SWLAW Blog | Future Students

2023 PILC Grant Recipients Collage - Nonprofits and Civil Legal Aid - Part One

September 7, 2023

Meet our 2023 PILC Grant Recipients Working in Nonprofits and Civil Legal Aid – Part One

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 first group of 2023 PILC Grant recipients working in Nonprofits and Civil Legal Aid:

Cynthia Aceves Summer Clerk for: Lanterman Regional Center

Cynthia Aceves

Summer Placement: Lanterman Regional Center

As a legal advocate in the Lanterman Regional Center's Special Education Law Clinic this summer, I knew that I was only going to be able to help a certain number of children and their families. However, I felt that some of the most important work I accomplished this summer was in advising and helping to educate parents on special education rights and responsibilities. I reminded parents that they were integral members of their child’s IEP team when school and district personnel made parents feel there was a two-sided “us versus them” gathering instead of a team of people with insightful knowledge about a child’s strengths and needs. I reminded parents that IEP meetings were supposed to be a coming together of these team members, of which the parent was a part, to discuss appropriate supports and services to accommodate a child with a disability to receive a free and appropriate public education. I realized that the more the parent learned and the more opportunities they had to ask me questions and clarify their confusions, the more confident they became and the stronger their voice and advocacy became. I believe educating these parents and then encouraging them to join parent groups was an incredibly important piece of advice that my supervising attorney shared with me. I believe that one important way to move the needle and help more people is through education and community outreach. I believe more education and more knowledge about a process can also mean more power, particularly for the parents.

Jennifer Alvarez Summer Clerk for Esperanza Immigration Rights Project

Jennifer Alvarez

Summer Placement: Esperanza Immigration Rights Project

My passion for public interest began in my own home. Both of my parents are immigrants and had to give up their education to better provide for my siblings and me. I have seen immigrants face many issues in living their day-to-day lives, and I could not sit back and let this happen when I have the opportunity to equip myself with the knowledge to help. Immigration law encompasses many areas, such as children’s law, international law, and family law, and this only expands the population that I can assist. I plan on working at an immigration non-profit organization. The non-profit world is extremely essential, and I hope that I can help expand assistance to reach those who need it.

Francisco Castro Summer Clerk for: Esperanza Immigration Rights Project

Francisco Castro

Summer Placement: Esperanza Immigration Rights Project

This summer, I learned that the public sector is essential to the legal field. Without the public sector, most of these clients would fall victim to scams or be forced to take out loans to pay for an attorney. Furthermore, the public sector needs more help. The public sector is limited by government funding, unaware of the need we see on the ground. The government only sees the thousands of applicants we assist per year. But that easily could have been multiplied by ten with the right resources. Thus, if the public sector did not exist, many individuals would not have a fair shake with the legal system. With that said, I plan to continue my legal career in helping others who are economically disadvantaged due to their social status. More specifically, I plan to work for a corporation that assists women that are suffering from Domestic Violence.

Anahi Gonzalez Summer Clerk for: Kids In Need of Defense

Anahi Gonzalez

Summer Placement: Kids In Need of Defense

I believe access to justice is a fundamental right that, unfortunately, is not available to everyone. Whether an individual is low-income, disabled, or person of color, there can be many barriers to justice. I came to law school with the goal to become a strong advocate for vulnerable, underrepresented communities. As a woman of color, I have seen the impact diversity can have in the legal field. Although I haven’t decided what practice area, I would like to pursue post-grad, I know it will be in public interest. In the event that I do not practice in public interest, I will dedicate myself to pro bono services. Organizations like KIND partner up with attorneys for pro bono cases, and I hope to one day take on a case through KIND.

Karen Herrera Summer Clerk for: Wage Justice Center

Karen Herrera

Summer Placement: Wage Justice Center

I am passionate about public interest because it allows me to connect with community members who are in need of representation and who deserve a chance to have their stories told.

Public interest is important to me because, far too often, clients are discriminated against and deemed unworthy of proper representation due to their race, class, or gender. Underserved communities are often left without justice and are not empowered to fight for their rights. I plan to incorporate public interest into my legal career by ensuring that I provide holistic representation to clients that take into account how their lived experiences have affected their lives and their current legal issues. I hope to maintain a connection to the communities that I serve in my legal career to ensure that I understand what their needs are and how they can become active and empowered participants in their representation.

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 2024 PILC Summer Grant Program is March 4, 2024. Awards up to $5,000. Email publicservice@swlaw.edu for more information.