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Class of 2013 Advocate for Justice Scholarship Recipients

Tuesday, February 1, 2011   (0 Comments)
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Emily Citkowski, 36, earned a BA in Peace and Global Studies in 1997 from Earlham College in Indiana and has worked since that time within the labor movement and for the Green Party. A native of Detroit, Michigan, she witnessed modern urban de-industrialization and segregation while growing up. After college, as a student-labor activist she travelled to post Suharto Indonesia in the tumultuous run up to the country's first free elections. Seeing green politics as a solution to many of the nation's problems, she worked for five years as the Operations Director of the Green Party of the United States. Ms. Citkowski has said, "I want to become a lawyer so that I can help a local farmers' market navigate through the system to get a business permit. I want to help a local green jobs program draft a contract. I want to assist a community organization secure city-owned property for affordable housing. I want to become a lawyer so that I can help strengthen communities. While not always glamorous, it is important, world-changing work that must be done.”

Stephanie Santiago, 24, earned a BA in Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2008. Since her graduation, she has provided administrative support to two nonprofit groups, the Carolina Union and the Chapel Hill Children's Clinic. While in college, as President of Latinas Promoviendo Commuidad/Lambda Pi Chi Sorority, she led in the organizing of numerous events and service activities designed to educate and empower minority and disadvantaged people. She was an active member of the Carolina Hispanic Society, the Carolina Women's Center and the Theater Justice Project. Reflecting on an incident in which she was a passenger in a car driven by an African American male which was pulled over for no apparent reason she writes, "You resolve that your story of personal injustice is only one of many that occur on a daily basis in the United States, and that the most powerful way to incite change is to pursue a career in law. Now is the time because you are ready to fight back; you are burning to start a revolution; and the law will be your most powerful weapon.”

Naomi Smoot, age 29, grew up in Virginia and graduated from Christopher Newport University in Newport News in 2003 cum laude with a BA in History and a minor in Religious Studies. After graduation she worked as a reporter and editor for several local Virginia newspapers, en route winning nine awards. During her reporting career, she developed an interest in law and legislation while covering the West Virginia Legislature and increasingly focused her writing on financial and environmental plight of the poor. One of her stories highlighted the potential threat of a power line slated for construction near an elementary school. Another concerned a low-income community's battle against water pollution. And for another story, she spent a day with a homeless man – and a night sleeping in a garbage hopper! During this time, she experienced her own injustices, including witnessing the foreclosure of her grandmother's home. She wants to be a lawyer so that she can affect legislation and "ensure that the judicial process works as it was meant to and helps make peoples' lives brighter.”

Erika White, 37, grew up in Los Angeles, CA and earned her BA in Business Administration in 1995 from Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, GA. The daughter of a special education teacher, Erika herself spent the nine years prior to her enrollment at UDC-DCSL working as a special education and substitute special ed teacher in the Los Angles Unified School District. During this time she was an advocate that the law be followed for children under her care. Ms. White says, "…I am infuriated by out of compliance IEPs (Individualized Education Plans), separation, exclusion from school-wide events, inaccessible campuses and transportation for wheelchairs, mislabeling, overcrowding, unidentified students – and that's just the tip of the iceberg.” Attracted to UDC-DCSL by the Special Education Clinic, her goal is to become an education lawyer and an ever more effective advocate for the rights of all children to receive an appropriate education.

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