Volunteer Spotlight: Renata O’Donnell

Renata O’Donnell

Renata O’Donnell

Hometown:
Wilkes-Barre, PA

School:
Health Policy & Law and Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania

What do you do as a volunteer for the ACLU of Pennsylvania?
I am a legal intake volunteer.

How long have you volunteered with the ACLU of Pennsylvania?
I have been a volunteer since June of 2015.

How did you first get involved with the ACLU of Pennsylvania?
I heard about the work of the ACLU when I attended a conference at which Mary Catherine Roper spoke.

Why is volunteering with the ACLU of Pennsylvania important to you?
So many people need legal help, but cannot find it. The ACLU cannot help every person who calls our office, but I come back to the ACLU each week with the knowledge that I can provide some solace to callers by listening to their stories and trying to find the best resources for their cases.

What civil liberties issue(s) are you most passionate about and why?
I am most passionate about prisoners’ rights after receiving calls from so many family members of the incarcerated during my time at the ACLU. Through these calls I have learned about the shocking treatment of inmates in the United States prison system- a system that is meant to reform, but instead warehouses and demoralizes those that are placed into it.

What do you do when you’re not volunteering for the ACLU of Pennsylvania?
I love to run and I am training for my third marathon! I also enjoy exploring new restaurants with friends and driving home to see my family.

Renata is constantly smiling and always brings a positive attitude into the office. She is unbelievably helpful to our callers, and she is constantly looking for new ways to challenge herself. Renata plans to attend law school in the future to pursue public interest law, something at which she will surely excel. Thank you, Renata, for all your hard work.

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If you are interested in volunteering with the ACLU of Pennsylvania, please visit: aclupa.org/volunteer

Volunteer Spotlight: Todd M. Darby

Todd M. Darby

Todd M. Darby

Hometown:
Philadelphia, PA

School:
Recent Graduate of Claflin University; Aspiring Lawyer

What do you do as a volunteer for the ACLU of Pennsylvania?
I am a development volunteer; I assist the development staff with a wide variety of tasks, such as stuffing envelopes, scanning documents, working on spreadsheets, and played a part in preparing sections of the annual report.

How long have you volunteered with the ACLU of Pennsylvania?
It is closing in on three months soon.

How did you first get involved with the ACLU of Pennsylvania?
I had previously coordinated with the ACLU of South Carolina on events at my alma mater, Claflin University. While at Claflin, I kept up to date what ACLU-PA was doing in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania. I admired the work that the ACLU-PA was doing, especially over the last two years. Since graduating in May, I’m back home in Philadelphia and I wanted to play a part in moving your work forward, so I applied to be the Development Volunteer.

Why is volunteering with the ACLU of Pennsylvania important to you?
It’s important because I know that I’m playing a part in helping the ACLU of Pennsylvania be successful. I help out with the daily functions of development, which in turn moves the organization forward. The ACLU of Pennsylvania works on issues that are most prevalent to myself and my community, and I am making an impact, both directly and indirectly. Pennsylvania is my home state, Philadelphia is my home town, and I love giving back to my community.

What civil liberties issue(s) are you most passionate about and why?
Criminal law reform, disabilities rights, and freedom of speech are the top three. They are important to me because my family, friends, and I have all had these rights infringed upon during my lifetime.

What do you do when you’re not volunteering for the ACLU of Pennsylvania?
I am currently in a LSAT Prep Class – I take the test in October. I volunteer with my church and am an Eagle Scout. I also volunteer with kids and the elderly. I enjoy live music, visiting museums or art galleries, travel, and last but not least, spending quality time with friends and family.

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If you are interested in volunteering with the ACLU of Pennsylvania, please visit: aclupa.org/volunteer

Volunteer Spotlight: Kaziah White

Kaziah White

Kaziah White

Hometown:
Boulder, Colorado

School:
Student at Haverford College, majoring in Anthropology with a concentration in Peace, Justice and Human Rights.

What do you do as a volunteer for the ACLU of Pennsylvania?
I’m an intern at the Clara Bell Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project, and in that role I’ve had a number of different tasks—drafting messaging toolkits on policies that affect reproductive freedom, reaching out to other organizations in the field of reproductive health to tell them about our new campaign, Your Body, Your Rights, and visiting pharmacies in Philadelphia in order to map emergency birth control access.

How long have you volunteered with the ACLU of Pennsylvania?
I began at the end of May, and I’ve interned here throughout the summer!

How did you first get involved with the ACLU of Pennsylvania?
I’ve heard about the ACLU for years and the instrumental role that the organization plays in protecting civil liberties within the United States. When I heard about the Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project within the ACLU, I was amazed by all the work that Duvall has done to protect reproductive rights and wanted to get more involved.

Why is volunteering with the ACLU of Pennsylvania important to you?
Volunteering at the ACLU of Pennsylvania has given me a chance to learn about the many issues that Pennsylvania faces today, while also helping to make a difference in reproductive rights. That’s been a pretty amazing experience!

What civil liberties issue(s) are you most passionate about and why?
I’m most passionate about reproductive freedom, and about overcoming the various barriers that stand between people and access to the health care that they need.

What do you do when you’re not volunteering for the ACLU of Pennsylvania?
When I’m not volunteering at the ACLU of Pennsylvania, I’m a full-time student at Haverford College!

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If you are interested in volunteering with the ACLU of Pennsylvania, please visit: aclupa.org/volunteer

Volunteer Spotlight: Bill Fedullo

Bill Fedullo

Bill Fedullo

Hometown:
Philadelphia, PA

School:
Philosophy/English double major at Swarthmore College, class of 2016.

What do you do as a volunteer for the ACLU of Pennsylvania?
I’m an intake worker, which means I call people who feel that their civil rights have been violated. Based on what those people tell me, I write up reports that are sent to our attorneys. Our attorneys then decide what action, if any, we can take.

How long have you volunteered with the ACLU of Pennsylvania?
I worked here in the summer of 2014, and returned this summer.

How did you first get involved with the ACLU of Pennsylvania?
I’m family friends with one of the attorneys who was working with the ACLU on the Whitewood v. Wolf case. When I told him I was looking for a volunteering opportunity at a legal non-profit, he put me in touch with the ACLU.

Why is volunteering with the ACLU of Pennsylvania important to you?
So many rights that today we take more or less for granted – the right to be in an interracial relationship, to read the poetry of Allen Ginsberg, to express inflammatory political opinions – were won and maintained with the support of the ACLU. It’s really exciting to be a part, however small, of that tradition of legal activism.

What civil liberties issue(s) are you most passionate about and why?
I care a lot about freedom of expression; after all, it’s what keeps liberal democracies, well, liberal and democratic. I also am really interested in efforts to make the United States a place that sends fewer people to prison for silly reasons. Additionally, I’m really proud of the ACLU’s past and continued efforts to make my LGBT friends and neighbors full and equal citizens under the law.

What do you do when you’re not volunteering for the ACLU of Pennsylvania?
I write, read, do some theater, and spend an unhealthy amount of time arguing politics.

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If you are interested in volunteering with the ACLU of Pennsylvania, please visit: aclupa.org/volunteer

Volunteer Spotlight: P. Griffin Sneath

P. Griffin Sneath

P. Griffin Sneath

Hometown:
York, Pennsylvania

School:
Senior at the Central York High School in York, PA

What do you do as a volunteer for the ACLU of Pennsylvania?
I serve as the Secretary for the South Central Chapter of ACLU of PA. Most of my volunteer time goes to tabling local events, composing the meeting minutes, doing chapter paperwork, and attending the chapter’s board meetings once a month.

As of July, I began a high school internship as the Harrisburg office. I am working on chapter business, assisting Jamie Pauls, Chapter Relations Manager, with paperwork and gathering supplies for the other chapters, and shadowing different aspects of the work of Andy Hoover, Legislative Director.

How long have you volunteered with the ACLU of Pennsylvania?
I have volunteered with the organization since 2012, attending tabling events and chapter meetings with my mother, Cyndi Sneath, Treasurer, ACLU of PA. I joined the chapter board as Secretary in September 2013.

How did you first get involved with the ACLU of Pennsylvania?
I first heard about the ACLU of Pennsylvania at a young age during Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District in 2006 (my mother was a plaintiff in the lawsuit). However, I took a true interest at an older age when I read about the ACLU in my 9th Grade Civics textbook and the work organization has done to protect the rights of citizens guaranteed in the Bill of Rights.

Why is volunteering with the ACLU of Pennsylvania important to you?
The ACLU actively seeks to protect every citizen’s constitutional rights; if it were not for organizations like the ACLU that stand up for citizens, I worry that we would not have the necessary protection to prevent the violation of our rights. I want to do anything I can to support the ACLU as they protect the very freedoms I enjoy.

What civil liberties issue(s) are you most passionate about and why?
I am also very interested in the protection of LGBTQ Rights. I believe that the primary source of opposition to same-sex marriage and the LGBTQ community comes from a religious interpretation. I support the First Amendment right to partake in religious beliefs. But, those rights shall not extend to violate the rights of another individual. Therefore, I feel using religious beliefs to ban same-sex marriage and prevent LGBTQ protection is a violation of the rights of LGBTQ individuals guaranteed by the Equal Protection Clause and Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

I am also interested in the teaching of creationism, intelligent design, and other forms of religion in public schools. As a biology student, I am fascinated by the level of misunderstanding by intelligent design proponents on the theory of evolution by Natural Selection, and scientific theories in general. It is interesting that there is a notion that ID deserves equal time in a biology classroom, considering that ID has virtually no scientific consensus among biologists relative to that of Darwin’s Natural Selection. I respect an individual’s right to utilize their religious freedoms and endorse ID; but, I do not support that endorsement taking place in a place of government, including the public school science classroom.

What do you do when you’re not volunteering for the ACLU of Pennsylvania?
Outside of the ACLU, most of my activities are academic. I am often studying for upcoming tests and working on projects for my Advanced Placement classes. I am the president of my Model United Nations Club, run Track and Field and Cross Country, play trombone in Marching Band and Jazz Band, and do other volunteer work for National Honor Society. I also participate in Science Olympiad and review articles for Scientific Journal Review Club throughout the school week.

When I am not working on academics, I work at Target as a cashier. I also spend time with my family, read political articles, and run when I find a little bit of down time!

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If you are interested in volunteering with the ACLU of Pennsylvania, please visit: aclupa.org/volunteer

Volunteer Spotlight: Saskia Levy-Sheon

Saskia Levy-Sheon

Saskia Levy-Sheon and her kitten, Emma.

Hometown:
Oakland, CA

School:
Bryn Mawr College, 2016: International Studies

What do you do as a volunteer for the ACLU of Pennsylvania?
I’m an intern with the Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project, so I help out with many of the ACLU’s projects related to women’s health and reproductive rights.

How long have you volunteered with the ACLU of Pennsylvania?
I started my internship at the beginning of June, 2015.

How did you first get involved with the ACLU of Pennsylvania?
When I was in high school I was involved in the Youth Activist Committee at the ACLU of Northern California. We organized an annual conference for youth and led Know Your Rights workshops for our peers. I was introduced to the Duvall Project last year in one of my classes.

Why is volunteering with the ACLU of Pennsylvania important to you?
I greatly appreciate the work the ACLU has done historically to protect the civil liberties of a wide variety of individuals and groups. I believe that the Duvall Project is doing important work to protect the rights of vulnerable populations, and I strongly agree with their view that sexuality and health must be recognized as fundamental human rights.

What civil liberties issue(s) are you most passionate about and why?
I have been passionate about issues of reproductive freedom from a young age. I believe that reproductive freedom is the key to gender equality and that it intersects with a variety of other civil liberties issues in important ways.

What do you do when you’re not volunteering for the ACLU of Pennsylvania?
When I’m not at the office I am usually cooking, hiking, playing with my kitten, or learning a new language.

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If you are interested in volunteering with the ACLU of Pennsylvania, please visit: aclupa.org/volunteer

Volunteer Spotlight: Valerie Snow

Val Snow-Blog-Feature

Profession:
Paralegal – at least for now.

What do you do as a volunteer for the ACLU of Pennsylvania?
I volunteer doing intake for the Legal Department. For an average of six hours per week, during the office’s evening and weekend hours, I chip away at the phone message database and make calls to people who believe their civil rights have been violated. I follow a general script and take notes on the call, and then I summarize each complaint and suggest a course of action. Usually, this means selecting a handful of referrals to other organizations. After sending the complaint to a volunteer attorney for review and feedback, I finalize our response and send it off.

I occasionally interact with Spanish speakers who leave messages for us, and since there are currently a very small number of volunteers who speak Spanish, staff attorney Molly Tack-Hooper asked if I would be interested in a trip to a detention facility to help with some language interpreting. I immediately agreed, and after much arranging, we traveled to Berks County Residential Center in Leesport, PA for a day.

This Immigration and Customs Enforcement family detention center, which holds mostly women and children, is one of only three in the country. Our goal was to see if anyone at the detention facility qualified to join a class action lawsuit the ACLU filed against the Obama administration. The suit contests the administration’s practice of detaining and denying bond to asylum-seeking mothers and children from Central America who have passed a “credible fear” interview and are likely to receive asylum status. This new policy, aimed at deterring immigration from Central America, contradicts the Department of Homeland Security’s precedent of releasing families on bond as they await their asylum hearings and contravenes U.S. immigration law and Fifth Amendment rights. Touring the detention facility and speaking to more than a dozen individuals in Spanish about their difficult situations, while reminding them that we could not help with their specific asylum cases, made for an interesting and educational trip that was not without its challenges.

How long have you volunteered with the ACLU of Pennsylvania?
I began volunteering in early August, 2014.

How did you first get involved with the ACLU of Pennsylvania?
After graduating from Haverford College in May 2014, with a degree in Political Science, I started my paralegal job right away and began to consider how I might meet new people and supplement my work with something I feel passionate about – especially if it might help me clarify my career and higher education goals. After asking some friends and acquaintances in the Philadelphia area for ideas, a volunteer reviewing attorney for the ACLU of PA told me about the possibility of becoming an intake volunteer. I thought it sounded like a great fit for me, so I applied.

Why is volunteering with the ACLU of Pennsylvania important to you?
The ACLU of PA is the type of organization I could see myself working for in the future, as it addresses many socially important issues – grounded by the theme of protecting Constitutional/ civil rights – and uses a combination of strategies to effect change. In the short term, though, it’s a constructive volunteer opportunity and learning experience that allows me to help a cause (and specific individuals) in some small way. Plus, I’ve met some great people whose values overlap with my own.

What civil liberties issue(s) are you most passionate about and why?
I tend to gravitate toward discrimination issues and those that track closely to the rights of people and groups (rather than, for example, surveillance and digital privacy – important as those issues are). My primary concern is to help people and be part of something that encourages a more equal society – one that values diversity and tries to recognize and correct injustice.

What do you do when you’re not volunteering for the ACLU of Pennsylvania?
Apart from my full-time job, I enjoy seeing friends, running and biking, reading, playing piano, crocheting, and hanging out with my cat.

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If you are interested in volunteering with the ACLU of Pennsylvania, please visit: aclupa.org/volunteer

Volunteer Spotlight: Arianna Henry

Arianna Henry

What do you do as a volunteer for the ACLU of Pennsylvania?

This summer, I volunteered in the Intake Department, also affectionately known as “ACL2.” In Intake, my fellow volunteers and I would field the numerous legal complaints that our office received on a daily basis. Reading letters, returning phone calls, and trying our best to help who we could was all in a day’s work.

How did you first get involved with the ACLU of Pennsylvania (How did you hear about us)?

I was already aware of the great work that the ACLU did around the country, but I didn’t know that I had the opportunity to make a difference locally by volunteering with the ACLU of Pennsylvania. I came across the position on the website, and I am so happy that I did.

How long have you volunteered with the ACLU of Pennsylvania?

I only had this summer available before I head back up to Boston for school, so I worked full-time for about three months to make sure that my service had an impact.

What do you do when you’re not volunteering for the ACLU of Pennsylvania?

When I am not volunteering at the ACLU, I am a full-time student. I am a Clinical Psychology and Child Development double major.

Why is volunteering with the ACLU of Pennsylvania important to you?

My position at the ACLU of PA is important because it gives me an opportunity to speak personally with Pennsylvanians who are affected by injustices and do what I can to help. These interactions with complainants have widened my knowledge about the many threats to our constitutional rights, and have sparked a new, deeper passion for defending our freedoms.

What civil liberties issue are you most passionate about? Why?

I am probably most passionate about over-incarceration and the flawed, unconstitutional use of solitary confinement in our prison system. I believe that the entire criminal justice system needs to be reevaluated and overhauled, and I am very proud of the work that the ACLU of Pennsylvania is doing to bring justice to those in the system.

Do you have any hobbies? What do you do for fun?

This summer, when I wasn’t volunteering I was enjoying all that the local area has to offer while I am home. I would explore the city, and enjoy the world’s best hoagies in historical parks. On weekends, I would hit the boardwalk and go down the Jersey shore, and I even made a few trips into Lancaster to check out the farmer’s markets and fantastic foods of Amish Country.

Tell us something about yourself our supporters might find interesting:

FUN FACT: I was the self- appointed “Official Fun Fact Distributor of ACL2” for the summer of 2014.

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If you are interested in volunteering with the ACLU of Pennsylvania, please visit: aclupa.org/volunteer