By Tony Sun, incoming 2L, Harvard Law School
My summer at Justice for Children and Youth (JFCY) has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Coming into law school, I had never expected to have the opportunity to work with young people as clients, and nothing during my first year of law school highlighted the fact that children and youth are too often involved in the legal system. Therefore, when I was assigned my first case – a child seeking compensation for being the victim of violent crime – it served as a sobering reminder to myself that children, despite their age and vulnerabilities, face the same issues that adults often have a difficult time dealing with.
During my time at JFCY, I was given the opportunity to work on a wide range of legal issues that concerned children. From advocating for access to special education to preventing a plaintiff from accessing youth criminal justice records, I had the amazing opportunity to witness first-hand a unique specialty within the law that I may have otherwise never encountered. And, from my time here, I learned to adopt a different perspective in viewing the law and our legal system – the perspective of children. It is the perspective of a group of people who are entirely powerless in our political system, having no right to vote. It is also the perspective of the group who has the largest stake in our long-term future, because they will be the generation that will inherit the consequences of the decisions we make today.
We had often discussed in law school the disadvantages certain groups of people face which makes navigating the legal system difficult – socioeconomic status, race, and gender. My experience at JFCY helped me realize that a factor not often discussed – age – can negatively impact one’s experience with the legal system as well, and just as significantly as the more often discussed factors. It is troubling to think that children, at a crucial time when their focus should be on education, socializing with friends, and preparing for adulthood, can be thrust first-hand into a merciless system plagued with injustice and inequality. Therefore, I felt fortunate that I was able to be a part of an organization, albeit briefly, where the advocacy and protection of the rights of children are at the centerpiece of its mission.
Finally, my summer experience at JFCY would not have been the same without all the incredible people I had the opportunity to meet.
Thank you, Jane, for your mentorship, patience, and kindness. My summer experience at JFCY would not have been the same without all of your help and thank you for providing me the opportunity to work on such interesting legal matters at such an early stage of my legal career.
Thank you to Emily, Mary, and Candice for giving me the opportunity to briefly work with you on a few assignments. It was fascinating to see the type of matters you each worked on, and I learned a lot during our time together.
Thank you to my fellow students: Meaza, Samantha, Adrianna, Enniael, Heather, Mohadeseh, Nadine, Leah, and Kaisa. I had a great time meeting all of you, and I hope we will meet again soon!
Thank you to Athena for helping the other students and I through the onboarding process at JFCY so we were able to begin our placement smoothly.
Thank you to the other lawyers and administrative personnel that I unfortunately did not have a chance to work with: Allison, Erica, Sarah, Zahra, Kaffie, Karien, Nnenna, and Lisa. I hope our paths cross sometime in the future!
And, thank you to Justice for Children and Youth—it has been an incredible experience, and thank you for having me!