Wilmington law firm offers diverse students externship opportunity
After already working with Delaware students from grade school through high school, Wilmington-based law firm Richards, Layton & Finger is expanding its work with Delaware youth by launching a new externship program for local college students from diverse backgrounds.
The law firm is working with TeenSHARP, a Wilmington-based nonprofit that helps local Black, Latino and low-income students get into college while also learning leadership skills, to find participants interested in learning more about career opportunities in the legal field. The first two students completed the six-week internship this past March and had an opportunity to explore business development and marketing, the law library and record-keeping as well as pro-bono work, community service, diversity and inclusion initiatives and wellness.
One of those students, first-generation college student Daniela Rosiles, said she’s still deciding what her career path will be after she graduates from Cornell University, but that the externship gave her new insights on the opportunities that may lie ahead.
“Whatever I do with my career, I want to make sure I can somehow use my career to serve my community: Working-class Latinos,” said Rosiles, who immigrated from Mexico and moved to Delaware with her parents when she was 3 years old. The sophomore is currently majoring in industrial labor relations, and recommends the “life-transforming experience” she received through TeenSHARP to any local student.
TeenSHARP, now in its 14th year, has worked with nearly 500 Delaware and Pennsylvania teens. And once they graduate from the program, organizers want to make sure they stay on track with their professional and leadership goals, said TeenSHARP co-founder and CEO Atnre Alleyne.
“With the decisions being made by lawyers, in corporate law, criminal justice, all types of law, a diverse perspective and diverse experiences might impact the way that decision will go,” Alleyne said. “We want our students to be in a setting like this.”
He said working with Rosiles brought tears to his eyes, and that the partnership with the law firm is exactly the kind of professional pipeline those behind TeenSHARP want to see more of in Delaware.
Danielle Nowaczyk, director of attorney development at the firm, said the idea behind the program was to show the students that professional opportunities at law firms do exist in Delaware and other states, and that you don’t necessarily have to focus only on becoming a lawyer.
“The main goal of the program is to provide access to opportunities for these students as well as mentors who can help them best achieve their goals and navigate any future career paths they might want to be on,” she said, adding that mentoring is key especially for students who may be on the track to becoming first-generation college graduates. Programs like these also provide a pipeline for local students from diverse backgrounds to eventually find work in their home state.
“Even the smallest partnership can create a ripple effect in a student’s life,” Nowaczyk said. “The goal is to change the community one child at a time.”
Nowaczyk said the firm plans to continue the externship program with the next session slated for the fall and another in the winter. At least two students will be chosen to participate, she said.
For Rosiles, the opportunity helped her see that other first-generation college students from diverse backgrounds can also succeed in high-level positions.
“When I tell my parents about experiences that I have been blessed enough to participate in, like this externship, I can sense their joy,” the former Newark resident wrote on LinkedIn after finishing the program. “I can feel their sense of pride as they say ‘oh wooow’ and tell me to keep ‘echándole ganas’ (keep working hard).
“People have often told me that I am paving the way for others and it becomes more evident with the conversations I have with my parents,” Rosiles added. “My experiences continue to be their wildest dreams come true.”