2009 PFIG Recipient Whitney Hayes
College of Arts & Sciences
Anthropology, African American & African Studies
2010 Graduation Year
Internship: Legal Aid Justice Center in Charlottesville
Notes on the first week
The Legal Aid Justice Center presents a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere the second that you walk in the door. Unlike the typically tense, high-stress law firms that are the stereotype in the minds of many, the Legal Aid Justice Center is full of fun-loving, warm people committed to their work. On my first day, I was surprised, yet delighted by the plethora of people introducing themselves to me and the great deal of light-hearted conversation and laughter throughout the day. Unexpectedly, I was even able to meet and work with the program director, who is regularly a part of everyday business.
The comfortable environment at the Legal Aid Justice Center speaks to its goals of serving the surrounding community. Throughout the day, people from all walks of life can be seen in the office. Through the literature, discussions, and events that I have been a part of during my first week, I have learned of the center’s goals of addressing systematic problems that they wish to combat in their fight for justice. Working closely with the development director, I have been exposed to and worked closely with the donors that make this work possible. Attending fundraising events and committee meetings, I have been involved in initiatives to raise money to reach the center’s goals. Issues such as the limits of minimum wage, immigration, and child welfare are all issues, among others, that these employees wish to address through their legal work. They have piqued my interest and I hope to learn more about ways to combat such issues throughout my internship.
In the beginning of my internship at the Legal Aid Justice Center, I have been given a broad view of the centers goals and initiatives. I have already learned that law is about more than black and white rights and sanctions. Through the course of my internship, I hope to learn more about the underlying issues that bring people in need of legal services and limitations that prevent them from having access to these services. I hope that I will continue to learn the different ways in which I may follow in the footsteps of public service organizations, such as the Legal Aid Justice Center , and address the pinpointed issues later in my own career. Overall, my goal is to continue to lend my support wherever I can, as I learn at the Legal Aid Justice Center.
Continuing to work at the Legal Aid Justice Center has expanded my insight into the sphere of public service and advocacy. As my internship has progressed, I have continued to do work with the development team, which serves to facilitate the work of the organization through finding new sources of sustainment and encouraging community support on behalf of a diverse donor base. By highlighting broad legal issues that call for the advocacy and reform of public service work, the center is able to inform the public of the issues they are addressing and insight support for these issues. Through brainstorming and research, I have worked with the center’s staff and committee members to pinpoint issues of national and local concern and subsequently shape events around these issues in order to garner support. Such issues include high incarceration rates and immigration. I have also worked to compile media recognition of the accomplishment of the center in order to highlight what those who work for and support the Legal Aid Justice Center make possible through their hard work. In turn, this gathers further support. I have been surprised by the number of national leaders in diverse fields and at all levels of management that work hard to make reform possible. From exonerated prisoners to judges and government officials, reform work and advocacy happens at all levels. This has made it necessary to target a diverse group for collaboration on legal issues. Likewise, there is grave diversity in the clients who seek support. I have been privileged to help with benefits and donations on behalf of many of these people.
Through my internship, I have been exposed to the large amount of outreach that is necessary to make public policy work possible. This has recently become more essential due to the economic state of our nation, which has increased the demand for public service. Simultaneously, it has made outreach for support more vital as well as challenging. As the economy worsens and cutbacks increase, I have witnessed the struggle of donors to provide the amount of support, which they wish to offer. The staff at the Legal Aid Justice Center does amazing work for those in need but they do not do it alone. The lawyers work in conjunction with judges, lawmakers, and community members to achieve their goals. I have been able to meet individuals from every facet of the justice system who each have a particular vantage point on legal issues. Learning from the tactics of these individuals, I hope to continue to learn new ways to impact broad legal issues. I also hope to have an impact on the work done at the Legal Aid Justice Center through offering creative ideas and support to the staff member.
At the conclusion of my summer internship with the Charlottesville Legal Aid Justice Center, I have a better understanding of what it takes to build and maintain a successful public service agency. Working closely with development efforts, I have gained valuable experience in cultivating creative tactics for securing and energizing donors. This is an integral part of forming a sufficient support base that facilitates non-profit efforts. I learned that managing and keeping record of such efforts and the product that each yields allows for improvement in future endeavors. The Legal Aid Justice Center has also exposed me to the many facets of life, which the law affects. Education, labor, and predatory lending are all issues which are important to the public and which the direction of law has a major affect on. In order to best serve those who are plagued by problems within this arena, creative solutions and persistence within the law are necessary.
The work being done at the Legal Aid Justice Center seeks to address some of the larger issues such as these within the law and it is very similar to that which I am interested in for my future career. This internship has given me a sense of direction for the future. Planning events, maintaining donor databases, and preparing informative publications were among the many tasks that I completed throughout the summer. These tasks provided practical skills and helped to materialize my public service desires into productive activity. As it was an extremely valuable learning experience, this internship has made me more passionate about my interests and has given me the drive in order to accomplish further work in personal career. I hope to one day be able to use these skills to continue this type of work.