Students selected as Equal Justice Works fellows, helping adolescents

(L-R): Taylor Greenberg and Anne (“Annie”) Kanzow. Photo by Merve Ozcan.

(L-R): Taylor Greenberg and Anne (“Annie”) Kanzow. Photo by Merve Ozcan.

By Bianca Lopez

Two Stetson Law students, Taylor Greenberg and Anne (“Annie”) Kanzow, have been selected as Equal Justice Works fellows and will be pursuing projects helping adolescents.

The Equal Justice Works Fellowship is committed to encouraging law students to pursue careers in the field of public interest after graduation. Equal Justice Works invites upcoming legal graduates nationwide to propose projects designed to assist communities that have an unmet need for legal services.

Applicants must first find an organization that will agree to host them and allow them to implement their proposed projects post-graduation. Select finalists present their projects to a panel of potential sponsors. The sponsors then choose projects that they wish to support. The fellow’s salary during the course of the project is covered by their sponsor, while all other employment benefits come from their host organization.

Some other benefits of the Equal Justice Works Fellowship include loan repayment during the two-year fellowship period and a summit in Washington D.C. where fellows can meet all of the other fellows from across the country.

Greenberg learned about the Equal Justice Works Fellowship from Stetson’s career services office while she was touring law schools.

“I thought, ‘Oh, that sounds like something I want to do, that’s what I’m going to do,’” Greenberg said. “I planned it very far in advance.”

Greenberg partnered with the L. David Shear Children’s Law Center at Bay Area Legal Services – where she has previously volunteered and completed an externship for school credit – for her fellowship project proposal. Greenberg Traurig and the Florida Bar Foundation chose to sponsor Greenberg’s project.

Greenberg decided at a young age that she wanted to go to law school and be the voice for others who needed it most.

“I always knew I wanted to go to law school but I didn’t know what I wanted to do – I just knew I wanted to help people,” Greenberg said.

Now, as the founder of Child Advocates of Stetson Law (CASL) and in her sixth year as a Guardian ad Litem, Greenberg knows exactly which group of people she wants to advocate for: teenagers living in group homes.

After college, she joined AmeriCorps and worked in an English classroom of a Title I high school. There, she met a 16-year-old student who was living in a group home and would frequently run away. Greenberg took his case as a Guardian ad Litem and assisted in finding him a foster home. More than three years later, the two are still very close, as evidenced by his school photo that Greenberg carries with her daily in her phone case.

Taking out the picture she says, “He’s the reason that I want to fix the foster care system.”

Greenberg’s project involves educating attorneys through a three-pronged model she designed based on her experiences with teenagers in foster care.

“What I’ve seen, working with teenagers who have very high needs and very little support systems living in group home care, is that when their legal rights are enforced in three key areas, their outcomes can improve vastly,” Greenberg said. “Those areas are: making sure that their basic needs are met, that they’re receiving quality services, and that they have a developed support system.”

Kanzow, on the other hand, had not heard of the Equal Justice Works Fellowship until far into her law school career. However, she determined her legal career path in high school.

Like Greenberg, Kanzow’s project involves work with adolescents and stems from personal experience. When Kanzow was in high school, someone close to her struggled with emotional behavioral issues.

Kanzow witnessed the power and influence of lawyers first-hand when her friend’s family hired a special education attorney. The attorney challenged the system and helped find placement in a private therapeutic boarding school.

“It changed her life completely,” Kanzow said. “When I saw the attorney work, I saw how much it helped her and her family. I knew I wanted to go to law school already, but I decided that was what I’m going to practice.”

Now, Kanzow’s friend has a successful personal life and career, free of any behavioral issues.

Kanzow structured all of her studies and personal time around special education. She studied sociology in college and tutored kids with emotional behavioral issues after school. After graduating from college, Kanzow tutored a child with severe ADHD and Dyslexia.

“I was able to see how if you just adjust your teaching just a little bit – teach it a different way – [special needs students] can get it,” Kanzow said.

The Children’s Rights Section of Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida, where Kanzow works as an intern, told her about the fellowship and encouraged her to apply with them as her host organization. Kanzow’s project involves the same topic as her internship: the school to prison pipeline, with emphasis on special education in rural areas and minorities. The Florida Bar Foundation chose to sponsor Kanzow’s project. In her application, she proposed creating educational materials for parents, students, attorneys, and advocates, in addition to her practicing special education law.

“A lot of students, based on race, are being excluded from the special education system,” Kanzow said. “Some students, if they’re doing something wrong, will be identified as in need of extra services because of an emotional or behavioral issue. Whereas, minority children, will often be identified as a bad kid.”

Kanzow and Greenberg have discussed ways of tying their two projects together in future collaborations, such as giving trainings on their respective subjects to one another’s teams. A unique aspect of the Equal Justice Works Fellowship is that the committee does not consider grades or request any transcripts, instead they want to see passion and commitment – both of which Kanzow and Greenberg have in excess.

“They just want to see you as a person and your project,” Greenberg said. “But, what I also like is that you have the ability to impact an underserved population through different avenues. Most fellows have a multi-faceted approach to tackling their issue. In order to make a real change, you can’t just do it in the courtroom. You have to educate the wider community. You really get to be creative in the ways that you’re trying to effectuate change.”