Before interning with The Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), I never considered the act of informing potential clients of resources and possible next steps an important legal act in itself. However, throughout my internship, I witnessed the many ways free consultations were beneficial to the foundation of individual cases. Regardless of whether MALDEF could take a case, conducting interviews with potential clients often provided them with a wealth of information about filing discrimination complaints and a better understanding of the law. This information and a better grip of legal texts allowed them to make a more strategic decision on how to proceed with their case. Towards the end of my internship, I began to feel a sense of hope knowing that we could provide them with some guidance on how to navigate the legal system. Reflecting on my work as an intern, it was remarkable to witness how informing individuals on how to file complaints with state departments as well as writing letters to educational institutions went a long way in empowering communities to become politically active.
While interning at MALDEF, I got to witness the powerful impact of community members, parents, and attorneys working together on local and state levels to affect positive change. Working alongside my supervising attorney on education cases taught me that not every victory can be attributed to the outcome of a court case or legislation. Large-scale political change in cases that MALDEF litigated and policies they drafted would have not been possible without the collaboration of other civil rights organizations and the voting power of residents. For instance, MALDEF is able to ensure school districts continue to provide a free public education to all students because of their relationships with passionate parents of school councils and their organizing efforts in the community. The most important take-away from my internship is that there are many ways to be politically involved and fight discrimination without being in the legal field. Making change that is beneficial to communities of color requires dedicated people from a variety of fronts and social as well as cultural capitals who have the same end goal in mind. Being an intern with MALDEF has solidified my desire to become an attorney but has opened my eyes to the myriad career options in the legal field and how there are many steps one can take to help the community with legal matters as an undergraduate or law school student. Therefore, I want to become more involved in initiatives that ensure members in my community know their rights and can enroll their children in educational programs that are catered to them.