The Pro Bono Spotlight honors Advancing Justice - LA's dedicated volunteers and the important work they do to help us fulfill our mission. With this Spotlight, we recognize Shelley Siying Wang, who will be starting this fall as a graduate student in the Master of Social Work program at the University of Southern California. Since early 2014, Shelley began volunteering at Advancing Justice - LA’s citizenship and naturalization clinics, and has now volunteered nearly 100 hours with us at both onsite and offsite clinics.*
How did you learn about Advancing Justice - LA?
I learned about Advancing Justice – LA through the nonprofit Asian Pacific Community Fund (APCF), where I volunteer as a graphic and web designer.
What prompted you to get involved?
I was searching for opportunities to assist in serving vulnerable populations in the local community. In particular, as a native of China, I have found that many Chinese immigrants are hesitant to deal with legal issues because they do not have specialized legal knowledge, and also are unsure of where to turn for good assistance. Therefore, I wanted to use my language skills, education, and abilities to help empower this underserved community, and the Advancing Justice - LA citizenship clinics seemed like a wonderful way to do so.
What have you learned or how have you been personally affected by your experience as an Advancing Justice - LA volunteer?
I started volunteering for weekly citizenship clinics at the Advancing Justice – LA downtown office and Chinatown Service Center at the beginning of 2014 and have volunteered regularly ever since. During the clinics, I help qualified permanent residents complete U.S. citizenship application forms and assess their eligibility for various fee/medical waivers, under the supervision of Advancing Justice - LA staff attorney Mark Yoshida. The degree of personal connection with the clients and the gratitude they express are what I appreciate the most from this experience. It also intensifies my interest in the clinical field as I will be pursuing a master degree in social work this year. I also thoroughly enjoy the clinics’ working environment, and have created meaningful relationships with the staff and other volunteers.
Do you have an inspirational story you can briefly tell about your experience volunteering?
I had a client who suffered from physical injuries and mental illness from a past accident. As we recounted her work history and life experiences for the purposes of filling out the citizenship application form and medical waiver, her perseverance and positive attitude toward obstacles touched me deeply. I was struck by the reaffirmation that a person’s character is defined by more than his or her possessions, and found that any individual can find motivation from the least likely sources. I am glad that the woman has family and social services to support her recovery, and I sincerely wish her all the best.
What advice would you give other individuals who want to participate in volunteer or pro bono work?
The impact of your involvement is directly correlated with your dedication towards the task. It is important to apply the same work ethic to volunteer or pro bono work as you do to regular jobs. If you sign up to volunteer for an event or workshop, you need to be professional and punctual, or inform the coordinator in advance if not able to attend any scheduled shifts. I also encourage people who do not have legal background and are interested in the field to volunteer here. Advancing Justice - LA provides well rounded training and the staff members are always available to provide assistance and address concerns. It is a great opportunity to obtain legal knowledge while serving the community.
For more information about upcoming opportunities to volunteer at citizenship and naturalization clinics, please contact our Pro Bono Director:
Christina Yang - (213) 977-7500 x 850 - [email protected]
To date, Advancing Justice - LA has assisted thousands of individuals with their citizenship applications through free regular legal workshops. Advancing Justice will continue to do this work with committed volunteers like Shelley, who assist our clients pro bono. Advancing Justice - LA looks forward to continuing to partner with volunteers and pro bono attorneys, in order to serve all individuals seeking to apply for citizenship.