Name: Mike Bauder '24
Hometown: Hazleton, PA
Undergrad: Misericordia University, PA
Interests: 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
Interests: 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
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
Interests: 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: Jenna Centofanti '25
Hometown: Middleton, Massachusetts
Undergrad: Mount Holyoke College
Interest: Housing Justice and Reform, Economic Justice, and Civil Rights
Jenna Centofanti has spent the time between graduating college and beginning law school working for different undomiciled populations in New York State. She has worked with victims of domestic violence fleeing alleged abusers, those struggling with substance abuse disorders, former veterans, and others afflicted with housing insecurities. Jenna has assisted her former clients in receiving subsidized housing, vouchers, welfare, and various medical services. It was her work during the pandemic that made Jenna want to focus on the law surrounding housing rights and to become a better advocate. Jenna is interested in learning more about eviction prevention during her time at Rutgers law and other ways to assist those affected by the housing crisis that arose from the Covid-19 Pandemic. Jenna hopes with her passion and a legal education, she can better serve her community at large.
Name: Loris Dennis
Undergraduate: Denison University
Graduate: Boston University
Interests: Public Interest, Education Law
Loris Dennis is a 1L from Michigan. She attended Denison University as a Psychology major. Throughout her studies at Denison, she took on various leadership roles and completed independent research focusing on the intersection between literacy development and disadvantaged communities. After undergrad, Loris joined Teach for America in Boston, Massachusetts where she received her Masters in Education, taught 10th-grade Biology and worked for the organization outside of teaching. While working as a teacher, she noticed the racial and economic struggles her students and families were experiencing and wanted to do everything she could to support them. She knew law school was an important step to advocating and serving them. She is particularly interested in the education, the legal system, and housing injustices that face communities of color and disadvantaged populations. Loris hopes to use her law degree to advocate and serve communities like her students to ensure they are receiving justice. Loris strives for equity ensuring these communities are getting the legal justice they need and deserve.
Name: Meghan DeVol
Hometown: Columbus, OH
Undergrad: The Ohio State University
Interests: Racial Justice, Civil Rights, Voting Rights, and Criminal Justice Reform
Meghan’s passion for justice was ignited by her experience as a student in Columbus City Schools. Her experiences in CCS and her love of history led her to declare a double major in History and African American and African Studies in college. As Meghan became more socially and politically conscious and as her knowledge of historical injustice continued to grow, so did her desire to put the knowledge she acquired into action. The intersection of law, history, and social justice, and the desire to serve others is what led Meghan to law school. Meghan is most interested in racial justice and its deep connections to all other social issues, especially mass incarceration, and voter suppression. She hopes to continue to learn and work to empower marginalized communities towards justice in her time as a Social Justice Scholar and as an attorney.
Name: Jibri Douglas, MPH
Hometown: Newark, NJ
Undergrad: University of Georgia
Interests: Racial Justice, Civil Rights, Real Estate, Public Health, Entrepreneurship, Movement Lawyering, Civil Litigation
Jibri Douglas hails from Newark, NJ, and is currently a 1LE in the part-time program. In 2010, Jibri graduated from the University of Georgia with a bachelor's degree in Health Promotion and Behavior. Since graduating from UGA, Jibri has worked tirelessly in the HIV/AIDS field in many capacities primarily with LGBT homeless youth, substance users and formerly incarcerated women of color. In 2017, Jibri graduated with their Master of Public Health degree from Drexel University concentrating in Health Management and Policy. Today, Jibri is the Program Manager of Family Planning for a local Philadelphia non-profit as well as a professor at Montclair State University. Additionally, Jibri identifies as a social entrepreneur who over the years has slowly married their background in public health to entrepreneurship. Jibri started their journey in 2008 by publishing their first poetry book "Old Vs. New: The Chronicles of Growth" selling over 300 copies in undergrad. In 2015, after successfully launching the first hospital-wide LGBTQ healthcare initiative in Hudson County, NJ, Jibri founded TJD Medical Consulting, a small diversity and inclusion boutique consulting firm with a focus on healthcare organizations. In 2019, Jibri transitioned into real estate development. After years of working in public health and seeing the impacts of housing blight on communities, Jibri created Noire Real Estate, LLC. As a Social Justice Scholar and subsequently as a practicing attorney, Jibri plans to combine their experience and passion for public health, real estate, and entrepreneurism to work alongside communities to revitalize residential and commercial properties, close the generational wealth gap, and fight against codified disenfranchisement in our legal system for Black and Brown communities. Jibri's ultimate goal is one day become a judge at either the appellate or state Supreme Court.
Name: Jacob Honesty '25
Hometown: Wayne, PA
Undergraduate: University of Maryland College Park, MD
Interests: Education Reform, Legislative Reform, and Housing Rights
Jacob grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Since he was a child, Jacob’s family has always emphasized the importance of being aware of the inequalities present in American society. This emphasis is what drove him to pursue a Bachelors Degree in Public Policy at the University of Maryland. Throughout his undergraduate and professional careers, Jacob has experienced firsthand the value of both education and housing reform. During his time at the University of Maryland, one of Jacob’s professors strongly accentuated the utility of a legal education in policy work. Jacob has interned at the Chester County District Attorney’s Office in West Chester, Pennsylvania. The courtroom experiences at this internship were the deciding factor in Jacob’s attending law school. Post-undergrad, Jacob worked at a personal injury firm in Blue Bell, PA, where he learned how to work clients from diverse backgrounds. Jacob hopes to use his law degree to influence positive changes in educational and housing policy and to promote equity in underserved communities.
Name: Deidra Hopkins '26
Hometown: Perkasie, PA
Undergrad: Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Interests: Judicial Reform and Civil Rights Advocacy
Deidra Hopkins, part time JD student, was raised in a home that was deeply rooted in the idea that service should always be freely given and enthusiastically embraced. Ingrained in her family culture was the understanding that when you have what you need and others are wanting, it is your duty to do all that is necessary to fill those gaps to the greatest extent that you are capable. This commitment to identifying needs and fulfilling them whenever possible led to a life of rich experiences surrounded by beautiful people who have expanded her worldview in innumerable ways.
Deidra has spent more than seven years working in various aspects of the judicial system. In her current capacity, she works in judicial management where she helps manage all of the District Courts in her Judicial District. Her time in the judicial system helped her see that, when properly executed, there is real capacity for healing through restorative justice. Unfortunately, she also recognized that those instances were more rare than common. She witnessed overly prioritized bureaucracy, racial bias, socioeconomic disparity and political motivations come into play far too often with far too devastating an effect.
Her life has been touched by immigration laws, disability laws, healthcare laws, employment laws, juvenile justice and civil rights laws, all of which put vulnerable people in situations that they are not always equipped to navigate with the expectation that they do so with precision and expertise in order to avoid life altering consequences.
Name: Venia Imel ‘24
Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland
Undergrad: University of Maryland
Interests: International Law, Human Rights, Criminal Justice Reform
Venia is a person of hope who highly prioritizes equity, fairness, justice, and kindness. After growing up in an environment that was closely entangled with drugs, alcohol, incarceration, violence, and poverty, Venia sought to help enact reform on the systems that perpetrated the harm she saw in her everyday life. While earning her B.A. in criminal justice from the University of Maryland in 2021, Venia worked closely with the NAACP on her campus and in the local Prince George’s County where she also participated in many student organizations and projects that focused on uplifting Students of Color and mutual aid within the community. Her passions so far focus on criminal justice reform and international human rights.
Name: Talia Irvine '26
Hometown: Kissimmee, FL
Undergraduate: Temple University
Interests: Indigent Criminal Defense
Talia Irvine is enrolled in the part-time program. Talia’s interest in justice began at the age of twelve when her family became a foster home for children in Florida. She observed issues of addiction, domestic violence, and the intricate and complex issues that accompany such circumstances. She also got a look into the criminal justice system, and how it treated those who need assistance. Talia was passionate about being part of the change and moved to Philadelphia for her undergraduate education at Temple University. As a Criminal Justice major, Talia was able to intern with the public defender’s office in Philadelphia. This internship cemented her passion for indigent criminal defense and continued to open her eyes to how the criminal justice system functioned as a whole. After graduation, Talia began working full time at the Defender Association of Philadelphia, where she still works today. She continues her passion outside of her work through volunteer opportunities, specifically with the New Leash on Life – USA re-entry program. Talia has, and plans to continue, to dedicate her professional life to equality, fairness, and advocacy for those who do not have the resources to fight for themselves.
Name: Jeremy Koepf
Hometown: Caro, MI
Undergrad: B.S. in Clinical Laboratory Science from Grand Valley State University
Grad: M.A. in Higher Education, Administration from Boston College
Interests: My interests include: science, medical technology, healthcare, and education.
Both a scientist and an educator, Jeremy has spent his career working to support and elevate the communities around him. Jeremy received his B.S. in Clinical Laboratory Science at GVSU and worked for a decade in community outreach hospitals performing diagnostic testing including hematology, chemistry, coagulation, immunohematology. In this work, Jeremy was able to support medical care for vulnerable and underserved populations, like advocating for more inclusive testing for trans women in the healthcare system.
Clinical work granted the incredible opportunity to save lives but infrequently provided the ability to change lives. Education seemed to be an answer, so Jeremy enrolled in graduate school and acquired his M.A. in Higher Education from Boston College. Through his work within the Dean's Division at Boston College and Swarthmore College, Jeremy was able to support programs like: first-generation and low-income initiatives, the College Transitions Program, the Alcohol Screen and Prevention Initiative, and as an lgbtqia+ mentor.
At the start 2020, with a mind to starting law school, Jeremy moved back into the laboratory full time and worked through the pandemic, which included performing COVID-19 PCR testing in microbiology and issuing COVID-19 convalescent plasma in immunohematology. Moving forward the areas of law that are of most interest are: healthcare, medical technology, and education.
Name: Rebecca Lewis '23
Hometown: Gibbsboro, NJ
Undergrad: Rutgers University
Interests: 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: Zaniya Lewis
Hometown: Edgewater Park, NJ
Undergraduate: The George Washington University
Interests: Civil Rights Law, Education Law, Employment Law, Veterans Law, and Sports Law
Growing up in a military family sparked Zaniya's passion for social justice and advocacy. Zaniya has experienced many obstacles in life, which inspired her to start her own nonprofit organization called YesSheCanCampaign, a 501c3 national nonprofit that empowers youth
to be extraordinary and to change the world. Her nonprofit is centered on equipping young people who are overcoming adversity with the tools and resources to succeed in college and their careers. In 2019, Zaniya experienced scholarship award displacement as
an undergraduate student and her advocacy is breaking barriers, already resulting in a law (S985) that restricts scholarship award displacement at New Jersey public universities. New Jersey is now the second state in the nation to outlaw scholarship award displacement.
Her advocacy inspired the Helping Students Plan for College Act 2021, a federal bill to address scholarship award displacement nationwide. Having access to resources and opportunities Zaniya had not previously known existed brought inspiration and purpose to her life. Zaniya aspires to use her legal degree to assist government agencies and corporations in developing their diversity initiatives, employment programs, military and veterans affairs, scholarship programs, and more. She is also interested in working in several areas of law, such as employment law, veterans law, education law, sports law, civil rights, and more. Zaniya’s mission in life is to inspire others to keep climbing and to use their passions to make a difference in the world.
Name: Emma Martin '23
Hometown: Port Jefferson, NY
Undergrad: Adelphi University
Interests: 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: Alexis McDonough '25
Hometown: Williamstown, NJ
Undergrad: Thomas Edison State University
Interests: Health law and public interest
Alexis McDonough discovered her love for advocacy at an early age. As the eldest daughter of a single mother, she witnessed first-hand the injustices faced by those of a lower socio-economic status in America. During her career as a nuclear medicine technologist, she saw some disheartening trends. It seemed to her that poor people were receiving substandard healthcare and minority status only worsened health outcomes. This observation led her to finish her bachelor’s degree in health administration. During her time at Thomas Edison State University, the topic of minority status as it relates to healthcare in the United States was a recurring theme in her coursework. Having already been interested in this harsh reality faced by disadvantaged Americans, a deeper dive into the statistics available on the subject lead her to make it the center point of her capstone assignment. After multiple reworkings, her final thesis read: “Minority groups in America face health disparities and inequities that negatively impact their health, resulting in poorer health outcomes than their white counterparts, due in large part to the existence of systemic racism in America.” She decided it would be too difficult to continue her work in healthcare after unearthing these terrible realities and wanted to become part of the solution. She hopes to gain a complete understanding of the laws that govern healthcare in the United States in order to help underrepresented and disadvantaged groups in her community. The Social Justice Scholars program at Rutgers was also a major factor in her decision to attend the school.
Name: Shirneil Merisier
Undergraduate: The Pennsylvania State University
Hometown: Abington, PA
Interests: Family Law, Immigration Law, and Civil Rights Law
Shirneil Merisier is a 1L evening student balancing law school and her position at Women Against Abuse as a paralegal, where she advocates for domestic violence victims/survivors as they navigate the judicial system. Aside from the daily advocacy Shirneil engages in with her clients. She is also committed to social justice reform within the workplace. She has taken the responsibility of facilitating conversations on the presence of implicit bias, discriminatory practices, and the role of the police in domestic violence.
Shirneil’s interest in social justice reform was first sparked by her parents. As the daughter of immigrants, she has witnessed her parents interact with the various judicial systems and has seen first-hand how inaccessible the judicial system is to vulnerable populations. Her goal is to become a liaison between the system and those who are vulnerable. Shirneil is passionate about raising the voices of those who are often overlooked and dismissed.
Prior to law school, Shirneil graduated from The Pennsylvania State University with a B.A. in Public Relations, a B.A. in Psychology, and a minor in Dispute Management and resolutions. While on campus her commitment to her community and social justice reform could be seen through her work within her sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. While on campus Shirneil served as the Global target chair and implemented programs raising awareness on global issues.
Shirneil is dedicated to social justice reform and is excited to expand her areas of interest and advocacy alongside the Social Justice Scholars
Name: Jasmyn Montgomery ‘25
Hometown: Trenton, NJ
Undergrad: Delaware State University
Interests: Civil Rights; Criminal Justice Reform; Racial Justice
Jasmyn’s passion for social justice and advocacy began as a young girl. Her parents instilled in her how important it was to help others, starting with those in her community. Jasmyn graduated from Delaware State University with a degree in Criminal Justice. After graduating, worked as a substitute teacher, a Human Resource consultant, a Realtor, a Licensing Analyst, and an Attorney Recruiting and Development Assistant. While working at her last job, she served as the Diversity and Internal Awareness Coordinator, where she was able to facilitate social reform within her workplace. She held weekly firmwide discussions to promote understanding, acceptance, and appreciation of diversity.
Jasmyn volunteers at the Young Scholars Institute, which is a program that provides Educational, Cultural and Recreational activities for inner city youth. She also volunteers at several centers that provide Women with domestic violence help and housing for displaced Women and Children. Jasmyn desires to use her law degree to advocate for and serve disadvantaged communities who are disproportionately impacted by the justice system.
Name: Kayvon Paul ‘23
Hometown: Long Branch, NJ
Undergrad: Monmouth University
Interests: 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
Interests: 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: Lauren “Ren” Ramos ‘25
Hometown: Knoxville, TN
Undergrad: Smith College
Interests: Youth justice, LGBTQ rights, movement lawyering
Ren (she/they) is a queer Latina whose interest in social justice stems from witnessing the impact of discrimination and inequality in her conservative hometown. While at Smith College, they studied history and sociology with a focus on gender, sexuality, and social movements. They also worked as a research assistant for a reproductive justice history project, through which they created accessible materials for activists to use while organizing. Ren’s research culminated in a sociology honors thesis analyzing the collective memory of HIV/AIDS activism in the United States, which inspires her to bring historical perspectives to her current social justice work.
During undergrad, Ren interned at the Knoxville Public Defender’s Community Law Office, where she became determined to combine social and legal services in her future career. Ren also interned at the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, where they handled correspondence from those who are or have been incarcerated as young people and worked on the development of accessible materials for Spanish speakers. These experiences have led her to Rutgers Law, where she is looking forward to working to expand access to legal education, social support, and justice for her community. Ren is most passionate about serving young people who are involved with the legal system, particularly those who are LGBTQ or members of other marginalized communities. They hope to pursue a path of movement lawyering in order to facilitate the work of progressive organizers.
Name: Missy Rebovich 24’
Hometown: Bordentown, NJ
Undergrad: Rider University
Interests: Public Interest, Environmental Justice, Gender-based Violence
Missy has been working in government affairs and communications since graduating from Rider University in 2012. She is passionate about making New Jersey a place where everyone—regardless of race or ethnicity, gender identity, sexuality, or religion—can thrive by working to change laws that perpetuate systemic injustices. As the director of government and public affairs at New Jersey Future, Missy’s government affairs work has helped advance laws that protect residents from lead exposure and require municipalities to do climate hazard planning to keep communities and businesses safe from rising sea levels and other climate threats.
Name: Yaslin Reyes ‘25
Hometown: Newark, NJ
Undergrad: Rowan University
Born and raised in the city of Newark, to two first generation immigrant parents, Yaslin developed a strong desire to succeed in a career that would allow her to serve her community. Knowing that this would be best achieved through a career in the legal field, Yaslin pursued a bachelor’s degree in Law and Justice Studies from Rowan University. Throughout her time in undergrad, Yaslin helped organize various community service and informational events, to educate the student body about various social justice causes in need of immediate attention and aid. By her senior year, Yaslin had narrowed her career search and realized that she wanted to earn a law degree and become an attorney. Through the help of her professors and mentors, Yaslin was given the opportunity to intern at Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), a non-profit organization that works to provide free legal representation to unaccompanied children faced with immigration proceedings. Her experience with KIND solidified what she refers to as her “life’s purpose” by reassuring her that helping children navigate legal systems is exactly what she was meant to be doing. Yaslin is excited to continue doing the work she is passionate about through the Social Justice Scholars Program. She is also excited and eager to work with other members of SJS for causes they are passionate about as well.
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
Undergrad: Rowan College
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: Julia Sarabia '
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV
Undergrad: University of California, Los Angeles
Interests: Economic Justice, Public Policy Reform & Advocacy for Underserved Communities
Julia a first generation Mexican American and first in her family to go to college and law school. She holds a bachelor’s degree from UCLA in English with a concentration in Creative Writing. Prior to starting law school, she worked in student services serving low income first generation students from diverse backgrounds in Los Angeles and at a family law firm in the Las Vegas area serving a Latino majority client base. She is interested in serving current and former foster youth and system impacted individuals among other special populations. She is a Legal Education Access Pipeline Fellow, Pipeline to Practice Fellow and Hispanic Scholarship Fund Scholar.
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: Southiwa "Paula" Souvannaphasy ‘24
Hometown: Marysville, WA
Undergrad: University of Washington
Interest: Criminal Justice Reform, Juvenile Justice and Civil Rights
Paula Souvannaphasy graduated from the University of Washington and spent the last eight years working in nonprofit and government service. After graduation, she spent a year in AmeriCorps VISTA and most recently worked at the ACLU of Washington for five years during the Trump administration before coming to Rutgers Law. She is driven by the inequities she witnessed as a daughter of Laotian refugees and wants to make law more accessible to impacted communities, especially youth and people of color. She has realized that the tools and knowledge of the legal system are hoarded by a small group of privileged people and those tools should be widely dispersed so people can advocate for themselves. She hopes to continue her work in Public Interest Law after graduating from Rutgers Law.
Name: Kimberly Taylor
Hometown: Wilmington, DE
Undergraduate: West Chester University
Graduate: University of Delaware
Interests: Civil Rights Law, Education Law
By day, Kim is the Bi-College Title IX Coordinator at Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges, directing institutional efforts to address issues related to sexual and gender-based discrimination. In the evenings, she is pursuing her JD as a part-time student.
Kim has always been drawn to social justice issues, both through personal and professional experiences. She has spent the majority of her career in higher education, working in addition to Title IX, in campus safety, student conduct, prevention and advocacy, and crisis response. She is eager to merge her experiences as a practitioner with the knowledge and acumen that a law degree will provide. While her current focus is on gender equity, her “social injustice” lens continues to broaden, only deepening her commitment and belief that civil rights and human rights should be synonymous.
Name: Arden Walker ‘24
Undergrad: University of Cape Town (Honours)
Interests: Economic and Financial Justice
Between her time at the University of Cape Town in South Africa and as an essential worker during the Covid-19 pandemic, Arden comes to Rutgers Law with a distinct understanding of how economic injustice begets other injustices. Arden’s post-graduate research at the University of Cape Town focused on the development of the Islamic Financial and Economic system in Malaysia and the ways in which they did and did not promote a more equitable and stable economy. With a legal education grounded in an intersectional understanding of economic justice, Arden plans to use the law as a tool for creating a more equitable and stable economic landscape.
Name: Brett G. Weise ‘25
Hometown: San Diego, CA
Undergrad: San Diego State University, CA
Interests: Housing and Homelessness Law & Policy, Public Interest, Community-Based Lawyering, Legislative Counseling
Brett was born and raised in San Diego and began his career in public service while working at San Diego City Hall. As a community representative, communications manager, and eventually senior policy advisor for the Council President, he advocated on behalf of community members for improved public facilities, additional parks & open space, and access to local government. Brett’s policy focus was on land use, housing, and homelessness, which inspired his focus on supporting marginalized tenants and creating inclusive, desegregated neighborhoods. In 2022, Brett worked with LegalAid, immigrant rights groups, and other community members in drafting and ultimately passing an emergency eviction moratorium that kept thousands of families in San Diego from being forced out of their homes.
Brett will translate this passion into his studies and advocacy work while at Rutgers Law. He is a strong believer in both the power of government and the power of communities in effectuating positive social change. Public interest is his focus, and he aspires to apply his policy-making experience into a legislative counsel position for a state or federal legislature.