$10k Scholarship Finalist
The fear came, not in a wave but in a trickle. An offhand comment from a teacher or a family friend. An overheard excerpt from the nightly news, spilling from the kitchen television into my bedroom. A glance at the Chesapeake Bay, stolen from a perch in the third row of my mother’s station wagon—even then, and even to a child, its receding shorelines were apparent.
I would learn to call the ensuing sensation by a host of names: climate anxiety, climate grief, climate dread. This feeling, what the organizer Daniel Sherrell calls “coming of age at the end of the world,” has been the defining challenge and influence of my life. Each and every aspect of my development has been shaped by the specter of climate change—perhaps none more so than my desire to become an environmental attorney, working towards a more sustainable and ecologically just world.
In my work as a writer and organizer, I see the same dynamic play out on a daily basis: those who suffer disproportionately from the impacts of environmental degradation communities of color, low income communities, indigenous communities–are often the people with the least access to legal redress. The effects of this disparity are tangible, and often devastating. I hope to spend my career working alongside local organizers to change this state of affairs, increasing the accessibility of litigation as a means of achieving healthier, more equitable neighborhoods.
Upon graduating from law school, I intend to work for the environmental law firm Earthjustice. Specifically, I hope to serve as an Associate Attorney with the firm’s International Program, collaborating with global communities on the frontlines of environmental degradation. In both this role and throughout my career, I hope to envision and develop innovative legal strategies, leveraging litigation as a tool of environmental justice and sustainability.
In Radical Hope, one of my favorite books, ethicist Jonathan Lear offers a theory that I consider indispensable to my work, goals, and daily life. To Lear, hope becomes radical when it is, “directed toward a future goodness that transcends the current ability to understand what it is.” I believe lawyers have an essential role to play in advancing radical hope, not merely securing the immediate legal wins needed to defend the environment, but also fostering a world in which communities can imagine and realize more just futures.
The One Lawyer Can Change the World Scholarship will provide an incomparable foundation for my goals. For one, the financial resources afforded by the scholarship will make it significantly easier for me to practice public interest law immediately after graduation. Moreover, I am excited about the opportunity to connect with the broader Barbri community. Climate change is a uniquely interdisciplinary threat, and confronting it will require sustained collaboration across the legal profession. To that end, the relationships I foster through this scholarship will deeply inform my life’s work as an attorney and advocate.
My desire to be a lawyer starts with the recognition that there is an astonishing amount of injustice in the U.S. and in the world. In this context, I see the law as a vital battle ground–do we use it to uphold and fortify systems rooted in violence and discrimination, or do we use it to advance economic and environmental justice? I firmly believe in, and plan to dedicate my career to, the latter vision of the law.
In recent years particularly, my career goals have been shaped by a growing sense of urgency and anxiety about climate change. Something I see on a daily basis in my work as a writer and a community organizer is that those who suffer disproportionately from the impacts of environmental degradation–communities of color, low-income communities, indigenous communities–are also the people with the least access to legal redress. I hope to work alongside communities to change this state of affairs, leveraging litigation as a tool of justice and sustainability.
I was drawn to UVA Law’s focus on the intersection of community organizing and environmental law. In particular, the Environmental Law and Community Engagement Clinic, as well as the Program in Law, Communities, and the Environment, will provide me with the practical, client-facing experience that will serve as the foundation of my career as an attorney and advocate.
I would like to thank my parents and siblings for their support; BARBRI for offering this scholarship opportunity; my professors–particularly Dr. Abugideiri, Dr. Connor, Dr. Keita, and Dr Nance–for their years of mentorship; and my Villanova family–Jubilee, Liam, Sarah, Erin, Jeremy, among so many others–without whom college would have been an impossibility.
Winning this scholarship would be genuinely life-changing. The financial burden of law school is significant, particularly for those pursuing careers in public interest law. As such, The One Lawyer Can Change the World Scholarship’s financial award would transform both my law school experience and my early years as an attorney, lessening the burden of debt and allowing me to focus on advocacy and community organizing. In addition, I am incredibly excited to connect with past winners and finalists of the scholarship, learning from their experiences as legal change agents and contributing to a community of like-minded lawyers.