A summer legal internship evokes images of students hunched over legal tomes in a dusty law library. While there was certainly research and writing involved, for a group of Regent University School of Law students, the traditional summer internship has been redefined.
Sponsored by the Center for Global Justice, Human Rights & the Rule of Law, second-year law students Heather Pate, Danielle Gallaher and Nicole Tutrani didn't travel to far-off locations; rather they stuck close to home, choosing to work with people and organizations fighting for human rights in the United States.
Pate spent the summer as a policy intern for the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) in Washington, D.C. Her primary responsibilities included scheduling meetings with Congressional staff, agencies and professionals with research or concerns about adoption care and policies. She also participated in meetings with various agencies, wrote and edited publications outlining research and legislation, and even oversaw CCAI's two youth interns.
"I learned about the legislative process, problems and best practices in foster care and adoption, networking on Capitol Hill, and my writing and editing skills increased immensely," she said. "I learned that creating laws is all about relationships and finding the right people to strategize in an effective manner to influence the right people."
Tutrani's internship was with The Samaritan Women, a restoration home, located in Maryland, for victims of human trafficking and homeless female veterans. Her primary legal responsibilities included identifying gaps in the Maryland Code pertaining to human trafficking legislation. She was tasked with writing legislative amendments and new legislation that was organized into a plan to lobby for additional services for trafficking victims.
"American laws as they relate to human trafficking can be just as inefficient and outdated as those around the world," she explained. "I realized that everything I dreamed I could be doing overseas needed to be done right here in the United States."
Gallaher spent her summer in Delaware County, just outside Philadelphia, working with assistant district attorney Pearl Kim. Working closely with Kim, Gallaher was able to assist with jury selection, coordinate witnesses for trials, and work with Kim and federal agents on a number of issues pertaining to the prosecution of human trafficking violations. Toward the end of her internship, she was also asked to develop language access policies for trafficking victims with limited English proficiency.
"The most valuable aspect of my internship was actually seeing what it takes for a prosecutor to prosecute human trafficking cases," Gallaher said. "All of this experience helped me better understand various mechanisms and interactions in the criminal justice system. I gained a well-rounded perspective on how to operate as a prosecutor and use the position to influence various governmental sectors."
Besides the practical knowledge and training each acquired, all three women agreed that their internships gave them the chance to see their faith in action on a daily basis.
"This is the heart of God and it is His love that I desire and fight for," Gallaher said. "Isn't it faith to stand for and believe in God's truth despite our circumstances?"
"There is a quote at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., that says something to effect of 'now that you've seen it, what are you going to do about it?'" Pate said. "Now that I have been exposed to the barriers of foster care and adoption and know the process for amending and fixing these problems, I can't ignore them."
"I have learned you do not need to go far from home or even your own family to make an impact," Tutrani wrote on a blog just days into her internship. "I can assure you that whether you are working internationally to protect those girls who act as the 'supply,' or in a Western nation to prosecute those men who provide the 'demand,' God has placed each one of us in a position of His choosing so that He might work through us and for us this summer."
Read more from these and other interns on the Center for Global Justice blog.
By Rachel Judy
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