Our Summer Series continues! This series highlights different Latina students and law grads as they embark in their summer jobs and/or bar prep all across the country. We hope to provide a variety of work experiences, options for a healthy work-life balance, and general motivation through different guest contributors to help you to take charge of your summer and professional goals! Today we hear from Krystlen, a rising 2L from Florida, who is re-connecting with her community after feeling disconnected from her classmates during her 1L year at Hofstra:
I always get asked what my plans are after law school, which is understandable, but absolutely absurd to me considering that a year ago, I was still in disbelief that I’d be leaving Florida and starting at Hofstra Law in a month. My answer remains the same: I want to help people in my community. That’s usually too broad an answer for most, including myself.
I come from a background of community organizing. I committed myself to that work throughout and after my undergraduate career because with campaigns, I would get a spot on the front lines in combating the issues facing marginalized communities but the drawback was engaging the community for only a short period of time before the campaign ended.
Luckily, I found my internship, and have since found some peace of mind knowing that there are opportunities waiting for me at the finish line where I can serve my community in big ways. I’m also lucky I’ve been able to immerse myself in an issue I’ve admittedly never really thought too much about, needs a lot of work, and I know will be continued to be pursued and perfected once I leave. This summer I’ve been working for a civil rights organization dedicated to protecting the rights of the Latinx population.
Specifically, this summer I’ve been working with the Central Florida Latinx population on issues concerning language access for parents in the public school system. Language access is most commonly an issue when elections come around and political jurisdictions with smaller Latinx populations that aren’t required to provide ballots in Spanish come under fire for disenfranchising voters. However, this is also an overlooked issue in almost every aspect of an adult’s life who does not speak English. Public school systems are required to provide the same information for parents who don’t speak English that they do for English proficient parents, “as feasible.” And while it may not always be feasible to provide information and assistance in languages very few members of the population speak (a different hurdle for another day), Spanish speakers should not be experiencing these difficulties here in Central Florida. My organization has been collaborating with groups in Central Florida who have taken the time to survey and document the multiple problems Spanish Speaking parents in Central Florida are facing, from dysfunctional school and district websites when translated to the district refusing to effectively communicate with the parents regarding their child’s educational development. Additionally, with the recent spike in immigration to Florida from Venezuela and Puerto Rico, the need for Spanish speaking parents to play a participatory role in their child’s education in the United States is increasingly not being met by the school district.
In America, there is such a rich diversity of immigrants and descendants of immigrants with native languages they shouldn’t have to abandon. All over America, we’re happy to host culturally diverse foods, music, and art, but stop short if asked to speak or understand another language. Conversely, translation and interpretation comes at a high cost and it is arguably more efficient to work and communicate when all parties are on the same page, since words can easily be misconstrued when translated.
My parents are both fluent Spanish speakers and understand English pretty well, but are not proficient. They’ve both lived here in the United States for more than half their lives and have adapted accordingly, but have never needed to learn to speak English fluently because the cities we’ve lived in have large and growing Latinx populations. That is to say that this isn’t a small problem and like many other issues facing marginalized communities, this one will not go away if ignored.
Beginning this internship, I was nervous that in becoming a lawyer, I’d become disconnected from the communities I once loved working closely with. Fortunately, I’ve found that not to be the case, and I’m so proud to have spent my summer getting to do exactly what I would love to do in my career.