grateful to be part of ACS as I work hard to make our nation, Constitution, and each American’s life “the very best it can be.”

4/1 Students of ACS

Bryan Thomson, Stanford Law School, ’21

Before coming to law school, I worked as a paralegal at an immigration nonprofit in New Mexico, where I assisted Dreamers, asylum seekers, and visa applicants in obtaining deferred action and legal status. There, the power of the law was on full display. Those whose claims fit into narrow categories were given opportunities to excel, while many others were excluded engagement with our economy and society due to technicalities. Clients deserved relief and found none. The arbitrary and callous nature of our immigration court system stood in stark contrast to the tenets of American justice and equality of opportunity I have grown to revere.

By the time I entered my first law classes in 2017, this discord made me determined to pursue a career advocating for the interests of those whom our system has excluded and neglected. And while the present political moment has only exacerbated my concerns, it also provides many avenues for action for those committed to advancing fairness through our legal system. In law school, I have been fortunate to help South Bay community members apply for disability benefits, and to take part in class action litigation against employers across the Mountain West who systematically underpaid their workers. Through this work, I have come to believe that progressive advocacy and value-driven litigation present solutions to our current inequities. Only by returning to our foundational ideals can we effectively remedy our shortcomings.

Our robust ACS Chapter at Stanford Law School provides the platform and speakers essential to sparking engagement with the ideas that so many of my classmates and I will pursue in our careers. I take pride in the work ACS engages in to help communities access justice, to open our court system, and to advance the progressive principles of our Constitution. Britany, our Co-President, and the other ACS Student Leaders inspire me to keep learning about and advocating for our shared values. I’m honored to be part of a community that prioritizes open, frequent, and critical conversations about our country’s future. 

3/25 Students of ACS

Ava Gerami, University of Virginia School of Law, ’20

I had my first experience with the power of advocacy when I was five-years-old. I had recently immigrated to the United States and did not speak English. On my first day of kindergarten, I did not receive any water. I did not know how to ask for water. When my mother found out that I had been brushed aside by the administration, she went straight to the Principal’s office. With her broken English, she made sure that this would not happen again. From then on, I took accelerated English classes to catch up to my peers. My mother also bought me a pocket translator so I would never go thirsty again. It was then that I learned how powerful a voice can be in transforming our destinies.

At the University of Virginia School of Law, I found the tools I needed to amplify not only my voice, but also that of my community. Attending ACS events exposed me to lawyers utilizing their voice to make progressive change and engaging the bottom-up defense of our liberal values. Being the President of our chapter this last year has been a privilege and a humbling experience. Throughout my tenure, I learned that political advocacy requires the motivation to create change, and that the truest motive is the lack of any other option. In the last few years, our democracy has been backed into a corner, and by using our network of progressive voices, we can push back—united, indivisible, fighting for the justice and liberty of all.

3/18 Students of ACS

Stephanie Bello-Gálvez, University of Dayton School of Law, ’19

I am a firstgeneration American, born to Mexican immigrants in Passaic, New Jersey, a town comprised of immigrants about 15 miles from New York City. I grew up seeing and understanding the deep and personal ways that law regulates and affects communities like mine; from educational hurdles, to labor law violations, and immigration regulations, law shapes and defines our lives in complex ways.  

I became active in my community as a teenager, first as a student leader and then through local organizations. In my early college days, I was on the founding board for a new youth organization called the Mexican American Progress Movement (MAPM), which focused on cultural, educational, and political empowerment among youth in our community. In late 2011, we became involved with the “New Jersey Tuition Equity for Dreamers” (NJTED) campaign, a push for state legislation which would allow undocumented students who met residency requirements to qualify for in-state tuition (instead of paying double or triple the cost of tuition) 

In 2012, I was selected as an intern for the New Jersey United Students (NJUS) organization, then the statewide association of progressive college student groups, primarily to focus on the NJTED campaign. I made phone calls, met with legislators, ran community meetings across the state, created press releases, and was part of the organizing team of one of the biggest student lobby events. On a hot August day, more than 70 college students arrived at the New Jersey Statehouse to meet with legislators and ask that they consider passing the bill. Our efforts were successfulIn 2013, then-Governor Chris Christie, a newly re-elected Republican governor who previously opposed the bill, signed the New Jersey Dream Act into law.  

Shortly after graduating, I began working for the Migrant Center at a Catholic church in New York City, where I provided paralegal, administrative, and advocacy services for hundreds of vulnerable immigrants. My experience at the Migrant Center and other advocacy efforts motivated me to return to school and become a lawyer. Knowing that progressive professionals and organizations like ACS exist further encourages the work that I do because they support this notion that not only are we morally bound to defend the vulnerable, but that we also have a duty to ensure that the law is a force to improve their lives 

3/11 Students of ACS

Britany Riley, Stanford Law School, ’19

Prior to law school, I was a judicial assistant at the United States Supreme Court. The position gave me the opportunity to witness some of the brightest legal minds and oral advocates in the country, and I was deeply transformed by the experience. It confirmed my view that studying and practicing  law was the best way I could use my talents, passion, and experiences for the public good. But my years at the Court also highlighted the importance of a progressive view of the Constitution and a concrete understanding of the practical realities of the law’s effects on disenfranchised communities.

Throughout law school, I have made it a priority to ensure that my legal education is both academically rigorous and practical. I’m a woman of color who is a first-generation college graduate, and legal education matters to me because I care about issues of racial justice and equity. But in law school, I’ve found that so many people treat these concepts as merely interesting intellectual or theoretical issues. That’s where ACS comes in for me.

ACS is an incredible network of like-minded law students, professors, and practitioners similarly concerned with true equal justice under the law. I am consistently inspired by other ACS members and their commitment to a progressive vision both of what the law is and what it can be. I’m so proud of the work that the Stanford ACS Student Chapter does to share this vision with our community, and in doing so, help educate and empower generations of progressive lawyers.   

3/4 Students of ACS

Michael Anderson, Suffolk University Law School, ’20

The morning of November 21, 2016, I arrived at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.  The landscape echoed with prayerful declarations of “mni wiconi” and the air was weighted by the brutal encounter with law enforcement the night prior. An urgency to protect the Sioux people’s right to land and clean water called me to the Reservation, and while there, I witnessed a community’s struggle to achieve those basic rights.  The injustices that mark the history of Dakota Access Pipeline construction are numerous and they have deeply impacted the indigenous community that depends on the water the pipeline threatens.  Standing Rock deepened my sense of the need to address societal problems implicated by environmental policy and law. In addition to my work at an environmental nonprofit, it ultimately led me to apply to law school.

Before law school, I worked at the Kalamazoo Nature Center.  I worked closely with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to plan and implement recovery efforts for regional threatened and endangered butterfly species, including the Mitchell’s satyr butterfly.  The Mitchell’s satyr is federally endangered and protected under the Endangered Species Act.  I gained a profound appreciation for this rare butterfly, as well as an understanding of the limitations of the ESA, a statute that has recently come under attack.  Though the ESA made it possible to secure protection for critical habitat necessary for the conservation of the species that would have otherwise been developed, the power it offers is often not enough and now under attack from various proposed regulations.  The ESA and other statutes, such as the Clean Water Act, are critical to ensuring preservation of the natural world.

Since being in Boston, policy engagement at the Massachusetts State House and environmental regulation at the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection hasaffirmed my commitment to environmental law.  In conjunction with a competitive fellowship geared towards galvanizing the next generation of public policy leaders, this past summer I worked for Senator Patricia Jehlen at the Massachusetts State House.  I was exposed to the legislative process, and more importantly, privileged to lead a policy initiative regarding the State’s response to invasive species. My time at the Department of Environmental Protection also showed me that environmental advocacy is often limited by policy, and that society depends on those that advance justice through policy.  

The first law of ecology establishes that everything is connected, and as I have learned, the future of the environment is deeply tied to the policy that surrounds it and the governments that impact it.  Notably, the American Constitution Society recognizes the importance of policy and advocacy on all fronts.  Leading Suffolk University Law School’s Student Chapter has been a privilege because ACS provides a vital backdrop to ensuring the relevance of progressive values and perspective.  

2/25 Students of ACS

Veronica Carroll, UNT Dallas College of Law, ’19

I am a daughter, sister, Auntie V, leader, advocate, and future lawyer. For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to be lawyer. I can remember telling my grandmother this at the age of 10. I have always been passionate about helping others. I have seen my fair share of success at a very young age and I attribute that success to my mother. As a single parent, my mom worked three jobs to ensure that my siblings and I never went without. She prioritized education and worked hard to ensure that we were involved in a diverse range of extracurricular activities (band, drill team, choir, track, and church). My mother told me that if I put God first, work hard, and never give up, I could accomplish anything. My mother led by example when she went back to school and obtained both her master’s and bachelor’s degree. I have always thought to myself that if I could grow up to be half of the woman that my mother is, then I would have accomplished a lot.

As a first-generation college student, my experience at Texas Southern built upon the foundation that my mother provided.  I grew up in a small town in east Texas called Texarkana, where I did not see many successful black people. During my first day of class at TSU, I can remember being taken aback seeing hundreds of black women and men in college. It subconsciously changed my outlook on success, and I realized that success was obtainable for me. It was at my beloved TSU that I began to flourish as a leader by advocating for students as Student Government Vice President and representing TSU as Senior Class Queen and as the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs Queen. Through these leadership opportunities, my HBCU experience equipped me with the necessary foundation that I needed to be successful and prepared me for the challenges that I would face as a young black woman in America.

I currently serve as the Founding President of the UNT Dallas College of Law ACS chapter. ACS has provided me with a platform to create a safe environment to discuss issues that are impacting the country from reformative justice and police brutality, to immigration, diversity and inclusion, LGBTQ Rights, and First Amendment issues. I am thankful for the prominent judges and lawyers in the community who volunteer their time to speak at ACS events. ACS would be nothing without the students who are engaged and ready to learn as well as the support of our faculty advisors. I believe that attending UNT Dallas College of Law – the 3rd most diverse law school in the United States – has a direct correlation to the success of our ACS Student Chapter.  I would personally like to thank Jay Forester for encouraging my colleague Bradley McDaniel and I to start our ACS Student Chapter. 

2/18 Students of ACS

Joseph Scherpenberg, University of Kentucky College of Law, ’20

I came to the University of Kentucky College of Law by way of Cincinnati, Ohio, where I spent my entire life before moving to Lexington. I come from a large family, full of union electricians in the IBEW Local 212. From a young age, my parents instilled in me the values that were crucial in a democratic workplace: hard work, equality, and teamwork. I apply these to every aspect in my life, particularly to my academic and athletic pursuits.

As an undergraduate at the University of Cincinnati, I was a member, and later team captain, of the varsity swim team. After I graduated, I took two years to try to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2016, narrowly missing an invitation by 14 one-hundredths of a second. With my athletic dreams fully pursued, it was time to shift back to what my goal was all along, to attend law school. I found my way to the University of Kentucky, where I was blown away by the school’s academic record and the level of engagement from professors on my visit.

Looking to be involved, I talked to ACS members and found an organization where I could put my beliefs into action and help share the ideas of progressivism in the law. As an ACS chapter leader at the University of Kentucky I’ve been able to connect students with legal professionals working across the state and beyond in the pursuit of progressive causes. ACS at UK Law also created a space for our fellow students to engage with each other to create connections between progressive minded people that will one day be involved in the most important policy and legal decisions in Kentucky.

2/11 Students of ACS

Mick Harris, Willamette University College of Law, ‘19

Having the opportunity to attend law school has been a tremendous privilege for which I am deeply grateful. I grew up in southern New Mexico and began working when I was fourteen. My parents come from humble backgrounds and have never been employed in lucrative positions. When I graduated high school, I did not initially know how I would finance a college education. However, I was extremely thankful to receive a scholarship that allowed me to attend New Mexico State University.  

At New Mexico State, I studied government in the hopes of learning more about the function of our society and how to make a positive change in the systems that guide and govern us. I was also very lucky to study abroad in the Netherlands. This was an eye-opening experience, as the Netherlands is both a nation that places a high premium on civil rights and has strong prejudices that run through its society. Admittedly, I found these biases unnerving and disappointing to witness. Seeing bigotry in a nation that is arguably far more progressive than the United States steeled my resolve to fight injustice wherever I saw it. I moved to Oregon in 2012 and spent three years working in local politics, helping elect strong candidates who believe in the value of diversity, compassion, and community. 

This passion to fight injustice culminated in my desire to attend law school in Oregon, where I plan to stay after graduation. Being involved in ACS since my first year and now serving as Chapter President has been a fabulous, rewarding experience. ACS has opened many doors and helped me find a place to flourish in a politically complex time. I look forward to staying involved with ACS after graduation and working together to build a kinder, more progressive world.

2/4 Students of ACS

Oretha A. Manu, Howard University School of Law, ‘20 

I always knew I wanted a career that made a difference in the world. My classmates in high school voted me “most likely to save the rainforest,” our version of “most likely to succeed,” and my guidance counselor frequently told me that I would become the first female President of the United States. When I started studying the Constitution, I began to realize my guidance counselor’s goodhearted sentiment was never going to come to fruition because I was not born in the United States.  

I was born in a country so entangled with the U.S., yet many do not know its history. The Republic of Liberia began in 1822 as a settlement of free blacks in America by the American Colonization Society (ironically abbreviated ACS). I moved to the United States in 2000 and the Bush v. Gore election was my introduction to American politics and Constitutional interpretation. Hanging chads were sensationalized, and the importance of voting was trivialized. It was at that point I made a vow that when I got the chance to vote, I would make sure I exercised that right because elections could be won or lost on a small margin. 

During my first year of law school, I joined ACS because I saw the opportunity to effect change in the Howard University School of Law community. I serve as President for the 2018-2019 school year, and it is my goal to continue expanding the chapter and form meaningful connections with other ACS Student Chapters as well as the Washington, DC Lawyer Chapter. During our first program of the school year, we held a Constitution Day panel on voting rights. Representation matters and as a black female immigrant, it is crucial now more than ever to not only have a seat at the table, but to demand one.

1/28 Students of ACS

Connor Sonksen, Arizona State University College of Law, ’19

I discovered my passion for law during the summers I spent with my grandfather, a prosecutor for over forty years in Phoenix. The riveting stories he would tell me about the cases he tried solidified my decision, at the age of eleven, to become a prosecutor. For many years, I never once changed my mind or seriously considered other options. As soon as I could, I eagerly applied to the local DA’s office, where I spent my 1L summer. My experiences there uprooted the foundation of my professional journey and transformed me in ways near impossible to exaggerate.  

At the DA’s office, I witnessed first-hand the Arizona and federal criminal justice systems. During my short time there, I witnessed a system designed to systematically target specific individuals; defendants charged with misdemeanor drug and property crimes were often already victims of the cruel, partial, and often bigoted state of political affairs. 

While I may still become a prosecutor, I have shifted my focus to criminal justice reform—a focus I hope to continue well into my practicing career. Through the American Constitution Society, I’ve had the opportunity to meet lawyers who are on the front lines of this battle, and now I have a clearer idea of where I want my new ambitions to take me! 

As President of our student chapter, now almost three semesters young, I hope to bring similar stories and realizations to my peers and connect those with their own unique progressive vision to the lawyers in the field who need their help fighting the good fight!

1/21 Students of ACS

Mizael Carrera, University of New Mexico School of Law, ’20

When I decided to attend the University of New Mexico School of Law, I came with the purpose to become part of a community that creates change in our society. I have always had a passion for public policy and law. However, as a Latino who knew no attorneys prior to attending, I started law school unsure of what to expect and what opportunities would be available. To my delight, there were countless opportunities and organizations that helped guide me and provided many opportunities to learn and network.

I discovered we had several organizations that focused on constitutional law and policy at my law school, but the organization that stood out to me was the American Constitution Society (ACS). This organization was one with likeminded individuals who are fighting to make a better society. Our ACS chapter has been an organization that has allowed us to discuss constitutional issues and challenged other views in a respectful mannerIt has also allowed our law school to be a more open environment for discussion of different topics and views. As the nation’s leading progressive legal organization, ACS provides many wonderful networking opportunities and helps foster meaningful dialogue during these times of political and social turmoil. I am truly grateful to be part of ACS and I look forward to continuing to grow our chapter.

1/14 Students of ACS

Stacie J. Osborn, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, ’20

As a fifth-generation Texan, I have immense state pride and grew up learning about and looking up to some fierce Texas women. Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, and Lady Bird Johnson (to name a few) all left Texas a better place for future generations. However, there is still so much work to be done in the ways of equality, education, health care, and access to justice. So, I decided to go to law school to be a part of the change I want to see in my Texas.

As a first-generation graduate, law school was a massive undertaking. There are still days where I wake up and cannot believe that I am here … that I made it. I did not exactly know what to expect when I started my 1L year in the fall of 2017, but I knew I wanted and needed to be involved. I looked for a progressive organization that believed the law should help improve the lives of people, not hinder them. I found that in ACS.

As a student chapter leader, I have had incredible opportunities to go to conventions, meet mentors, and make meaningful friendships with people who see the world as I do. Our student chapter at Loyola is new but thriving, and I am grateful for the tools, resources, and support ACS provides. We have been able to host impactful events around progressive lawyering and have started the tough conversations about the many crises our country faces with the current administration. I take great pride in the work ACS is doing and I take great pride in being a part of this community. 

12/17 Students of ACS

Drew Lakin, The University of Iowa College of Law, ‘20 

On December 28, 2007, a few days before the 2008 Iowa Caucus, my father asked if I wanted to see a young senator running for president named Barack Obama. I was a sophomore in high school living in Clinton, Iowa and had very little interest in civic engagement or public policy.  But thankfully, my father persisted, and I found myself sitting in a middle-school gymnasium listening to Senator Obama talk about the importance of public service and the duties and responsibilities of all citizens. He spoke of the need for a more equitable society and the need to bring people together in order to solve problems. His message resonated with me so profoundly that, as I left the gymnasium, I knew my life’s path had been altered. Although I did not know it then, my path to law school also began that night.  

I am attending law school because I believe the law can and should be used to ensure justice for all people. I am a member of ACS because it mirrors those same values. ACS’s commitment to equal access in our justice system, voting rights, and the rule of law are all reasons why I remain a staunch supporter of the organization and its mission. 

I am proud of the work the University of Iowa College of Law Chapter has done to further the mission of ACS. From hosting prominent speakers who further the debate regarding voting rights and gun-violence, to teaching local 7th-grade students about the importance of the 1st Amendment on Constitution Day, our Chapter strives to educate and advocate for a more just justice system.

12/10 Students of ACS

Oday Yousif, California Western School of Law, ’20

Since childhood, I knew I wanted to join the legal profession. I consistently set my sights on the goal of getting to law school and becoming a successful lawyer. I have been privileged enough to know that this was a possibility.

Growing up in an Iraqi-American household at the outset of the Second Gulf War, I became aware of the country’s political climate. Unfortunately, it was the Iraq War that drove my interest to politics, and specifically, progressive politics. Finding the American Constitution Society as a first-year law student was the perfect outlet to satisfy my desire to stay politically engaged during school.

Most political observers will point to the last few years, specifically, and much of the Obama administration, generally, as a time of great political strife and major partisan gridlock in the country. However, those who have experienced growing up in a community where you are a minority and are routinely singled out for being part of such a group know racism and xenophobia are nothing new. Minorities across this country have known this for decades, and even centuries.

Consequently, being part of an organization like ACS as a law student has worked twofold for me: I can embrace and spread a progressive interpretation of the Constitution while also working to advance the cause of people who have traditionally been left out.  

Alongside our leadership team, it has been an immense pleasure helping to re-energize the ACS Student Chapter on my campus. We have been able to garner considerable interest from students and plan to continue growing our presence. In a time when staying politically aware is crucial, ACS Student Chapters like ours are ensuring the progressive perspective is known and prominent. I look forward to continuing to spread our message.  

12/3 Students of ACS

Conisha Hackett, University of Mississipppi School of Law, ’20

Mississippi is where I am from, but it is not who I am. I am for justice, equality, and equity. Because “where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.” (Frederick Douglass, “Southern Barbarism,” 24th Anniversary of Emancipation, Washington, DC, 1886)

When I first joined ACS, I had no clue what membership entailed outside of attending a meeting. ACS was not discussed extensively around the law school. I decided to find out for myself. I began to do some research and, unbeknownst to me, I stumbled on a goldmine. From a young age I was groomed to be an agent of action. I have been a member of the NAACP since I was 10.  I was raised to be firm and conscientious about the need to improve access to the rights and liberties that were expressed in the Constitution. My first year in law school initially changed that. We were being groomed to be drones and replicas of “what is” instead of “what could be.” In class, we were taught the law, but outside of class there was little discussion on how to change it or how it affects certain people, especially marginalized individuals. Our professors would discuss these topics, but some students were too afraid. Our administrators encouraged individuality, inclusivity, and diversity. They worked hard to have professors speak at orientation about helping us and the importance of them creating an environment that was and is conducive to our learning. They invited open discussions and speakers who talked about implicit bias, especially bias against marginalized people. These conversations seldom occurred since law students are too political and aspirational to open the doors of truth and honesty. As a Black woman from a low-socioeconomic background in Summit, Mississippi, I fit into several categories created for marginalized people. However, I refuse to be put into a box; I refuse to be put into a circle of influence of a person I never want to become.  

ACS has provided a foundation for students who want to promote genuine equality and access to justice here at the University of Mississippi School of Law. For me, ACS became, and is, a safe-haven in a world of uncertainties. My ACS family became my friends and allies. We work to envision events and ideas to spread awareness of justice and equity in the law. ACS has allowed me to be “for truth, no matter who tells it,” and to be “for justice, no matter who it is for or against.” – (Malcolm  X, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley,” New York, NY, 1965)

11/26 Students of ACS

Dennis Futoryan, New York Law School, 19

The neighbor’s kid chasing my brother with a knife, the indifferent teacher dropping my mother’s grade, the policeman trailing my father to the store – those are some of the stories I’ve heard from my family about what life was like as a Jew in Soviet Ukraine. I am the first American born into my family, and I’ve carried that badge with honor all throughout my personal and academic career.

Evolving into the law student I am today did not happen with the snap of two fingers; it gradually developed over time. I started paying attention to politics in 2011, at the height of banal budget negotiations between the White House and Congress that ended in partisan snubbing at the expense of funding essential programs. “I just want to help people,” I remember saying to myself. Fast forward to graduating Brooklyn College in 2015 with a Bachelor’s in Political Science, and next thing I knew, I was a matriculating law student in New York Law School.

Born and raised in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York, I knew that the more you focus on your community at the grassroots level, the stronger the coalition you’ll build, laser-focused on the issues that matter. As President of the New York Law School chapter of the American Constitution Society, I listen to my fellow students’ concerns and transform that into experiential programming. Through our annual Supreme Court Roundup, Con Law Trivia games, documentary screenings and much, much more, my team and I seek to immerse law students in the constitutional hot topics of the day.

The best thing we can all do is stay involved in the fight, and vow to never cease making a difference in others’ lives.

11/19 Students of ACS

Daniel Enos, Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law, ’20

With the polarized state of the current political climate, many are hesitant to differ from party lines.  This is ever apparent in Washington, DC.  I happen to be enrolled in a law school in DC, with a conservative student base and a speaker policy that prohibits discourse on topics that differ from Catholic social teaching.

I find myself in a unique position—I am a progressive practicing Catholic with a large number of conservative and moderate friends.  While my own views may differ from some of my conservative peers and the school itself, we have established a mutual respect.  As President of our ACS Chapter, I have made it our priority to foster this respect and break the mold of partisanship on our campus.  We aim to host issue-specific events and encourage all who are interested in the subject matter to attend, regardless of any political affiliation.  Our intention is to encourage classmates that may identify as conservatives or moderates, but feel progressive on certain issues, to feel welcomed to attend.  Thus far, we have had success.  We have gained support in our school on issues like immigration, gerrymandering, and criminal justice reform.  I pride our chapter on creating events that individuals from all political ideologies feel comfortable attending.  After all, we cannot get anywhere without mutual respect and the cultivation of productive discourse.

As I look ahead this year, I am excited to continue our initiative of hosting issue-specific, progressive events and to begin planning debates with our conservative counterparts. While we have our limitations, it has been exciting to see our small chapter grow and for the school to come together on progressive ideals.

11/12 Students of ACS

Jasmine Price, Southern Illinois University School of Law, ’19

As a Black child raised by a single mother in a minority neighborhood that lacked access to quality education, I have always known that I wanted a better life for myself. My journey to law school was not an easy one. I was surrounded by people telling me a good job will suffice – those were the daily epithets of the people in my life. Fast forward, through an LSAT and a few rejection letters; a few years later, I quit my well-paying job to pursue a dream of becoming an attorney, a dream that I never thought I was good enough to obtain.

When I started law school I continued to feel displaced and unwelcome. I found my home at Southern Illinois by joining groups like the American Constitution Society, the Black Law Students Association, and Women of Diversity. These groups made me feel that not being in the majority is a strength. They helped me realize that this journey through law school and fighting for equality, social justice, and change are bigger than me.

I express my sincerest gratitude for ACS because this organization has exposed me to opportunities that I thought I would never experience. Being in the same room as my hero, Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor, at the 2018 ACS National Convention gave me the encouragement that I needed to push on through the challenges of law school. It has not be an easy road, but I find consolation in knowing that ACS cares and fights the good fight with me.

11/5 Students of ACS

Tracey Klees, Georgetown University Law Center, ’19

I found my passion for the law in my first job out of undergrad. As a newly minted graduate after the worst of the market recession, I stumbled into the first available administrative role I could find, working as an immigration paralegal. I was lucky. I always had an idea that politics and policy were important, but I didn’t fully comprehend the direct impact policy decisions could have on someone’s life. I realized that access to an advocate can be life changing. I was looking for a career where I could make an impact, and once I found it, I didn’t look back. 

In my experience, I’ve found that many people do not feel knowledgeable enough or smart enough to comment on big policy questions. The most important conversations are the ones we are having in our daily lives. ACS, not only gave me the confidence to speak up, but also supplied me with tools to push back on hurtful rhetoric that doesn’t advance the goal of improving the lives of all people. The ACS network provides me with an outlet to be passionate in my beliefs and fosters my ability to serve as an advocate.

I am motivated by the intelligent and thoughtful students I have the privilege to work with on a daily basis, who further encourage me to have difficult conversations with those whose views don’t fully align with my own. I am striving to create an environment for my classmates in which they feel welcome to discuss difficult policy issues and to help each other develop better arguments that reach wider audiences. ACS was the first club I joined in law school and I am proud to serve as President of my chapter in my final year. 

First, we believe, then we argue our case, and eventually, with a lot of persistence, we make a change.  

10/29 Students of ACS

Steffen Thomas, University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law, 20

I entered law school in the fall of 2017, a few months after President Trump fired the director of the FBI, declared transgender men and women unfit for military service, and attempted to ban Muslims from setting foot on American soil. Yet, in the first few weeks of school I did not hear a word about what was happening outside the walls of the law library. My classmates were either entirely immersed in  contracts, torts, and civil procedure, or were just too polite to risk offending one another’s political sensibilities. Meanwhile, the shaking foundations of American Democracy seemed a million miles away. I felt like I was going crazy.  

I was handed a pocket constitution around midterms and attended a small group discussion with an ACLU attorney. After that moment I was ready to get the ACS logo tattooed on my chest. ACS became an important outlet for my progressive activism. When a particular issue was not discussed in class, I knew that ACS was working behind the scenes preparing progressive law students to respond. My engagement as a 1L led to an internship with the ACLU of Utah and to taking over as chapter president in my 2L year.  

As a Student Chapter President, it is my goal to make sure that incoming students know that there are many of us who believe that the law can provide more than just a paycheck, but also a powerful force for progressive advocacy.

10/22 Students of ACS

Candace Square, Paul M. Hebert Law Center, Louisiana State University, 20

When studying law, naturally there is an emphasis on the letter of the law and learning very specific legal rules. Though I enjoy this aspect of my legal education, my passion has always been to holistically uplift those who are most disenfranchised in our society. In reality, I am an activist at heart.

My desire to serve the most disenfranchised among us comes from witnessing poverty and discrimination in my community and country. Although we are in an especially dangerous time for vulnerable populations, I continue to have hope that anyone can succeed with the support of a loving community. My family is the ultimate example of this and they continue to inspire me every day. My paternal grandparents, who together had only a 5th grade and an 8th grade education, managed to raise 12 college educated children, including my father, a patent attorney and business owner, at a time when explicit racism was ubiquitous in the South. My mother, raised by a widowed single father, became a healthcare professional who serves veterans with medical expertise, compassion and care. That example of resilience led me to pursue my dream of becoming an attorney in spite of my fear that I might not succeed.

Through my participation in our LSU Law ACS chapter, first as the Liaison to the Lawyer Chapter and now as President of our chapter, I’ve learned how to merge activism with lawyering and to incorporate a social justice mindset to all the work that we do. Our very young chapter has almost doubled since my 1L year and has had many successful events partnering legal organizations with community organizations to give that holistic support to the most vulnerable. I’m particularly proud of our partnership with the East Baton Rouge Public Defender’s Office: We are collecting and donating court-appropriate attire for indigent defendants, who would normally appear in prison-issued clothing and face the bias associated with this attire.

Our chapter learned even more strategies around community solidarity at the 2018 GRITS conference, which was a transformative experience for our members who attended. This conference revitalized our commitment to prioritizing progressive values in our legal careers and I am forever grateful that ACS has provided the support, resources and community to help me turn a passion for activism into a lifetime commitment to pursing justice in all its forms.

10/15 Students of ACS

Ben James, American University Washington College of Law, ‘21

As a native of the Washington, DC area, I’ve been surrounded by politics and legal discourse my whole life. It followed logically that I majored in political science during undergrad at the University of Michigan, and I was thrilled to return to Washington, DC after graduation to work at ACS’s national headquarters.

When I first started at ACS, I was unsure as to whether I wanted to go to law school. In my job, I worked with ACS’s Lawyer Chapters across the country, and in doing so formed relationships with an array of lawyers who practice different types of law but share a common progressive vision of the Constitution. Observing their tireless work on behalf of ACS ultimately inspired me to apply to law school, as it illustrated the unique capacity of lawyers to enact change in our society.

As a 1L at the American University Washington College of Law, I’m still exploring which areas of law appeal to me the most; public interest, technology, and intellectual property are early favorites. I’m currently getting involved with the leadership of our Student Chapter, and I can’t wait to continue to fight for ACS’s progressive vision of our society through law school and beyond.

We need ACS now more than ever. Whenever I find myself frustrated by the day’s headlines, I take solace knowing that ACS has such a wide-reaching, intelligent, and driven community of legal professionals fighting to ensure that the law benefits all people. I will always be grateful to be a part of that community.

10/8 Students of ACS

Sonni Waknin, University of California, Los Angeles School of Law, ‘20

Since I was young I have been dedicated to public service. At eighteen years old, I ran and was elected to the Democratic County Committee- a public office in my county in New Jersey. I chose to attend law school in order to gain the skills necessary solve the systemic problems that I saw within society.

When I got to law school, however, I felt lost. During undergrad, I was extremely involved in politics and political campaigns.  From taking every political science seminar to working with the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, I created spaces to engage with policy in a practical manner. These outlets allowed me to work with progressive, open-minded, and hardworking students to achieve goals.  In law school, classes were more difficult and the outlets I traditionally turned to were not available.  The American Constitution Society changed that. ACS provided me with a space to work with other like-minded students and supported my goals.

When I wanted to get students involved in voter protection work, I knew that ACS would not only encourage my ambitions but provide me with the support necessary to make my ideas come to fruition.  This past summer, I worked with ACS and UCLA Law to plan a three part voter protection series at UCLA Law. There has been a panel featuring national voter protection experts, such as Kathay Feng and Professor Justin Levitt.  ACS has partnered with Asian Americans Advancing Justice and Election Protection to bring poll monitor trainings on to campus. On Election Day, ACS has been advocating for students to receive excused absences to engage in civic service work.  None of this could have been possible without being involved with ACS.

10/1 Students of ACS

Russell Quarles, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law ‘19

Like most law students, I started my first day of 1L classes with little idea of how I would fit into the Northwestern community. There were dozens of organizations clamoring for new members, but I was wary of joining the “Real Property, Trusts & Estates Law Society” when I couldn’t even explain what a trust was. I wanted to join a progressive group, as I’d done some work with left-leaning think tanks before law school, but that did little to narrow my interest list. A few organizations were focused on single-issue activism. Some provided opportunities for volunteer work, while others functioned as debating clubs for legal controversies. Over a few weeks of attending events, meeting students, and engaging in community service, I noticed that all of the most impactful activities had one element in common: they were supported by Northwestern’s ACS student chapter.

ACS proved to be my bedrock in law school, an unparalleled group of friends and mentors who were eager to integrate me into the community. More than that, ACS has taught me how to be a progressive lawyer, rather than just a progressive person. Its programming focuses on issues that lawyers can solve, it showcases the career paths open to progressives in the law, and it tries to ensure that the judiciary is working towards progressive ends, rather than against them. In that sense, ACS is not an organization that emphasizes political activism writ-large. Rather, it puts its energies behind helping lawyers engage as progressives through their vocation. I couldn’t be more thankful to be a part of that mission.

9/24 Students of ACS

Roeiah “Ro” Epps, University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, ’19

After spending several years as a social worker, I decided my voice would best serve as a lawyer.  But not just any lawyer.  A lawyer who knows people and is not afraid to represent the powerless, against the powerful.  The kind of lawyer that embraces the voice to speak out when society says “accept the status quo.”  This kind of lawyer is called a progressive.  Progressives are the voice for those who often go unseen and unheard. That voice is me.

Witnessing many injustices has always made me seek justice.  Whether it was a judge not ordering treatment for an abused child on my caseload or seeing a high school classmate with a learning disability wrongfully convicted, something about these injustices ignited a fire inside of me.  I too had endured many challenges in life but was able to overcome them.  It is my belief that challenges help shape and mold you; they don’t define you.  I didn’t choose to be a progressive; progressive advocacy chose me.

After my first year of law school, I had the privilege of assisting our former President reactivate our ACS student chapter.  Since that time, ACS has help me channel my passion for justice and equality into a progressive movement.  As Outreach Director for the past two years, I have facilitated several campus events, attended the National Convention, and forged lasting relationships with other powerful progressives in the legal community.

ACS not only promotes access to justice, it creates the environment to ensure justice is served.  Before even graduating from law school, ACS has already provided me with the forums and outlets to great legal minds who share my same passion and purpose. I look forward to the continued promotion of all freedoms and liberties afforded by the United States Constitution for all people as a member of the ACS lawyer chapter.  #ACSForever #AllPowerToThePeople #OneManOneVote #LetsGo!

9/17 Students of ACS

Bianca Lopez, Stetson University College of Law, ’20

As an undergrad, I found my outlet in the school newspaper working with smart and progressive-minded students to voice our shared views on politics and world events. While it’s invaluable to talk to people with differing opinions, it’s also important to have a space where you can comfortably express your thoughts. In law school, I found this outlet through the American Constitution Society.

Professor Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, the Faculty Advisor at Stetson Law, was tabling at my school’s organization fair. I exchanged my email for one of her pocket constitutions. Soon enough, I was elected Vice President (later, President) of our ACS chapter. I hosted events on campus, found a mentor from the local ACS Lawyer Chapter, attended the Student Convention in Chicago, and listened to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor speak at the National Convention in Washington, D.C.

With each event I attend and as I meet new members, I grow more impressed and motivated by ACS’s pursuit of justice and equality. ACS is a place where intelligent and strong legal minds come together, constantly striving to improve our country to make it a better place for everyone.

Today, ACS is more important than ever.  Before getting involved in ACS, I had many critiques of the current administration, but no real solutions. ACS has equipped me and so many other law students with tools to have our voices heard and methods of making real, progressive change.

9/10 Students of ACS

Daniel Cortes, Florida International University College of Law, ’19

When I went to law school I was unaware the wide variety of organizations that were present at the school. Like most of us, I am very passionate about certain topics, especially constitutional issues. When I went to law school, however, I was unaware the wide variety of organizations that were present at the school to pursue my interests. In my first year of law school, the only constitutional organization was The Federalist Society, and I was completely unaware that the American Constitution Society even existed. I quickly found myself disagreeing on some issues with my colleagues and wished there was a space for my views. At the same time, I was very outspoken about social issues and public interest legal careers. Through my engagement, I quickly found out from a law school alumna, Rachel Bentley, that there was once a thriving ACS chapter at our school. She put me in contact with ACS National and we were able to reactivate our chapter here at Florida International University (FIU) College of Law.

When I think of legal justice, I think of access, and that is what inspired me to reactivate this chapter. I will make sure that it stays active at the school so that there is access to both sides of the story. As an immigrant, it is so important for me to have a space to advocate and tell my story in a legal setting. I know that ACS allows me to do that.

9/3 Students of ACS

Hannah Klain, Harvard Law School ’19

For much of my life, the idea of attending law school and becoming a lawyer was unimaginable. Although I was raised in a political family in Washington, DC, I was determined to chart my own career path away from legal and political spheres. After college, I began working in the fashion industry for a famous designer, yet I found myself unsatisfied and increasingly drawn to social change as my true calling. Ultimately, I chose to leave the fashion industry to take an entry-level job in a political advocacy firm.

In 2014, I began working with “Rock the Vote,” a group mobilizing young people for civic participation. On Election Day that year – the first national election since the Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder – I was stationed in Rock the Vote’s “boiler room,” taking voter complaints and relaying them to teams of lawyers. Some polling places illegally refused to give voters provisional ballots; some were making voters show IDs not required by state law; others had lines lasting several hours in duration. Each time I heard about these impediments, I spoke to a legal team and helped get them information to file emergency actions to protect voters’ rights or extend polling hours. As results rolled in, it was clear the limitations we battled put a major damper on voter turnout, particularly among people of color. This only deepened my outrage at the injustices I had heard about from voters; I knew then I wanted to devote my career to fighting for civil rights, particularly voting rights, for all.

My passion for public service lead me to a position on the Clinton Campaign in 2015, where I helped develop strategies on early voting programs and briefed surrogates who educated communities of color on overcoming obstacles to voting, particularly in Southern states. Nonetheless, I realized that to right the wrongs that most enraged me I had to become a lawyer. So after the primaries ended, I left the campaign to enroll at Harvard Law School. From the day I came to law school, I was certain I wanted to be a civil rights lawyer. While at Harvard, I have been fortunate to intern with the ACLU Voting Rights Project, Brennan Center for Justice, Campaign Legal Center, and NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

However, I’ve also learned a tremendous amount about the fight for voting rights – and other critical, progressive, legal battles – through my involvement with ACS. When I arrived at HLS, I knew how important progressive causes were to me, but I wasn’t sure how I would stay involved. I was able to stay involved because I found ACS, and in ACS I found a group of people who wowed me with their activism, their conscientiousness, and their eagerness to use the law to effect positive change in a broad range of communities and systems. I’m honored to have been chosen to lead the Harvard ACS Chapter, as President, during an election year, where so much is at stake. My hope for HLS ACS is to carry on the Organization’s proud tradition of fighting for progress and for good in the courts, on the streets, and at the ballot box. I know ACS’ mission – and its members – have never been more critical.

8/27 Students of ACS

Mohammed Tazbir Alam, University at Buffalo School of Law ’20

Sitting at my desk, gazing out of the window of my elementary school in Brooklyn, I saw it happen. I watched as the second plane hit the second tower of the World Trade Center. Before I could even comprehend, before I could scream out and alert my teacher, the school’s sirens echoed over the loudspeakers. We rushed into the hallway and shortly after evacuated the school. As I ran home, I looked up and saw burning pieces of paper raining down. I didn’t know it then, but the events of that day would change my life. The outpouring of religious intolerance made me feel like an enemy in my own home. Our faith and culture made us targets.

My desire to pursue a law degree was largely influenced by my identity in this country. A dark-skinned, Muslim, child of immigrants. As a kid I felt powerless up against the racism, discrimination, and violence directed at my community, my friends, and my family. The overwhelming urge to stand up, fight back, and protect them was a driving force that pushed me to get involved in politics and public service. I volunteered countless hours with non-profit organizations, campaigned relentlessly to help elect candidates that supported and defended my community, and worked in all levels of government from local to federal.

At times it is discouraging to see the spread of divisiveness and intolerance, to love a country that has all but declared their hate for everything I believe in, stand for, and am. However, I continue to be hopeful. I am hopeful because every single day I am inspired by the work and dedication to service by the students, fellows, and staff of ACS. As a future member of the legal community, I look forward to being a beacon of advocacy and support for our communities.

 

8/20 Students of ACS

Cameron Crump, North Carolina Central University School of Law ‘19

During my second-year of law school, I had the honor of taking Constitutional Law with Professor April Dawson. While I assumed the course would be just another graduation requirement checked off my list, fate had another idea. Professor Dawson teaches Constitutional Law as an interactive history course. By the second week of classes I was so intrigued by the cases and concepts we were learning that when Professor Dawson posted a sign-up sheet for an American Constitution Society information presentation, I knew I had to attend; the free lunch would be a bonus. Once everyone was settled, Professor Dawson introduced NCCU’s chapter director at the time, Peggy Li. During the presentation Peggy introduced a concept I had never described myself as before, but which seemed to resonate with my morals and personality. The concept of a progressive thinker. In so many words, she shared that progressive thinkers work to ensure not only equality but equitability and that progressive thinkers want to protect the sanctity of our democracy. I realized a progressive thinker, was someone who thought like me.

Before the session was over, Peggy elaborated that our chapter needed to be restored due to our former chapter leaders graduating the previous year. I can’t fully explain what happened in the presentation but by the end of it, I was an ACS student chapter leader. I was voted president and since then have been an avid advocate for progressive thinking and ACS. My decision to join this organization has been bolstered by every event that I have had the honor of attending. I continue to be astounded by the number of lawyer chapter members who go over and beyond to provide guidance and insight into various topics. I am on a journey to re-define what “made America great” and I am honored to be part of a community that is working diligently to achieve the same goal.

2017-2018

5/14 Students of ACS

Jedidah Morrell, Northern Kentucky University Chase College of Law ’18

I have always known I wanted to practice law because of my unique experience growing up in an unincorporated territory of the United States, as a daughter of immigrant parents. But, as I entered law school, I began to have serious doubts about the legal system I was about to join. Would I be able to stay true to my ultimate goals and have my actions reflect the principles that drew me into this field?

Last semester, two consecutive hurricanes devastated my hometown, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. This caused a communications crisis – for an entire week, I had no idea whether my family made it out alive.  I was finally able to share the news with my colleagues that my family was safe, despite losing everything materialistic.  They asked how I was able to still show up to school daily. I retorted with the words of my favorite Caribbean humanitarian, Bob Marley: “The people who are trying to make this world worse aren’t taking days off. Why should I?”

I found my niche at law school through my involvement with ACS and internships with the ACLU of Puerto Rico, Kentucky Innocence Project, and Constitutional Litigation at the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, where I participated in transformative work. It was my work for others that kept me going through difficulties. In my role as Chase ACS Chapter President, I was able to turn my pain in power. We organized a food and clothing drive for the often overlooked Caribbean islands which were devastated by the hurricanes.

Although my post-grad job on St. Thomas was swept away with the hurricanes, my plan to devote my professional life to vindicating the human and civil rights of others has not wavered.

5/7 Students of ACS

David Alcius, Florida A&M University College of Law ’18

I believe that we will end up where we push ourselves and that where we end up is the result of our will. Often, when folks recount the history of this country, they speak with a air of inevitability that elides the fact that our present existence is not inevitable. As unpredictable as the future is to us today, our present state was just as unpredictable for those living just two generations before us. To bring about change, many individuals had to take it upon themselves to bring about this change. These individuals had to take it upon themselves to build a lasting legacy for future generations to honor as a testament to our shared values. Today, just like the days before it, is the result of the conscious decision-making of men and women who recognized where they stood in relation to history and destiny, for both the good and the bad.

The American Constitution Society understands where it stands in relation to history and destiny. If the arc of the moral universe is to bend towards justice, then it requires hands to bend it in that direction. We need hands to fix our criminal justice system and undo the damage wrought by mass incarceration, particularly in black and brown communities. We need hands to help provide all Americans meaningful access to affordable and decent healthcare without individuals having to decide between their health and their ordinary needs. We need hands to help close the wealth gap. We need hands. While these hands aren’t promised, they must be cultivated.

As the former president of the ACS student chapter at Florida A&M University College of Law, it has been a pleasure to work with folks within the chapter and across the country who are truly committed in providing a hand at moving the country forward and ushering it into a new era that many of us could not have predicted, much less imagined. We are constantly reminded about the importance of the courts and why voting matters. The world that is ours today is a byproduct of what happens in the courtroom and in the voting booth. ACS knows that in order to prepare for the uncertain future and push back against the attacks on our democratic institutions, it’ll need to continue cultivating the next generation of progressive leaders. I am proud to be a member of the American Constitution Society and look forward to being in the thick of the struggles to come, which, perhaps, is the only thing predictable about the future.

4/30 Students of ACS

Racheal A. Ross, William S. Boyd School of Law ’18

Viktor E. Frankl wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning, “success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself.” My time in law school has been marked by successes, failures, and monumental changes, both in my personal life and in the world at large. When I started law school, I knew I would change and grow as a person, but I had no idea of the joys and hardships that lay in my path. My law school experience helped me redefine my definition of success and accomplishment.

Not only did I enter law school as a working-class woman with a disability, I entered it at a time of great political and social change. ACS gave me a way forward, a community to commiserate and celebrate with. Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to maintain my grades and climb in the rankings while I was going through divorce, multiple surgeries, a traumatic assault, and a presidential election which uncannily resembled Orwell’s 1984. At times, it felt hard to even get to school, let alone lead my Chapter. Leading my ACS Chapter helped me push through those ruts and gave me an outlet so that I could redirect any negative energy toward helping a cause greater than myself. My ACS network gave me a light to help see through these dark political times.

Thankfully, the joys of my law school experience truly did overshadow the hardships. Through ACS, I was able to connect with leaders in the movement, land jobs I never thought I would get, and travel the country expanding my knowledge—and my network. Because of ACS, I was able to spend a summer in Washington D.C., which changed my perspective forever and energized me like nothing else has. More than legal knowledge and a new way of analyzing data, law school has given me confidence.

What I want someone to take away when they read this is that whatever in life you are going through, or have been through, you can do this. More than that, you can excel. Sometimes success or excellence doesn’t mean getting the highest grade or getting on law review; sometimes it’s just giving things your best shot. Everyone’s personal best is different, but it’s truly all that matters. I know that I gave law school—and ACS—my personal best, and to me, that’s success.

4/23 Students of ACS

Adil Yaqoob, Vanderbilt University Law School ’18

Growing up in a post-9/11 America, I never considered myself a patriot. Patriotism, to me, meant supporting wars of aggression, torture, racially-targeted surveillance, and indefinite detention. It meant cheering on a regime that violated human rights at every turn. Frankly, I didn’t even consider myself to be completely American, even though I am an American citizen, because of what was being done in the name of the American flag. But after taking a U.S. history course in high school, I realized that some of the most prominent and adored figures in American history were the ones who opposed the government when it engaged in authoritarian and rights-violating acts. Standing up for the rights of reviled minorities during times of distress was as American as apple pie. I realized that true patriotism isn’t supporting your government always and no matter what; true patriotism is defending the principles that make your country unique.

After interning with the ACLU before law school, interning with the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice as a law student, and being involved with ACS throughout law school, I realized that the Constitution and the individuals who have agitated for the realization of various constitutional rights are what make this country great. My feelings of patriotism increased after every ACS event I attended. These events made me realize that American values are progressive values; that there isn’t a contradiction in being a believer of equality and diversity and being a patriot; and that the Constitution is at its heart, a document that is deeply concerned with protecting the rights of minorities. After all of this, I proudly and unabashedly consider myself to be a patriotic American.

4/16 Students of ACS

Kathleen Taylor, Mercer University Walter F. George School of Law ’18

Growing up in Coastal Georgia, a generally very conservative and Christian place, being a patriot and supporting your country meant certain things. Being a good American and a good Christian were inexorably tied together. To be a patriot, you had to love God and America. At school, patriotism meant standing up during the national anthem and pledge of allegiance, saying the Lord’s prayer, and writing Bible verses on cards to deployed soldiers. My mom and dad were both US Army officers who reinforced the importance of having respect for the Constitution, the flag, the president, and the military. I had never heard of a Patriot looking like anything other than the adults around me at church, school, and at home. I never doubted that I was a patriot simply because no one had ever implied that I was not.

There’s a prevailing idea among conservatives that their ideas on law and policy grant them a monopoly on patriotism—on American values. Think of the recent revival of the phrase “America First.” It’s obvious that the meaning is that there is a group within America that does not believe in putting America’s interests first. There is a false belief that to be on the other side of “America First-ers” is to be anti-American or unpatriotic. This idea is false and harmful, as a hallmark of progressivism is the belief that what makes America great is diversity. You can be anyone in this country and the law is supposed to afford you equity and justice. America was the pathfinder for those principles in the modern era. Accepting and showing respect for diversity is an essential component of being a patriot; of loving America and advocating for its interests.

Yes, our country has problems. Yes, it’s our responsibility to notice its problems. And emphatically yes, it is our duty to fight and advocate for solutions to those problems, so that we can fulfill our Constitutional ideals. We have to be the change we want to see. Although our beliefs about which policies are in America’s best interest differ, at the end of the day, progressives and conservatives have the same motivation for advocacy: to improve the country that we love. As patriots, rather than saying “Make America Great Again” and “America First,” let’s acknowledge that because we believe America is great, we have the power to make it better.

4/9 Students of ACS

Shane Grannum, Columbia Law School ’18

There is no greater challenge our generation must confront than the threats facing our nation’s democracy. We cannot combat climate change, make gun safety a priority, pursue criminal justice reform, and dismantle the structural inequalities that disproportionately affect people of color without first ensuring that every eligible U.S. citizen has the unfettered right to vote for the elected officials of their choice – without impediments or interference, without fear of intimidation or suppression, and without the undue influence of money in politics. It is for that very reason that I decided to pursue a legal career and join the American Constitution Society.

To me, being a progressive means being a fearless advocate for oneself and others; empowering the marginalized and underserved; and empathizing with the daily challenges and struggles others face. We are stronger as a nation and as a people when we open our arms and embrace others with experiences much different from ours – not as talkers but as listeners.

ACS has fostered that environment, both inside and outside the walls of law school. We critically think about contentious issues with integrity and respect. We don’t let barriers and obstacles hold us back from pursuing change; we simply trudge forward and find another path. After three years of law school, I am all the more stronger because of the grounding ACS gave me. I am all the more wiser because of the ACS members I’ve met and befriended, from classmates to peers at institutions across the country. And I am all the more ready to fight to protect voting rights, reform our campaign finance system, and elect officeholders who will safeguard our democratic institutions for years to come.

4/2 Students of ACS

Seth Zawila, University of Minnesota Law School ’18

I went to law school to make a difference. Growing up, I believed that lawyers were the guardians for a society that protected that rule of law and fought for those without a voice. My life experiences have certainly shown me that reality is more complex, but I’ve still held onto that basic premise as I’ve entered into the professional role of a lawyer: that the law should be a tool for all Americans, not just for those with wealth and access.

Working as an ACS Chapter President has allowed me to live this belief to the fullest. I have been able to highlight social injustices that can be fixed by the legal process and actually do something about fixing them. I’ve had the incredible honor of watching our chapter grow from three board members to twenty-five and go from hosting no events to hosting U.S. Senators and Vice-Presidents. The drive to make a difference is what has pushed me and, while it has not been easy, it happened through hard work and embracing the work we do as ACS.

It happened by hosting forums with policymakers and intellectual leaders – asking pointed questions and demanding attention to these issues. It happened by creating a community where bright and passionate people can come together to talk about change. And finally, it happened – most importantly – by empowering others to get involved and fight for the causes that they believe in.

3/26 Students of ACS

Naomi Martin, Sturm College of Law ’20

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” This quote by Desmond Tutu is so important in how we make choices in our lives everyday, and is especially relevant to where our country stands right now. I remember reading this quote for the first time when I was considering pursuing a career in law. While weighing this decision, this quote stuck with me. It helped me to realize that I could not stand by as a neutral observer, but needed to get involved in the fight to protect ALL people’s constitutional rights.

While finishing up my junior year of undergrad, I was awarded legal guardianship of my older sister. Guardianship was necessary because of the challenges that came with severe mental illness, and the county and state falling short in providing my sister with her individual rights and appropriate level of care. In this situation, I was able to advocate on her behalf and make sure she was given the level of respect and dignity all individuals deserve, regardless of their mental health challenges. It became so apparent that people who shared these same challenges, but did not have someone to advocate for them, would be brushed to the side and swallowed up by the system. This experience has given me a unique perspective on our legal and social services systems, and furthered my dedication to pursuing a career as an attorney.

Being in my first year of law school and taking Constitutional Law, I more clearly understand and appreciate the protections provided to us by our Constitution. These rights, however, are not applied equally to everyone in the United States. I was fortunate to get involved with the American Constitution Society right away and know that my involvement has helped me to remember why I chose to attend law school. Our DU student chapter of ACS was reconstituted this year and I am so excited to see where we can take it. It is such an inspiration to be a part of an organization that never chooses to be neutral in situations of oppression.

3/19 Students of ACS

Ashley J. Lawrence, Howard University School of Law ’18

In pursuing a career in public interest, I am constantly reminded of my favorite quote: “Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a better person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in” which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jrspoke during the Youth March for Integrated Schools in 1959. For me, the journey through law school has been an arduous one, filled with many tears, stress, and bouts of sickness. My membership within ACS and my decision to attend Howard University School of Law have been sources of strength during my lowest moments.

Sometimes when I have been overwhelmed by the pressures of law school, I walked through Houston Hall and looked at the class murals–from the first graduating class of 1871 to present day–to receive encouragement. Attending law school in the heart of Washington, D.C. has allowed me to have some amazing opportunities outside of the classroom that have nourished my interests in public interest, civil rights and social justice issues. I am committed to social justice, which has been fortified by extensive training in social justice lawyering through civil rights internships with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights under Law, the Advancement Project and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. These organizations are instrumental in leading the fight in social justice with impactful work in the public policy and legal fields. The ideals of ACS directly aligns with the work that I went to Howard Law to do and it is an honor to remain a part of this organization during the next chapter of my legal career as a Next Generation Leader.

Last year, ACS served as a place of solace and community. In our chapter meetings, events, and conventions, I was able to meet like-minded individuals who were committed to the same goals of becoming an advocate and one day enforcing legal protections against discrimination, and safeguarding the civil rights of the disadvantaged. Two experiences that stand out are having lunch with ACS Board of Advisors member Ted Shaw during the Student Convention, who imparted words of wisdom regarding working in the civil rights field. The second experience was the opportunity to participate in Constitution in the Classroom where I taught a Civics class on the First Amendment at Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C. which turned out to be very rewarding. Although I was in finals, it was a great study break — I encouraged students to be interested in the Constitution and inspired them as a future lawyer that looked just like them. My personal background and experiences have shaped my commitment to social justice and public interest work. Growing up in my community of Southeast Queens, New York, there was a microcosm of social and criminal injustice, systemic poverty, unemployment, unequal education, lack of voting rights, and urban and infrastructure issues. So being able to teach high school students about their First Amendment rights was enriching and fun even.

3/12 Students of ACS

Daniel Galindo, UC Hastings College of the Law ’18

“With liberty and justice for all.”  We were all taught to stand up, cross our hearts, and recite these words in grade school. Growing up in Texas, I even recited them in Spanish over the intercom at the start of the day for the students for whom, like me, English was their second language.  But do they have real meaning in “the land of the free?” The answer to that question is why I think ACS is such an important organization.

Before coming to law school, I spent five years working at the ACLU.  Most of what I knew about the law and the Constitution I learned by observing some of the best attorneys secure rights for immigrants, women, LGBT people, racial minorities, the outspoken, and religious minorities.  I formed an impression that the law was one of the few things that was objectively true, just, honorable, and pure because at the end of the day, justice was usually served. However, when I started to learn the law by reading cases, it did not take long for me to see just how far from the truth that was.  It became evident to me that the exercise of interpreting and applying the law is fallible and malleable to the interests of those in power. Our Constitutional history evidences it. When one studies decisions like Dred Scott and the politics surrounding the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment and its subsequent interpretation, the worth of words like “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence melts away to reveal an uncomfortable truth.  The “Founding Fathers” envisioned life, liberty, and happiness for other mostly Christian, straight, white men. In the words of one of my favorite Justices, Justice Thurgood Marshall, “the government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war, and momentous social transformation to attain the system of constitutional government, and its respect for the individual freedoms and human rights, we hold as fundamental today.”

It is only because of the arduous process alluded to by Justice Marshall that a gay, secular, man and son of immigrants who grew up poor like me can aspire to shape law and policy.  Not too long ago, American citizens of Mexican decent were prohibited from speaking Spanish, forced to attend segregated schools, and even deported. Even the right to marry is one which only five years ago I could not meaningfully enjoy.  And still not everyone enjoys equality under the law. The over-incarceration and policing of African Americans and Latinos, the vast disparities in economic and educational opportunities, the lack of due process afforded to immigrants, the vast numbers of homeless people, and our inhumane treatment of asylum seekers, people will mental illness, and people suffering from drug addiction warp and tarnish the values for which we supposedly stand.

“We the People” get the government we deserve.  And so we must cultivate and make space for the next generation of progressive voices we want to be interpreting our government’s guiding document.  As much as some may want to believe that a document drafted 230 years ago is set in stone, even they are rushing to give it meaning in contexts that the “Founding Fathers” could have never imagined.  ACS is an organization breathing real life into the otherwise hollow promises made to all persons by our Constitution through its tireless advocacy, debate, and network building. I am proud to be an ACS member and to contribute to making the Constitution live up to its promise of liberty, equality, freedom, and justice for all.

3/5 Students of ACS

Taylre Janak, University of Notre Dame Law School ’18

I have always been aware of two of my overriding beliefs as to law in society: my self-identifying designation as a biracial woman and my desire to access the legal profession to affect change in society. As a biracial female, I have viewed the world through a unique lens of a myriad of perspectives from which one can examine and grapple with the intent and impact of the law. From my specific vantage point, I have observed that while issues of race are not intended to influence the law, they do impact the law. Growing up, it was my intention to use my law school diploma to affect change in my community. To that end, I am committed in my legal career to be a caring and socially active attorney who understands that the inner workings of the law are not always black and white; there are shades of grey in almost every situation.

Throughout law school, I have had diverse experiences from working a semester in the U.S. Trustee’s Office in Washington, D.C. to working as a certified legal intern with the juvenile justice center in St. Joseph County. Attending ACS student conventions as well as the National Convention has inspired me to seek opportunities across both ends of the economic and social spectrum. Further, ACS has provided me a vehicle with which to invite progressive thinkers and thought provokers to Notre Dame.  I alongside my classmates have had the pleasure to hear from speakers who address a range of issues from gun control to voting rights to fair housing. Without ACS, my law school experience would have been devoid of an outlet to explore and express progressive ideas and viewpoints in society and my practice of law.

2/26 Students of ACS

Rachael Hancock, Cornell University Law School ’18

I moved to Washington, DC after graduating from college.  I wanted to go to law school but I didn’t know where or when.  One of the first job applications I sent in was to ACS.  Over the next two years I served as an intern, personal assistant, and office manager at ACS.  I loved it.  My ACS coworkers became my closest friends.  I traveled  to LA; I competed in office baking competitions; I went bowling in the White House; and I learned what to expect from law school and how to network.

When it was time to go to law school, I had already met a few 3Ls at Cornell through ACS and they immediately recruited me to be a 1L representative of our school’s chapter.  As a 2L, I served as the President of our chapter and had an incredible time planning voter registration drives, debate watch parties, and community discussions in Ithaca.

Last January, our chapter individually mailed pieces of a floor puzzle of the Constitution to the White House.  Each of the 200 pieces was signed by a member of our community and contained a message asking the President to respect all pieces of our Constitution.  Though we never received a response, we felt that the success of this event was in reminding our peers that their voices still mattered and that there is power in community.

ACS has been such a large part of my life and success so far, and I hope to keep it with me as I graduate, become a lawyer, and start my career!

2/19 Students of ACS

Olivia Hudnut, University of Southern California Gould School of Law ’18

As a Los Angeles native, I grew up surrounded by people from diverse backgrounds. Starting in middle school, I studied Korean and Spanish and traveled internationally, developing an appreciation for the uniqueness of the Angeleno culture in which I was raised. However, it wasn’t until the summer of my first year of law school that I began to comprehend how diverse the legal needs of my community could be. I spent my first summer interfacing with litigants in holistic legal aid clinics. I realized that the desperate poverty and modern slavery that I saw when I was living in Hong Kong and traveling in Southeast Asia was closer to home that I could have ever imagined.

Working in legal aid has allowed me to focus my attention on the margins of society. Partnering with the American Constitution Society has provided me with an outlet to educate, organize and engage with my law school peers. To me, ACS has always represented a safe space on campus to envision how we can collectively and progressively shape law and policy to be a positive force in the lives of all people. ACS students and lawyers convene to share ideas, debate policy, and have open and creative discussions. I cannot count the number of issues I have been woken up to and engaged with by ACS lawyers and students (whether at our RBG book club meetings or at the ACS Student Convention).

Through ACS, I developed my passion and commitment to labor and human rights law. As a Peggy Browning Fellow, I worked at the Wage Justice Center recovering lost wages through labor commissioner judgment enforcement on behalf of low-income workers living in Los Angeles. I loved working for a non-profit where there were no restrictions on the people we could reach. I have taken from these experiences a lifelong commitment to social and economic justice and progressive policy reform. I look forward to working in law and policy on the international and domestic arena after I graduate this May.

2/12 Students of ACS

Allison Hunn, UC Berkeley School of Law ’18

Before coming to law school, I had the privilege of working in both politics and government.  During that time, I developed a love of policy – the ability to solve problems and make lives better through compromise, creativity, and pragmatism. I entered law school with enough work experience to know that I wanted to graduate and begin a policy-centered career. And despite attending a law school with a strong commitment to public service, I didn’t anticipate the pressure I would feel to follow the traditional path of law firms, clerkships – the whole nine yards.

However, with my initial goal in mind, I went to work on the Clinton Campaign in Brooklyn, NY the summer after my first year. I ended up staying through the November Election as part of a field placement, and sadly, felt her loss alongside the many who share a belief in progressive values and fidelity to the Constitution. When I returned to law school in January 2017, I felt unsure about how to remain motivated in this field. ACS helped answer that question.

This year, as President of the Berkeley Law Chapter, I’ve had the privilege of helping arrange speakers and lawyers who are using their talents to add to the progressive discourse. My goal has been, in part, to expose our community of students to the many valuable and important ways we can use our degrees, as well as educate law students on the policy issues being discussed by the legal community. Recognizing ACS’s extensive network of passionate progressive lawyers has helped motivate my final semesters in law school. I’m excited to graduate this spring, and join in the work to solve our country’s greatest challenges.

2/5 Students of ACS

Taru Taylor, Case Western Reserve University School of Law ’18

During a lunch break in winter 2011, I was playing chess against one of my students in Jerusalem. Rather than wondering who won, the right question is, “who lost more slowly?”

I used that line recently. I was playing chess near my school when somebody asked, “Who’s winning?” I responded, “The real question is who’s losing more slowly?”

I stole that line from The Wire—”No one wins. One side just loses more slowly.” These are words to live by in this adversarial profession of ours. “Equal justice under law” means that the little guys should lose just as slowly as the big shots do. But the big shots usually lose slower than the little guys because the big shots can afford the slowest-losing advocates that money can buy.

These words also demonstrate Socratic wisdom—that we are all know-nothings. It also shows that we’re all losers. That nobody really wins anything, not even a football game. What about this JD? Won’t that make us all winners? Not likely. But it will make some of us slower losers than we were before. For me, it’ll allow me to help the little guys lose a little bit more slowly in the courtroom.

1/29 Students of ACS

Emily Deyring, Seton Hall University School of Law ’20

Timing is everything. What an amazing time for us to be in law school, and what an amazing time to be involved in ACS!

As one of few students at my school who are mothers, I’m proud of the experiences that inform my studies. In my former career as a journalist and copy editor, I was able to engage my love of language, and to help inform the public. I learned the importance of paying attention to detail, and of making voices heard. Now more than ever, the access to accurate information is crucial. Today is a wonderful day to fight for that access, and to fight for equal justice, as a lawyer.

My two children and spouse stood by my side through my former career, and I’m lucky they continue to cheer for me now that it’s time to begin my second career.

Leaving journalism has been a rollercoaster of emotion at times, as I imagine law school is for most students. I still don’t have it all figured out – not by a long shot. But I’m here to learn, from my classmates, my colleagues, my professors, and from my family. I’m here to serve during this precarious time, as a parent, a friend, a partner, and an advocate. I believe in policies that improve the lives of everyone. I believe in us – I believe our profession is a force for positive change.

I was excited when looking for a “home” student organization, a few of my professors suggested I work to revive our ACS chapter. I’m beyond grateful to have found students and professionals who embrace the values that light my path. Our future is bright, and our time to change the world is now!

1/22 Students of ACS

Shelby McKenzie, Georgia State University College of Law ’19

Once, I jokingly told my career advisor, “I may not always be the most qualified candidate, but I’m always the most persistent.” This is probably true of my networking endeavors. Unlike other students, I didn’t have any connections to take advantage of when I started law school. Networking was going to be a challenge for me. Which is why being President of the Georgia State ACS chapter has also been an invaluable part of my personal and career development.

I had always wanted to witness family law from the perspective of a judge, but didn’t know many people in the courthouse. When I read an article about the new judge on the family law bench in Atlanta, my first thought was that it would be great to work for her. My second thought was that she would make a perfect speaker for an upcoming GSU ACS event about diversity in the judiciary. I reached out to her staff attorney and she accepted an offer to speak at the ACS Southeast Regional Convening (SERC) at GSU. As she was leaving the panel, she noted her office was always looking for good interns and to send my resume her way. When I saw her at another event a couple weeks later, she remembered me from ACS SERC and we discussed interning with her office. I’ve been interning with her for about 4 months and she is an incredible, progressive woman who deeply cares about Georgia families and judicial integrity.

The ACS Georgia Lawyer Chapter has been invaluable in my networking efforts as well. At their Public Interest Happy Hour, one of the Georgia Lawyer Chapter executive board members running the event introduced me to all the family law attorneys in attendance. As a result, I had several lunches and coffees lined up with prominent Atlanta family law attorneys in the following weeks. And, I even had the opportunity to meet the inspiring Sally Yates at an ACS event!

1/16 Students of ACS

Michelle Herd, Samford University Cumberland School of Law ’19

I knew law school was going to be difficult.  As a mother to a toddler, I also knew that I could get through it.  When I see my son wake up in the morning, I see the future in his face. I see that the work I do today will have an exponential impact. This reality only became clear to me after I had him. Only then did I realize the sacrifices that my own mother made so that I could have a better life. My mother left her home in Central America with two sons of her own to start a new life in the U.S. She did not speak English, she had nothing, not even a high school diploma.  Yet, she persevered and never looked back. Growing up, I compared our home life and culture to others and wondered why we were different. Now, I realize what she gave up and how strong and resilient she made us. I realize that we can be more than we imagine we are capable of. Now as I make sacrifices for my son, I think of all the other parents that wake up each morning with the same determination.  It makes my load seem lighter and brings me joy.

12/18 Students of ACS

Carrie Hill, The University of Akron School of Law ’19

I came to law school as a first-generation non-traditional student for one reason: to re-ignite my passion for public policy.  I had two problems right from the get go. I’m not originally from Ohio (so my policy connections were, well, . . . none) and the first year of law school was sucking all of my time just to survive!

ACS helped fill this void – it gave me access to countless like-minded professionals and organizations. Through its scholarships, conferences, and networking, I’m connected!  This connection has restored a confidence in me to become more involved in my community and the nation.  I see and feel again how each person can make a difference in the world.  I’m thankful for ACS’s existence, and for their prioritizing student leadership development . . . its working! Since joining ACS: I’ve Marched on Washington, Researched State Policies effects on sick Ohioans, Served as a Poll Worker, Volunteered at Legal Aid—Ran for Office (student chapter president), Contacted my State Representatives and a certain U.S. Senator (countless times), Studied Policy Internationally . . . and I am just getting started!

My two problems now are narrowing down my options to pick one place to intern next summer and finalizing our student chapter programming next semester. These are good problems to have. Thank you ACS for becoming my home away from home and empowering me to fulfill my public policy goals!

12/11 Students of ACS

Patrick Stickney, Penn State Law ’18

Law school was a culture change. Prior to law school, I was a campaign manager for state and local races and an issue organizer, particularly working on higher education accessibility and affordability. Higher education is a deeply personal concern for me, because I come from a low-income family that experienced domestic violence and drug abuse. Even though it is a pathway to opportunity, law school required me to adjust—to a greater extent than when I attended college—because my family and class background were different than most other law students. Additionally, transitioning from knocking on doors and phone-banking to returning to the classroom was its own process.

I initially did not have an outlet in law school for my fierce devotion to public service to end power disparities within marginalized communities. Having researched the student organizations available at Penn State Law, I was disappointed to learn its ACS chapter was no longer active. However, I put my organizing experience to use and brought students together to restart the chapter.

Through ACS, I met law students and legal professionals from across the country who shared my values. I brought speakers to campus for events on issues such as environmental justice, reproductive rights, and voting rights. While law school had its adjustments, it has allowed me to do things that were unimaginable to me when I was growing up, such as researching and writing amicus briefs submitted to the US Supreme Court or helping to draft legislation for the Pennsylvania House Democratic Caucus.

12/4 Students of ACS

Javier Trejo, Georgia State University College of Law ’19

Being a progressive in the deep South is not always easy, but it teaches you how to listen. You get to be pretty good at holding your own in lunchroom debates and at Thanksgiving dinner. You begin to understand the other side and even respect some of their views despite disagreeing with them. It also provides a front row view of the negative impact of conservative legal, economic, and social policy. For example, access to lifesaving Medicaid for rural and urban poor, which were previously considered non-controversial.

Being a progressive in the deep South is not always easy, but I am not alone. ACS has empowered me and, more importantly, allowed me to help empower others. In the faces of my peers and fellow student leaders, I see people excited to drive the conversation on campus and in the community. Our events involving panel conversations about reproductive rights, minority representation on the bench, and police brutality are regularly packed to capacity. Among progressive lawyers and activists in Atlanta and elsewhere, I see the values that make America great defended with tenacity on a daily basis.

There is still tremendous work to be done and we as lawyers are called to serve. We are uniquely positioned to advance justice in all corners of society, for all people, regardless of race, religion, economic circumstance, or geography.

Being a progressive in the South is not always easy, but there is nowhere else I would rather be. Let’s get to work.

11/27 Students of ACS

Nikki Levy, Chapter President, The George Washington University Law School ’18

It was a big change to move across the country from Las Vegas to D.C. to pursue my JD. 1L year is already hard enough, but having my usual network of support 2500 miles away was difficult. When I got involved with ACS, though, the students, practitioners, and professors became my new network. I found a group of like-minded students on campus who were trying to make a difference.  I found professors and professionals who are really interested in helping students succeed. I love having the opportunity to foster important, difficult discussions on our campus. The wonderful staff at ACS National helped foster some of my most valued connections. I tell every law student who will listen about how ACS connected me to two of my internships!

I am eager to fight voter suppression and discriminatory voter disenfranchisement. ACS connected me to my 2L summer internship at the ACLU of Nevada, where I pursued efforts to reduce the discriminatory impact of the state’s felon disenfranchisement laws. Next, I was connected through ACS to my current work as a policy fellow at Let America Vote. In this role, I get to fight voter suppression efforts and advocate for laws that increase American’s access to the ballot box. Each day, we see new threats to the voting franchise from across the country. It is frustrating, but I am grateful to be able to use my voice─and my future law degree─to fight back.

11/20 Students of ACS

Marcurius Byrd, University of South Carolina School of Law ’18

I never really wanted to be a lawyer, even though I was told at a young age I should be a lawyer. I generally preferred math and science classes, which led me to getting a degree in Biochemistry from Washington and Lee University. When I graduated from undergraduate, I had planned to go study medicine as a researcher. I got accepted into a medical school program, but got sick so I had to leave the program. I was basically out of the game of life, trying to figure out what caused me to be sick. It took about four years for me to be well enough to attempt working again. Nevertheless, despite my limited capacity during this period, I kept trying to do what little I could do to stay involved and help others.

Once I was able to, I spent as much time as I could volunteering, doing social justice activism, and getting involved politically, so I could understand how the world worked around me. My political, social justice, and volunteer activities eventually convinced me that I had to become a lawyer so I that I could help navigate how the law affects so much of our everyday life without us noticing. Even if I could no longer be a doctor, I could help create an army of doctors through other means.

Even though I am now in my last year of law school, I remain active in the groups that helped convince me to become a lawyer. I serve as a Co-Vice Chair in the Sierra Club of South Carolina where I have gotten to work with some of the Club’s national leaders and projects, an Executive Committeeman in the South Carolina Democratic Party, and a part of the leadership team of the local Black Lives Matter Chapter that I helped start. I am just as active at the law school. I serve as president of my ACS Student Chapter, as the moot court team manager for our BLSA chapter, and as an officer in our Technology & Law Student Association. I also helped to restart the Health Law Society and am on the South Carolina Journal of International Law & Business.

Sometimes people tell me I do too much, and in many ways, I can agree. When the only thing you can physically do for so long is try, trying becomes the only thing you know how to do. And eventually you end up succeeding and all the failures become the stepping stones to your ultimate successful destination.

11/13 Students of ACS

Lari Dierks, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law ’18

Growing up in a small southern Illinois town, everyone looked the same. When I say small town, people often underestimate what I mean. I lived a ten-minute drive from the closest towns in our area, Ava, population 800, and Campbell Hill, population 230. Growing up in such a small town, on my family’s farm, gave me a strong sense of community that I still hold with me today. But, I also recognized the limited view of the world so many people from this area hold.

When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to go on a trip with high school students from Illinois, Kentucky, and Missouri. We met with a group of 20 high school students from New York City and traveled through Europe for a month. This experience opened my eyes to a world and cultures that were not present in my small southern Illinois town where everyone knew each other, and looked alike. Then, while I was in college I found out there was an opportunity to work in Springfield, Illinois as a staff analyst for the House of Representatives. Prior to hearing about this opportunity, I never imagined that someone from my small town could make the law. But, I did and I loved it. I worked on two campaigns electing Democrats to the Illinois House of Representatives and helped draft major legislation. But, eventually I knew I wanted to go to law school and I moved to Chicago to begin my law school career.

Throughout my journey, I have developed a deep passion for protecting constitutional rights. When I entered law school, I learned about ACS and was hooked. I loved the people I met who shared my passion for creating a better world. After President Trump was elected, I knew my place in this fight would be to find a connection between the world I grew up in, and the world I live in now. We can only bridge that gap by supporting important conversations about progressive issues and ACS supports these conversations every day. Together, we can help open the minds of people who have not experienced the diverse United States we know and love. Because of that goal, ACS will always have a special place in my heart.

11/6 Students of ACS

Vaishali Goyal, Boston College Law School ’18

I have typically been the only brown student in my classes and often am the only student to actually be excited to be in school and to have the opportunity to learn about things that no one in my household knew about. That passion to learn enabled me to work hard, and become a first generation college and law student. While confident that I worked hard to get to law school, I was suddenly confronted again with being the only brown student on Law Review. I felt completely out of place.

After days of imposter syndrome, I realized—even if they outnumbered me, I was still seen as their equal. But after President Trump was elected, I was not sure anymore. I felt this duty to discuss with my colleagues the structural barriers faced by people of color. After contemplating how to discuss this issue with my classmates, I turned my energy to ACS to host events that would communicate the issue of structural inequality to my Boston College Law School students. Through that, I have connected with people that are fighting for change and spreading this message and the work that needs to be done—especially now.

10/30 Students of ACS

Candice Isaac, West Virginia College of Law ’18

Twice in my life, I have heard the words “If I were you, I would pack up my things and leave.” Although in two different contexts, I must admit these words were hurtful. In the first instance, I had gone to the mailbox and received a letter from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. I was positive it was my approval for a green card, but it was a deportation letter.  My journey to become a permanent resident was in jeopardy. I contacted an attorney who said I had no chance of staying and needed to pack up my things and leave. The second time occurred last summer by a recruiter at a top government agency. She stated I was not passionate enough about the law and maybe law school was not the place for me.  However, my journey to law school is no farce.  My determination to complete this degree will not be deterred by her words. If only she knew, she might have opted to say something nice instead.

Nevertheless, I remain resilient and persistent in my efforts to become educated and grounded in the law. I know that obtaining a legal degree not only reaps benefits to me, but to every extended community I am a part of. ACS drew me in with its mission and vision to serve the needs of all people. My background and experiences are unique. I oftentimes find disheartening a system, which doles out rigid justice without compassion, any concern for decency, and any consideration of contributing factors. To my fellow ACS members, let us continue to lend our voices to spaces and places that restrict the core values the Constitution seeks to protect.

10/23 Students of ACS

Kevin W. Connell, William & Mary Marshall-Wythe School of Law ’18

I entered my first year of college a conservative registered Republican, but departed for law school a progressive registered Democrat. Growing up in a white, middle-class home of two public school teachers, I was taught the basic concept that hard work creates success. In other words, achieving the American Dream was not a question of if, but when. It was a philosophy that I believed in fiercely, and one that shaped my early political ideology and ultimate worldview.

This all changed, however, after working a minimum wage job in food service while I attended college. Shortly after starting, it became apparent that most of my coworkers did not live in the same reality of opportunity. Contrary to the popular opinion of conservatives, these employees are not high school students working a part-time job for extra spending money. They are people who were born into poverty; they are the children of parents where English is a second language; they are members of families lacking any college education; they are single parents who have dropped out of school; and they are Baby Boomers who were laid off late in their careers without a pension. Although my coworkers came from a unique variety of circumstances, they shared a common certainty: hard work had not and would not lead to sharing with me in the same American Dream. Slaves to a system rigged against them, paychecks amounting to half of a living wage leave most of my previous coworkers with no way of getting ahead. It is as if their heads are being held above water high enough to avoid drowning, but low enough to prevent them from swimming ashore. In addition to this common economic struggle, many of these same people face additional challenges relating to their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and national origin, adding to the already insurmountable odds.

The American Constitution Society (ACS) serves as a guide to the legal community on how we can improve the conditions for people less fortunate through the law and public policy. With the intention of representing public school districts upon my graduation, I plan to carry on the spirit of ACS from my legal education well into practice.

10/16 Students of ACS

Marissa Ditkowsky, American University Washington College of Law ’19

My passion for preserving constitutional rights is based on my personal experience. As a student with physical disabilities that impact my mobility, I constantly advocate to ensure that people with disabilities receive equal protection under the law and the right to due process as guaranteed by the Constitution. In my previous internship, I focused on guardianship. Guardianship proceedings often deny alleged incapacitated individuals of due process, despite the existence of safeguards within statutes, due primarily to paternalism and misunderstanding of capacity and disability. Additionally, guardianship tends to be an overly restrictive option that denies individuals the right to make personal choices and decisions about where to live, who to see, and what to do.

Guardianship provides for just one of many potential barriers for people with disabilities to receive constitutional protections. Poll accessibility and the fundamental right to vote has been a major issue in regard building compliance and ability to get to the polls, which is even more difficult when states continue to close polling locations. Criminal justice system flaws, such as mass incarceration and police brutality, also disparately impact individuals with disabilities, primarily due to ableism, lack of training, and the increased possibility of misunderstandings. Violations of the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth amendments are rampant. A progressive interpretation of the Constitution ensures that minority populations are protected in the same ways as everyone else.

10/9 Students of ACS

Rosann Mariappuram, The University of Texas School of Law ’18

I got involved with the Texas Law chapter of ACS as a 1L. At my first event, I was a timekeeper for an affirmative action debate co-hosted by the Federalist Society. As a woman and a person of color, I was nervous about the direction the conversation might go. But I was so proud to see ACS students and faculty members push the level of discourse towards critical thinking and analysis, rather than circular talking points that ignored the lived experiences of students. As a 2L, I became our chapter’s Vice President of Events and got to share my passion for reproductive justice by planning an event featuring Stephanie Toti, the lawyer who argued Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, our ACS chapter deepened our connections to other student organizations and showed up in solidarity to protest a transphobic speaker who was brought to campus. As I enter my 3L year, I am so honored to be the President of our ACS chapter. We have a great year of events planned and are excited to continue growing our membership!

10/2 Students of ACS

Christopher R. Henderson, Quinnipiac University School of Law `20

I truly believe that the law can be a tool for positive social and economic change. It can, and has, created the conditions leading to better lives for all people.

For instance, the National Labor Relations Act and its equivalent in the states have allowed workers to come together collectively to bargain for better working conditions, better pay, & a voice on the job. It is through these labor laws that the middle class was created and maintained. For me, it has meant a financially secure childhood. My father passed away when I was very young which left our family devastated emotionally and economically. But because of my mother’s membership in a union, we were able to stay afloat during the most difficult time in our lives. She and her union bargained for yearly pay increases, excellent health care, and secure retirement benefits. We were not well off because of the union but we were comfortable and we didn’t have to think twice about going out to eat once in a while, or going to the doctor, or taking a vacation. It was because of the union that a single mother in an industrial town could raise a son without going into abject poverty. Unfortunately, most Americans do not have the privilege of being a part of a union and risk going into poverty thus losing their standing as part of the middle class.

My upbringing inspired me to work for the labor movement and has, in turn, led me into a life of the law. It is my hope that I can utilize the law to push for change to benefit all working people so that they can have security in an otherwise insecure world. My goal as a lawyer is to utilize the laws to create the conditions where opportunity is possible for all, where there is economic and social fairness in our daily interactions in the world, and where all people are treated equally. I hope, as Chapter President at the Quinnipiac School of Law, we can build a network of other progressive lawyers to make that reality possible.

9/25 Students of ACS

Robert Williams, The University of Mississippi School of Law ’18

When you tell someone that you are a law student, you will likely hear: “Whoa, you’re in law school! You must be smart!” While it is a great compliment, those reactions are mostly the opposite of what I feel. Coming into law school, I had the support of all my family and friends. As the first person in my circle to go to law school, everyone believed in me. Of course, I wanted to go back and tell them, “I’m doing great in school. I’m going to come out and be the great lawyer you all think I can be. I feel like I belong there.”

Your first week, you learn about all your new peers, the ones that have done way more than I have before entering school. Not only did they know lawyers, some knew what to expect, had mentors, higher college GPAs, better LSAT scores, or simply came from a world that wasn’t as black and white as mine.

How could I compare to that? How can I go back to my circle—those that believed in me—to tell them that I’m so very far from being the best. In fact, I may be fighting to be mediocre. I doubted myself and didn’t strive for on-campus interviews since I knew the advantages my peers had over me. It was also easy for me to simply accept not getting an A in my classes. I started to question how I even got into law school? Whose spot did I take? Am I just here because I’m black?

I let those thoughts and feelings beat me up for a long time, and honestly, it still does. Law school makes you compare yourself to your peers. Having these thoughts these last two years have been difficult, and it will likely be a lifelong struggle for me.  I may not be able to tell my circle that I was the best, or my unique talent stood out. But, I am able to tell them that, no matter what, I did belong.

9/18 Students of ACS

ACS Student Leader, New York

Growing up, I have always been keenly aware that my parents had very different political views, but I was encouraged to be my own person and to follow my own path. However, the current Administration has drastically deepened the schism between my mother and me.

Gradually, she has become increasingly xenophobic and bigoted. I no longer was encouraged to follow my own path and was labeled an “effing liberal” for choosing to speak against her views. Regardless of her graduating from a women’s college, my mother had hate in her voice against Hillary Clinton, while championing a man who prides himself on grabbing women.

Through ACS, I am surrounded by people who encourage freedom of thought and speak out against hatred and bigotry. My mother and I may never have a good relationship again, but I chose not to go down a path of bitterness or anger. The Constitution serves as a guide for how to progress as a Nation; while ACS congruently serves as a way for law students and lawyers to achieve the goals of our founding fathers.

9/11 Students of ACS

Ayesha Haq, University of Cincinnati College of Law ’19

Before high school started, I had no idea what I wanted to do in life. My father, an over-achiever in all aspects, had unrealistic expectations from me as his first-born child. Irritated by my childish ways, he sat me down one day and asked what career I wanted to pursue. He only gave me three days to give him a final decision. I was infamous for being a troublemaker in the family, and people always found me questioning society, law and politics. Putting this infamous quality to use, I decided I wanted to become a lawyer. I didn’t have much purpose back then and just knew that the law consumed me with a passion indescribable by words.

The lack of purpose slowly changed as I found myself immersed in discussions of terrorism paired with Islamophobia. I was tired of being the only screaming individual defending Muslims in a heated debate which led to no fruition or change in perspective. Suddenly, my purpose as a future lawyer became clearer. I developed a keen interest in advocating for minority rights, which are vested in the Constitution of the United States. Our country has a dark history of alienating, dehumanizing, and criminalizing communities of color. It is unfortunate to see history repeat itself in the name of “national security.” I have high hopes that progressives will shape the way we value citizens and immigrants from different cultures, religions and nationalities. I plan to devote my legal career towards ensuring that people are given the dignities they deserve in the United States of America.          

9/5 Students of ACS

Charles M. Schully, Tulane University Law School ’18

Growing up privileged in New Orleans means asking yourself a lot of questions. If you answer them honestly, you will naturally come to the conclusion that there exists an oppressive system of laws and policies that work to harm certain groups of people. I witnessed it again August 29, 2005, the day Katrina made landfall. We lost our home for 13 months, but people with less means lost so much more. Worrying about the people in the Housing Developments and in the Superdome, I felt more powerless to help than I had ever felt in my life.

As a law student and an ACS Chapter President, I continue to witness these injustices, many of which have become increasingly exacerbated in 2017. Only now, I am not the impotent, naive, and frustrated teenager I was in those hazy Post-Katrina days. I confront the oppression of the criminal justice system with the tools and knowhow to fight for victims of the carceral state. I know my rights when I escort patients to one of only three remaining abortion clinics in Louisiana, while distracting them from hearing the leitmotif of taunts by protesters. I have provided legal observation at the celebration and counter-protest that accompanied our city’s courageous decision to remove four confederate monuments.

My education has transformed my stagnant white guilt into action, solidarity, and allyship. I am a student who pledges his work to fighting injustice and oppression, because I dream of a future when all of my fellows may sit together – and share in the bread and roses.

8/28 Students of ACS

Ryan Snow, The University of Virginia School of Law ’18

I worked as a professional trombonist for ten years between college and law school. I played mostly avant-garde jazz and free improvised music, and also freelanced and taught. I organized and produced a music series in my Brooklyn basement for two years–literally underground music. I co-founded a soul-rock band called Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds and we took flight, playing over 500 shows in 45 states and traveling 200,000 miles in three years.

While on the road I began to feel my focus and passion shift. Traveling without moving–sitting in a van all day–I read obsessively about politics and policy. I had always cared deeply about our democracy, and in the aftermath of Citizens United I could see it being weakened. When Shelby County came down I realized it was being taken away. Having had the opportunity to pursue my dreams I felt a moral duty to work toward a society that works for all, and that will require expanding meaningful access to our political system. I left the band, took the LSAT, worked as a field organizer in New Hampshire on the 2014 midterm, and applied to law school. I am devoting my legal career to fighting for voting rights, ending gerrymandering, and reforming the campaign finance system.

8/21 Students of ACS

Christina Beeler, University of Houston Law Center ’18

As a first-generation college student, I’ve always struggled with imposter syndrome. On the first day of law school, I cried in the bathroom during my Torts class. I went home that evening and swore that I’d never go back; I felt like I couldn’t compete. It seemed like everyone already knew so much, and I felt like I was already behind on the first day. My husband convinced me to go back the next day. On the car drive to school every morning, I started repeating to myself, “You belong in law school.” Eventually I started to believe it. Now I am in the top 10% of my class and I only have one year of law school left. Some days I still feel like I don’t belong, but I remind myself that first-generation students commonly feel this way and that my feelings don’t have to dictate my choices.

8/14 Students of ACS

Sophia Carrillo, Stanford Law School ’18

I was inside the Supreme Court during the reading of the Obergefell opinion. As we were leaving the Supreme Court, we were directed by marshals to stay back and exit on the side. The swelling crowd outside had heard the good news and burst into celebration. It was a moment of pure joy.

My first time visiting the Supreme Court, I camped out to hear the oral argument in Arizona v. United States. I grew up on the U.S./Mexico border and the “Show Your Papers” law in Arizona seemed like a clear wrong with a record full of animus towards immigrants and Mexican Americans. Hearing the Justices consider this case made me feel like my community was being heard. Five years later, immigrant communities continue to live in fear with DACA on the chopping block, anti-immigrant rhetoric, and deportations “so fast your head will spin” becoming policy. This constant fear is so prevalent that one of my mother’s kindergarten students recently burst into tears and refused to board a bus headed to the county fair for a field trip—she associated buses with deportation.

The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times. As soon-to-be lawyers, our charge is to ensure that our country sees, and challenges the nature of injustice now. I joined ACS to ensure the law was a force to improve the lives of all. I am inspired every day by our steps forward and the work remaining to be done.