Summer Internship: Elizabeth's experience at Legal Aid

We are grateful to our summer interns for sharing their passion for justice. Read Elizabeth’s blog about her experience at Legal Aid.

Elizabeth Staton

Elizabeth Staton

My name is Elizabeth and I am the Health Consumer Center’s Summer Intern. I am entering the last year of my undergraduate education at Swarthmore College. My role at Legal Aid involves helping people to secure affordable healthcare coverage and maximize their Medi-Cal and Medicare benefits. Additionally, I join the housing team on Fridays at their clinic in Redwood City to help individuals know their rights as tenants and navigate the legal process surrounding unlawful detainers and eviction. This internship is a great way for me to explore a possible career as I look forward to entering the work force full-time in the near future. I want to work in some capacity that has a significant positive impact on the wellbeing of people in need and Legal Aid is an organization that achieves this.

My day to day work has been an interesting combination of tasks including client services, document drafting, and independent research. I like the client-based aspect of Legal Aid because you are tangiblymaking a difference in someone’s life. For example, by helping a client submit new information to Medi- Cal to reduce their out-of-pocket healthcare costs and checking with the county to make sure it gets processed, I am able to improve their ability to afford the health services and medication they need. At the same time, every client we interact with has a unique set of circumstances that can make even the most similar cases completely different problems to solve. I feel the most useful when we have clients who are especially hard to reach or unclear about their issue. These clients do not need Legal Aid’s help any less, but they do require more persistent phone calls and active investigation into the details of their case. I am able to help the Health Consumer Center do this without decreasing our team’s productivity somewhere else.

While it is one thing to care about contemporary social issues, it is much more informative about the various dimensions of such problems to actually try to help people overcome them. I have learned much more about the challenges of getting and keeping healthcare coverage in the relatively short amount of time that I have been working for the Health Consumer Center than in all the time I have been aware that healthcare is an issue in the United States. It has also been educational to attend the housing clinics once a week and listen to personal accounts of some of the problems tenants face in San Mateo County. I am grateful I get to spend my summer doing interesting work and gaining valuable, educational experience with supportive coworkers at Legal Aid.