Published: December 2023
Written by: Karla M. Armstrong & Shania Grant
KARLA: I received an email from the St. Thomas Career Development Center about the Palm Beach County Diversity Internship Program (“DIP”). I was thrilled at having an opportunity to intern within my community, and I received the email right after finals while I was on a trip with friends trying to mentally escape the pressures of law school. I read the mission statement of the DIP, and I thought it offered a perfect opportunity for me as an Afro- Latina Lesbian. I admire how it strives to bring everyone to the table.
As part of the DIP, I interviewed with the Palm Beach County School Board General Counsel’s Office, (“OGC”), and I was told what my summer would look like if I interned with them. I knew from the moment that I spoke to them that I wanted to be a part of their team for the summer. Shortly after interviewing, the OGC called me to offer a summer internship position. I was a mixture of nervous, excited, and grateful. Even though I had a career before law school, I had never worked directly under attorneys. As the summer neared, the worry cloud started to take over. What would it be like? Am I capable? What if a real-life experience would show me that I cannot do this? One word summarized my thoughts – terrified.
SHANIA: As a high school student, mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, I came across a post about interning for the Palm Beach County School District. Ignorant to all of the different fields that go into running a school district, I thought to myself, “What could the School District have to do with my career goal of becoming an attorney?” Even with these doubts in mind, I went to the district’s website, and to my surprise, I saw the opportunity to intern with the Office of General Counsel. Once I interviewed with the OGC, I quickly fell in love with the team there, and I was inspired by its diversity. As a first-generation American and a black girl, I felt proud to see the wealth of identities and diversity in the office, as it showed that I could, in fact, get there one day. When I received a call offering from me the position, I immediately accepted, knowing the OGC would provide me with a fantastic summer internship experience.
What kind of work did you do at the OGC?
KARLA & SHANIA: We worked in four departments: personal injury, governance, labor and employment, and business operations. Each department immersed us in their work for the two weeks we were with them. For business operations, we attended the weekly meeting and researched new case law and statutory changes, for example, those dealing with garnishment and student loans. The personal injury department asked us to summarize an entire medical file in one of their cases. Governance had us reading new legislation and assessing possible impacts on the school board. Labor and employment entrusted us with summarizing deposition transcripts and researching the possibility of a four-day workweek.
Our internships overlapped with a hectic time for the OGC as they underwent many changes and adapted to new legislation. We had the opportunity of seeing OGC attorneys discussing the impacts of the changes and preparing for the worst-case scenarios, all while having a goal of providing an enjoyable and safe environment that embodies the community’s values.
What did you take away from your experience?
KARLA: The experience at OGC taught me that passion, dedication, and heart can lead you down many roads, and that every law student should intern in different areas of the law. Every lesson is valuable – whether someone learns they like or dislike working in a specific field. Also, working with a high school intern like Shania, who knows she wants to be an attorney, was inspiring. Thank you to the OGC!
SHANIA: As a high school intern, I not only gained great experience with the attorneys at OGC, but also I gained Karla as an amazing mentor and friend. Karla is someone who I aspire to be like given all she’s accomplished, and because she is so proud of who she is. The environment in the OGC was so supportive as well. As a high school intern, I knew little about the law and all the legal jargon. However, the OGC made me feel comfortable to learn and ask for help while I was experiencing things that I never had before like my first trial, and a school board meeting. In addition, I was able to see the operational side of everything, which allowed me to better understand how the law governs and affects people’s lives. The whole experience made me believe that I can succeed while being unapologetically me.
Karla M. Armstrong is a second-year law student at St. Thomas University School of Law and is set to complete her J.D. in 2025.
Shania Grant is a senior at Florida Atlantic University High School. Shania is dual-enrolled and is currently set to graduate with a B.A. in Political Science with minors in Spanish and Criminal Justice in December 2024.