Moritz College of Law The Ohio State University
This Month @ Moritz

Moritz Graduate to Advocate for Florida's 70,000 Farm Worker Women

Monica Ramirez
Mónica Ramírez

A native of Fremont, Ohio, Mónica grew up in the heart of an agricultural community relying heavily upon migrant farm workers. Curiosity about her own family's history as migrant farm workers motivated Mónica to pursue a career as a legal advocate for women working in the fields. As early as her freshman year of college, she began by working for Advocates for Basic Legal Equality where she remained for three summers. Work with Legal Services of Northwest Ohio followed. In 2002, Mónica worked as a law clerk with Farm Worker Legal Services of New York.

"Based on my experience as a farm worker advocate and through other research, I discovered that sexual harassment and other forms of gender discrimination are wide-spread problems among this population," says Ramírez. "As a future public interest lawyer, my job is to provide access to justice to individuals who would otherwise not be afforded such representation. Farm worker women fall squarely in this category and I am honored this fellowship will grant me the opportunity to work to cure the injustices that they face."

Monica and classmates
To commemorate their time together,
Mónica (right) organized and published
a yearbook for her class.

Equal Justice Works, the national leader in creating summer and postgraduate public interest jobs, will sponsor Mónica's project through one of its fellowship programs. The Equal Justice Works Fellowship application process is highly competitive. In 2003, only 32 of more than 250 "Route A" applications from law students nationwide were funded.

To qualify for the "Route A" Fellowship, a law student must select a topic, establish an action plan, and recruit a sponsoring organization to host the project. Equal Justice Works Fellowship Associate Jennifer Tschirch says "Mónica's proposal was noteworthy given the compelling need of the targeted population, its innovative spirit, potential for replication, and Mónica's personal connection to the topic." Although Mónica will focus her work on victims of sexual harassment during her 2003-2005 fellowship, she will also deal with pay inequities for farm workers and discrimination in job placement. Mónica's project will target the more than 70,000 farm worker women in Florida.

Moritz Assistant Dean for Professional Development Amee McKim says that the fellowship process is long and arduous. Prior to the actual application process, a candidate often spends many months and years developing a proposal. "Further," says McKim, "only individuals who are particularly focused and passionate are ultimately selected from the national applicant pool."

Monica and Lou Ann Moritz
Mónica receiving the Moritz Leadership Award from
Lou Ann Moritz.

In addition to her long-standing interest in and commitment to improving the lives of migrant farm workers, Mónica brings strong organizational and leadership skills to the Migrant Farm Worker Justice Project. Mónica served as 2003 president of the Moritz Student Bar Association. She organized a number of successful service projects while president and demonstrated an unusual ability to delegate and cultivate leadership skills among her peers. At graduation, Dean Nancy H. Rogers and Lou Ann Moritz presented Mónica with the 2003 Moritz Leadership Award. Says Assistant Dean McKim, "Mónica has exhibited strong leadership skills and legal talent throughout her time at Ohio State. I have no doubt she will excel and make a real and tangible difference for these women."

Mónica is the latest Moritz student to win national recognition and funding to pursue public service goals. Last year, Mike Deemer '02 and Paul G. Wilkins '02 won Equal Justice Works "Route B" Fellowships to fight predatory lending in Ohio. Working consistently with the missions of their respective employers, Ohio State Legal Services Association and the Columbus office of Equal Justice Foundation, the two alumni work collaboratively to oppose lending practices that exploit the elderly and the poor.