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.

Only a limited number of students receive this distinction, which carries the following benefits and responsibilities: 

  • Partial scholarship and funding for two summers of public interest work
  • Social Justice Workshop series, which explores a variety of cross-cutting themes and concerns in public interest practice and cultivates professional skills 
  • Designated faculty mentor 
  • Small stipends for attendance at public interest conferences 
  • Preferential access to social justice advocates, mentors, networking opportunities and programming 
  • Opportunity to organize and implement public interest programming 
  • At least 100 hours of pro bono work over three or four years of law school 

*SJS began as a program at both locations, but moving forward is available exclusively to students at the Camden location.

Every SJS who wanted a public interest internship for 2018 got one + funding.

27

Social Justice Scholars in Newark & Camden since the program was founded.

Thousands of pro bono hours completed by SJSs.

Faculty mentors matched with every SJS.

Meet the Scholars

Name: Lauren Bateman '20 

Hometown: Strathmere, NJ 

Undergrad: Temple University

Interest: Employment law

Lauren Bateman spent four years living and working in Santiago, Chile before enrolling in law school. Her decision to concentrate her studies on employment law stems largely from her personal experiences there, where very few women were in visible leadership positions. Lauren looks forward to helping low-wage workers this summer in her position as a Peggy Browning Fellow with Friends of Farmworkers.

Name: Kemar Brown '20 

Hometown: Hyattsville, MD

Undergrad: University of Maryland

Interest: Access for disenfranchised communities

Kemar Brown is a black Jamaican American son of immigrants and he escaped poverty to become the first member of his family to attend college. As a Social Justice Scholar at Rutgers Law School, he has dedicated his scholastic and professional career to programs that impact diversity, inclusivity, and socio-economic equity. "Students in the social justice program work diligently and tirelessly for the betterment of causes they deem important," said Kamar of his fellow SJS students.

Name: Nikia Clark '20

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Undergrad: La Salle University 

Interest: Criminal law 

"To me, public-interest means using our varying levels of privilege to be engaged listeners who are both able and willing to assist disadvantaged individuals and communities as we collectively strive for equity," said Nikia

Name: Abigail Cook '20 

Hometown: Dunbarton, NH

Undergrad: Quinnipiac University

Interest: Domestic and Sexual Violence, Reproductive Justice, Gender Discrimination

During her undergraduate years, Abigail worked with victims of gender based violence and decided to attend law school to become the best advocate that she can. She is incredibly happy with my decision and every day she is driven by compassion and a genuine belief that passionate people can make change. "Public interest is a dedication to the service of others," said Abigail. "I personally believe it is the ultimate recognition of humanity. There is nothing more powerful and courageous than compassion, and for those of us who are brave enough to follow our compassion into a public interest field, public interest is the means by which we make our visions of change reality."

Name: Jo-Anna Daly '20 

Hometown: Northfield, NJ 

Undergrad: Saint Joseph's University

Interest: Criminal law

Before coming to law school, Jo-Anna worked with victims of homelessness at Project HOME. She continues to serve marginalized communities through the various Pro Bono opportunities offered at Rutgers, including VITA and the Voter’s Rights Project. Jo-Anna looks forward to helping exonerate the wrongfully convicted this summer as an Intern at the Pennsylvania Innocence Project.

Name: Derek Demeri '20 

Hometown: Hawthorne, NJ 

Undergrad: Rutgers University

Interest: Human Rights, Sex Worker Rights, Queer Rights, Economic Justice & Communities Impacted by HIV

Before coming to law school, Derek co-founded the New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance and was actively involved in local, national and international efforts for sex worker rights. He was also a boycott organizer with UNITE HERE during the 2016 Taj Mahal strike in Atlantic City, New Jersey. As a Social Justice Scholar, he looks forward to earning his law degree to continue working for the rights of marginalized communities.

Name: Samantha DiTroia '20 

Hometown: Marmora, NJ 

Undergrad: Saint Joseph's University

Interest: Domestic Violence, Family Law

Sam DiTroia is currently a volunteer for the Rutgers Law School Domestic Violence Project, as well as a mediator for the Rutgers Law School Mediation Project. While at Saint Joseph’s, she interned for the Office of the District Attorney of Philadelphia in Victim and Witness Services for both the Homicide and Juvenile Units. She is very excited for her position with the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office this upcoming summer. In the future, Sam hopes to provide legal assistance for domestic violence survivors who would not ordinarily be able to afford a lawyer.

Name: April Gambardella '19 

Hometown: Glen Ridge, NJ 

Undergrad: Rowan University 

Interest: Family law

April Gambardella is a current Fellow for the Marshall Brennan Constitutional Literacy Program at Camden High School, a volunteer for the Rutgers Law School Domestic Violence Project, and a mediator for the Rutgers Law School Mediation Program. In the past, she has partaken in the Rutgers Expungement Screening, served as a volunteer for the Voters Rights Project, and went on Alternative Spring Break where she worked for the Georgia Innocence Project. Her 1L summer, she interned for Philadelphia VIP where she helped low-income Philadelphians receive free legal representation. She will be serving as a Director for the Rutgers Law School Domestic Violence Project her 3L year. 

Name: Joanna Gardner '19

Hometown: Haddon Heights, NJ

Undergrad: The Catholic University of America

Interest: Immigration

Prior to law school, Joanna Gardner spent a year as a volunteer at a home for children who had suffered abuse and neglect in rural Honduras and worked for two years in non-profit communications. During law school, she sharpened her focus on immigration law through internships with HIAS Pennsylvania, the Camden Center for Law and Social Justice, and Friends of Farmworkers, thanks to the support of Maida funding during the summers through the Social Justice Scholars Program. She is a Rutgers Immigrant Justice Fellow, a role in which she helps organize community outreach events and pro bono opportunities related to immigration law, and also serves on Rutgers Law Review.

Name: Mychal Giansanti '20 

Hometown: Lumberton, NJ 

Undergrad: TCNJ

Interest: Criminal justice reform

Mychal A. Giansanti is from Lumberton, NJ and holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from The College of New Jersey. He is interested in criminal justice reform and remedying systemic inequality in our justice system. "Rutgers has provided a network of talented professionals from many areas of social justice work," said Mychal. "SJS is a valuable resource of like-minded students encouraging and motivating one another to achieve personal and professional goals." 

Name: Sara Gray '19 

Hometown : Merchantville, NJ

Undergrad: La Salle University

Sara Gray is a non-traditional student that decided to go to Law School after working as a clerk for an Elder Law attorney. For her 1L summer, she interned at the Pennsylvania Innocence Project. In addition to her studies, she served as the President of the Association of Public Interest Law and was part of a collaborative ad hoc Innocence Committee including Rutgers Law, Forensic Science. “The Social Justice Program has allowed me to supplement my legal education with seminars and lectures that explore the current issues in Public Interest law," said Sara. "Further, the program offers substantive opportunities and guidance that help us reach our academic and career goals.”

Name: Sydney Groll '21 

Hometown: Chanhassen, Minnesota 

Undergrad: Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore

Interest: Juvenille Justice

Sydney Groll is currently finishing up her 1L year in the Evening, Part-Time program, while balancing her daytime career at Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence Region and various pro bono projects, including VITA, Mediation, and Domestic Violence Projects. With a background in psychology and case management, she decided to pursue law school after completing an AmeriCorps year of service with The Choice Program in Baltimore, where she supported youth involved in the juvenile justice system. During her undergrad career, she was involved in many community and service initiatives in Baltimore, especially during the Uprisings, and her passion for advocacy was what drew her to law school. 

Name: Kristen Kispert '19

Hometown: Sicklersville, NJ

Undergrad: The University of Scranton

Interest: Assisting prisoners and/or homeless veterans

Prior to entering law school, Kristen attended a Jesuit University which emphasized the jesuit value of being "men and women for others." Through her time in undergrad and as she continues into law school a focus of hers has been to live out this value. While at Rutgers, she has worked with various pro bono projects with different groups of people, from preparing tax returns for low income individuals and registering prisoners to vote; to gathering research of prison housing policies for transgender individuals.

Name: Hannah Lee '20 

Hometown: Mountain Top, PA 

Undergrad: Temple University 

Interest: Family law

Prior to attending Rutgers School of Law, Hannah Lee was a Paralegal at Laura Solomon, Esq. & Associates, a law firm that primarily serves nonprofit organizations. While at Temple, Hannah held the Office Manager position for Temple Student Government and interned at the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office where she supported assistant district attorneys and detectives in the Public Nuisance unit. Hannah is passionate about assisting families and individuals going through complicated legal matters during difficult points in their lives and helping them emerge from these struggles in a stronger position.

Name: Ashley D. Maddison '19

Hometown: Kirkwood, NJ 

Undergrad: Drexel University

Interest: Mental Health and Disability Law

Ashley worked for social service organizations in South Jersey, Washington, DC, and Waco, TX, prior to attending law school. When she discovered she wanted to pursue the legal side of her previous work, Ashley looked for a school committed to public service and found a home at Rutgers. Outside of class, Ashley serves as a member of the executive boards of APIL (Association for Public Interest Law) and WLC (Women's Law Caucus), a student co-leader of PEP (Planning Estates Pro Bono), and a member of the  Diocesan Standing Committee for the Episcopal Diocese of NJ.

Name: Ryan Malo '20

Hometown: Georgetown, MA

Education: B.A., Williams College; M.Ed., University of Virginia

Interest: Employment law

"I am honored to have been given the opportunity to be a part of the Social Justice Scholars program as it gives me the opportunity to further educate myself about the groups and persons whose voices are underrepresented. It has been a pleasure and an inspiration to be surrounded by faculty and students who are invested in bettering Rutgers Law School and the greater community. "

Name: Claire Newsome '20 

Hometown: Easthampton, NJ 

Undergrad: Mount Holyoake College

Interest: Prisoner Re-entry Reform

After creating a program aimed at reducing recidivism rates by teaching prisoners Computer Science, Claire wanted to explore more about the criminal justice system. Particularly, she is interested in exploring the ways the law impedes people convicted of crimes from obtaining one of the stated goals of the criminal justice system of rehabilitation. She'd like to spend my time at Rutgers Law working with people who aim to remedy these impediments. "The Social Justice Scholars Program has reinforced my commitment to public service during my first year," said Claire. "It has also opened the door to many opportunities to participate in public interest work on campus and provided me with a network of like-minded students. I am looking forward to serving with SJS in my remaining years!"

Name: Jake Novelli '20 

Hometown: Haddonfield, NJ 

Undergrad: University of Maryland

Interest: Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice Reform, Criminal Law

While in college, Jake interned with the ACLU’s National Prison Project and focused his undergraduate studies on criminal justice issues and Constitutional Law. This summer, Jake will be interning with the ACLU of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. "Social Justice Scholars is great because it offers countless opportunities to perform public interest work benefiting the Camden/Philadelphia community and innumerable resources to advance my own career in public service."

Name: Dan Oates '19

Hometown: Port Washington, NY

Undergrad: James Madison University

Interest: Homelessness policy

Dan has pursued opportunities throughout the United States that inform his understanding of homelessness. Law school complements and extends his prior practice. "To me, public interest means serving the needs of society’s forgotten, impoverished, or disenfranchised," said Dan. "Rutgers prepares me for a career in public service by expanding how I navigate unfamiliar issues. In my prior practice, I felt my way through complex problems, whereas now, I balance my head and my heart. This obvious, seemingly small shift forces me to empathize with my counter-parties. As a result, I can now craft more compelling, sustainable arguments."

Name: Kathryn Robinson '19 

Hometown: Tacoma, WA 

Undergrad: State University of New York at Purchase College

Interest: Civil Rights, Immigration, Labor Law, Administrative Law

Prior to law school, Kathryn Robinson worked both internationally and domestically with various nonprofit social services organizations assisting victims of domestic violence, immigrant families, and low-income communities. This summer, she will be working in Washington, D.C.  with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Her goal is to use the law to open up access to opportunities, break down social barriers, and empower individuals. She envisions her legal career being one that engages, educates, and mobilizes communities to achieve real social justice. 

Name: Christy Schnyer '19

Hometown: Collingswood, NJ

Undergrad: Rutgers-Camden

Interest: Disability Law

Christy Schnyer became interested in law school, particularly disability law, after her daughter was diagnosed with Autism and she had to go through the application and service-providing processes for Early Intervention, Medicaid, Special Education eligibility, and NJ's children's behavioral health system. "Trying to understand even one of these systems so that my daughter could receive services appropriate for her developmental and behavioral health needs was overwhelming and endlessly confusing to me," Christy said. She wants to help address these complexities and clarify the rights parents and individuals have on the individual level and at the policy/implementation level.

Internships

SJSs have spent their summers as funded public interest and government interns at a wide variety of organizations, including:

  • ACLU
  • Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office
  • Camden County Prosecutor’s Office
  • Community Health Law Project
  • Community Legal Services
  • Disability Rights NJ & PA
  • Fair & Equitable Housing Office, NY
  • Friends of Farmworkers 
  • Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)
  • Legal Clinic for the Disabled
  • NJ Public Defender's Office
  • Pennsylvania Innocence Project
  • Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office
  • Philly VIP
  • United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
  • United States Attorney’s Office

Faculty Mentors

Meet the current mentors of Camden-based Social Justice Scholars:

*Also takes the lead in managing the mentor match process.