Felicia Cao, 2L
Felicia Cao began her career at USC Gould through a semester-long study abroad program hosted by the University of Hong Kong. After this experience, Cao transferred to the JD Program, where she spent a summer working with the Los Angeles County Legal Aid Foundation.
“I want to gain the skills and knowledge I need to help address human rights violations. It is for this reason that I am deeply interested in the International Human Rights Clinic.”
Cao’s interest in international human rights issues began as a student at the University of Hong Kong. Cao assisted with a trial attorney to edit provisos to the official Hong Kong Civil Procedure Book, and researched legislation and case law for a criminal drug trafficking case.
Cao also worked on a comparative law report commissioned by the Hong Kong government on transsexual persons’ right to marry. Her work on this report gave her a deeper understanding of the injustice and discrimination still prevalent in society, and how the law can be used to make a difference in the real world.
After Cao graduated from the University of Hong Kong, she interned at Daly and Associates, a human rights law firm working with asylum seekers. She conducted client interviews, drafted claim forms, and researched country of origin information, as well as researched cases relating to the Convention Against Torture. This experience taught Cao that human rights law can be used to shape the world for the better.
Ben Leventhal, 3L
Benjamin Leventhal began his career in human rights law as an undergraduate at Northwestern University. Leventhal helped create a student group called Project ShoutOUT in the Chicago area in an effort to create high school classrooms with safe spaces for the LGBT community. Leventhal’s team worked on assisting the Illinois Safe School Alliance to implement gender neutral bathroom and locker facilities for transgender students. These successful experiences, coupled with sweeping legal change with regard to the LGBT community across the country, made it clear to Leventhal that change could be created through the legal system.
“Meaningful social change can be created through the legal system.”
At USC Gould, Leventhal has worked on human rights and hate crime issues at the federal district court and at the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office. While working with the district attorney in charge of hate crime and human trafficking in Los Angeles, Leventhal interviewed a victim of a brutal hate crime attack. Leventhal also contributed to a team that evaluated the sufficiency of evidence on a suspected human trafficking and enslavement case brought to the office by the Los Angeles Sherriff’s Department and CAST. Both of these exposures confirmed Leventhal’s interest in the human rights field, and reminded him of the emotionally challenging, yet rewarding experiences that he came to law school for.
Leventhal looks forward to working in the Clinic, and continuing to pursue his career in human rights and hate crime litigation.
Victoria McLaughlin, 2L
Victoria McLaughlin grew up in New York City where she constantly interacted with individuals from various communities. One of her most striking memories is standing in her friend’s kitchen after school one day, and listening to her friend’s grandmother tell stories of the oppression she suffered in Cuba. This experience, among others, shaped McLaughlin’s desire to work with communities in need.
“My work as a paralegal, specifically my contact with clients, helped me realize that I wanted to advocate for civil and human rights.”
McLaughlin continued to pursue her interest in human rights issues during her undergraduate career at the University of Virginia. She spent a summer with the Organization of American States’ Department of Human Development, Education, and Culture, in Washington D.C. McLaughlin also spent a summer interning for the Archivos Chile in New York City. As an intern, she researched human rights violations in Chile during the Pinochet regime and cataloged correspondences between the Ministry of Foreign relations and the Chilean Secret Service. Additionally, McLaughlin spent six weeks abroad in Guyana where she studied ethnography and cultural relativism. All of these experiences helped McLaughlin understand that she wanted to pursue a career in human rights law, with a particular emphasis on Latin America.
After graduation, McLaughlin became a paralegal for Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, a civil rights practice group. As a paralegal, she was the point person for many of her clients. After working closely with these clients, McLaughlin became even more sure that she wanted to dedicate her career to working with those who’s civil and human rights had been violated.
Masar Mandwee, 2L
Masar Mandwee grew up hearing stories of injustice. Most of his family fled Iraq as religiously persecuted refugees, but an uncle who was left behind was drafted to fight against Iran and later captured and kept prisoner in Iran. He was not offered legal assistance, and did not receive help from the Iraqi government. Thirty years later, he remains in an Iranian jail.
“I also learned, however, that there are good people willing to dedicate their lives to helping those like my uncle Haythm. This is what brought me here to USC… and what drives me to pursue international human rights law.”
This has fueled Mandwee’s desire to work with human rights issues, and to join the International Human Rights Clinic.
As an undergraduate student at the University of Arizona, Mandwee cultivated his interest in international human rights issues. There, he studied history and the Middle East. Mandwee also spent time teaching English to the local refugee population, which gave him the opportunity to learn about the community’s unique stories. At USC Gould, Mandwee worked with the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project. After working on his own case last year, Mandwee said, “having a case this semester has taught me the true value of advocacy and reaffirmed my decision to become an international human rights lawyer.”
Mandwee looks forward to working with the International Human Rights Clinic this year, as he is eager to learn more about how he can work towards becoming an international human rights advocate.
Nina Mann, 3L
Nina Mann, who was raised by a German mother and an Indian father, has led an international existence. Her residence has spanned the globe – including Germany, Spain, and Chile. These experiences taught her that “no matter which country I am in, I can still make a difference in the lives of people anywhere if given the right tools.”
“No matter which country I am in, I can still make a difference in the lives of people anywhere if given the right tools.”
As an undergraduate majoring in Development Studies at UC Berkeley, Mann chose to study abroad in Chile. Although Chile’s dictatorship ended almost two decades before she arrived, the devastating effects of torture and oppression were still apparent.
“I will never forget tears that streamed down the face of a guide and former torture victim who led me-limping from injuries inflicted on him by electric shock through Villa Grimaldi, one of the country’s most notorious torture houses. When he explained his tears, they were not for himself or his fellow countrymen, but instead for the torture that continues in the world today.”
Touched by this experience, Mann channeled her energies into an internship with Observatorio Control Interamericano para la Migraciones (“OCIM”), an immigration organization and watch group in Santiago. Watching the OCIM director fight passionately for the rights of migrants, trafficking victims, and indigenous groups, Mann found her own inspired path.
“While at OCIM, I drafted a ‘Global Guide for Migrants’ in English and Spanish, which laid out the basic rights guaranteed to migrants under international human rights conventions,” she said. “Beyond simply teaching me about these conventions and the difficulty of enforcing them, this work helped me contextualize immigration within the broader framework of international human rights and a person’s right to live, work and move freely within our world.” Looking forward, Mann is especially excited to partner with CAST through her work with the Clinic this year.
Monique Matar, 2L
Monique Matar grew up in an international household. Her father emigrated from the Middle East to the United States in 1978, and her mother followed shortly thereafter from Germany. She grew up learning three different languages and three different cultures, which allowed her to connect with a wide array of people across borders.
“I firmly believe that striving for justice should be an active-rather than a passive-goal.
Matar’s commitment to working with human rights issues was shaped in part by her parents’ experiences. Matar’s father escaped the Lebanese civil war, leaving behind his family and culture in order to avoid war and conflict.
Matar’s mother also helped shape Matar’s commitment to human rights issues. Growing up in Germany, Matar’s mother was raised with the harsh understanding that what the Nazis did was possible only because so many people stood idly by.
As an undergraduate student at UC Santa Barbara, Matar dedicated much of her coursework to the adverse impact that globalization has had on developing countries. She also discovered that with the rise of conflict in regions such as the Sudan, a refugee crisis was on the horizon. As a first year law student, Matar volunteered with Bet Tzedek to assist low-income individuals and marginalized groups in Los Angeles.
Rayan Naouchi, 3L
Rayan Naouchi is a first generation Lebanese American, who has been actively involved in the Lebanese community since her youth.
Naouchi decided to come to USC Law, in large part to assist in the Clinic’s work with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
“My parents never missed an opportunity to tell me about their childhood experiences having to seek shelter in the basement of buildings while Lebanon and Israel fired bombs back and forth,” said Naouchi. “I naively thought the era of conflict in Lebanon had come to an end, until the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri shed light on the political turmoil in my home country.”
At 14 years old Naouchi was confused by her family’s distress over a political leader on the other side of the world. After learning of the political implications of the assassination, she began to wonder about justice for victims of the ongoing political violence in the region.
As a political science undergrad at UCLA, her understanding of international relations, war crimes, and terrorism grew, and she determined to pursue a career in International Law with a focus on International Human Rights. Naouchi served as the President of UCLA’s Lebanese Student Association, and as the Youth Leader of the United Lebanese Organization.
“Through my leadership roles in these organizations, I built a connection with the Lebanese community both domestically and abroad,” she said. “I have traveled to Lebanon multiple times and witnessed first-hand the vast potential that the country has to advance politically.”
Naouchi decided to come to USC Law, in large part to assist in the Clinic’s work with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. The tribunal was set up to bring justice for the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri, and is the first international criminal tribunal to adjudicate crimes of terrorism.
Zach Price, 2L
Zachary Price came to law school so that he could give a voice to those who do not have one. For Price, studying law at the University of Southern California was a chance to address and eliminate global injustice.
“I chose to come to law school because I want to be able to advocate for interests that may otherwise have no voice, and I am particularly interested in learning how American lawyers can advance these interests both locally and internationally.”
As an undergraduate student at the University of Colorado, Boulder, Price minored in Peace, Conflict, and Justice Studies. Price also studied abroad in Spain for five months, becoming near fluent in Spanish. Price continued to refine his new Spanish skills when he returned to the United States. Specifically, they came in quite useful during his time as a deputy probation officer at Boulder County Probation. Price interviewed probationers, sometimes in Spanish, asking them about their criminal backgrounds, criminal history, and life story. Price saw this as an opportunity to not only learn more about the legal field, but to continue to develop his new passion for learning languages.
This past summer, Price externed for the Honorable John L. Kane of the District of Colorado. Price intends to use the skills he learned this past summer, in addition to his prior experiences, in dedicating himself to an immersive educational experience with the International Human Rights Clinic.
Ana Reyngach, 3L
Growing up in Brazil, Ana Luiza Reyngach became concerned with the issues of sex trafficking and domestic violence that pervaded her community. “Girls as young as 8 and 9 years old in my hometown become prostitutes to the many tourists who come from all over the world,” Reyngach observed.
“I want to use my education to give a voice to those whose voices have been silenced at the hands of other ‘fellow’ humans.”
As an undergraduate student at UC San Diego, Reyngach sought to better educate herself on human rights challenges, including the global atrocities like the Holocaust and Rwandan genocide.
“I navigated source after source, hoping there would be an explanation that could justify the heartache we feel when learning of our dark past as humans,” she said. “But there is no answer because no ideology, no cultural difference, or social division could ever justify the taking of human life, let alone the lives of millions.”
Reyngach channeled her energies into her work at the domestic violence and elder abuse clinic of a San Diego legal aid center, near the Mexican border. She used her Spanish language skills to prepare incident reports and requests for restraining orders for individuals of different cultural backgrounds and languages. Her work in the clinic was “by far the most rewarding experience I ever had in college.”
Eventually, Reyngach hopes to combat sex trafficking and gender-based violence in her home country of Brazil. In preparation for that work, she volunteers with women who have been victims of domestic violence and sexual harassment through the Center for Community Solutions. She also looks forward to working with CAST this year, and sees her work in the Clinic as a “chance to take action and to employ the many blessings I have been afforded, such as my education and my freedom.”
Jenn Thomas, 2L
Jennifer Thomas developed her enthusiasm for helping others as an undergraduate at Vanderbilt University. After joining the Occupy Vanderbilt movement which advocated for the rights of dining employees on campus, she participated in the first encampment protest at the university. The movement successfully called attention to injustices that were occurring. Thomas also volunteered with Green Dot, an organization aiming to decrease power-based personal violence through education and outreach.
“My aspiration is to use my law degree to punish those responsible for these crimes against humanity and to help eradicate the causes of these injustices.”
After graduating from Vanderbilt, Thomas was a legal assistant at multiple law offices where she summarized depositions, analyzed records, and composed legal documents. One of the firms Thomas worked at gave her the opportunity to help devise a business plan for a development project in Guyana. This business plan provided the people of Guyana with affordable homes, empowering them through home ownership. After these experiences, Thomas knew that her ambition in law school was to become a human rights advocate.