This National Pro Bono Week, we would like to feature one of our Supervising Attorneys, Tori Porell ‘18, Education Attorney at East Bay Children’s Law Offices (EBCLO). Tori is being featured for her impactful work as a supervising attorney of our Student-Initiated Legal Services Project, the Foster Education Project (FosterEd).
EBCLO’s mission is to protect and defend the rights of children and youth through holistic, vigorous legal advocacy. Tori, specifically, works to address the educational needs of EBCLO clients of all ages and work towards closing the educational achievement gap for foster youth. Through FosterEd, our students are able to advocate for the educational rights of individual foster youth under Tori’s supervision.
As a student at Berkeley Law, Tori was a pro bono star. Tori states, “I actually joined the Foster Education Project as a 1L. I was paired with a little boy in foster care and I remained his education rights holder until after I graduated. I was a student leader of FosterEd during my 2L year. Through my connection to EBCLO during my time in FosterEd, I received an Equal Justice Works fellowship to develop a program called Strong Beginnings, representing EBCLO’s 0-5 year old clients with complex developmental, educational, medical, and mental health needs.
Foster Youth currently have worse educational outcomes than any other at-risk or racial/ethnic sub-group that California has data for. All foster youth have experienced trauma, and need tailored support to be successful in a school system that wasn’t designed to serve them.”
When asked what excites her about working with our pro bono students, she answered “I love working with pro bono students and getting them excited about youth justice work, to hopefully grow a new generation of advocates!”
EBCLO represents nearly all of the foster youth in Alameda County (about 1,200 children and youth ages 0-21). Tori is the only full-time education attorney and she supports her organization’s attorneys in handling any education issues that come up for their clients. “The main issues that we are working on are Special Education, School Discipline, and Foster Youth-specific education rights.”
The Foster Education Project at Berkeley Law serves foster youth in the Bay Area. FosterEd pairs each law student with a foster student in need of an educational advocate. Law students become the legal educational rights holders, ensuring the child receives an appropriate school placement, representation in disciplinary proceedings, any services for disabilities or special needs, and the support needed to succeed. Law students can expect to learn about child welfare, education, and disability law, and to work with established attorneys in the field who will serve as mentors. Members get to practice a direct service approach to the law, and utilize communication, negotiation, and advocacy skills to improve educational opportunities in a child’s life.
We celebrate and thank Tori, along with all of our Supervising Attorneys, this National Pro Bono Week. The pro bono work our students engage in through SLPS and BLAST is only possible under their supervision, mentorship, and guidance.