Skip to main content

Koret Fellowship Program

Adrienne Garfias

Philosophy major, Class of 2019

I am a Junior at Santa Clara University, majoring in Philosophy, with a Pre-Law emphasis. I am also minoring in Spanish and Political Science. So in shorter terms - I want to go to law school. I love law and I love helping people, and I’m also a strong advocate for the immigrant community, so this experience combined all of my passions together. Working to help DACA recipients, victims of crime, and individuals obtaining visas and US citizenship confirmed that this is the career I want to do. I was lucky enough to hit the jackpot on my first career exploration internship. Receiving the LEAD fellowship gave me the opportunity to take this unpaid internship and gain a valuable legal experience I wouldn’t have been able to have otherwise.

This summer I had the opportunity to intern as a legal assistant at a non-profit immigration firm named ALMA, which stands for Apoyo Legal Migrante Asociado. In English, that means Association for Migrant Legal Support. This firm provides high quality legal services and legal advice to immigrants at rates well below the market. It is a small organization, with 6 workers total, so the lawyers and assistants really get to know and care for their clients, and are dedicated to help them. Because it is such a small firm, my experience interning at ALMA was very hands on. On my first day at ALMA, I was thrown into a case and had to quickly learn the procedures involved in working on an immigration case by doing. To be honest, that scared me. After my first day I was worried that I was not prepared and did not know enough about the law to be helpful to ALMA. I was embarrassed every time I asked a lot of questions, but soon enough I was able to get a hang of the process and was able to work on cases alone. This was truly an irreplaceable experience.

Everyday I would come into the office and be given cases to work on. One of the tasks of working on a case includes translating documents from Spanish to English. These documents were either written declarations from clients, passports, birth certificates, police reports etc. Translating everyday was very helpful in improving my Spanish reading and writing skills, something I don’t get to work on everyday. I would also have to read all of the evidence given in a case, organize the documents in a specific order, put together the case, write formal letters to USCIS agents, and file applications on the official US Citizen and Immigration website. I even learned a little bit about criminal law by reading FBI and police reports. I believe that in an interview for another legal internship I can confidently say that I am skilled in preparing immigration cases and doing intake appointments with clients.

By the end of the summer I had formed a connection with my bosses and  coworkers, and had gained enough experience, that they asked if I would be able to come back during the school year. I accepted, and am currently volunteering at ALMA once a week on Thursdays from 10:30am-4pm. Had I not received the LEAD fellowship, I would not have gained this priceless experience, and I would not be currently gaining more legal experience or practicing my passion. I plan to continue at ALMA for the rest of the school year, and hopefully get a paid internship this summer, so that I can continue to volunteer with ALMA once a week in the summer as well. I am so grateful to the LEAD Scholars Program, and to all of the donors, for supporting me as I pursue my career goals and dreams.