Alum Spotlight: Emma Morgenstern

Emma is a Grade 8, Class of 2004, alum of Maine Coast Waldorf School (then Merriconeag) and currently works as a Staff Attorney and Immigrant Justice Corp Fellow at Volunteers of Legal Services (VOLS). Emma shared some highlights of her journey in Immigration Law and how her time at MCWS shaped her career choices.

Q:  Please tell us about the Immigrant Justice Corps Fellowship and the work you do through VOLS. 

A:  The Fellowship is really a wonderful program.  It’s meant to increase the capacity at nonprofits that provide free assistance to people who need immigration services. Often fellowships are built around creating a new project or making space to do hyper-specific work. What’s different about this fellowship is that it provides funding to fulfill the needs of the organization already doing the work. So, other Immigrant Justice Corps Fellows are doing very different work than me. I think this approach can be more responsive to community needs. 

Q. How does your fellowship apply to the work you’re currently doing? 

A. I provide nonprofit immigration services at an organization called Volunteers of Legal Services in the Immigration Project. We primarily work with youth demographics, providing whatever immigration services they need. This often involves humanitarian relief including temporary protected status, special immigrant juvenile status, or asylum.

Q. What influenced your career choices?

A. It started in Waldorf school; the way that different cultures are taught pretty universally from such an early age. I feel like around fifth grade, I became interested in those who grew up in different places and different cultures. This likely led to my interest in issues of justice and fairness.  Around high school I started getting more connected to ideas around human rights. During college I studied international relations and eventually received a Master’s degree in human rights.  Being able to study internationally gave me a broader perspective of human rights and it became important for me to bring that lens back to work domestically; back to my own community.* 

Q. What advice would you give a graduating Senior?

A. First, I think kids coming out of Waldorf school are going to have a head start navigating the world in their own way. Pay a lot of attention to your interests and what brings you joy. Although there will be a lot of pressure to do things that you think will look good on a resume, the people you meet and experiences you have will shape your path, that’s what’s important.

* When this interview was conducted, Emma worked with VOLS in Brooklyn, New York.  She has since moved to Portland, Maine and continues her work with VOLS and Immigration Law. To learn more about VOLS visit https://volsprobono.org .