Sanchez ’09 Lives Public Interest Dream
Shary Enid Sanchez ’09 is the American Dream personified. Having grown up in the Bronx and raised by a single mother who migrated from Puerto Rico, what the future held for Sanchez was a big question. Today, she is a staff attorney for the HIV Law Project in New York City.
“I knew I wanted to be a lawyer to affect change and assist disenfranchised people,” Sanchez said. “Growing up poor, I was always a little more mature and a little more adult than my age. Sometimes the services in my community were not the best and it angered me. I wanted to serve the community I came from and provide high quality skills to those who need it.”
At the HIV Law Project, Sanchez assists clients, with matters ranging from immigration to family law, housing, employment discrimination, and public benefits. At any one time, she has 50-60 open cases.
“There really is not a typical day,” she said. “One day I may be in immigration court and then the next at an SSI hearing or a state office for a hearing on benefits.”
Four times a month, she spends the day consulting with new clients. Each new client intake takes about two hours.
“A lot of my clients have multiple issues and they don’t even know what the issues are,” she said. “They may have come in because they were denied public benefits and in the process of reviewing their case, I discover they were initially fired from their job because of their HIV status. I definitely use the issue spotting skills I learned in law school. Meeting with clients and developing a rapport is my favorite part of the job.”
Sanchez earned her undergraduate degree in sociology from Binghamton University and was the first in her family to attend college. She did not know any lawyers growing up.
“For law school, I knew I wanted to live on my own and I couldn’t afford New York City. I applied to a lot of law schools,” Sanchez said. “When I visited Moritz, the staff and faculty made me feel really warm, which was important because I was coming from out-of-state. The faculty was very helpful, especially during my first year.”
While at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, Sanchez participated in the housing clinic, Justice for Children clinic, and held an internship with the prosecutor’s office.
“I knew I wanted to practice public interest law, but I wasn’t sure exactly what focus I wanted my work to take,” she said.
While Sanchez’s mother is her role model and inspiration, she has been always been very conscious of the example she is setting for her younger brother, who is now 16 years old.
“My mother wanted to make sure that my life was not as difficult as hers and she knew education makes the difference,” she said. “It is important for me to succeed and be a role model for my brother. I really try to encourage him. He visited me in college and got to experience campus first-hand. He even came to law school and met the faculty and experienced class.”
Sanchez is continuing her focus on being a role model by mentoring youth in the New York City area through the group imentor.org.
For Sanchez herself, what the future holds is once again uncertain.
“I am very much a goal-setter and it feels weird to not have a definite goal after finishing law school and passing the bar,” she said. “But, I think one day I would like to be a member of the judiciary.”