My semester in D.C. flew by far more quickly than I could have ever imagined. Working forty hours each week while taking classes and exploring the city made the time speed by, but I truly believe that I made the most of my time on the East Coast. I toured the Capitol, House Chamber, Supreme Court, and even went to the White House on a spring garden tour. I explored many museums, monuments, and historical sites in D.C., and I also was able to visit nearby cities on the weekends. I visited New York, Boston, Baltimore, and Shenandoah National Park all thanks to Amtrak—I spent plenty of time at Union Station this semester.
While I did my best to explore other cities on the East Coast, I also learned so much about Washington, D.C. while working with the Public Defenders Service. Most UCDC students stay in the areas around the Capitol, but I was able to travel throughout D.C. and Maryland to areas not frequented by tourists. I witnessed the disparities experienced by people living in different quadrants of the city. I built relationships with clients and their families who showed me the resilience of D.C. residents. I learned about the history of Washington, D.C. as a place in which formerly enslaved people built vibrant communities, and I witnessed those communities be displaced by a rising cost of living. The attorneys at the Public Defenders Service showed me what zealous advocacy for clients looks like, and I am grateful to have been able to work under their guidance.
My time in Washington with the Public Defender Service reinforced my passion for legal advocacy for those most impacted by the criminal justice system. I am lucky to have been able to serve communities in D.C. that are marginalized and often forgotten, and I wouldn’t have been able to have had this experience without the support of the Matsui Center. I am immensely thankful to be a Matsui Center Washington Fellow and UCDC student this spring. I hope other students consider applying to the UCDC Program to further their goals in public service as I did.