This the next in a series of posts by recipients of the Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.
This entry is by Samantha Myers-Dineen, COL ’18
Prior to the start of my internship, my mom found this poster that I made in elementary school. Now, I have no idea how a third grader would actually protect student rights (maybe that’s why I didn’t win the election that year), but this serves as a sweet reminder of how, even from a young age, I’ve always had a strong interest in helping others.
My coursework in history, as well as living in a time marked by tremendous social change, has shown me that working through the legal system can help achieve the most far-reaching impact in improving the world we live in. Naturally, I wanted to experience for myself how true this actually was. This desire brought me to the Kings County District Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, New York where, for eight weeks this summer, I did exactly that.
Divided into generalized trial zones and numerous specialized units with upwards of 1100 employees, the Brooklyn DA’s Office is the third largest District Attorney’s Office in the country. I was placed to work in the Victim Services Unit, whose main tasks are to advocate on behalf of crime victims within the criminal justice system, and provide support and referrals to appropriate resources they may need as a result of what happened to them. In theory, my job sounded fairly simple. In practice, however, I was both overwhelmed and humbled by the enormity of responsibility entrusted to me as an intern in VSU.
After receiving intensive trainings on everything from understanding trauma to risk assessment and the particulars of domestic abuse, I was thrown into things as if I were a seasoned attorney or social worker. Over the course of eight weeks, I amassed a case load of 75 clients from backgrounds as diverse as Brooklyn itself. Working heavily in conjunction with the Domestic Violence Bureau, I conducted trauma-informed interview intakes with victims of domestic violence to gather information about criminal incidents and prior histories of abuse. I would then conference these cases with bureau chiefs and the assigned assistant district attorneys to speak on behalf of the client’s wishes and assess the direction of the case. Once a week, I would head over to the Kings County Supreme Court to meet with felony crime victims prior to their testimony in the Grand Jury. I would answer questions they had about the criminal justice process, as well as provide referrals to and information about the services available to them through VSU and outside agencies in New York City. I was also able to observe several trials in my time at the Court, including one for manslaughter and another for assault on a police officer.
To say that I loved what I was doing would be an understatement. Despite the hour and a half long commute I made each day from Long Island to my job, I would not trade my experience at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office for anything. What I did was not easy, but was it worth it? Absolutely. Nothing could replace the feeling of knowing that I made a positive impact, no matter how small, in the lives of each and every person I worked with. I did not feel for a single moment at any point in my time there that my work and contributions were less valued by my colleagues just because I was an intern. I made invaluable connections, acquired indispensable skills and knowledge, and most importantly, gained a confidence in myself that makes me feel like I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. This would not have been possible without the generosity of Career Services, and the world will forever be my oyster as a result.