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A Catalyst for Good

Dana Borelli ’17 beat early trials to find strength as an advocate.

Photograph by Adam DeTour

Student Snapshot

Provenance: Grew up in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, in a loving family challenged by a disabling back injury to her father, a fireman. “Our household dynamic changed after that, with my mother taking on more responsibilities and all of us working more as a team.” Honors: 2016 Hon. Sheila E. McGovern Award from Mass. Association of Women Lawyers Scholarship Foundation. Learning: BA in Political Science and Spanish, Loyola University Maryland. At BC Law: Latin American Law Students’ Association; Spring Break Outreach Immigration trip; Children’s Rights Committee; PILF; Research Assistant. Time Off: “I’m an absolute true crime nerd. I have no storage space left on my computer because of all the true-crime podcasts. And I love roller-blading—putting on my earphones and blasting music and just zoning out for an hour.” Extra Credit: Fluent Spanish, karate black belt.

In sixth grade I was hospitalized with a severe eating disorder. I was the only child on a unit full of adult women. Just knowing how disorienting life can be at a young age has helped me develop a deep sense of empathy for children and all vulnerable people. That’s one reason why I’m really passionate about making sure kids don’t get trapped in the criminal justice system.

For over a year I’ve been a research assistant for Professor Robert Bloom. I’ll send him substantive emails at 3 a.m. and he responds, “Go to bed!” It’s been an invaluable relationship: He comes from a similar background to me. He didn’t come from money, he didn’t come from a family with a lot of legal connections, and we are both just deeply committed to helping people.

“Knowing how disorienting life can be at a young age has helped me develop a deep sense of empathy for children and all vulnerable people.”

In the Juvenile Rights Advocacy Project clinic, there’s one middle school-age child I worked with for a year, who had a disability. He was severely bullied at school and he wouldn’t leave his house. We were able to get him an out-of-district placement that he desperately needed. I saw a night-and-day change in that kid from the time I met him to his final IEP evaluation meeting. He seemed like he had life infused into him. Seeing how much I was able to change that case was probably my number one accomplishment in law school.

At the Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts this past summer, I was working on immigration cases, with kids who don’t even speak our language, and have no idea what their rights are or how to effectively navigate the legal system. It helped me to see that law school was really the right choice for me, because though the empathetic part of me wanted to smother them with hugs, I was in a position where I could do something even better, to be the catalyst for the changes that will give them the resources they need.