People Centered Advocacy by Regina

Regina's entry into Varsity Tutor's June 2020 scholarship contest

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People Centered Advocacy by Regina - June 2020 Scholarship Essay

History tells us the 1994 spring in Rwanda was a tumultuous period. My first introduction to the genocide was by way of a research assignment as part of an international assignment while in middle school. My teacher, Mr. Long was instrumental at this auspicious moment in my education and personal development. Anyone who took Mr. Long would recognize he is a passionate and demanding teacher. Another hallmark of his pedagogy is how he embraces the expectation of students discovering their inner drive to foster improvement and learning. Little did I know the significance of the assignment and how it would develop and stimulate my personal and academic path forward.
The passion for humanities and research inside me continued growing as I moved forward in my education. My fondest assignments in grade school include extensive research papers, such as in high school exploring the impact of democratization on women’s rights in post-Soviet Eastern Europe. That paper led me down the path I took at The University of Texas at Austin: I added a second major of Russian and Eastern European studies and a Russian language minor. This allowed me to insert myself into the deeper cultural contexts of the region, intricately intertwined with domestic and international policies that have shaped the 20th century and continue to do so.
As I progressed through college, the connections between culture and law in the regions I studied only grew deeper. Recognizing those connections allows for a more human centered approach to policy and justice. Continuing to meld my interests of human rights, Eastern Europe, and policy, I pursued an honors thesis focused on the region in my final year, tying in concepts such as the United Nations Declaration for Human Rights and other important human rights documents – first exposed to me by Mr. Long through the genocide assignment.
What began in his classroom grew into the confidence and desire I have to pursue law. The injustices I have examined and been exposed to throughout my education such as the Rwandan genocide, the U.S. interventions in Latin America and, more recently, the migrant crises facing Latin America and Europe all emphasize the importance of advocacy and justice utilizing the law. These events focus on states failing to advocate for or use treaties and agreements to protect a group of people. Such events illustrate my interest and desire for pursuing law in order to help prevent a future human rights crisis through utilizing my experiences studying this field to emphasize the people first approach to law and policy.
Learning the world often is not merely black and white has been a difficult realization that began with my exposure to human rights in middle school and continued throughout obtaining my degree. As I delved deeper, I realized the essential work in the grey area which allows for credible arguments on both sides of the same coin is even more important than the acknowledgement of the stark black or white contrast. As such, critical thinking and inquiry has proven to be an effective analytical tool in my effort to be a better-informed consumer of information.
There are many ways to impact the human rights field, yet as I went deeper into fundamental texts and specific events, I realized my way to resonantly contribute is through legal advocacy. Not only on an individual scale, but also through international and domestic policy to create an equitable impact in the world. While many before me helped paved the way for those disadvantaged, I know my skills and passion are valuable to continue paving the way. Most international policy and treaties involving human rights are often dismissed by the United States government, often viewed as disadvantageous. Indeed, even treaties or conventions the U.S. ratifies or agrees to follow are often broken by them! By utilizing a more human centered approach to international policy, I hope to one day shift the limited record of human rights centered policy toward further equality for all of its citizens and noncitizens.