Social Work Clinic Student Reflection: Vanessa Soria

May 9, 2022

My experience in the Education, Defense, and Justice for Youth (EDJY) Clinic at the East Bay Community Law Center was transformative. Before becoming an EDJY social work intern, I was working with youth who were navigating the juvenile justice system. This harmful, oppressive system, along with the education system, was working tirelessly to tear these youth down. My experiences fueled my desire to further work with youth who are caught at the intersection of the juvenile justice and education systems and fight against the disproportionate impact these systems have on youth of color. I wanted to find an organization that not only focuses on this work but does so in a way that truly prioritizes youth well-being, co-creates hope, and encourages the exceptional potential of our youth. This is exactly what I found in my experience with EDJY. I had the opportunity of providing holistic care through trauma-informed case management, system navigation, and supportive advocacy to many youths and their families.  

As EDJY advocates, we have the privilege of being invited in by our youth and their families to hear their stories, their strengths, and their struggles. Throughout my time with EDJY, I worked with many incredible and kind youth. These youth were tenacious, often standing up to systems that were working against them. Being EDJY advocates, we walk alongside our youth during some of the darkest times of their lives. We advocate for and with them. We utilize the healing power that storytelling and positive relationships have. Many of our youth are taught to believe that they are voiceless and that their story is not worth telling. They then internalize the dominant, and harmful, beliefs this society has about them. EDJY strives to liberate our youth from these constraints by helping them recognize that they are not the problem and allowing them to reauthor their story.  

Not only did I have the opportunity to work with incredible youth, but also with an incredible team of social workers and lawyers who share a common goal and commitment to justice. This team works tirelessly to provide holistic care for our youth. As a team, we continuously reflect on our work to ensure we are responding to trauma, and not creating it. Despite the isolation that the pandemic continues to bring us, the team made efforts to create a community. I am truly inspired by the EBCLC staff who all continue to show up for our youth and bring their whole self to this challenging, but transformative work. I could not have done this work without the powerful support from my supervisor, Whitney. Her fierce dedication to our youth is energizing and refreshing. She has and always will play a significant role in my journey toward becoming an effective social worker for young people and their families.  

I am beyond grateful for every experience, relationship, and skill I have gained through my time with EDJY. This experience will follow me throughout my career as a social worker as I continue to fight alongside fierce advocates, young people, and communities. 

Written by Vanessa Soria

 University of California, Berkeley, Class of 2022

East Bay Community Law Center Social Work Clinical Student