The “Winningest Table”                                    Spotlight on the Annual Giving Campaign and the Fran Kandel Public Interest Fellowship Program

By Sarah Quist,  Co-Chair of WLALA Fran Kandel Public Interest Fellowships Committee, with assistance from Jennifer Altfeld Landau and Susan Steinhauser, Co-Chairs, Annual Giving Campaign

January 2020

A proud guest sitting near me at WLALA’s 100th Anniversary Celebration commented that we had the “winningest” table.  She was referring to the fact that our table hosted three Fran Kandel Public Interest Fellowship recipients and a WLALA scholarship recipient who also had completed a fellowship project.  WLALA awarded a record number of fellowships and scholarships in its 100th year.  WLALA could not have done this without your support of its Foundation’s Annual Giving Campaign. For the past 12 years, the Annual Giving Campaign has raised over $215,000 to support scholarships and fellowships, provide legal services and programs to the underserved, and provide financial support to organizations who share our mission.

The Fran Kandel Public Interest Fellowship provides a stipend and project costs to law students who complete an original public interest project while interning for a legal organization.  This year, WLALA awarded three such fellowships – to Alexandra Fuxá Ramírez (3L, Indiana University Law), Zoë Lillian (2L, New York University Law), and Courtney Mendoza (3L, USC).  This is the largest number of fellowships and the highest amount of grants to date.  In addition to completing their fellowships, each of the three fellows also engaged in the Los Angeles legal community over the summer, including attending WLALApalooza and WLALA’s 100th Anniversary Celebration.  They recently reflected on their experiences and the impact of their projects:

Alexandra Fuxá Ramírez, a 3L at Indiana University McKinney School of Law, completed her Kandel Fellowship project – a brochure informing immigrants about public benefits eligibility – while interning for the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (LACLJ). The brochure focused on public benefits available to immigrant survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and human trafficking and is available in English and Spanish.  Alexandra is an aspiring immigration lawyer and looks forward to moving to Los Angeles to begin her career after graduating in 2020.  Alexandra explained the importance of her fellowship:

The WLALA Fran Kandel Public Interest Grant helped me make a huge difference in the life of so many immigrants that had recently survived domestic violence, sexual abuse, and/or human trafficking. All the clients I spoke with were extremely excited to learn that, at least in California, they were eligible for certain public benefits depending on the humanitarian relief they were seeking. I think the most heartwarming moment I experienced thanks to the WLALA Fran Kandel Public Interest Grant was when I presented my brochure to one of Los CLJ’s human trafficking survivor. This client had been living in a shelter since she escaped her trafficker, but she was really struggling to find enough food to feed herself and her son. I gave her the brochure I made and told her that, as a trafficking survivor, she was eligible for a number of public benefits. The moment I mentioned she was eligible for food stamps, she broke down in tears. You have no idea how much I needed this, she told me. She literally went to apply for food stamps the same day. Thanks to WLALA, this client, as well as many others, were able to get one step closer to stability.

Zoë Lillian, a 2L at New York University School of Law, completed her Fran Kandel Fellowship project – a Know Your Lactation Rights campaign – while interning at the ACLU of Southern California’s LGBTQ, Gender Equity and Reproductive Justice Project. Zoë created model advocacy and policy letters for individuals to use to acquire lactation accommodations at work, in school, or in public spaces.  Zoë shared the following:

After providing services as a clinic escort, abortion doula and transportation for years, I realized I needed to make fighting for reproductive justice my career. After accepting a dream internship at the ACLU of Southern California’s LGBT, Gender Equity and Reproductive Justice Project, the Fran Kandel Public Interest Grant assured that I would be able to pursue this work. In creating a lactation rights campaign, not only was I able to expand my understanding of and advocacy opportunities in the movement, I also contributed something tangible to the cause. This work was all the more meaningful after a year of being wrapped in the fascinating but theoretical world of law school.

My direct service and academic experiences gave me the knowledge to succeed in the internship; the Fran Kandel Public Interest Grant gave me the opportunity to put the knowledge to work.

Courtney Mendoza, a 3L at University of Southern California Gould School of Law, completed her Fran Kandel Fellowship project – a training manual for new advocates in the health law field – while interning for with the National Health Law Program. The project has been dispersed to new health law advocates in the Health Consumer Alliance, a group of health law advocate organizations in Southern California. The comprehensive training manual contains materials on Medi-Cal and specific health law topics that commonly affect low-income, underserved populations in Southern California, like immigration status, disability, and reproductive rights.  Courtney shared the following:

The WLALA Fran Kandel Public Interest Grant allowed me to spend my summer advocating for the health care rights of underserved communities through the National Health Law Program (NHeLP). Through the grant, I was able to pursue my passion in public interest health law. The WLALA community is a truly supportive and uplifting organization that has encouraged me – and many other aspiring women – to continue striving toward our dream legal careers.

More information about the Fellows and their projects is available on the WLALA webpage under the Foundation and “Fran Kandel Public Interest Fellowship Recipients.”

Time To Give. We hope you find Alexandra’s, Zoë’s, and Courtney’s stories uplifting and that they inspire you to contribute to the Annual Giving Campaign. These fellowships would not be possible without your contributions to the Annual Giving Campaign.  As you’ve just read, they help law students make a difference as they serve members of our community. Your contribution is tax deductible to the extent provided by law. To make your contribution, CLICK HERE. To those who have already given, our thanks.

          With gratitude for your giving and our wishes for a warm and wonderful Holiday Season.

  Pictured above at WLALA’s 100th Anniversary Celebration, from left to right, Zoë Lillian, Sarah Quist and Hon. Nancy Ramirez (Co-Chairs), Alexandra Fuxá Ramírez, and Courtney Mendoza.

           Pictured above at WLALApalooza, from left to right, Courtney Mendoza, Heather Stern                                           (President), Alexandra Fuxá Ramírez, and Zoë Lillian.