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 the following benefits and responsibilities. 

Social Justice Scholar Benefits 

  • Scholarship—Our Social Justice Scholars receive a small scholarship for the first year of law school, which renews assuming members maintain the require GPA and meet program requirements. The SJS scholarship may be combined with a Rutgers Law School Scholarship, but in no case may the combined value of the Rutgers Law School Scholarship and SJS scholarship exceed the total cost of tuition (instead, an adjustment will be made to cap the combined total).
  • Workshop Series—Scholars participate in a weekly non-credit workshop series designed to stimulate critical thinking about systemic injustices, various approaches to advocacy, and the development of a professional identity as a public interest lawyer.
  •  Summer Funding—Scholars who secure employment with a public interest organization for the summer, and who are not awarded funding from another source, presumptively receive summer stipends during their post-1L and post-2L summers.
  • Mentoring—Scholars are assigned faculty mentors and also work closely with the Associate Dean for Pro Bono and Public Interest.
  • Networking—Scholars participate in events with faculty members and practitioners who have dedicated their careers to public interest law.
  • Career Counseling—Even as first-year students, Scholars work with a member of the Center for Career Development to develop a strategic plan regarding the pursuit of their career goals.
  • Pro Bono and Leadership – Scholars are invited to develop programming and to participate in an array of pro bono opportunities in the law school and at external placements, some of which are organized by the SJS Pro Bono Committee and are offered first to members of SJS.
  • Professional Development Stipend—Each year, Social Justice Scholars are eligible for a small stipend to support membership in professional societies, travel to conferences and public interest job fairs, etc.

Social Justice Scholar Responsibilities

  • Sign a pledge to participate in public interest programs generally and SJS projects specifically, and complete pro bono work totaling 100 hours over the course of law school (with annual milestones).
  • Assist with planning and participate in required program activities and events unless the Associate Dean for Pro Bono and Public Interest explicitly grants a waiver.
  • Represent the law school and the SJS Program with integrity and in accordance with professional standards.
  • Remain in good academic standing with the minimum cumulative GPA of 2.710 at the end of each academic year to be eligible for a scholarship renewal in the following year.

SJS alumni have earned Skadden, Equal Justice Works, and more!

54

Social Justice Scholars since the program was founded.

Thousands of pro bono hours completed by SJSs.

Faculty mentors matched with every SJS.

Meet the Scholars
  • Current Scholars
  • Alumni Scholars

Name:
Mike Bauder '24
Hometown: Hazleton, PA
Undergrad: Misericordia University, PA
Interest: International Human Rights, Veterans Law, Anti-Poverty Advocacy

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. 

 

Name:
Sheree Brewer '23
Hometown: Omaha, NE
Undergrad: Rowan Univeristy
Interest: Family Law, Public Health, Public Interest

Shéree 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 concerning 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.”  Preceding law school, she managed the operations of a parochial school where they teach children how to communicate offering a private school education to underprivileged families.  In 2018, she earned a degree in Psychology from Rowan University to better understand the people she serves.  For over 13 years she managed a mixed low-income housing tax credit property, where she learned the importance of building a community.  While renovating the environment into a more beautiful dwelling, she brought the residents out of their homes with events giving them bonding opportunities with their neighbors, first responders, and management converting a once dangerous area into a community of quality.  

 

Name:
Erinmarie Byrnes '23
Hometown: Glenside, PA
Undergrad: University of Rochester
Interest:

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. 

Name:
Nkora Carr '23
Hometown: Long Island, NY
Undergrad: Pennsylvania State University
Interest: Juvenile Criminal Defense

As a sociology major, Nkora 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. 

Name:
Alecsandria Cook '21 
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV  
Undergrad: University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Interest: Immigration and Criminal Law

As a Las Vegas native, Alecsandria Cook grew up with a unique exposure to social justice issues, which instilled in her a desire to become an agent of positive change. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English & Literature, as well as a minor in Gender and Sexuality Studies from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. After college, she was selected for an Urban Education Fellowship with AmeriCorps where she assisted in closing the achievement gap within low-income, racially diverse elementary school students in the greater Boston area. Following that experience, she pursued immigration law and worked at an immigration firm drafting petitions under attorney supervision for clients attaining various employment visas. 

Name: Juliana Davis '21 
Hometown: Sicklerville, NJ
Undergrad: Rowan University
Interest: Criminal Law and Reform, Assisting Homeless Veterans, and Suicide Prevention

Juliana has been serving in the United States Army Reserve as a battalion-level Religious Affairs Specialist since 2013, specializing in suicide prevention and crisis intervention. Her dedication to Social Justice and Public Interest stems from assisting those in her community as well as a community close to her heart, homeless veterans.

Name: Samuel Gilbert'22 
Hometown: Becker, MN
Undergrad: St. Cloud State University
Interest: LGBTQ Rights, Sex Worker Rights, Anti-Discrimination, and Economic Justice

Prior to attending Rutgers Law School, Samuel received his master’s degree from Columbia University. While in his second year of graduate school, he helped develop the first LGBTQ drop-in center in Washington Heights (New York, New York). The drop-in center continues to serve LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness and housing instability by providing both acute and long-term services. As a social justice scholar, he hopes to continue to amplify the many intersectional issues that the LGBTQ community still faces including homelessness, domestic violence, employment discrimination, and sex worker rights.

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: Lauren M. Harris '22 
Hometown: Columbus, Ohio
Undergrad: The Ohio State University
Graduate: American University’s Graduate School of Public Affairs

Throughout her career in business management and finance, Lauren recognized the full circle of injustice impacting her community and after a six-year stint, she decided to join the fight for equity. As an educator through Teach for America, she taught incredibly brilliant and hilarious fifth graders in a Title 1 charter school on the west side of Dayton, Ohio. Lauren has worked closely with parents to advocate for just school-based policies, coached junior high girls’ volleyball, and researched issues impacting early learners at the Ohio Department of Education. She continued to work on program development for educators and policy issues impacting kids through Dayton based Preschool Promise and leadership development organization Leadership for Educational Equity. Lauren continued to develop her public policy acumen as a Legislative Fellow on Capitol Hill, managing the education, health, and financial services policy agenda for a Congressman from her home state. The Columbus, Ohio native is a proud graduate from The Ohio State University and American University’s Graduate School of Public Affairs. As a Rutgers Law student and Social Justice Scholar, Lauren hopes to leverage her unique personal and professional experiences to enrich her legal education and inform the work she plans to do afterwards.

Name: Tue Ho '22 
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
Undergrad: Temple University
Graduate: University of Pennsylvania
Interest: Housing justice and criminal reform

Tue Ho is a first-generation immigrant from Saigon, Vietnam. Growing up around economic poverty in South Philadelphia, Tue was extremely privileged when his father became a janitor at a private school. With this, Tue was able to perceive the achievement gap at an early age when he compared his neighbors’ public education opportunities to his own private education opportunities. This led him to a career in public education, and he spent four years as a special education teacher in Kensington. In education, Tue began to explore the interconnected systems of oppression that impact students, particularly housing justice and criminal reform. He has worked with teachers across Philadelphia to create a curriculum centered on housing rights and gentrification. He’s also worked for various domestic violence prevention and victim support organizations as volunteer and facilitator. He is currently a research intern for the fair housing center in Philadelphia and teaches karate in south Philadelphia. As a Social Justice Scholar, he is excited to ground his legal studies in continued advocacy for marginalized and oppressed communities."

Name: Morgan Humphrey '21
Hometown: Trenton, NJ 
Undergrad: The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
Interest: Drug policy reform, criminal justice reform, prisoner’s rights, police accountability

Prior to attending Rutgers School of Law, Morgan Humphrey was a Policy Coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) in Los Angeles, a non-profit organization focused on ending the war on drugs through policy change. While at DPA, Morgan worked on the successful 2016 Proposition 64: Adult Use of Marijuana legalization campaign. Before moving to California, Morgan worked as a paralegal at the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office and a clerk at the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office. Morgan is passionate about criminal justice reform, prisoner’s rights and police accountability.

   

Name:
Rebecca Lewis '23
Hometown: Gibbsboro, NJ
Undergrad: Rutgers University
Interest: Human Rights/Prisoners Rights, Domestic Violence, and Criminal Defense

Through her experience learning about community development and working with Camden-based nonprofits, Rebecca realized her passionate pursuit of equality for all could become her life’s work. She 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. 

Name: Arlette Leyba '22 
Hometown: Camden, NJ 
Undergrad: Rutgers University–New Brunswick 
Interest: Civil rights, Immigration, Domestic violence

Growing up in Camden, as the daughter of immigrants, and being a first-generation college student has sparked her interest in social justice reform. Prior to law school Arlette Leyba was involved with a youth development program in Camden called Camden Adolescents Striving for Achievement (C.A.S.A.). For the past two years, she has been working at the Camden Center for Law and Social Justice, a nonprofit law firm, helping the immigrant community as well as helping victims of domestic violence.  "The reason I am so passionate about becoming an advocate for others is that I have seen the need from members in my family and community. I am eager to learn from my peers and others within the Social Justice Program, ways in which I can help and hopefully make a difference."

Name: Constance Hope Long'22 
Hometown: Waynesboro, PA 
Undergrad: Temple University
Interest: Immigration law and domestic violence

Hope’s number one interest is in Immigration Law, specifically in deportation defense and impact litigation. Before applying for law school Hope worked as litigation paralegal in an Immigration Law firm for over two years, where her primary focus was in Asylum and Cancellation of Removal cases, Special Immigrant Juvenile Cases, and family petitions. While working on those cases she was able to experience the difference that quality legal representation makes in this field, which in many cases is a matter of life and death. To give people the service they need requires a compassion and deep commitment to seeing them through a situation that might be the most terrifying and stressful moment in their lives. she believe there is no better way to get the full value of what the legal profession has to offer than to fight for those who need it most.

Name:
Emma Martin '23
Hometown: Port Jefferson, NY
Undergrad: Adelphi University
Interest: LGBTQ+ and Gender Discrimination Law

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. 

Name: Stephanie Mignogna '22 
Hometown: Voorhees, NJ 
Undergrad: Saint Joseph's University

Stephanie Mignogna is excited to continue her varied work in social justice as a Social Justice Scholar.  Whether rebuilding houses in New Orleans, working in impoverished regions of Appalachia, or assisting women exiting prostitution in South Africa, she is eager to learn about why the world is the way that it is and how the dynamics of class, background, gender, and race intersect to perpetuate inequality.  Her goal is to use her privilege to empower and uplift others while being a voice for change.

Name: Natima Neily '21
Hometown: Santa Cruz, California
Undergrad: Arizona State University
Interest: International Rights and Immigration Law

Natima Neily grew up in California, born in the latter half of the decade that introduced the Americans with Disabilities Act by two parents with disabilities – one, a first generation immigrant from Canada; the other a recent immigrant from México. Natima grew up witnessing diverse communities come together and advocate for themselves to make change happen. This influenced her to pursue a higher education, and now a career in the legal field, first as a legal assistant with the only free legal service provider in the state of Arizona, and now as a law student. Natima has always been passionate about addressing institutional inequalities and empowering others, and hopes that her career as an attorney will provide her with opportunities to do both.

Name: Mũmbi Wanjikũ Ngũgĩ'22 
Hometown: Irvine, CA 
Undergrad: Wilkes Honors College, Florida Atlantic University (FAU)
Interest:  Progressive prosecution, public interest law, critical race theory, feminism, philosophy

Mũmbi Wanjikũ Ngũgĩ is a Kenyan-American born in North Jersey. Ngũgĩ grew up in Southern California and went to university at the Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University where she studied Law and Society, Spanish and Women's Studies. Ngũgĩ's liberal arts studies taught her to look at the issues of the world from a critical feminist lens. As a social justice scholar, Ngũgĩ looks forward to engaging public interest law through pro-bono service, explore the privilege of being able to study law in Camden, and focus on issues of juvenile justice from a critical race perspective.

Name: Abioye Oyeyemi '22
Hometown: Minneapolis, MN
Undergrad: Temple University
Interest: Immigration law, Corporate law, International law, Education law, Family law

Abioye Oyeyemi is a full-time teacher during the days in Philadelphia and is pursuing his JD in the evening as a part-time student. Abioye is a first-generation immigrant born in Lagos, Nigeria, raised by a single father of three children, who despite numerous hardship and challenges, found success in America. He cites his father and late mother as his inspiration in life, and his drive in guiding others in obtaining opportunities that will bring them success in life.

Growing up in Nigeria, Abioye and his siblings had family or community members who showed him the importance of service.

Abioye spent three years volunteering and teaching English and life skills to fellow immigrants in Philadelphia. “Some of [them] were old enough to be my mother…it made me feel good knowing that I could help them…and they were extremely grateful…It reminded me so much of those that looked out for me in my childhood and throughout my life. They didn’t know it, but they were helping me more than I was probably helping them.”

His life experiences and current work with adolescents in Philadelphia are what drive Abioye to live up to the ideals of a Social Justice Scholar. He wants to be able to assist those that are less fortunate or in adverse circumstances in being able to experience many opportunities that might not be readily available to them. Ultimately, he wants them to find success in their lives, just as others have helped him find success in his.

Name: Kayvon Paul ‘22
Hometown: Long Branch, NJ 
Undergrad: Monmouth University
Interest: Advocacy for those affected by domestic violence, mental health issues, and poverty 

Prior to Rutgers Law,  Kayvon worked on local, state, and federal political campaigns including a campaign that led to the election of New Jersey’s first Indian-American State Senator. After these campaigns, Kayvon worked at Garden State Equality, which is New Jersey’s largest LGBT interest group that represents over 150,000 members. Currently, Kayvon works at MBI, one of New Jersey’s largest public affairs and government relations firms based in the State’s capitol. While at Monmouth University, Kayvon served as co-chair and founding member for both the Asbury Park Young Democrats and Monmouth University Democrats.

Name:
Grace Purgason '23
Hometown: Morristown, TN
Undergrad: University of Tennessee Knoxville
Interest: Immigration, Housing, and Prison Reform

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. 

Name: Jenise Rivera '21
Hometown: Camden, NJ 
Undergrad: Rutgers–Camden
Interest: Employment law

Jenise Rivera is a recent graduate of Rutgers–Camden, where she studied psychology and urban studies and interned at the Fifth Legislative District of New Jersey. During this time, she was able to work hands-on in the community to address their needs. Being from Camden, it seemed natural to her to become interested in public interest work. "Growing up in the city exposes you to many different challenges that people, communities, and the city as a whole face, and it is extremely hard not feel passionate about wanting to be a part of a positive change," she said. "Social Justice means more to me than what I can do individually, it means doing right by my loved ones, friends, and the community that raised me. Although I am unsure what field I want to go into, I can be sure that I will work my hardest to create that positive change."

Name:
Gladys Rosario '23
Hometown: Brownsville, TX
Undergrad: University of California, Berkeley
Interest: Civil Rights Law, Criminal Law, and Employment Law

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.

Name:
Zahirah Sabir '23
Hometown: 
Undergrad: Rowan College
Interest: 

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.

Name: Catherine "Casey" Schu '22 
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA 
Undergrad: La Salle University
Interest:  Immigration Law, Suicide Prevention, LGBTQ+ and Gender Discrimination

Casey studied Spanish and International Relations in college, which educated her on the myriad issues experienced by people worldwide. This led to an interest in immigration and understanding the importance of people's freedom of movement. As a senior in college, she interned at HIAS PA, an immigration nonprofit. She then worked there for a year postgrad as a social worker/legal assistant working with asylees and Cuban parolees. She continued her work as a social worker at other agencies, working with parents to cultivate healthy parenting skills and navigating foster families through the adoption process. Casey hopes to pair her social work skills with a legal education to cultivate personal connections with her clients as they work through their legal issues together.

Name:
Sam Shopp '23
Hometown: Haddon Heights, NJ
Undergrad: Rutgers University
Interest: Child Advocacy, Civil Rights Law, and Labor Law

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.

Name: Mario Valdivia '21
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA 
Undergrad: University of California, Santa Cruz
Interest: Labor and Employment Law

Before coming to law school, Mario interned at California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA), a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping low-income individuals and communities in matters involving labor law violations. As an intern for CRLA, Mario realized that law and access to legal resources, like lawyers, was limited to people who have socioeconomic capital, leaving other marginalized populations at a severe disadvantage. These experiences, paired with his upbringing, solidified his desire to become a powerful advocate on behalf of the needy and underserved communities. As a Social Justice Scholar, he intends to address social inequalities, empower disenfranchised communities, and assist indigent individuals when they encounter legal obstacles.

Name: Destiney Nadio Wilson '21 
Hometown: Pleasantville, NJ  
Undergrad: Montclair State University
Interest: Children's Rights

During her undergraduate program, Destiney Wilson studied Child Advocacy & Policy where she learned about the world of child welfare and systems set in place for the protection of children. She hopes to use her legal education to advocate for Children’s rights on a legislative level. During her 1L summer, she interned with the Office of the Law Guardian. There she gained knowledge of how Law Guardians advocate in court for children every day. Law Guardians gives children a voice in court by advocating for their express wishes. The court takes this into consideration when making a determination of whether a child is reunited with their parents or if they will be placed into foster care. She plans to go back during her 2L summer, where she hopes to work on cases of her own, representing children in court.

Name: Viktoria Zerda '22
Hometown: San Antonio, TX 
Undergrad: University of Texas at San Antonio
Interest: Immigration

Viktoria Zerda is a Chicana from San Antonio, Texas. After moving to Philadelphia Viktoria worked at an environmental advocacy group before starting law school. Before moving, she received her B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Texas at San Antonio. She also worked on the border since 2014 with Central American unaccompanied minors and organized around issues of migrant justice and the corruption of border agencies. She came into law school to concentrate on immigration law with a passion for asylum rights. She is interested in continuing her organizing work and becoming a movement lawyer.

 

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: 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: 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: 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." 

Sara Gray '19

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: 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. "

Claire Newsome '20

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!"

Jake Novelli '20 

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
  • FDIC
  • Federal Defender
  • Friends of Farmworkers 
  • Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)
  • Legal Clinic for the Disabled
  • Los Angeles County Public Defender
  • Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office
  • Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office
  • Neighborhood Defender’s of Harlem
  • NJ Office of the Law Guardian – Ewing and Hudson Counties
  • NJ Public Defender's Office
  • NY Office of Attorney General
  • Pennsylvania Innocence Project
  • Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office
  • Philly VIP
  • Schall & Barasch
  • United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
  • United States Attorney’s Office
  • Wage Justice Center