Ryana is an alumna of AF Amistad High School and a member of the Lafayette College Class of 2020. We sat down with her to find out more about how she’s continuing to progress toward her goals over the summer.
What is your major? Why did you choose that major?
I am a Law and Women & Gender Studies (WGS) double major. I’ve had a passion for social justice and the legal field since I was younger. I found myself watching shows like “Law and Order” for hours, so I knew from an early age I wanted to do something in that field. When I was at AF Amistad High, I took a summer class at Brown named the psychology of gender, and I wanted to know more. I took one WGS class my first semester in college and immediately had a passion for it. The two majors intertwine a lot; I can often find a way that women and gender issues play a role in the legal field and vice versa.
Tell us about your internship. Where is it and what are you doing? How does it support what you’re learning in class?
I am interning at Wiggin and Dana LLP, a law firm in downtown New Haven. I am working as their L.A.W. Camp (Love to Learn, Apply Yourself, and Work for Justice) clerk, which means I am helping coordinate everything from contacting attorneys in the Greater New Haven area, to recruiting participants, to generally making sure everything runs smoothly. One of my favorite parts about my internship is that I am surrounded by so many attorneys. In my free time, I have the opportunity to talk to attorneys practicing medical malpractice, litigation, corporate law, and real estate law. I know it pays to network and stay in contact with people. Many of the people I’ve spoken to have already recommended other internships to me and put me in contact with others in the legal field.
You were a L.A.W. Camp camper in back in 2012. How that has influenced your experience at your internship today?
I participated in the first annual L.A.W. Camp, and I was honored to come back and be a part of the committee. This gives me a chance to give back to my community and encourage those who are where I once was.
As a camper, I thought L.A.W. camp was amazing! It was my first opportunity to see what lawyers do and what goes into trials. Each group was assigned either defendant or plaintiff and we prepped with our coaches, who were attorneys in the area, on how to win the case. This included learning about trial and evidence procedures. My favorite part of the camp was on the last day when we had a mock trial at the courthouse downtown. That was my first time being in the courthouse or a court room. During the trial, I was just so excited, and I knew that the courtroom was where I wanted to be.
There are not any other programs like this in New Haven, so I was lucky to take part in this camp and have this experience. The camp definitely played a huge role in my continued interest in the legal field. In fact, I still keep in contact with my coach from years ago.
How did your high school experience prepare you for the field you’re studying?
When I was in high school, I participated in Penn State Science-U program which focuses on crime scene analysis. During this program, I worked with a group of people to complete a crime simulation using basic forensic skills such as fingerprinting, swabbing, and bagging evidence. I very much enjoyed this program, but after this program I realized that I wanted to do more than analysis of the crime scene. I want to take the next step and use these findings to solve the crime and ensure that justice is served. I am thankful that Amistad was able to send me to this summer program because it helped me realize what I want to study. I am appreciative for the opportunities I’ve had so far and those that will come, but I am just one person. I want others to have these same opportunities and so much more.
What do you want to do after college?
My ultimate career goal is to practice civil litigation or become a criminal defense lawyer. We need more minorities in the legal field, especially women. My city has seen a lot of violence over the last few decades, and I want to take a different approach and find out why this is the trend and how to get my city back on track.
I know a lot of people make it and forget about where they come from, but I feel like all of my success thus far is motivated by my past. Coordinating L.A.W. Camp this year has opened my eyes to all of the programs and resources my city could benefit from. I don’t want to be a hero, I just want others to know that your environment will always have some influence on you, but it doesn’t have to define you. Make your environment a product of you rather than being a product of your environment.
At some point, I hope to start a mentorship program for the youth in New Haven along with programs that help those who may be older but want to go back to school, and need some support, or those who want to pick up a trade, or take real estate or culinary classes. I am not just trying to improve the community in New Haven, I am also involved in Generation Next in Easton, Penn. that helps low income first generation students with the college process. Next year, I will be a program coordinator for hunger and homelessness in the Easton area that aims to provide free meals and toiletries to families in the community in need.
We can’t wait to hear how everything turns out. Thanks for sharing, Ryana.