Meet the Sparer Fellows

  • Barnard College, B.A. in Political Science, May 2011

    Setenay Akdag’s interest in international politics and public policy led her to appreciate the impact of legal advocacy in those fields, and inspired her to attend law school. A first-generation immigrant in the United States, Setenay has a personal investment in advocating for immigrants’ rights, and a strong commitment to international human rights. During her time at Barnard, she expanded on her studies through internships at the New York City Council and the Attorney General’s office, where she learned about different avenues for serving constituents. While studying foreign languages and social movements, Setenay sought to apply her evolving international perspective as an intern at the Foreign Policy Association and Human Rights Watch. As a Sparer fellow this summer, she looks forward to working for underserved communities through legal services.

  • Columbia University, 2007; BA in American Studies
    University College London, 2011; MA in Modern History, with distinction

    During her undergraduate career, Leslie established an interest in international human rights and justice. After college, she volunteered with a community development NGO in Jamaica before working in administration at the Graduate School of Architecture at Columbia University. While there, she did graduate work in urban history and realized an interest in immigration policy. She then pursued a Masters degree in modern history from University College London. During summer 2012, with the support of Brooklyn Law School’s International Human Rights Fellowship, Leslie was a legal intern at the United Nations in Beirut, Lebanon, in the Office of Staff Legal Assistance. During fall 2012 she continued to intern with the Office of Staff Legal Assistance at UN headquarters in New York, and during spring 2013 she is interning at the New York office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. She is a member of the Brooklyn Journal of International Law, currently co-chairs the Human Rights Committee of the BLS International Law Society, and is a student member of the United Nations Committee of the New York City Bar Association.

  • Villanova University, B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy, May 2009

    Christina Bernardo’s interest stems from her belief that low-income people are the best advocates for change in their community and legal advocacy is an empowering tool for supporting those interests. After graduating from college she worked as a community organizer with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now!, a neighborhood-based community group. There, she worked alongside local community members to resolve local issues such as increasing public school funding, improving food access, and assisting homeowners at-risk of foreclosure negotiate affordable mortgage repayments. Overall, Christina came to law school to provide legal representation to under-served neighborhoods and engage in legal reform.

  • Northwestern University, B.S. Education and Social Policy, Concentration in Psychological Services and a specialization in Urban Childhood Development, 1998

    After studying educational policy and sociology at Northwestern University, Sarah spent a year with City Year as a literacy tutor in San Antonio. Returning to New York, she spent the next few years as a paralegal specialist with the Legal Aid Society, working both in Federal and Family Court. Taking a strong interest in the juvenile justice system, she went on to work as a court representative and education advocate for CASES, an alternative to incarceration program, and later as the Director of Community Based Services with Friends of Island Academy, a re-entry program for young adults returning home from Rikers Island. In order to be able to continue to expand her ability to serve the disconnected youth of New York City, Sarah chose to return to school, and pursue her J.D. at Brooklyn Law School. She has partnered with the Resilience Advocacy Project to bring a new pro-bono project to BLS that allows students to act as community advocates, assisting teens and young adults with issues such as applying for housing, securing child support, obtaining important identification documents, and securing cash assistance and food stamps. Sarah is also a member of Outlaws, the National Lawyers Guild, the Immigration Court Observation Project, and volunteers with Sanctuary for Families’ Uncontested Divorce project and the Ask Trevor letter writing campaign.

  • University of California, Santa Cruz, Community Studies, Immigration and Social Justice focus, June 2007

    Scott Foletta’s interest in social and economic justice began with volunteering and internships in post-Katrina relief organizations, and continued to grow through several years of work with service sector unions in California, New York, and Puerto Rico. This experience, which exposed him to the passionate work of dedicated lawyers in the field, helped solidify his belief that the law can be a powerful tool for justice, and ultimately led to his pursuit of a law degree. Scott’s long-term goal is to assist efforts to defend the rights of all workers and establish greater protections for those left most vulnerable by contemporary labor law.

  • University of Notre Dame, B.A. in the Program of Liberal Studies and Psychology, May 2009

    Rebecca’s interest in the need for advocacy and representation among under-served groups began while she was volunteering as a GED tutor at a juvenile correctional facility in South Bend, Indiana for several years while attending college. Upon graduation, Rebecca chose to explore issues of juvenile justice and children’s rights by volunteering for a year of service through AmeriCorps *VISTA, working as a development assistant at CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Morris and Sussex Counties in Morristown, New Jersey. Rebecca worked as a development assistant, supporting the organization’s mission of providing volunteer advocates for abused and neglected children in family court proceedings. Rebecca hopes to spend her summer working for an organization providing quality advocacy to juveniles and children involved in the legal system.

  • Bard College

    Jana is a 2L, and graduate of Bard College. During 1L summer, Jana interned at the Legal Aid Society's Prisoners' Rights Project. As a 2L, Jana serves on the executive board of the Suspension Representation Project, is one of the Pro Bono Chairs for BLSPI, and co-founded the Youth Court Pro Bono Project. She is also a participant in the Municipal Litigation Clinic at the NYC Law Department. This summer, Jana will be working at the Southern Poverty Law Center in the New Orleans Office.

  • University of California, Los Angeles, B.A. in African American Studies, Psychology Concentration, June 2006

    Placement: Legal Aid Society, Employment Law Unit

    Karume James entered Brooklyn Law School with a deep passion for public service. His dedication began at an early age when his mother shared stories about her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. As an undergraduate student at UCLA, he led a successful student campaign to reform the university’s admissions policies to increase campus diversity. After graduating, he continued his dedication to public service, first representing healthcare workers at UCLA as a labor organizer with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3299, and later as the Communities Rising Director at Community Coalition, a non-profit community-based organization in South Central Los Angeles. There, Karume led the organization’s neighborhood transformation effort, recruiting thousands of local residents to enforce City regulations on poorly operated businesses, revitalize a local park rendered unsafe for years, and dramatically increase recreational and educational programming in the area. During the summer of 2011, Karume partnered with the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools Program to coordinate a ten-week summer reading enrichment program for over 70 low-income elementary and middle school students. This summer, Karume will be working as an intern with the Legal Aid Society, Employment Law Unit.

  • Melissa is primarily passionate about civil rights issues. Before attending law school, she served as a community organizer for several years before becoming the Manager of Advocacy Programs at Planned Parenthood of New York City. She also founded the New York Civil Liberties Union Young Professionals and went on to serve on the NYCLU's Board of Directors. As a legal intern, she has worked in the Office of the New York City Public Advocate on various policies concerning homelessness programs and the rise of HIV infections among communities of women of color. Over the summer of 2012, she worked in the Office of the New York State Attorney General on issues concerning discrimination in places of public accommodation and potential barriers to reproductive health care services. She also currently serves on the Sex and Law Committee of the New York City Bar Association. In addition to this fellowship, she is a Health Law and Policy Fellow and a member of the Moot Court Honor Society.

  • University of Wisconsin – Madison, B.A. in Political Science, 2009

    Gideon spent time in student government as an undergraduate in a volunteer and intern capacity. He also took his opportunity in Wisconsin to work for an Assembly Member focused on issues within the rural communities of the state. Upon graduation he moved to New York to work for two years as a Policy Analyst and Community Liaison for a New York State Assembly Member. There he was committed to a wide range of issues, focusing on affordable housing, labor issues, and the environment. His practical, everyday work included close cooperation with New York City Parks and ensuring that constituents received proper unemployment insurance benefits. He also monitored the controversial state policy regarding drilling. Gideon looks forward to learning about these topics from the other side of the law, and continuing his work on these issues as a Sparer Fellow.

  • Boston University

    Growing up in a small, rural Maine community, Melissa became passionate about protecting the rights of children and families, especially the right a safe home and a strong public education. So after graduating from Boston University, Melissa taught as a Teach for America Corps Member at P.S. 243 and then as a Lead Teacher at Excellence Boys Charter School of Bedford Stuyvesant. As a law student, Melissa has worked as a legal intern both at Pine Tree Legal Services in Portland, Maine helping domestic violence victims obtain orders of protection and at Advocates for Children advocating for the special education rights of children in the foster care system. Melissa also serves as a chair of the Education Law & Policy Society, a student member of the Diversity Pipeline Committee of the New York City Bar, and the Symposia Coordinator of the Brooklyn Law School Journal of Law & Policy. Melissa will spend her Sparer summer at New York Legal Assistance Group in the Domestic Violence Clinical Center supporting families that are victims of domestic violence in order of protection and custody matters.

  • Originally from South Carolina, a state that proudly waves the Confederate flag over its capital building, Victoria was exposed early to the judicial system's disparate treatment of different races. Being from a mixed-race family, Victoria's passion to advocate against a racially and economically biased criminal justice system grew at an early age. In high school, Victoria collected books for prisoners, and, in college, she interned with criminal defense attorneys. Since starting law school, Victoria has been an active participant in the ACLU and the Criminal Law Society. Last summer, she was a law clerk with Gideon's Promise, a non-profit organization that trains young public defenders in Southern districts. She will return to Gideon's Promise this summer to continue fighting the system-wide corruption and to provide some relief to the over-burdened public defenders. Finally, Victoria is currently participating in the Federal Habeas and Capital Defender Clinic, where she hopes to gain valuable federal experience and to assist in the fight against the death penalty.

  • Fordham University

    Callagee O’Brien has always been passionate about working with children, but it was not until she worked at Student Sponsor Partners, a nonprofit that provides at-risk students with mentors and scholarships to high school, that she considered making a career out of working with children. This past summer she worked in Anchorage, Alaska at the Attorney General’s Office (Alaska Department of Law) in the Child Protection Division, followed by a Fall internship at the Children’s Law Center in Brooklyn. For her Sparer summer, Callagee will be interning at the Legal Aid Society, Juvenile Rights Practice. Callagee plans to pursue a career directly advocating for children and eventually moving into policy work.

  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, B.A. in English and B.A. in Religious Studies, May 2008

    Erin’s commitment to achieving educational equity for all students stems from her own personal experiences and her work with Teach For America. After graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill and joining the Teach For America corps, she taught reading, writing, and U.S. History to eighth grade special needs inclusion students in a Newark, New Jersey public middle school. Working with low-income special needs students, she was exposed to a variety of legal issues affecting her students, including custody, foster care, neglect, housing, healthcare, immigration status and debt. Most importantly, she realized that the needs of her students were not met by the school system and that her students were significantly behind their more affluent peers. She taught her students to advocate for their needs so that when they left her classroom they could articulate what accommodations and modifications they needed from their teachers to be successful. She later joined the Teach For America Greater Newark staff as a program coordinator, observing and training other corps members. Erin plans to focus on child advocacy and education law to help ensure that all students, no matter their backgrounds, receive an excellent education.

  • Pitzer College, B.A. in Linguistics with a Minor in Spanish, May 2005

    Lisa is in law school so that she can gain the tools necessary to be of service to her community back home in the greater Los Angeles area. She learned the value of direct service work when she worked as a case manager at the Little Tokyo Service Center in downtown Los Angeles. Lisa worked with low-income disabled and/or older adults in public housing settings (who also had limited proficiency in English), and witnessed the difficulties of navigating government health care benefits, as well as the severe lack of affordable housing in Los Angeles. She later observed the same trend when working at the Medicare Rights Center in New York City. At Brooklyn Law School, Lisa continues her work in cultural competency and public interest. She is on the Executive Board for Brooklyn Law Students for the Public Interest (BLSPI) and Asian Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA). She also participates in the Guardianship Pro Bono Project through the Elder Law Association. Lisa spent her first summer as a law student interning at the AARP Foundation Litigation, and will spend her Sparer summer at Public Counsel Law Center in Los Angeles, at the Community Development Project. 

  • American University, B.A. in Women’s and Gender Studies, August 2009

    Ava is deeply committed to working for a nation where justice is not based on race or socioeconomic class. Her passion for criminal justice reform was sparked inside the walls of California’s San Quentin State Prison on a prison research trip in college. Prior to attending Brooklyn Law School, she advocated for “smart-on-crime” policy reforms at the Justice Policy Institute, provided re-entry support to men incarcerated in Washington, D.C. with Visitors Services’ Center, and founded community organization Justice Not Jails to mobilize the D.C. community to end mass incarceration and capital punishment. As a federal policy analyst and case researcher at Families Against Mandatory Minimums for three years, Ava assisted prisoners and worked with impacted families on state and federal campaigns to abolish harsh criminal penalties in favor of proportional and individualized sentencing. At Brooklyn Law School, Ava is a student advocate with Sanctuary for Families’ Uncontested Divorce Project and co-chair of BLS-ACLU. An aspiring public defender, Ava hopes to provide direct services to indigent individuals facing cases in criminal or family court this summer. After graduation, she hopes to work on impact litigation to affect institutional criminal justice policy reform. She is extremely grateful for the Sparer Fellowship and the opportunity it gives her to work directly with clients to achieve justice.

  • SUNY at Binghamton

    Taier Perlman came to law school with a solidified commitment to public interest work gained through five years of diverse work experience. She worked as a disability advocate for Social Security Disability benefit claimants; was a client advocate specialist at a non-profit grant foundation; assisted two small business owners through a landlord-tenant dispute; interned at a New York City Councilmember’s office; and volunteered at the 18th International HIV/AIDS Conference, and two NGO’s in Kisumu, Kenya. Since arriving to Brooklyn Law School, Taier has been an active member of Brooklyn Law Students for the Public Interest, and its many pro bono projects. She spent her 1L summer at the New York State Attorney General’s Office, working with the Tobacco Compliance Bureau through an arbitration hearing with Big Tobacco companies in a dispute over the Master Settlement Agreement. Through participation in the Mediation Clinic, Taier was able to mediate disputes between pro se litigants in the Kings County Civil Court House, which has spawned her appreciation for the benefits of ADR as an alternative to the hassles of litigation. Taier hopes that her work after law school integrates her love of advocating for clients and her broader interest in general public policy reform.

  • Columbia University, B.A. in Urban Studies, May 2008

    Placement: Education Advocacy Project, Legal Aid Society

    Dacia's commitment to advocating for and protecting juveniles' rights to safety, education and defense grew out of the 10 years she spent teaching, mentoring and learning from students in under-resourced schools in Providence, RI and NYC. While at Columbia University, Dacia spent academic years and summers teaching students in Columbia's Talent Search and Upward Bound programs; taught weekly decision-making workshops in NYC high schools; and researched and wrote a senior thesis on the relationship between small schools co-housed in a large school building in the South Bronx. From 2008-2010, Dacia served as New York City Program Manager for Peer Health Exchange, Inc., working with public high school administrators to provide a comprehensive health curriculum to students in 32 high schools across Manhattan and the Bronx. Before arriving at BLS as an entering-Sparer in 2011, Dacia returned to her home in Providence, Rhode Island as an Americorps VISTA at Providence Summerbridge - the same organization she worked at when she began her work with youth as a middle school math teacher during high school. Dacia currently volunteers with formerly incarcerated youth through a weekly program run by the Children's Aid Society and serves as a suspension advocate for students through the Suspension Representation Project at BLS.

  • Cornell University, M.I.L.R. in Collective Representation and Dispute Resolution, May 2011; B.S. in Industrial and Labor Relations, May 2006

    Kris Reichardt is interested in labor and employment law, the expansion of workers’ rights and conflict resolution. After graduating from Cornell University, Kris received a commissioned as an officer in the United States Navy. Driven by an inner passion for public service, Kris spent four years in the Persian Gulf and Iraqi coastal waters assigned to various patrol craft – coordinating with Iraqi military forces, conducting maritime security, and fostering community relationships. He has interned for the U.S. House of Representatives, the Labor-Management Center at Dowling College, and with several labor mediators and arbitrators. Last year, while studying towards a Masters in Labor Relations, Kris was a graduate teaching and research assistant for the Department of Labor Law, History, and Collective Bargaining at the NYS School of Industrial and Labor Relations. His research focused on 20th Century public-sector working class history, NYS fiscal and education policy, and various conflict resolution systems. Since starting law school, Kris has volunteered for the Civil Legal Advice and Resource Office (CLARO), devoted to assisting pro se litigants who are being sued by creditors or who have other consumer debt issues. Additionally, he is a member of Law Students’ for Veterans Rights. This summer, he looks forward to advancing the cause of the working class and asserting economic justice through advocacy and direct legal services.

  • Portland State University, B.A. in Arts and Letters, Women’s Studies Concentration, May 2006

    Placement: New York Legal Assistance Group, Domestic Violence Clinic

    Prior to starting law school, Claire lived in Boulder, Colorado, where she volunteered at the Parenting Place. The non-profit focuses on providing a holistic approach in strengthening families and reducing stress in new parents.  She was particularly committed to the single-mothers’ group, which provides support and respite care to mothers in a state of crisis or transition. Seeing the mothers’ dire need for legal advocacy is what brought Claire to law school. Prior to her work at the Parenting Place, Claire completed her bachelor’s degree in Arts and Letters with an emphasis in Women’s Studies at Portland State University. While at PSU, Claire developed an interest in the tie between the marginalization of women and the gender achievement gap in young women. This led to Claire’s work with America Reads, where she provided school year long tutoring and mentorship for at-risk female students.  Since starting law school, Claire has volunteered at Sanctuary for Families, advocating on behalf of women being denied their right to public benefits. Claire’s commitment and passion to assisting mothers in need stems from her own experience as a single-mother. Dedicated to providing family law services for low-income mothers, with a special interest in parental rights to custody, visitation and child support, Claire will spend her summer working at NYLAG’s Domestic Violence Clinic.

  • St. Johns’ University, B.A in Government and Politics, Minor in Philosophy of Law, Minor in Women & Gender Studies, May 2010; Queens’ College, M.A in Urban Affairs, May 2011.

    Born in Trinidad and Tobago and raised in Queens, New York, Nutan understood the importance of being a voice for others and was determined to give back to her underserved community at a very early age. As a community organizer during her undergraduate career, she helped develop and promote the needs of her community through SEVA, a South Asian grassroots community organization. An awareness of the domestic violence occurring in her neighborhood led Nutan to spend a year at the Queens’ County District Attorneys’ Office in the Domestic Violence Bureau.  Pursuant to obtaining her Masters’ in Urban Affairs at Queens’ College, Nutan attended SUNY Buffalo Law for her first year of law school, where she was a member of the Buffalo Public Interest Law Journal and winner of the 2012 New York Redistricting Project sponsored by Fordham University. Prior to transferring to Brooklyn Law, Nutan spent her summer as a Legal Outreach Summer Law Coordinator where she taught her favorite subject, Criminal Law, to rising inner-city high school students at St. Johns’ School of Law. Currently at Brooklyn Law, Nutan serves as the Community Liaison Chair for the South Asian Law Students Association and is a participant in the Uncontested Divorce Pro-Bono Project for Indigent Clients through the Volunteer Lawyers Project at the Brooklyn Bar Association. While continuing to pursue her passion for being a representative for those who need it most, Nutan is working at The Exoneration Initiative through the BLS/ EXI Wrongful Convictions Clinic. She is extremely grateful for her Sparer Fellowship and intends to use this opportunity to fulfill her ultimate goal of providing representation to others through criminal defense work.

  • New York University School of Social Work, M.S.W., May 2006
    New York University School of Social Work, B.S. in Social Work, May 2005

    Prior to law school Peter worked full-time as a licensed master social worker in the community, marshaling resources for healthcare, homecare, affordable and supportive housing, public benefits, private financial assistance, and legal services to help senior citizens live as independently as possible in their communities. Concomitantly, Peter worked part-time one-on-one engaging a remarkable retiree struggling against advancing dementia, also assisting with personal care as needed. These experiences instilled in Peter the importance of advocating for seniors and people with disabilities without losing sight of the personal integrity of one’s clients. Peter came to law school to become a more effective advocate. He spent his 1L summer working for the Evelyn Frank Legal Resources Program at Selfhelp Community Services, Inc., advocating for the elderly and people with disabilities, and helping them and their caregivers to advocate for themselves.  Peter is a BLS Health Law and Policy Fellow, focusing his research on the needs of the elderly. Additionally, Peter recently worked with the Brooklyn Bar Association’s Volunteer Lawyers Project to launch a Guardianship Pro Bono Project at BLS, holds a leadership position in OUTLaws, and serves as a student member of the New York City Bar Association’s Legal Problems of the Aging Committee.

  • University of Central Florida, B.A. Political Science: International Relations, December 2010

    Inspired by her experiences as a first-generation immigrant, Johana developed a passion for defending the rights of vulnerable populations as an advocate and activist during her undergraduate studies. While at the University of Central Florida, she joined the Orlando chapter of the Youth and Young Adult Network of the National Farm Worker Ministry. During her time with the organization, she helped organize many different campaigns, which addressed issues that affect farm workers, such as poverty wages, modern day slavery and women’s issues. As part of her work with that organization, she became involved in an immigration campaign that brought together ACLU attorneys and community organizers. It was then that she observed how much more could be accomplished when community based organizations and attorneys work together. Spurred by that realization, she decided to apply to law school. Johana is interested in immigration and refugee law. She has helped start a new student run program at Brooklyn Law School that works with immigrants seeking U-Visas, Asylum and VAWA relief. As a Sparer Fellow she hopes to work with an international human rights organization that focuses on refugee and asylum issues.

Brooklyn Law School - Sparer Celebration

View photos from the Sparer Celebration.

Have questions? We have answers.

Sparer Fellowship Program
Marva Skeene
Brooklyn Law School
250 Joralemon Street, Room 800A
Brooklyn, New York 11201

Telephone: (718) 780-0351