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College of Law Students Awarded Prestigious Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation Fellowships

Two Urban Morgan Institute Fellows have just been awarded fellowships with the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation. Suzy Firestone ’14 and Patrick Higgins ’16 will be working with the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation (OLAF) Fellowship program. The competitive fellowships bring to the legal aid community talented law school graduates, to focus on specific and urgent issues facing low-income individuals and families.

Suzy Firestone ’14 Will Focus on Immigration and Education Issues

Suzy Firestone plans to use the fellowship to work with Legal Aid of Greater Cincinnati to provide advocacy about immigration and education issues that affect low-income immigrant children and families in southwest Ohio. She says her project was created in response to the flood of children and families from Central America, who fled violence and poverty to come to the United States.

While at UC Law, Firestone focused on public interest and immigration law. As an Urban Morgan Institute Fellow, she worked on the Human Rights Quarterly all three years she was in school, saying it was “a good opportunity to connect to like-minded people.”

Firestone spent a semester with Su Casa, a Catholic charity in Cincinnati that serves Hispanic and Latino individuals by providing them with social, educational, language, employment and healthcare services. In addition to helping clients complete Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) forms, she also interned with Legal Aid.

Before coming to UC for law school, Firestone completed her undergraduate degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, majoring in Political Science while minoring in Social and Economic Justice.

After graduating, she worked with a branch of AmeriCorps in North Carolina at a crisis service center. Working with the Spanish language program there, Firestone said, helped her understand how immigration status was connected to and exacerbated problems faced by immigrants, such as poverty and the threat of domestic violence.

“It made me want to provide the type of relief that would impact and help provide people with greater stability,” she said.

Through her project, Firestone hopes to ensure that her clients can stay in the US, keeping them from being forced to return to the dangerous conditions that prompted them to risk the journey here. She also wants to be sure that children can access their right to a public education and make progress in school.

The achievement of her goals will come from providing direct representation in immigration and education cases, as well as offering outreach in immigrant communities. She also hopes to increase the capacity of her project and enlarge its overall impact through the use of student externs and volunteers, as well as pro bono attorneys.

Since graduating from the College of law, Firestone has been working as a clerk for Magistrate Judge Michael J. Newman, United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.

Patrick Higgins ’16 Will Focus on Reducing Barriers to Employment

Patrick Higgins, who will be graduating this spring, also has been awarded a two-year fellowship with the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation. He will be working at the Ohio Poverty Law Center in Columbus, Ohio. Specifically, he will be working with the Legal Aid Society of Columbus and Southeastern Ohio Legal Services to build coalitions aimed at reducing barriers to employment in central and southeast Ohio.

Before coming to UC for law school, Higgins studied at New York University, where he was part of the first graduating class of the university’s Global Liberal Studies program. His concentration within the program was Politics, Rights and Development. He also minored in Spanish.

The primary reason he chose to come to UC for law school, said Higgins, was the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights. He was awarded the Arthur Russell Morgan Fellowship, and works on the Human Rights Quarterly as the Senior Articles Editor with Portfolio.

“When I decided that law school was the best next step for my career, I knew that it had to retain a focus of bringing human rights home,” he said. He added that the presence of centers such as the Center for Race, Gender and Social Justice, as well as the college’s urban location made him feel comfortable knowing he would be studying in an environment “committed to using the law for good.”

Higgins says his law school career has been full of notable experiences. As early as his first summer at the College of Law, he was working for a human rights think tank in Bogotá, Colombia, called Dejusticia, where he conducted research on policy affecting Colombia and the rest of the Global South.

During his second year, Higgins was an extern at the Legal Aid Society of Southwest Ohio, where he worked with the immigration practice group. That summer, he worked with Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE) in Toledo, Ohio as an associate in the Agricultural Worker and Immigrant Rights practice group—an opportunity, he says, that exposed him to a wide array of legal experiences, including a trial for a racial profiling lawsuit filed against the United States Border Patrol.

“My experiences working civil legal aid and education at the College of Law have taught me that legal advocacy alone cannot solve every issue,” he says. With his fellowship—aside from the legal and policy work he’ll be doing—he hopes to build a coalition of people and groups so that the project’s impact is felt well beyond his two years there.

Currently, Higgins currently is interning with the Legal Aid Society of Southwest Ohio.

Author: Nick Ruma, Communication Intern