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Rosemont Junior Earns Internship in San Diego

Deaynna Koskulitz - April 26, 2019

Image of four women standing in front of a ranch-style house in San Diego, California.

The Rosemont community extends beyond our beautiful campus, and far beyond Pennsylvania! Deaynna Koskulitz ’20, of Hazelton is one example of the places our students go.

Deaynna Koskulitz recently worked a Summer 2019 internship as a Legal Administrative Assistant at Casa Cornelia Law Center, a public-interest law firm based in San Diego, CA. The firm provides pro bono services to victims of human and civil rights violations.

During her stay, Deaynna, a junior at Rosemont, the President of College's literary journal Thorn, and the Vice President of the College’s book club, visited with Rosemont College alumni and chronicled her experiences for RoCo. Her journal entries are found here.

Update No. 4

Coming from Rosemont College, where you can find so many passionate, dedicated, and friendly people, I was comforted to find a similar environment across the country in San Diego, CA. I believe Casa Cornelia is a fine example of “promoting justice with compassion,” which is such an important and relevant part of our mission statement. To play off another aspect of our mission statement, I would say I even had the chance to witness joy in the pursuit of justice; the staff members at Casa Cornelia is dedicated to their work in an inspiring way. While working in nonprofit law firms can be a challenging, stressful line of work, the staff at Casa Cornelia placed an emphasis on intentionality while also finding ways to be mindful of their mental health when it comes to their jobs. Perhaps as the adage suggests, one really can’t expect to help others if one does not help themselves first. What possibly stuck with me the most was how the attorneys, especially my supervisor, viewed their work. With the current influx of migrants into the United States, along with constant uncertainty with shifting policy changes, it can easily become disheartening to wonder if one could ever make a difference. Yet, the attorneys at Casa Cornelia recognize the importance of daily, little victories—a notice for deferred action for a client, the receipt of a work permit for another— as tangible pieces of what they can do.

I am glad to say that I learned many things during my internship, and, thankfully, even felt helpful to the organization. While I did prefer some tasks over others, I noticed that without the support of interns, many of the things that I worked on would fall on staff attorneys to complete, complicating their already daunting schedules.

Through my work, I feel like I picked up practical skills that I can develop even further in the future — perhaps the most significant of which is adapting to an office work environment in general. I also learned a lot about the types of people who come to Casa Cornelia for assistance, including many who want to avoid potential hardships at home and those who could not escape such hardship and want another chance elsewhere. Having been assigned to the Victims of Crime program, I unfortunately saw that these people who sought a new start fell into unimaginable situations in the U.S. as well. Fortunately, I learned about important aspects of U.S. immigration law, specifically as it pertains to those migrants who were victimized in some way while living here in the U.S., and what sort of legal relief exists in the law for them.

Overall, I found something familiar while I was away from home for eight weeks this summer. While no one else from Rosemont was physically present with me, I could still recognize the influence of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus in the spirit of Casa Cornelia Law Center. Aside from promoting justice with compassion for the indigent migrants of San Diego, they are a fine example of having a sense of responsibly to serve others in our global society, while also meeting the needs of our time. Casa Cornelia exists to serve its clients from around the world — with 64 countries represented, as noted for 2018 —whether they are children, young adults, the elderly, single mothers, families, members of the LGBTQ+ (Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/Queer) community, members of the “wrong” political party or social class in their home country, and so on.

Though my role as a summer intern was brief, and though Casa Cornelia itself appears unsuspecting at first glance, I was glad to be a part of something that holds a great significance in the San Diego (and perhaps global) community.  

Update No.3

Overall, I did a lot of fun things while I was away, but the major highlights included a Padres baseball game (fun, despite the fact they lost) and the San Diego Zoo. Perhaps my top two favorite things, however, were Comic Con and a day trip to Los Angeles. While I did not have a badge to get into Comic Con, just going to walk around outside the event is a popular activity for many people in San Diego. There were a lot of pop-up games and events to see, many of them free, and it was incredibly fun to just people-watch and see all the great costumes. As for the day trip to LA, I mainly went to see Amoeba Music, which is the world’s largest independent record store. The store is located in Hollywood, so I also had the chance to see the Hollywood sign (from afar), some parts of the Walk of Fame, and the Capitol Records Building.

Finally, I visited the Hotel del Coronado in Del Mar (famous for being featured in the film Some Like it Hot) with Marjorie Wahlsten, the incredibly kind woman who allowed me to stay with her the entire summer as I worked my internship. (For those who may not know, Rosemont College alumna Lauraine Esparza, who resides in San Diego, reached out to her friend Marjorie to ask if she might be able to accommodate me with a residence during my stay. She graciously said yes!) I probably would not have been able to participate in this internship had it not been for her!

Update No. 2

For the remainder of my internship, I still dealt with many of the same things that I wrote about in my first update, including handling client information and reading over and editing cover letters for visa applications. However, as time went on, I had great opportunities to join staff attorneys on work errands outside of the office. For instance, I went to immigrant court with one attorney to watch as he represented a client. Although the time in court itself was very short (he only had to go in to request a continuance, which is basically asking a judge for an extension on a court date so that more work can be done on a client’s case), it was interesting to see one of the attorneys in action and how that type of work is different from what I experienced in the office.

I also had the important opportunity to visit a migrant shelter in San Diego with my supervisor, Evelyn Lopez. The shelter is not like many of those we often see in the news, which are found directly along the border; this shelter is generally a one-day facility run by Jewish Family Services (JFS). After families and individuals are released from Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, they are usually left in random areas of the city without much direction for what they should do next. JFS finds such individuals and takes them in to feed them and provide clothing, showers, and a place to sleep. JFS also helps them arrange travel plans (bus/plane) to the next city they’re going to. For some time, Casa Cornelia has supported JFS in offering legal services in the migrant shelter as well. Casa Cornelia representatives visited that day to give a “Know Your Rights” presentation to a few families, informing them of what steps they should take in order to make sure their immigration cases are as successful as possible. We reviewed their legal paperwork to make sure families’ information all matched and that they understood where they had to go for immigration court, and made sure they had information about pro bono attorneys available in whichever city they’d be moving to.

I think this visit was one of my favorite experiences during my internship because it was very positive to see a shelter that was well run and had a constructive purpose for assisting migrants. As we have seen quite frequently in the news, many of the government-run detention centers found along the border have had an intensely negative history for their treatment of migrants. I have a few pictures from this, two of some artwork that was found throughout the shelter (there was a lot of children’s art, which I unfortunately did not get as much of as I would have liked), and two of murals on the rooftop area where many families spent time, as there was patio furniture to sit on and many toys for the children to play with. (You can find these images on Rosemont College’s social media pages – Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.)

Update No. 1

I’m enjoying my internship at Casa Cornelia, between the people I have met and things I have learned so far. I have been specifically placed as an intern with the Victims of Crime program, though Casa Cornelia is flexible on assigning tasks, especially based on need. I’ve also been able to assist the Unaccompanied Children program.

Most of my work includes filling out various paperwork/applications based on client information, assisting to prepare various types of applications (like asylum, T Visas, and U Visas) to be sent out for clients, and properly processing client information into digital files and paper files.

  • T Visas allow certain victims of human trafficking, and immediate family members, to remain in the country and work temporarily, typically if they report the crime to law enforcement and agree to help in the investigations and/or prosecutions of the crimes.
  • U Visas are those for victims of crimes, and their immediate family members, who have suffered mental or physical abuse while in the United States and are willing to assist law enforcement and government officials in investigations and/or prosecutions.

This week, we spent time learning about the function of these visas.

I’m looking forward to what else I might be learning this summer, especially since my supervisor has planned weekly meetings with myself and a few other interns to discuss and answer any questions we have about various legal processes within immigration and what Casa Cornelia does to serve their migrant population. 

Recently, a small party was held for interns and staff members so that everyone could become better acquainted. I was able to get a picture with some of Casa Cornelia’s staff members, as well as the two Society of the Holy Child Jesus (SHCJ) sisters who founded Casa Cornelia. 

From left are: Katherine Paculba Lacher, Esq., Pro Bono Program Director; Sr. Mary Wayne Gradon, SHCJ, co-founder of Casa Cornelia; myself; Sr. Ann Durst, SHCJ, Esq., co-founder of Casa Cornelia; and Carmen Chavez, Esq., Executive Director.

I also got to spend the day with Lauraine Esparza (also photoed with me), Rosemont Class of ’68, who is the alumna who got me in touch with Margie Wahlsten, my very kind hostess in San Diego. I also visit Balboa Park, a National Historic Landmark, quite frequently because it’s within walking distance to where I am staying (photos included with this post).

The park is an impressive, large collection of museums, various gardens, and the like (many of which I still have yet to explore!), with a rose garden being one of them. I particularly enjoyed it, as it felt like a beautiful reminder of Rosemont back home.

I will continue to send updates, both from my internship and my San Diego exploring!