New Notre Dame Fellows Work to Aid Immigrants and Low-Income Residents

students_nd_fellows_2012_story Kelly Jentzen Thompson, J.D. ’12, of Arlington, Virginia, and Rachel Odio, J.D. ’12, of Costa Rica will be spending the next two years serving as the Law School’s 2012 Notre Dame Fellows in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, California.

Highly competitive, the Notre Dame Fellowship award requires applicants to develop and propose a two-year public interest program to be implemented with a host agency and a willing supervising attorney. Funded entirely by the law school’s benefactors, the Fellowship pays the Fellows’ salaries and employer-provided health and other benefits for two years.

This year, Jentzen Thompson will be working with Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. As part of her commitment, she will work with pro bono legal programs and provide holistic services to low-income residents of the Washington D.C. area.

“I attended Notre Dame Law School with a desire to work in the public interest and with the knowledge that NDLS would provide opportunities for public interest engagement during and after law school. I’m grateful for the Notre Dame Fellowship because it allows me the opportunity to work for a well-respected organization that provides much-needed, quality services to clients who might not otherwise have access to the legal system,” said Jentzen Thompson

Rachel Odio will work with the Immigrant Rights Project at Public Counsel, a pro bono law firm in located in Los Angeles, California. In this role she will provide legal orientation and representation to asylum seekers in Orange County, California.

“Being selected as a Notre Dame Fellow is a privilege, a great honor, and an exceptional opportunity to begin a career as ‘a different kind of lawyer.’ The Fellowship will allow me to serve immigrants and asylum-seekers in Southern California, guided by the experience, compassion, and success of my host organization, Public Counsel. I hope that at the end of the two-year fellowship I will have the practical and professional experience necessary to continue a long career as a public interest lawyer,” said Odio.

Exemplifying what it means to be a different kind of lawyer, the Notre Dame Fellows program was created to help launch public service careers for NDLS graduates who have potential to make differences in the lives of low-income or under-represented communities. Each year, two graduating students are chosen as Fellows so that they may address an unmet legal need through their innovation and the assistance of a host agency.