October 5, 2020

The Social Justice Scholars (SJS) Program is an elite scholarship program for students at our Camden location with a commitment to public service and social justice.

Rutgers Law School is committed to promoting public interest law through a variety of programs and opportunities for our students.  Each year, Rutgers Law recognizes a small cohort of incoming students at the Camden location as Social Justice Scholars.  These students demonstrate an exceptional commitment to public service and are most likely to dedicate their legal careers to working on social justice causes and on behalf of underserved communities. Only a limited number of students receive this distinction, which carries  several benefits, including a small scholarship, funding for summer public interest work, faculty mentors, focused career development and cultivation activities, and a weekly workshop where Scholars can explore and gain perspective on legal responses to, inter alia, structural inequality and institutionalized racism. The program also offers skill-based programming such as grant-seeking and writing, communications, and managing secondary trauma. Scholars have a pro bono requirement and have generated several projects, including a Camden know-your-rights summit and education campaigns for tenants and small businesses during Covid.  Analogous fellowship programs at the Newark location also identify and cultivate students with interests in specific areas of social justice, such as immigration, civil liberties, and others.

 

Mike Bauder RLAW '23

Mike was drafted in to public interest and social justice work before he could even ride a bike. His parents instilled in him the importance of service before self and taught him that each human being was born with value. It was the principle of love for others (and conscription by his parents) that drove Mike to serve and volunteer in many capacities in his small hometown of Hazleton, PA. In 2002, Mike enlisted in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard and deployed to Iraq in 2004. War was hard but coming home was harder. Serving other people proved to be some of the best therapy for Mike because it helped shift his thinking from himself to others. Serving others has taken him to places like Jamaica, England and India. Mike has a background in federal acquisition which provided the opportunity to live and work in the Kingdom of Bahrain for a few years. Those years gave him the chance to live among many different cultures. Service for others has always been the legacy that he was born in to but is now the legacy that he is continuing to build upon.

Sheree Brewer RLAW '23

Sheree Brewer’s determination to pursue family law, public health, and social justice is derived from her own encounters with our legal system.  She is motivated to influence the decisions that are made regarding restraining orders, passionate about creating a healthy relationships curriculum for the youth, and adamant about diminishing the disparities that perpetuate social ills.  Each career choice was a deliberate decision to bridge a gap in our society providing lower-income families with higher quality education and housing.  Her trajectory started at Charity Community Church where she learned how to better serve the community: “we are charged to give the best we have as often as possible.”  Prior to attending law school, she managed the operations of a parochial school where they teach children how to communicate, earned a degree in psychology from Rowan University to better understand the people she serves and managed a property for 13 years, where she learned the importance of building a community.  

Erinmarie Byrnes RLAW '23

 Erinmarie Byrnes is a 1L from Glenside, Pennsylvania. She attended the University of Rochester where she majored in Political Science and English, and minored in Legal Studies. Throughout her time in undergrad, Erinmarie held multiple leadership positions in student government and other organizations. She also held a research position, and a work study job that connected college students with elementary students in the Rochester City School District. After undergrad, she joined Teach for America as a corps member in Nashville. Erinmarie taught 2nd and 6th grade English Language Learners from all over the world. As a teacher, Erinmarie witnessed the injustices her students and school community faced on a daily basis, such as housing, food, and job security, de facto school segregation, and immigration issues. During her time as a teacher, Erinmarie became interested in restorative classroom practices, which she now applies in thinking about the criminal justice system. Erinmarie hopes to be able to use her law degree to further restorative and reparative justice. 

Nkora Carr RLAW '23

 In short, Nkora Carr’s main drive is to keep young people who look like her out of prison. She wishes to pursue a career in Juvenile Criminal Defense. As a sociology major, she researched the school to prison pipeline and (so-called) deviant behavior. She learned that black children are being pushed in to the prison system at alarmingly young ages, for behaviors that white children would get detention for or speak to a counselor. Exposing children to the prison system makes it harder for them to properly socialize. Most children who behave badly have an undiagnosed mental illness or issues at home, such as neglect or abuse. These are children who need our help, they do not need to be displaced and outcasted. This is why Nkora is also interested in Child Advocacy and wants to pursue a Masters in Social Work.

 

Rebecca Lewis RLAW '23

Prior to attending Rutgers Law School, Rebecca attended Rutgers University-Camden where she dedicated herself to the city of Camden as a Civic Scholar with the Rutgers University Office of Civic Engagement. It is through her experience learning about community development and working with Camden based nonprofits that she realized her passionate pursuit of equality for all could become her life’s work. Rebecca completed internships with The Alice Paul Institute, where she focused on the Equal Rights Amendment Campaign as well as the Voter Rights Initiative, and The Pennsylvania Innocence Project where she assisted with research on potential innocence cases. During these internships she learned of the importance of and working for the rights of others and  public interest law. 

Emma Martin RLAW '23

“Be the change you want to see in the world” is the quote that drove Emma to attend law school. Emma studied social work at Adelphi University, where her passion for helping others in a macro-level setting was realized. Prior to law school, Emma worked as an intern in a few different capacities, specifically surrounding food justice. She worked on a campaign advocating for farmworker’s rights on the Eastern End of Long Island, helping to create a farmer’s market campaign to spread information about the injustices farmworkers bear. Emma has also worked for a food bank, helping clients apply for SNAP and during the summer months, managing sites that distribute free food for children via a NYS federal grant. These internships allowed her to see different versions of advocacy and solidify her passion for social justice work. Emma wrote her undergrad Honors College thesis about the factors that impact LGBTQ+ college students in self-disclosing their identities on campus, where her passion for LGBTQ+ advocacy was foregrounded. She hopes to focus on LGBTQ+ and gender discrimination law, combining her social work skills with law skills to bring about positive change.  

Grace Purgason RLAW '23

In light of working in the non-profit sector since she was 17, Grace found her passion for working with disadvantaged groups. Even though she entered undergrad pre-med, she soon changed her career track when a large immigration raid ravaged her hometown. Ever since then, she has immersed herself in the legal field by volunteering at Legal Aid of East Tennessee for the last eighteen months and working at countless pro bono clinics such as immigration, veterans, expungement, and domestic violence. Even though her heart is in immigration, Grace dives into all pro bono opportunities that are offered to her. She recently graduated from the University of Tennessee Knoxville in three years with Neuroscience and Psychology degrees.

Gladys Rosario RLAW '23

Gladys Rosario was born in a Texas border town and moved to San Diego, California when she was 13-years-old. She grew up in a working class Mexican and Puerto Rican household and was a first-generation college student when she graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 2016. She majored in Political Economy and concentrated her studies in socioeconomic inequality in the United States. She is now the first in her family to attend law school.

Prior to law school, she worked as a legal assistant and paralegal for 4 years in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her most valued working experience was in the racial justice department at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights. She assisted attorneys with client interviews, case filings, advocacy report research, and program administration. While working at the Lawyers' Committee, she completed the Latina Coalition of Silicon Valley’s Engaged Latina Leadership Activist (ELLA) program in 2019. She is interested in using her law degree to assist low-income individuals and communities disproportionately impacted by the justice system.

Zahirah Sabir RLAW '23

Zahirah is currently a 1L student in the evening program, while balancing a career with Rowan College at Burlington County, overseeing the grants office and workforce development outreach. Raised in a family that always emphasized the importance of helping others and being an advocate. Zahirah is a member of the Board of Directors for CONTACT of Burlington County which is a suicide and sexual assault prevention non-profit organization. In addition to her work with CONTACT, Zahirah volunteers with the Burlington Vicinage’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and the Burlington County Women’s Council, which dedicates time to tackling gender equity issues.

Zahirah formerly worked as a Legislative Aide for Assemblyman Whip Wilson of the 5th Legislative District where she was tasked with serving as a direct liaison for the Assemblyman to the Governor’s Office, Executive Branch Departments and Agencies, NJ Senate, Federal Representatives, County and Municipal officials as well as managing constituent cases. While advocating for constituents, she realized her passion for education and housing equity issues as well as linking community members to necessary resources. This passion for advocacy is also what lead Zahirah to law school and the SJS program.

Sam Shopp RLAW '23

A New Jersey native and graduate of Rutgers New Brunswick, Sam Shopp is a dedicated public servant in the fields of child advocacy and education. He has interned for Senator Cory Booker and the Children's Defense Fund, and was a high school substitute teacher in South Jersey prior to entering law school. The intersections of race, class, and gender that exist within children's issues have informed Sam's commitment to continue fighting for children throughout his career as both a political advocate and a legal representative.

Rutgers Law Media Contacts:
Mike Sepanic (Camden); Elizabeth Moore (Newark)

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