Although Natasha Felder ’16 spent seven years in the workforce before pursuing her JD, she had longtime law school aspirations and coveted more than just a degree. Felder sought a transformative educational experience that would give her the practical knowledge and hands-on learning she needed to make her career goals a reality—Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law fit that criteria.
“I did not want to be just a student in a law school. I wanted to be a member of a community and have a full experience both inside and outside of the classroom,” said Felder. “I absolutely loved my work in Philadelphia’s Juvenile Justice System, where I was able to encourage and inspire my clients and their families. But I came to realize that I wanted to do this work in the capacity of an attorney.”
The decision to leave her fulltime job to become a fulltime student was a difficult one, but choosing Villanova Law was easy.
“It was Villanova’s programming that solidified my decision.”
With a vested interest in the community, Felder became actively engaged in the public interest opportunities at Villanova Law. She interned with the Villanova Law Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation, participated in the Villanova Law Civil Justice Clinic and got involved with the Walter Lucas Public Interest Fellowship Program (PIFP)—currently serving on the Board.
“In the Civil Justice Clinic, I have the opportunity to represent actual clients in civil matters, allowing me to combine my law school studies with my case management skills,” said Felder.
In addition to her clinic experience, Felder landed several externships throughout her law school career, including at the United States Attorney’s Office, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and the Montgomery County Public Defender’s Juvenile Advocacy Unit. And recently, Felder was selected as one of only three Stoneleigh Fellows—a prestigious fellowship for young professionals interested in addressing the needs of Greater Philadelphia’s most vulnerable youth through policy analysis, research or advocacy.
Beginning this fall, Felder will work with the Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project (YSRP), a Philadelphia nonprofit organization that provides comprehensive support to children prosecuted in the adult criminal justice system. In this role, she will develop a resource guide for attorneys representing girls in the adult criminal and juvenile justice systems, as well as educate stakeholders about how to better address the unique issues system-involved girls face—including sexual abuse, teen pregnancy, housing instability and inadequate educational opportunities.
"I am honored and privileged to be allowed to address the needs of Philadelphia's most vulnerable youth by working with the Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project as a Stoneleigh Emerging Leader Fellow immediately following my legal studies at Villanova Law,” Felder said. “Although I worked in juvenile justice prior to law school, it was the legal studies and experiential legal practice that I obtained at Villanova Law that has prepared me for this next step in my career. In short, Villanova Law provided me the foundational tools to work towards becoming the emerging leader I aspire to be."
Find out more about Villanova’s robust public interest curriculum, experiential learning opportunities, tailored career counseling and pro bono programs. Click here to learn more about Public Interest Practice at Villanova Law.