Focus On the Future An Interview with Michaela Bland, Esq., 0620 RIBJ, RIBJ, 68 RI Bar J., No. 6, Pg. 33

Authorby Nicole P. Dyszlewski, Esq., MLIS and Meghan L. Hopkins, Esq.
PositionVol. 68 6 Pg. 33

FOCUS ON THE FUTURE An Interview with Michaela Bland, Esq. .

No. Vol. 68 No. 6 Pg. 33

Rhode Island Bar Journal

June, 2020

May, 2020

by Nicole P. Dyszlewski, Esq., MLIS and Meghan L. Hopkins, Esq.

Focus on the Future is a new spotlight series where members of the Rhode Island Bar Journal Editorial Board interview attorneys who are newer to the Rhode Island Bar.

> What is your current title and position?

I am a Staff Attorney at the Rhode Island Center for Justice. I am also a Skadden Fellow, which is a project-based two-year fellowship in public interest law funded by the Skadden Fellowship Foundation. Through my Skadden Fellowship, I am working on a two-year public interest law project at the Rhode Island Center for Justice on education pipeline issues. I provide direct representation, community education, and legislative advocacy on issues relating to the school-to-prison pipeline. At the end of my fellowship, I hope to obtain a position as a federal court clerk.

> What do you actually do all day?

Every day I work on both big picture and small picture things related to defending students’ right to an education free of discrimination. For example, most days I interact with or meet with members of community organizations like Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education (ARISE), the Providence Student Union (PSU), Youth in Action (YIA), the Rhode Island Urban Debate League (RIUDL) and Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM). I meet with these organizations to focus on on-going policy work. I also may work on an actual case where I am directly representing an aggrieved student or may attend meetings as a liaison. For example. I was a liaison for the state’s Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee. Additionally, I cover emergency needs at the Center. Recently, I represented someone at trial in housing court.

> What do you like the most about your position?

I love working with the community organizations. The work is all about giving life to the voice and vision of students. It is beautiful to listen to the ideas of the youth but then be able to use strategies I learned in law school to amplify their voices. Conversely, the biggest challenge is the “adults know best” attitude that many have. There are some who feel that students shouldn’t have power and it is hard work trying to shift the power dynamic.

> What is your best advice to those in power based on your work...

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