Fall = Fellowship

Kristi Hughes September 27, 0201

Fall is my favorite time of the year.  Here in upstate New York, the sun shines brighter, the air smells cleaner and the leaves begin to turn their gorgeous shades of burnt orange, crimson and gold.  As a mom of three school-aged kids, fall also signifies a beginning to a new year and fresh outlook, when my kids can start with a clean slate full of new goals and opportunities.

At Empire Justice Center, fall also marks new beginnings because each fall we are either welcoming a new Hanna S. Cohn Equal Justice Fellow as a member of our staff or we are accepting applications for a new round of applicants.  This year, we are accepting applications for our 2013-15 Fellow who will be our 7th since the Fellowship started in 2003.

I am fortunate to be the Cohn Fellowship coordinator – I handle the application and selection process from beginning to end – a highlight of my job at Empire Justice.  Not only do I get to interact with the most amazing law students and hear of their passion for public interest work, but also with Hanna’s family and friends who have established and continue to support this incredible Fellowship in her memory.

I met and worked with Hanna briefly when I first started at Empire Justice Center more than eleven years ago.  She and I both attended a development conference for legal services staff where I had the opportunity to hear Hanna speak and to watch her work a room full of people who obviously respected her and her work.

I can’t help but think that Hanna would be pleased with the individuals that have been chosen as Fellows bearing her name.  They have all mirrored her passion and enthusiasm for making the world a better place, for removing barriers so that all have equal access to the justice system.  Past Fellows have helped the deaf and hard-of-hearing population with their unique legal issues, removed barriers for people who are Limited English Proficient (LEP), assisted low-income working families with credit and consumer issues and improved and secured access to health care.

Our current Fellow, Reyna Ramolete Hayashi is focusing her two-year project on “wage theft” and is building the groundwork for the creation of a Worker Center in Rochester to empower low-wage workers to fight wage theft and workplace exploitation using grassroots organizing and education. You’ll hear from her soon…

If you know of any law students currently in their third year of law school who would be a potential candidate for the 2013-15 Hanna Cohn Equal Justice Fellowship, please have them visit our website.