Erin Pav of Westwood recently attended the 2021 American Civil Liberties Union Advocacy Institute, a week-long virtual event held over the summer.
The Academy of the Holy Angels junior was an ideal candidate: Pav is an aspiring civil rights attorney who sees herself working for the ACLU.
"I had heard about this opportunity from a social media post," Pav said. "It was a Tuesday afternoon, and the deadline was the upcoming Saturday. It is my dream to work at the ACLU, so I knew I could not let this opportunity go to waste."
Pav applied with support from AHA social studies teacher and Model United Nations Adviser Mrs. Jennifer Cucchisi.
"I am so proud of Erin, and it was my pleasure to write her a recommendation letter for this program," Cucchisi said.
"Not only has she proven to be an upstanding citizen by her participation in this ACLU program, but Erin is a true Angel, both in the classroom and in Model UN, where I am delighted to be able to work with her this year, not only as a delegate but also on the executive board."
A few weeks after she submitted her application, Pav learned she had been accepted. The seminar included lectures by ACLU lawyers and organizers.
Pav also heard from activist and progressive pride flag creator Amber Hikes and a top attorney who has fought the death penalty. Pav also formed connections with people who work in the ACLU's New Jersey branch.
"We covered topics of free speech, digital security, equity for underrepresented communities, knowing and teaching personal rights when it comes to police searches and arrests, LGBT + rights, disability rights, women's rights, and immigrants' rights. I believe the most interesting topic was the seminar about the death penalty in America," Pav shared.
"We learned some personal stories of how the death penalty affects the families of the people on death row. We also discussed the logistics and economic issues behind it. We got to ask questions and see how this devastating issue connects to other issues discussed during the week, like D.C. statehood. The speaker inspired me and reminded me why it is so important that we have people who work on reform.
"I am interested in legal studies. It is my dream job to work with the ACLU nationwide office for one of their projects like the one to end the death penalty."
Pav is already plotting her course toward becoming a civil rights attorney.
"Although I spend most time focusing on school work so I can make my dream job a reality, I am in Model UN with Mrs. Cucchisi and serve as a co-head delegate of training," Pav noted.
This Angel also serves as co-president of AHA's PowerBack program, which helps teens learn the warning signs of unhealthy/abusive relationships.
She is also a homeroom representative for Student Council. Pav also played a role in AHA's production of "Twelve Angry Jurors."
Outside of school, she is a volunteer coordinator for Knitting for Life, an organization established by an AHA student to benefit babies in area hospitals.
"For fun, I love watching movies with my family, drawing, and spending time with my four dogs," Pav added.