I was a shy toddler who had beenexposed to a different culture growing up. My lack of ability to socially andculturally adjust in a school setting caused a feeling of indifference towardmy peers.
Half-way through my fourth-grade school year, I remember looking fora plausible excuse to skip class during the week. Anything to get out ofschool. My opportunity arrived when my teacher announced to the classinformation about the informal holiday, “Take Your Child to Work Day.” Shepassed out a paper form for our parents to fill out if we wanted to participateand learn about the kind of work they do. I rushed home to deliver the news tomy mother before my older siblings demand her attention. Breathless fromrunning, I presented the paper form to my mom and began convincing her to bringme along for work. That scheme I pulled to ditch class for a day changed mylife, because it was the first time I learned my mom’s job was housecleaning,that we were poor, and that my parents were uneducated. My experience opened my eyes up tosocial and economic inequalities in the United States, especially amongrefugees.
My parents fled post-civil war Yugoslavia in the mid-90s. With thecollapse of the federation and ongoing violence, they lost their home inmodern-day Croatia, where my Father faced discrimination for being an ethnicSerb. As I got older, I started to see how these dynamics affected my family’seconomic opportunities. Both my parents could not speak English, both neverwent to high school, and both had no job training in technical, higher payingwork. The more I looked at our situation with a critical eye, the more Irealized that I had an opportunity to do better, to succeed in life—a chancethat was taken away from my parents. As a result, I gained confidence anddeveloped self-reliance at a young age. However, I was not satisfied with justthat.
I wanted to empower others. My passion for social equality and justicegrew because I wanted to use my experience and knowledge to unite fragmentedcommunities and help people overcome adversities.I come from a background in nonprofit workand community engagement. This background shapes my intellectual andprofessional values. I have operated community organizations and volunteerefforts for food drives and donor funding campaigns, both domestically andabroad.
I began at a local youth center in Sarasota, Florida and ended with aninternship 7,000 miles away from home at United Way Japan (UUJ). In thisposition, I was responsible for drafting proposals for Fortune 500 companies’Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities and maintaining acorporate-relations database. I provided research and insight on importantsocial issues in Japan, corporate initiatives and goals, and governmentinvolvement. This position focused heavily on Corporate-NGO relations.
I alsocollaborated with our partner organization, Central Community Chest of Japan(CCCJ), to improve the lives of people across Japan in areas of education,health, and financial stability. In this position I was able to observe thesimilarities and differences between grassroot, nonprofit organizations, andpeoples’ attitude toward nonprofit work and donations, in America and Japan. Prior to studying abroad, I had aninternship for a lobbying group in Washington D.C.
The National Conference ofState Legislatures (NCSL) is the only prominent, bipartisan lobbyingorganization for state-federal issues. My responsibilities in this position wasproviding administrative and technical assistance, research and writing aboutdifferent international legislatures and delegates, and event planning for anannual Summit, where over 6,000 legislators and their staff from all over theworld would come together to discuss best practices and ideas. Working in thisposition was crucial in solidifying my desire to attend law school. I attendedmany Think Tank events and congressional hearings about government policies inbusiness, environment and trade. The legal perspective provided by experts onthese issues was both complex and fascinating.
I walked up the steps of theSupreme Court of the United States of America and became inspired by the motto”Equal Justice Under Law.” I interacted with legal experts and lawyers fromdifferent backgrounds, political beliefs and ideology. I learned that they usedtheir legal education and expertise to advocate on issues they felt passionateabout. Collaborating with these people gave me a better understanding of how myhunger for social justice could interact and be reinforced with my interest inlaw. My experiences volunteering in thecommunity and interning for NPOs taught me that I need to get more active inthe issues I am passionate about. My experiences dealing with poverty andcoming from a different cultural background taught me to overcome thedifficulties life throws at you. I expect law school to give me the tools tobetter unite and work with diverse communities.
I also expect to be challengedintellectually, and have more opportunities opened for me in the future. I hopeto further empower more groups of people as I strive for social justice andequality.