While most college students took a break from the books over the summer, Christine Walsh, of Milford, spent eight weeks interning for the Guilford County Public Defender’s Office, an agency in Greensboro, N.C., that strives to preserve society’s interest in the fair administration of justice by providing advocacy to indigent clients.

Currently attending Hamilton College, Walsh was one of 121 students selected for the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty’s (SHECP) 2019 Internship Program.

SHECP is a consortium of colleges and universities that are committed to the study of poverty as a complex social problem, by expanding and improving educational opportunities for college students in a wide range of disciplines and career trajectories.

Students accepted for the program live and work with fellow interns in impoverished communities across the country. Beyond providing support to their assigned agencies, SHECP interns gain an understanding of the root causes and consequences of poverty in a wide range of disciplines, according to a SHECP spokesperson.

“The SHECP internship was a unique opportunity to experience the intricate realities of the criminal justice system,” Walsh said. “As a student, I have been exposed to various academic theories regarding the inequities entrenched within our justice system. To witness these injustices first hand, however, completely altered my perspective.”

She said the public defenders of Guilford County fight to make sure each client’s story is heard and understood.

“Their advocacy serves to reaffirm each client’s humanity by representing the person, not his or her crime,” Walsh said. “By fighting systemic injustices on an individual level, public defenders are arguing for a fair administration of justice for all, one client at a time.”

She said that observing court and interacting with clients has pushed her to work harder to fight for justice in her community.

“From advocating for the end of the cash bail system to speaking out about the intersection of mental illness, substance abuse, and incarceration, I plan to incorporate my internship experience into my personal activism and scholarship,” Walsh said.

Walsh is a 2016 graduate of Sacred Heart Academy pursuing a bachelor’s degree in history and expects to graduate in 2021.

SHECP institutions support undergraduates toward a lifetime of professional and civil efforts to diminish poverty and enhance human capability. For more information, visit ShepherdConsortium.org, or visit us on Twitter at @TheSHECP.