Storytelling as a Tool for Action & Change

Touro Law Center, along with Herstory Writers Network, has developed a new semester-long pro bono internship project for law students to become part of a unique and powerful movement that uses a story-based strategy for change.

Law student interns will be writing side-by-side with family court-involved young people from Acting Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho’s Concept Court, an expansion of the youth incarceration-diversion program on Long Island. The students will collaborate with the young people, mentoring and inspiring them to share their stories.

Cate Carbonaro, Touro Law’s Director of the Public Advocacy Center and Public Interest who oversees the program stated, “Through this internship, law students will acquire new lenses through which to experience the real needs, aspirations, and dreams of the populations they are studying and will eventually serve as legal professionals. In addition to looking at the impact of current policies and practices on youth involved in the criminal legal system, we will explore the effects of mass incarceration on families and communities. I know this program will be impactful for all who participate.”

Student interns will be leading guided workshops with the involved youth. Together they will write about the criminal legal system, racial injustice, and other relevant and timely issues that law students and young people experience. Students will also be given the opportunity to critically think about structural injustice by looking at police practices, while developing story-based action and advocacy strategies to elevate the voices of those who have not had a place at the table regarding fair access to services, social and criminal justice policies. Utilizing a unique pedagogy based on daring a reading stranger to walk in each storyteller’s shoes, the law interns will move a step beyond advocating for young people who need second chances, to helping each young person find the voice to dream new futures and advocate for themselves.

This program was named in honor of Linda Howard Weissman, who served as Assistant Dean for Institutional Advancement at Touro Law Center for nearly 30 years. Linda was on Herstory’s board of directors, bringing a number of Herstory Initiatives to Touro, including a celebration of the publication of Brave Journeys, a book of stories by 15 young people who crossed the border by themselves, which has since circulated over 10,000 copies, and a special workshop for children of the incarcerated coming from a local high school, leading to the publication of All I Ever Wanted… in partnership with Prison Families Anonymous. It was Linda’s dream that the Herstory approach to “dare even a hard-hearted person to care” would someday be used by lawyers to help their clients tell their stories in a way that would stir empathy in those who had power over their lives.

Do you want to learn more and consider how to implement this in your law school? Contact Cate Carbonaro at [email protected].