A San Mateo native, Robert M. Dell Student Advocate Monica Porter is enjoying being home in the Bay Area this summer, deepening her disability rights law experience with the Disability Rights Program. Going into her third year at George Washington University Law School (GW Law) in Washington, D.C., Monica developed her expertise in disability rights through personal experience, volunteering for disability service and rights groups, and studying policy as an undergraduate at U.C. Berkeley.
As the daughter of a carpenter and granddaughter of a bus driver, cement mason, and factory worker, Monica grew up inherently understanding the value of hard, meaningful work. Her passion for serving people with disabilities stems from witnessing relatives with learning, mental, and physical disabilities face challenges in the classroom and workplace. Through these experiences, Monica saw how legal advocacy can positively impact classroom and workplace experiences – that even just learning about one’s rights to reasonable accommodations can mean the difference between having dignity at school or work and enduring discriminatory practices.
Staying close to home at U.C. Berkeley for college, Monica graduated with honors in 2009 with a B.A. in Social Welfare and minors in Disability Studies and Public Policy. She drew on each of her emphases for her honors thesis on Post-traumatic Stress Disorder among American veterans and made recommendations on improving claims processing and service provision.
While attending Berkeley, Monica worked as an academic aide for U.C. Berkeley’s Disabled Students’ Program where she provided one-on-one assistance to students with disabilities, including coaching a fellow student through accessing and using resources to resolve a housing accommodation conflict. Monica also volunteered for the World Institute on Disability in Oakland, and San Mateo’s Center for Independence of Individuals with Disabilities. Additionally, she spent a summer in Washington D.C. in a fulltime internship with the National Council on Independent Living, contributing to a report on voting accessibility for people with disabilities.
After graduating, Monica joined JusticeCorps, an AmeriCorps program in which members, supervised by attorneys, provide legal information and assistance to self-represented litigants. Based at San Francisco Superior Court’s Self-Help Center, Monica helped hundreds of self-represented litigants each week. Teaching them about court processes and how to complete legal forms in the crowded office and hallway cemented Monica’s passion for a career of advocacy. After her year of service and prior to starting law school, Monica served on JusticeCorps’ staff for three years and worked to recruit, train, and support JusticeCorps members throughout the Bay Area.
At GW Law, Monica has enjoyed reengaging in direct service to clients at the D.C.-based Employment Justice Center Workers’ Rights Clinic and spent last summer with Bay Area Legal Aid’s Legal Barriers to Employment Project. She has gained a broad, national perspective of policy and enforcement issues through field placement experiences with the Justice Department’s Disability Rights Section and the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Hon. Cynthia McKnight.
This fall, Monica looks forward to continuing to serve low-wage workers through GW Law’s Public Justice Advocacy Clinic, which focuses on employment and disability law, as well as helping her fellow law students with legal research and writing as a Dean’s Fellow and Executive Guide Editor of The George Washington International Law Review. During her spare time, Monica makes the most out of living in D.C. by visiting monuments and observing U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Abercrombie & Fitch case heard and decided this past term. As much as she is enjoying D.C., Monica looks forward to returning to the Bay Area after graduation to serve her community.