This summer I have been working with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights in Seattle, Washington as a Civil Rights Intern. The Seattle Office for Civil Rights investigates cases that allege violations of rights based on sex, race, disability and age within federally funded educational institutions. For the past six weeks, I have come in three days a week and been mentored by the attorneys and investigators at the Office for Civil Rights. By shadowing these individuals and helping them with their caseloads, I have gained a better understanding of what civil rights lawyers–particularly those employed by the government–do on a day to day basis.
On an average day at OCR, I arrive at 8:30 a.m. and check in with my mentor and supervisor Tim Sell to see what projects I should work on for the day. These assignments range from listening in on interviews between lawyers and complainants (the individuals who are filing complaints), trainings on civil rights issues ranging from service animals to Title IX and its relationship to school athletics, and evaluating cases to see if OCR has jurisdiction. Over the past six weeks I have been primarily focusing on cases involving Title IX, alleging discrimination on the basis of sex, and how they function within the Department of Education. As someone who is very passionate about gender equity, being exposed to this issue from a legal perspective has been particularly fascinating. In my next month at OCR, I am hoping to get more involved with cases focusing on racial discrimination, as this is also an issue that I feel is very pressing. Thus far, my internship with OCR has allowed me a greater understanding of civil rights law, and has provided me a different context for evaluating issues of racial, sexual, age and disability based discrimination. I have loved my experience with the Seattle Office for Civil Rights thus far, and I am excited to continue learning more.
Experiences like Grace’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Victoria Wolff.