Berkeley experience: Lernik’s journey to Berkeley was a long and circuitous one. Lernik was born in Karaj, Iran (her family had to leave Tehran because of the Iran-Iraq War), but then returned to Tehran shortly after the War ended. Encountering systematic lack of opportunity alongside ethnic, religious and gender discrimination, Lernik left Iran with her family and moved to Glendale, California in 2010. Starting her education with an ESL III level of English knowledge, Lernik enrolled in Glendale Community College in 2011. There, she co-founded the Law and Politics Advocacy Club, which organized political events such as rallies and debates, promoted school policy reforms and student activism, and funded scholarships.
In 2014, Lernik transferred to Berkeley for her junior year. At UC Berkeley, she focused her studies on political science and international relations but also took classes on racial and ethnic politics and economics. Not shying away from taking some of the toughest social science classes at CAL, she excelled at her studies, receiving a 3.97 GPA. She graduated in December 2015.
Other service experience: Outside of the classroom, Lernik volunteered at the Department of Public Social Services, joined the Justice Corps program and interned at the Superior Court of California. She helped low-income litigants who cannot afford professional legal representation complete legal forms, provided them with important legal information and referrals, facilitated legal workshops, and helped with translation (she is fluent in Farsi and Armenian). She also assisted judges and attorneys, drafted briefings of court hearings, and prepared court orders.
Fellowship Goal: For her Gardner Fellowship, Lernik would like to deepen her understanding of the US legal system, with a particular interest in criminal justice reform, women's rights, and corporate tax reform. She hopes to join a federal agency in order to learn more about the policy making and evaluation process.
Post Fellowship plans: Lernik plans to pursue a law degree to establish a career in law and public policy-making to work closely with the government and the private sector to reach better policy outcomes.
Quote about public service: Be the change that you wish to see in the world.