National Association of Women Lawyers Outstanding Law Graduate Award
The National Association of Women Lawyers Award is presented to a student who contributes to the advancement of women in society; promotes issues and concerns of women in the legal profession; exhibits motivation, tenacity and enthusiasm; demonstrates academic achievement; and who has earned the respect of the Law School faculty and administration. The winner receives recognition in the Women Lawyers journal. The winner this year, Janina Heller, received multiple nominations from faculty members.
One faculty member said: “Janina was in my DVP class a year ago, Spring 2019. She is deeply committed to human rights work on behalf of women and was placed at Tahirih Justice Center for her DVP placement. I will never forget the degree of commitment she showed when she took an asylum case from start to finish in two very short, incredibly intense weeks. Nobody else was prepared to take the case because they were full up and it required around the clock immediate work for two weeks. Janina jumped up and volunteered. The case concerned not only violence against the client, but also an extreme case of PTSD (causing her to pass out in an uber, and in a hospital for several days, while Janina was working on the case and had no idea what had happened to her), and she was also a leukemia survivor. Janina applied her learning from the clinic to be both a strong supporter and a deeply empathic listener and ally for the client, who went from a soldier-like strength to a more vulnerable and open demeanor in the course of their work together. When Janina completed the asylum filing for the case, the entire office of TJC stood up and cheered her for the extraordinary dedication and skill she had brought to the case and client. Janina is already set to go forward in the human rights field with a fellowship. This award would aptly honor her commitment to justice and human rights for women.
Another faculty member said: “Janina has devoted most of her law school studies and experiences to advancing the rights of women. Janina participated in the domestic violence project and the Tahirih Justice Center helping women and girls fleeing from gender-based violence with their immigration and family law needs. She also completed prestigious externships and volunteer work in the Center for Justice and International Law, the RFK Foundation for Human Rights, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, working on cases and research related to violence against women. She also took International Human Rights of Women as a law student and was Research Assistant to Associate Dean Rosa Celorio, conducting research on the rights of women globally, and challenges to the enforcement of their civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights. Janina was just selected as a Donald M. and Susan N. Wilson Fellow for the RFK Foundation for Human Rights to work after graduation in their international advocacy and litigation program. Janina is truly special, and brings to her future legal career creativity, intelligence, resourcefulness, superb legal skills, kindness, and a vast commitment to improving the daily lives of women.”
Janina earned her Bachelor of Arts from Suffolk University, studying Applied Legal Studies and Government.
My human rights fact-finding trip to Belize was the highlight of my law school years.
"Don't ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take a life of its own."
I would like to thank my father for always supporting my dreams, my friends for lifting me higher, and my mentor, Dean Celorio, for making me a better human rights lawyer!