SWLAW Blog | Future Students

2022 PILC Grant Recipients working in Civil Legal Aid: Ariana De Los Reyes, Christopher Hanson, Herbert Martinez, and Bianca de la Vega

September 16, 2022

Meet our 2022 PILC Grant Recipients Working in Civil Legal Aid

Southwestern's Public Interest Law Committee (PILC) is a student-run organization that sponsors several events each year to raise student awareness and involvement in providing legal services for underrepresented communities and is dedicated to facilitating public interest law careers by supporting students in public interest work through fundraising efforts for the school's Public Interest Law Summer Grant Program.

We want to recognize these students and their incredible work with their Public Interest Law Committee Summer Grant. Meet our 2022 PILC Grant recipients working in Civil Legal Aid:

Bianca De La Vega - Harvey L. and Lillian Silbert Public Interest Fellowship, Summer Clerk for: Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County

Bianca De La Vega

Summer Placement: Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County

I am very grateful to NLSLA for the trust that they had in me to work directly with clients on my own and to draft a public comment letter on behalf of the entire organization. I felt empowered to make an impact on clients' cases by doing supportive work and also taking direct action. In my second week, the PEHP attorneys were asked to write a public comment letter on an assembly bill that would be presented to the California Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill addressed shelter programs in hotels and motels. The attorneys recognized how much research I had done on the bill and asked me to draft the letter on behalf of NLSLA. The final version of the letter that was submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee included a lot of my ideas and writing, which made me feel so proud. NLSLA's trust in me to advocate for community members instilled a confidence in me that I will carry to my next externship.

I am passionate about public service work because there are far too many people who have the right to an advocate but cannot afford one, which creates a severe imbalance of power and is a disservice to community members.

 Ariana De Los Reyes - Summer Clerk for: Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles

Ariana De Los Reyes

Summer Placement: Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles

I want to help underserved communities the way I wish myself, my family, and my communities were helped.

Spending my summer as a legal intern for the Survivor and Family Empowerment "SAFE" team at Asian Americans Advancing Justice Southern California was extremely rewarding and humbling. Many of the low-income and English-speaking survivors of domestic abuse I assisted with were intimidated by the legal system and felt helpless. By talking them through their issues during their intake interviews, helping them fill out their court forms, drafting compelling declarations and sometimes even having the chance to accompany them to their hearings, I was able to help them find some comfort. I particularly heard a lot of gratitude from clients regarding the declarations (such as for restraining orders against abusers and/or harassers); they felt heard, seen, and taken seriously. Survivors often struggle to seek help in the first place, and having the ability to help them during their most distressing times showed me the power of advocacy and reminded me how important it is to use the resources and privileges we hold to uplift others.

Christopher Hanson - Dean Leigh H. Taylor Public Interest Law Fund, Summer Clerk for: Christian Legal Aid - Los Angeles

Christopher Hanson

Summer Placement: Christian Legal Aid - Los Angeles

Public service work is integral to fostering a fair and just society. Social and economic inequalities can be compounded when those without the means to advocate for themselves are faced with legal problems. This summer I was exposed to the idea that many people, even those with relatively high salaries, are continuously being priced out of the legal system and are unable to seek relief or defend themselves in legal issues. Volunteering with legal aid organizations is important because it allows individuals with experience and knowledge to aid those who are priced out of the legal system. I plan on continuing to volunteer with CLA-LA throughout my time in law school and after I become a licensed attorney. It takes a short time commitment to have a significant impact on the life of another.

Herbert Martinez - Harvey L. and Lillian Silbert Public Interest Fellowship, Summer Clerk for: Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles

Herbert Martinez

Summer Placement: Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles

I am passionate about public interest because the people who are often disenfranchised are minorities. The system takes advantage of and disregards the plight of the poor, immigrants, ethnic and racial minorities, and LGBTQI individuals. I fit into many of these categories. I am the son of Salvadoran immigrants, and I am gay. I have seen how the system disenfranchises many of the people in my community, and I want to use my abilities to empower my communities.

Economic stability is social justice. The clients I worked with were plagued with debt, and this affected their mental and physical health. They lived in constant fear and felt no sense of security.

One client, in particular, stood out. He talked about his life in the foster care system and his desire for higher education for a more stable life. A school promised him a better life if he attended. Instead, he was not given the education he was promised and was saddled with debt and no job prospects. The school debt destroyed any sense of economic stability in his life. For most of his young adult life, he could only obtain minimum wage jobs and barely keep a roof over his head. This eventually led to his wages being garnished by the debt, and he struggled to survive and is currently dealing with housing insecurity.

When I talked to him and prepared his declaration, he thanked me. He said no one has ever listened to him and his story. I also helped connect to housing services. I felt angry at a system that would allow a person to suffer so much and be taken advantage of, but I felt glad that I could help in alleviating his suffering by listening and helping him receive loan forgiveness.

About the PILC Summer Grant Program

Southwestern’s PILC Summer Grant program was established in 1990 with the mission of providing financial support to selected recipients seeking full-time, summer clerkships with legal services organizations providing no-cost assistance to underserved, marginalized communities. This program makes it possible for students to acquire the legal training and education necessary to address the lack of access to legal services for indigent communities while also alleviating Southwestern students’ financial burden of acquiring more educational loans in order to do so.

PILC sincerely thanks our donors and supporters for your invaluable contributions to this program benefiting Southwestern students. PILC’s mission is to help create a community where Southwestern students, staff, faculty, and alumni are educated and incentivized to participate in issues concerning and advancing the public interest and it is your support of this mission that is vital in helping us reach our fundraising goals each year. 

The student deadline to apply to the 2023 PILC Summer Grant Program is March 6, 2023. Awards up to $5,000. Email publicservice@swlaw.edu for more information.