The Dimock Center, Boston (January 2012 – May 2013)
How are you an advocate today? For the last five years I have been working as a paralegal at the Defender Association of Philadelphia. As part ...
How are you an advocate today?
For the last five years I have been working as a paralegal at the Defender Association of Philadelphia. As part of my role I was assigned to the Project Dawn Court (PDC). The PDC is a diversionary program that is unique in its eligibility requirements. The program seeks out women with prostitution charges, who are chronic recidivists, with decades of sexual trauma, drug abuse, and often with serious mental health diagnoses. The women I worked with felt like some of most abused people in the criminal justice system, their cases were minor, but they had so many convictions that they had become tethered to their criminal records and left to sink. Most people saw these women as lost causes, but Mary DeFusco, one of the founders of the PDC, saw clients who had a need that was not getting met. She set up the PDC so that these women would receive the support that they needed, through case management, sexual trauma therapy, and a variety of other services.
As Mary’s paralegal I worked tirelessly to advocate for my clients. I would call treatment programs and ask that they keep my client for another day, so they wouldn’t be discharged without a place to go, I would call housing programs, therapists, and providers to make sure my clients were being properly taken care of.
While I was working full time, I attended Temple University Beasley School of Law as an Evening Student. After I graduated I was lucky enough to be offered a position in the Fall Class of Attorneys at the Defender Association.
How did your role as an Advocate inform your path to today?
I worked at the Dimock Center as a Health Leads Advocate. The Dimock Center is unique in both its small size and in the programming that it offers to its patients. It was through Health Leads and the Dimock Center that I was introduce to a variety of public interest lawyers that were often working with patients to improve their living conditions. When I first applied to be an advocate with Health Leads, I was looking for a way to engage with community health clinics. I had intended to go to Medical School, and later become a Primary Care Provider. Health Leads gave me a more holistic understanding of what affects a person’s health. When I met the lawyers in the clinic, something clicked for me. I realized that what I loved, was being an advocate, and I began to change my path.
What surprised you about that path?
How obvious it was. I was the freshman in college who had a ten-year plan, written out, and it did not include law school. I thought I was going to take a very linear path to achieve my goals, but that goal was just to make a positive impact. What I found out is that there are many ways to create change in your community, and often the most linear path is the one that will teach you the least about yourself and the world.
What inspires you most about your work?
How resilient people are.