Jenna Dwy – 2024 NLG Student Honoree

1. When were you first introduced to the Guild?

I first found the Guild during law school orientation week. I saw the Suffolk Law chapter of the Guild (“NLGSU”) at the organization fair, spoke with one of the members, and was hooked!

2. Who/what encouraged you to join the Guild?

I have always been eager to utilize my privilege. When I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in Disability Studies, I put my privilege to work by volunteering as a Special Education Surrogate Parent, in which I advocated for a student enrolled in special education and in the custody of DCF. When the COVID-19 pandemic overwhelmed the healthcare system, I donned my gait belt and nurse’s aide certification and made my way over to Shattuck Hospital. Starting law school, I knew the power that I held as a law student. The Guild’s Street Law Clinics allowed me to exercise that privilege by providing person-centered education to community members on their rights during police stops and frisks, emphasizing the attendees’ expertise in exercising their rights according to their lived experiences. NLGSU created events focusing on issues at the heart of creating an inclusive society that values all, and 1L me knew that I had found my progressive colleagues on campus.

3. What activities with the Guild have you organized and/or participated in?

Through my various roles as a general body member, chapter liaison, and secretary, NLGSU has given me the opportunity to foster community awareness, engagement, and camaraderie. As a Know Your Rights clinic facilitator, I have worked with community groups to solidify and expand their understanding of their rights during police stops and frisks. Last year, I became more involved in NLG-MA and helped orchestrate the annual dinner. (If you liked the music, that was me!) I also began serving as the NLGSU’s chapter liaison, representing my chapter at the NLG-MA board meetings, connecting with other student chapters, and keeping my fellow E-Board members in the loop of the fantastic work the Guild is doing collectively.

Collaborating with my E-Board members, we successfully kicked off this academic year with Disorientation, where we had a conversation about the historical inequities of law school and the legal profession with about thirty 1Ls. I was also significantly involved in coordinating our Student Debt: Confronting Our Crisis, a panel discussion addressing the student debt crisis, complemented by student action tables strategically placed around campus to encourage dialogue and awareness.

And the NLGSU’s work is not done yet! We are organizing a phone banking event for Palestine and working to continue promoting conversation about the war on campus. The E-Board team and I are preparing for upcoming panel discussions on mass incarceration (in conjunction with NLG’s Week of Abolition) and the housing crisis, furthering our ongoing commitment to ensuring important issues to our Massachusetts community are being discussed on Suffolk’s campus.

4. How has being a member of the Guild impacted your time in law school?

I know that when I look back on law school, memories of the Guild will flood my mind. The Guild has profoundly enriched my law school experience, providing a supportive community of like-minded individuals dedicated to progressive ideals and with dynamic yet similar lived experiences. It has been very special to work with a team of motivated, kind, and thoughtful people to create space on campus for social justice. I now have a high standard of what teamwork embodies and can achieve.

Beyond the confines of textbooks, my membership in the Guild has expanded my understanding of the law’s real-world implications. Participating in discussions and initiatives with Guild peers, volunteers, and board members has allowed me to grasp how legal principles obscured by whitewashed judicial decisions and hegemonic legal curricula directly impact the everyday lives of individuals. This experiential learning has been invaluable, offering a practical dimension to my legal education and a buffer against law school burnout by reminding me of the exciting work I am honored to engage in. The Guild’s foundational roots and continued dedication to increasing the inclusivity of individuals systematically excluded and disenfranchised by the law have helped me incorporate my development as a progressive, courageous reformer into my legal education.

5. How do you plan to incorporate the Guild’s mission into your legal career?

In pursuing a legal career as a disability rights advocate, my overarching goal is to leverage the power of the law to diverge our political and economic structures from ableism and toward an equitable legal landscape that secures the rights of disabled individuals. I am specifically drawn to amplifying the voices of individuals that our laws and policies funnel away from the community and sequester in isolated settings, such as prisons, psychiatric facilities, nursing homes, and numerous other institutions.

My mission is akin to the Guild’s, which seeks to remove structural disparities and promote frameworks that value the rights and lives of all.  The NLG’s commitment to equity and human rights complements my vision of utilizing legal advocacy to dismantle barriers and enhance the ability of people across the spectrum of biodiversity to exercise autonomy. I plan to integrate the Guild’s principles into my practice by employing an intersectional, rights-based approach, ensuring that I support and protect the liberties of diverse disabled individuals across Massachusetts, the United States, and the globe. Upon graduation, I am excited to contribute to NLG-MA’s social justice work as a practicing attorney. I plan to continue supporting the community and grassroots advocacy through involvement in the Street Law Clinics, serving as a legal observer during community actions, and joining a committee within NLG-MA.

6. Is there any additional information you wish to share regarding your experience as a Guild member?

Words fail to encapsulate how grateful I am to the Guild for providing me with advocacy opportunities, progressive education, inspiring people to surround myself with, and an open door to incorporate my own passions into our work. The Guild’s mission and affirmative actions to live out its ideals resonate profoundly with my personal and professional aspirations. Being recognized with the 2024 Student Award by an organization that embodies these principles and is a collective that I am proud to be a member of is an immense honor.