Growing up in a single parent household, constantly dipping just above or below the poverty line was one of the most difficult aspects of my childhood. At the age of twelve, I had to become a parent figure for my then five year old brother. I got a job when I was fifteen, helping my mom pay for what her income and food stamps could not. My childhood forced me into an adult role at an early age, forcing me to become independent and self reliant. When it came to paying for things growing up, from clothes to a college education, if I wanted it, I had to earn it. It all seemed difficult and unfair at the time, but it turns out that the kids who were living next door to me at the time had it even more hard and unfair.
Part way through my freshman year of high school, I started hearing banging, screaming and crying through the walls after getting off the bus. I didn’t know the neighbors and I brushed it off as noisy kids at first, but as I listened more closely I started to come to the upsetting realization that my neighbors were abusing their children. After telling my mom what I was hearing we made a report to Child Protective Services, and one summer afternoon, weeks after we made call, the two kids were removed from their home. I watched from my living room window as they got into the police cars and pulled away, and though I felt some sorrow seeing a family broken up, I took pride in knowing it was the right thing to do. I knew that I contributed to getting those kids out of a terrible situation, and this ignited a spark of passion in me.
I had my first big opportunity to kindle that spark during my junior year as a student at the University of XXXX, through the XXXX program. Through this program, I completed an internship at a local social service agency in Barcelona, providing after school support services to poor immigrant children living in the city, coming from Morocco, Pakistan, Indonesia, Bolivia, and Romania, among other countries. My work would prove to be much more difficult than I expected, however. Picking up a child from school on my first day, I was greeted by punching, spitting, and Spanish swears from a five year old boy from Morocco. After my first day I never would have guessed that my work with this boy would have ended the way that it did – in a tearful embrace between the two of us, exchanging goodbyes and good wishes. I picked him up from school every day at my internship, and I grew close with him over the time that I spent with him. I always respected the boundaries that he set between us but I pushed them every chance that I had, eventually culminating into what I knew he so desperately needed; a friendship. Though I was sad to go, I was able to leave knowing that I had a positive impact on his life, and I am proud of that.
My work in Spain allowed me to experience that same feeling of pride that I felt watching the cars pull away that summer afternoon in 2003. My experiences there slowly began to transform what began as a spark for me at fourteen into a true passion, and the following semester I sought out an internship at the State of XXXX Department of Health and Human Services with Child Protective Services, which was influenced in large part by my experiences in the summer of 2003. Through this internship I have had the opportunity for interaction with legal professionals including Assistant Attorney Generals and guardians ad-litem, as well as judges in the family courts. I have also had the opportunity to see how the law can impact children, both positively and negatively. I have seen children removed from their homes with abusive parents and placed in safe foster homes, while I have seen other children represented by guardians ad-litem who constantly miss meetings, neglect face time with their clients, and seem hardly invested in the well being and future of the children that they volunteer to represent.
These experiences have shown me how important strong and effective legal advocacy is for children who are in need of help. My experiences in Spain as well as those at my internship at Child Protective Services have lead me to an interest in exploring family law and other areas of the law that would allow for a positive impact on the lives of children faced with the range of problems associated with socioeconomic disadvantage. Growing up in an independent lifestyle and in an economic hardship has taught me the value of independence, time management and hard work, all things which will be invaluable when confronting the obstacles presented by law school, be they financial, mental, or emotional. Confronting similar obstacles growing up has taught me something very important that I will follow closely when it comes to getting my legal education and planning a successful future: if I want it, I have to earn it, and I intend to do just that.
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