The staff and Board of Directors at PILI are excited to welcome Amanda Walsh to the Board as the 2015 Intern Alumni Representative. PILI appoints one Intern and one Fellow every year from the most recent class to serve on the Board for a two-year term. Amanda was a PILI Intern in the spring at the Roger Baldwin Foundation – ACLU of Illinois.
Amanda says her experience as a PILI Intern enhanced her career in two main ways: “First, my specific Internship experience rounded out my understanding of the different ways law can be used as a tool to improve the circumstances of a family’s life: direct representation, legislative reform, and class actions,” Amanda said. “Second, my PILI Internship allowed me to access a broad public interest network of attorneys in Chicago.”
At the ACLU-IL, Amanda conducted research and drafted memos on a number of topics such as Department of Justice investigations and the Privacy Protection Act. She was also able to observe meetings with a federal expert panel that was selected to determine how to improve placements and services provided by the Department of Children and Family Services under a class action case filed by the ACLU-IL.
“Before my PILI Internship, my experience in both the legal and social work fields was focused mostly on direct representation and policy change through legislation,” Amanda says. “I had limited exposure to using class actions as a tool for social change. It was an incredible honor to witness the efforts of the ACLU-IL trigger such broad reforms, helping thousands of children at once.”
Amanda graduated from Loyola University Chicago School of Law last spring, and she also holds a Masters of Social Work. She currently works as an Equal Justice Works Fellow at the Legal Council for Health Justice, where she will establish the Family Preservation Project (FPP) to tackle the social determinants of health and family instability faced by children with mental illness through a medical-legal partnership model. Amanda is personally invested in helping this underserved population. Due to parental mental illness when she was growing up, Amanda was placed in foster care as a youth. This experience inspired her to make a difference for families in situations like hers. Her project aims to provide preventative legal care through direct representation, community outreach, technical assistance, and policy advocacy.
While Amanda has always been extremely passionate and determined, she says her PILI Internship gave her necessary skills to accomplish her goals. “PILI provided me with additional support and experience to complete my legal education and prepare me for my current work as an Equal Justice Works fellow,” Amanda says. “In five, ten, fifteen years and beyond, I plan to continue serving and fighting for this vulnerable population and I am so thankful to PILI for helping me start my career.”