Samantha Jimenez '23 Preps for Law School with Three Internships

To prepare for law school, Samantha Jimenez ’23 interned at the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) and the Honorable Judge Wilma Guzman ’78. “It’s important for me to engage with people and organizations that seek to uplift communities,” says the criminal justice major from the Bronx, New York. “Each internship gave me a unique opportunity to work with people that look like me and engage with underserved Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) communities in meaningful ways.”

Connecting with Alumni
Jimenez, an ¡Adelante! student and SASP Peer Success Coach, admits she was initially hesitant to apply for internships, but after encouragement from a John Jay alumna she changed her mind and threw her hat in the ring. “I worried I didn’t have ‘the goods’ to compete,” says Jimenez, “but I found support through the College’s Alumni Mentorship Program. They paired me with Bianca Hayles ’20, and she’s honestly been so amazing. We meet regularly. She pushes me to pursue opportunities and says, ‘Don’t be nervous. You got this.’ When I think of my internship journey, I think of the people that helped me along the way, and Bianca has definitely played a huge role.”

Hayles, who graduated John Jay with a bachelor’s degree in political science and now works as a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and professional development assistant at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP, connected with Jimenez online. Together they outlined the steps it would take to ensure the rising senior met her professional goals. “Immediately we began to research internships and experiential learning opportunities that matched up with my interests,” explains Jimenez. “Bianca then looked over all my materials—application, resume, and cover letter—and helped me prepare for interviews.” Hayles also introduced Jimenez to her peers, expanding the first-generation student’s legal professional network. “She wanted to make sure I was connected on a professional level.”

Working at the Bronx District Attorney’s Office
Jimenez landed her first legal internship with the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, a stone’s throw away from where she grew up, thanks to Hayle’s support. “I worked in the Community Affairs unit and while I did see the detective squad and the attorneys in action, most of the work I did was in community outreach. I helped put on events for the community like a Child Safety Fair produced engaging materials, such as a borough coloring book; educated the community on the role of the Bronx District Attorney’s Office and how it can help them; and provided resources to the community, such as food and diapers to families in need,” says Jimenez. “It was during my time with the Bronx District Attorney’s Office that I realized I want to practice law in the Bronx. I want to be an advocate for my neighborhood.”

Connecting with the Neighborhood through NYLAG
This summer, Jimenez had a chance to advocate for her neighborhood and several other neighborhoods across New York City, gaining valuable on-the-ground experience. “NYLAG embodies what it means to be an advocate for people facing injustice of all kinds. We’re helping people experiencing housing issues, domestic violence, custody challenges, and immigration struggles,” says Jimenez. “As an intern, I’m working with the Mobile Legal Help Center unit, visiting different neighborhoods and sharing information about NYLAG’s free legal services.”   

Jimenez performs case intake work, getting client information, acquiring documents, and connecting clients to attorneys that can help them. “Every day it’s different and offers a new learning opportunity for me,” says Jimenez. “Being at NYLAG, I’ve seen my confidence grow, my voice strengthen, and trust in my own judgement increase. At NYLAG they motivate you to stand up for your cases and advocate on behalf of clients. It’s been an amazing experience.”  

Seeing Herself in Others
Throughout her internship experiences, Jimenez has witnessed how diversity enriches the legal profession and the value of being bilingual—giving her a greater sense of pride in her Latinx identity and a boost in her self-esteem. “When you’re one of the few Latinas in the room, it can be intimidating. You deal with imposter syndrome a lot. But being able to work with other people of color and seeing people that look like me out in the world in these important professional roles is inspiring. It lets me know I can do this work.” Jimenez is especially moved when her identity and presence brings relief to others. “One of the best moments for me is when I see relief come over the face of a client or community member who is Latino and doesn’t speak English. You see a burden lifted off their shoulders when they hear me speak Spanish. Immediately, they begin to open up and share the details of what they’re facing because they trust me. I’m so proud to help.”

Entering the Courtroom
Jimenez also interned with Judge Wilma Guzman '78. “She’s a John Jay alumna, Latina, and she serves her community. It’s people like her that have paved the way for me,” says Jimenez. “I’m excited for what comes next. These internships have shown me that I’m on the right path. I want to be a lawyer who stands up for BIPOC communities, especially in the Bronx. I want to be there because my community needs me.”