The Douglass Fellowship gives law students who demonstrate a passion for human trafficking policy the opportunity to gain indispensable knowledge and skills to aid them in their work.
Meghan Poole’s (’19) lifelong passion for helping and advocating for human trafficking survivors—and her work in the BU Law’s Immigrants’ Rights & Human Trafficking Program—have earned her the Douglass Fellowship from the Human Trafficking Institute.
While still in high school, she read Half the Sky by Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn and learned about the existence of human trafficking in different parts of the world. She credits this as the beginning of her interest in the field. As an undergraduate student at New York University, Poole’s church worked with A21, an Australian based international anti-trafficking organization, and she interned at Connecticut’s Permanent Commission on the Status of Women working on human trafficking research. Poole noticed human trafficking was also an issue in the United States and was concerned because of how much media coverage was dedicated to human trafficking outside of the country.
“I realized that there is so much work to do here in the US to eradicate human trafficking,” she says. “Whether it’s by helping survivors post-trafficking in civil legal aid, or prosecuting traffickers as a state or federal prosecutor.”
The Douglass Fellowship from the Human Trafficking Institute is a nine-month program intended to develop students’ leadership skills to combat human trafficking. Named after Frederick Douglass, the fellowship provides resources to those working against human trafficking all over the world. Fellows assist the Institute’s research efforts to provide materials to scholars and criminal justice practitioners who are fighting human trafficking. In the inaugural year of the fellowship, fellows reviewed cases and collected data for the first Federal Human Trafficking Report, wrote case notes and articles for TraffickingMatters.com, and travelled to Guatemala to learn about the country’s work against human trafficking. To encourage each awardee’s specific goals, fellows are paired with a mentor who works in the human trafficking sector in prosecution units, law enforcement units, victim service providers, nongovernmental organizations, and government offices.
The application process for the fellowship is competitive, and only a select group of students are chosen from all the applicants to participate. Last year, only 10 percent of applicants were selected for the program.
With the help of the Human Trafficking Institute, Poole will coordinate an advocacy event at BU Law in the upcoming academic year. She hopes the event will “inspire students to work to combat human trafficking in their own communities once they leave BU Law.” In addition, she will have the opportunity to work with the Human Trafficking Institute on a publishable piece of scholarship or advocacy that can range from a scholarly article to an opinion piece for the Human Trafficking Institute’s website. Previous work from Douglass Fellows includes amicus briefs to the Supreme Court of the United States and research on trends in human trafficking law.
Poole chose to attend BU Law for the opportunity to participate in the Immigrants’ Rights & Human Trafficking Program (IRHTP). The hands-on training that she received in the clinic improved her advocacy, legal research, writing, and public speaking skills. Her work allowed her to speak about a wide range of human trafficking issues and she believes that it was this clinic that led her to the Douglass Fellowship.
During her time at BU Law, Poole has repeatedly demonstrated her commitment to working with human trafficking survivors. With Noel Chapman (’19), she delivered a presentation to raise awareness about sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation to over 100 students at Brookline High School. As a student attorney with the IRHTP, she represented three survivors in a range of matters, including filing applications for visas offered to trafficking survivors, researching criminal restitution, and assisting with family reunification.
Along with another student attorney, Kelsey Jones (’18), Poole developed an app to help prosecutors fight human trafficking. With Jones, she assisted IRHTP Director Julie Dahlstrom to provide training about labor trafficking laws to over 30 investigators and prosecutors at the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office.
“The opportunity to directly represent survivors of human trafficking is rare for law students in the US, because there is only one other law school in the country that offers a human trafficking clinic,” Poole says. “I believe the experience of representing survivors of trafficking helped me stand out in the applicant pool for the Douglass Fellowship.”
Reported by Yadira Flores (CAS’19)
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