In the Public Interest

In the Public Interest

Drinan Award winner's service to others has taken her many places

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

When she was a senior at the University of Notre Dame, BC Law School student Amy Vosburg looked forward to attending law school, then applying her degree toward some meaningful social pursuit.

Amy Vosburg: "I want to accompany people when they need support, and help them find their way out of difficult times." (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
But her friends warned she might have to take some high-end job after law school to pay her school loans, she noted at the time in an interview with the Notre Dame alumni magazine. She mused: "I hope I don't end up doing that."

Vosburg need worry no longer.

A former Jesuit Volunteer Corps member who taught English on a remote Pacific island and now counsels troubled girls in juvenile court, Vosburg has been named this year's winner of the Drinan Family Fund Award.

Established in 1998 by anonymous friends of the Boston College Law School to honor former law dean and congressman Rev. Robert Drinan, SJ, the award provides $20,000 over two years to a BC Law graduate setting out on a career in public-interest law.

"Amy is an example of the very best that Boston College Law School has to offer," said BC Law Associate Dean for Administration Michael Cassidy. "Her ideals and commitment exemplify the Jesuit mission of education for service to others."

Vosburg, who is simultaneously working toward a master's degree from the Graduate School of Social Work, has been active in the Law School's Juvenile Rights Advocacy Project as a counselor to girls in juvenile delinquency proceedings.

She was a member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and served as a volunteer teacher and advisor for two years on the island of Ebeye in the Marshall Islands, where she taught English as a second language and provided personal and academic counseling to students.

She also has defended indigent clients in misdemeanor and felony criminal cases through the Georgia Justice Project, worked on affordable-housing issues at the Boston Redevelopment Authority, and helped coordinate student-support services at Brighton High School, among other activities.

Vosburg's career plans encompass various areas of public-interest practice, from advocacy of tenants' rights to the defense of indigent clients in criminal cases, Vosburg said.

"Philosophically, I am drawn to the holistic advocacy model, in which clients are served in a multidisciplinary way, with lawyers, social workers, teachers, psychologists and others all working together to serve the client," she said.

"The Georgia Justice Project, where I worked this summer, is such a place. The project defends indigent clients in their criminal cases, but also provides counseling, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, job training, prison visitation, actual work on site, and connections with other services.

"Ideally, I would like to work at a place similar to the Georgia Justice Project - or eventually start my own."

She recalled an experience on Ebeye that she said strengthened her resolve to put her talents to work for others.

"I was sitting on the rocks by the ocean one night, bemoaning my homesickness, when one of my high school students, Ray, came over and sat down next to me.

"He began to tell me a story about himself, about how his grandfather had been really sick when he was younger, and so Ray had dropped out of school to spend time with him and take care of him. He lost two years of school, but he was able to sit beside and take care of his grandfather, his dearest relative.

"Ray magically broke my homesickness that night. He knew I was sad, and so he shared that sadness with me, thereby bringing me out of it. He accompanied me, and he used his knowledge to help me.

"Simple, I know. That is why I want to do this work. I want to accompany people when they need support, and help them find their way out of difficult times."

-Law School Communications Manager Nathaniel Kenyon contributed to this story.


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