An Inside View into IJ’s Activism

June 22, 2009

As a supporter of the Institute for Justice’s efforts, you are undoubtedly aware of the excellent work it does across the country. But many of you may not know of the great opportunities IJ provides to college students, postgraduates and law students, ensuring that IJ’s work will continue for many years to come.

As the Maffucci Fellow, working at IJ under Director of Activism and Coalitions Christina Walsh, I was given challenging and interesting work that ranged from assisting in the creation of publications to helping organize rallies and workshops. My fellowship was created through the generosity of the Maffucci Family Foundation (created through the estate of longtime IJ supporters Constance and Gerard Maffucci of Vero Beach, Fla.) and, as a fellow for the Castle Coalition, my main focus was assisting IJ’s efforts to fight eminent domain abuse.

My assistance in the Castle Coalition workshop for an embattled New York City neighborhood is a perfect example of one of the great opportunities I had while working at IJ. Willets Point is an industrial center in the New York Borough of Queens that is home to 250 thriving small businesses. Mayor Bloomberg wants to clear these businesses out with eminent domain to make way for a grandiose private redevelopment scheme. To help the business owners fight the mayor’s plot, IJ hosted a Castle Coalition workshop this past December to give Willets Point neighbors the grassroots tools they need to beat eminent domain abuse.

Through my effort to coordinate this workshop, I learned a great deal about the immense care and planning that IJ puts into every event it hosts. I helped with numerous tasks in support of the workshop, including sending out fliers, making phone calls, assembling materials and greeting people as they arrived at the workshop.

Attending the workshop was definitely a highlight of my time working at IJ. Meeting the people who are fighting for what is rightfully theirs and knowing that I played a part in helping them in their fight against a land-hungry mayor was an eye-opening experience: I was able to see the direct impact IJ has on safeguarding basic rights through its outreach efforts.

No matter my task at IJ, I felt rewarded knowing that all of my efforts actually contributed to advancing issues I am passionate about. As the government tries more and more to force itself into our lives and hamper our basic freedoms, it can be tempting to feel helpless. I know I would sometimes feel helpless myself, but after working at IJ, I have seen these rights defended successfully time and time again, and I know something can be done. While others may publicly condemn violations of our basic rights, IJ actively works to protect those rights.

During my time with the Institute for Justice as a Maffucci Fellow, I received a unique and valuable education I could not get elsewhere. I did exciting and important work that I knew mattered. IJ’s attorneys and staff were some of the nicest and most helpful people I have ever met, creating a fun but effective work atmosphere. For any undergrads or postgraduates out there looking for an internship, I cannot recommend applying to IJ more highly.

Jared Blanchard was the Institute for Justice’s Winter 2008-2009 Maffucci Fellow.

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