Posted by Cara Solomon
Last year, the Human Rights Program funded more than 20 students to work at internships abroad. You can meet several of them today at the International Summer Jobs Student Panel in Pound 213; they’ll be eating free burritos and dispensing their best advice there from 12:00- 1:00 pm.
In advance of the panel, we talked last week to Brett Stark, JD ’12, who worked at RefugePoint, an organization in Kenya that helps to meet the needs of people affected by war and conflict. He described how he came to care about this work; what he learned from his first summer internship; and why his second internship proved so successful.
HRP: You have a long-standing interest in social justice advocacy. Why did you choose law school to express it?
I thought it would be the most effective way for me to be the best social justice advocate I could be—given our system, and the powers that lawyers have, and also given what I felt like my abilities were, as an oral advocate, as a person who enjoys connecting with people, and as someone who loves to write. That stuff kind of blended together with law.
When I came here, I was trying to figure out: what’s my thing going to be? I didn’t really know; I wanted to look around. One of the things I did was the Immigration and Refugee Clinic, and that was really awesome. Working with a client is an amazing experience. With teaching, which I had done before law school, you’re connecting with students, but with clients, it’s a different kind of connection.
I’m still trying to figure out what it’s about. At first, I thought: this is great, you make a new friend that you can help in a way that no one else can help because you have access to legal institutions. But I’m learning that it’s not about making friends; it’s about being compassionate while being the most effective advocate you can be.
HRP: Tell us about your first internship experience.
The summer of my 1L year, I was at the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. I found it through the OPIA database, and it made sense—I’m Jewish, and I’m really passionate about civil rights, so how could I go wrong? I didn’t look into it more than that. It’s a really amazing organization, but I wanted more interaction with clients.
So the next year, I thought, if I really had my druthers, I’d do something where I could connect with people, because that’s who I am. On the recommendation of Clinical Professor Debbie Anker, of the Immigration and Refugee Clinic, I chose RefugePoint in Kenya.
HRP: What did the internship involve?
With some variation, I basically did the same exact thing day in and day out—and it was the best experience I ever had. Continue reading