Student Stories: Kellianne Elliott

Kellianne Elliot

Mentor has Profound Career Impact

During my junior year of college, I made the switch from being a biology major to a sociology major. I began considering a career in the legal field, and decided to participate in SPU’s mentorship program to learn more about this work.

My mentor ended up having a profound impact on my career trajectory. We met up for coffee every couple of months and he was so patient and willing to share advice and insight into the career field, such as explaining the basics of how the legal system and impact litigation work, navigating student loans and the course load of law school, the importance of integrity and humility when working alongside individuals who have interacted with the justice system and who have come from difficult backgrounds, and he also took the time to genuinely check in with me to make sure that I was doing well and truly excited about the potential of becoming an attorney.

During one of these meetings, he told me that if I care about advocating on behalf of low-income individuals in the justice system, then I needed to pay attention to “legal financial obligations,” which are the fines and fees that are assessed onto folks as they are processed through the justice system. I first started researching this issue because my mentor had suggested it to me, and then it became part of my work as an intern with the American Civil Liberties Union.

In my current role at the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, I am designing a national program to help address fines and fees in the criminal justice system, and I know that this opportunity has only come to me because of this early exposure to the issue that I was given by my mentor. I am preparing to enter law school in the next couple of years, and I am really grateful to have been given so many different opportunities to engage in the legal field before getting my degree, because it has allowed me to cement my interest in dedicating my life’s work to advocating for folks as they interact with our justice system.

I highly recommend pursuing mentorship as part of the career exploration process, as it offers direct access to somebody who has insight to share and is willing to invest in your professional development.