UCHastings Instagram

Done with class for the week. #KillingIt #uchastings #1L #Section2
Instagram Photo Likes neceyh, lizziebing, ella_immanuela and 21 others like this.
Saturday, April 20, 2013

Committed to Diversity: Elizabeth Aakhus '11, Serving the Rural Poor

As a teenager growing up in Bakersfield, Elizabeth Aakhus ’11 was determined to get as far away from the Central Valley as possible. “I knew that if I didn’t work hard, I wouldn’t get out,” she says. For the majority of her friends and classmates, this was the case, and it was nearly the case for her.

In her senior year of high school, she was suspended; her offense was talking back to a school police officer and refusing to follow instructions. The way Aakhus sees it now, this experience was the exception rather than the rule.

“I got the suspension removed from my record because my parents advocated for me,” she says. “That was when I saw the gross disparities in how schools mete out punishment, especially to people who do not have someone fighting for them. This experience was a key factor in my decision to become a public interest lawyer.”

Aakhus enrolled at NYU and went on to UC Hastings, where she took advantage of many hands-on opportunities. She joined two student organizations that offered direct client contact, the General Assistance Advocacy Project and Homeless Legal Services, and enrolled in the Civil Justice Clinic. “In the clinic, I learned how to work one-on-one with clients,” she says, “but more importantly, I learned how challenging it can be for people to gain access to lawyers, especially people who are living below the poverty line.”

In 2011, she was awarded the Ralph Santiago Abascal Fellowship, a yearlong award given to a UC Hastings student to pursue antipoverty and civil rights work. Aakhus joined the Delano office of California Legal Rural Assistance (CLRA), an organization dedicated to improving the lives of the state’s rural poor, where she is now a staff attorney. She focused her fellowship on education equity issues, specifically on the disproportionate impact that school discipline has on students of color.

“My challenge has been to make sure that parents and youth know their rights,” she says. “Education is such an important way to counteract the effects of poverty, and it’s gratifying to help kids stay on track and have opportunities to advance.”

Read more UC Hastings Magazine.

Go to News Archive

Share this Story

Share via Facebook
Share via TwitterShare via EmailPrint Friendly Version

Other Recent Stories/ RSS

Friday, September 19, 2014

Thinkers & Doers: Sept 19, 2014

UC Hastings community news September 11-19, 2014.
Wednesday, September 17, 2014

UC Hastings Presents Gordon Mathis Riley Environmental Law Lecture

Environmental leader William K. Reilly of TPG Capital will give the second annual lecture on Sept. 24 in Mary Kay Kane Hall.
Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Feldman on Tug of War between Supreme Court & Federal Circuit

Coming of Age for the Federal Circuit
Monday, September 15, 2014

Spotlight on 2L Sarah Barr

Barr handled “more cases, of greater complexity, than I could have expected of any law student,” says Deputy Attorney General Dorian C. Jung.
Saturday, September 13, 2014

Startup Legal Garage Client Receives First TechCrunch "Include" Grant

Black Girls Code promotes participation of women of color in the tech sector.
Go to News Archive