Catalina Rodriguez has already travelled to Vietnam and China this summer, where she studied water conservation and international river management through Miami Law’s Water Resources Law and Policy Program. Now she is spending the remainder of her summer at the One Stop Career Center of Puerto Rico as part of HOPE’s Summer Public Interest Fellowship Program, thanks to the generosity of Squire Patton Boggs Foundation’s Public Policy Fellowship Program. The rising 3L is one of two HOPE fellows working in Puerto Rico this summer. Pedro Quintana, a rising 2L, is working with Pro Bono, Inc., in San Juan, helping to bring relief to those in need after Hurricane Maria.
In Puerto Rico, Rodriguez is working primarily to help the elderly in San Juan who are at risk of losing their homes and becoming homeless due to Hurricane Maria. Most of the issues she is seeing are issues with mortgages, where owners are falling behind on payments due to lack of income or excessive damage to their homes. One Stop also does a lot of work helping individuals who have been convicted and completed sentences transition out of jail and rehabilitate.
“I am so grateful to the [Squire Patton Boggs] Foundation for the opportunity to dedicate my summer to public interest work without the added financial burden,” said Rodriguez. “Although Hurricane Maria severely damaged the island, the spirit of the people remains unbroken; I truly feel lucky that I get to work with such a beautiful and resilient community.”
When at Miami Law, Rodriguez interns at the Environmental Justice Clinic. Prior to coming to Miami Law, she attended the University of Texas and majored in sociology. As a sociology student, she fell in love with urban planning, focusing on environmentally and socially sustainable housing practices.
Naturally, the Environmental Justice Clinic was a perfect fit, as it works to expose and overhaul the legal and political practices that rip apart the social fabric of neighborhoods such as upzoning, mass evictions, and the mishandling of government funding for low-income housing.
Through environmental justice work, Rodriguez hopes to empower minority and low-income communities that are facing large-scale displacement and re-segregation because of these practices, and work with those communities to provide both short- and long-term solutions.
Rodriguez hopes to have a life-long career in public interest law, using the skills she acquired in the Environmental Justice Clinic and during her fellowship in Puerto Rico to help re-shape the traditional role of attorneys in public interest law. She hopes to help spread lawyering practices that both empower the client and look beyond individual cases to attempt to effectuate large-scale change.
“My experience at Miami Law, where I have been lucky to be a part of a strong public interest community, has been invaluable,” Rodriguez said. “All of the wise people I’ve met, and all of the opportunities I’ve been exposed to, have forever shaped me as a lawyer.”
More on The Squire Patton Boggs Foundation
The Squire Patton Boggs Foundation is rooted in a history of civil rights advocacy, originally funded with lawyers’ fees from a pro bono employment discrimination case. Since 2004, the Foundation has awarded fellowships to exceptional law students who demonstrate a steadfast commitment to public service. This year’s Public Policy Fellowships were awarded to law students at 17 law schools who committed their summers to public service and to advancing public policy by working at nonprofit institutions, government agencies and international legal organizations.