David A. Shapiro ’12 has won a trifecta of awards – three public service law fellowships – to fund his summer externship at the Juvenile Rights Practice of the Legal Aid Society in Brooklyn. He received a Brooklyn Law Students for the Public Interest (BLSPI) Fellowship; an Equal Justice America Fellowship and a Bergstrom Child Welfare Law Summer Fellowship.
Shapiro is passionate about a career in civil advocacy for inner city youth. In his fellowship applications, he described the “school-to-prison-pipeline” as one of the systemic problems he has witnessed firsthand. As a volunteer advocate and executive board member with the Suspension Representation Project, he defends public school students and their parents at Board of Education hearings. “Though their infractions may be minor, these students are often penalized by missing weeks of school.” Worse still, the accused students begin to mentally link the educational and penal systems, he said.
“Many problems facing these kids stem from family structures and an educational system that do not provide adequate support. I am involved with child advocacy to change that. I believe that with the proper legal assistance, these young people can overcome the structural problems of poverty and racism.”
A tireless pro bono advocate, Shapiro also works with the Children’s Aid Society in Harlem, supervising teens at a Saturday community jobs program. While earning his B.A. at Washington University in Saint Louis, he mentored youth involved in the St. Louis County Family Court and interned at the city’s juvenile detention center, where he tutored residents, helped to create and evaluate programs, and engaged in community outreach. Shapiro also served the St. Louis community as a women’s clinic escort. He previously interned for two summers at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.
Shapiro credits BLS Professor Cynthia Godsoe, Chair of the Juvenile Justice Committee of the New York City Bar Association, with introducing him to a wide range of opportunities in the field. She invited him to join the committee, where he researched juvenile justice issues for a memo to the state legislature. Fellow committee member and BLS alumna Jamie Bernstein ’06, a Legal Aid attorney, helped him land an interview for a summer position. Elizabeth Kane, Director of the BLS Public Service Office, thoroughly reviewed his cover letter and resume prior to his interview and fellowship applications.
The Equal Justice America and BLSPI fellowships will combine to fund his externship, and the Bergstrom Fellowship will cover his attendance at a three-day children’s law seminar in Ann Arbor.