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Finding a Place to Call Home

Jonathan Bertulis-Fernandes ’24 plans to open doors for others.

Photograph by Diana Levine
Student Snapshot
Provenance: London, England. Learning: University of St Andrews, MA  in International Relations and Social Anthropology, and won a Robert T. Jones Memorial Trust Scholarship to Emory University. At BC Law: Public Service Scholar; Co-president, South Asian Law Students Association; Peer Coach, Academic Success Program; Editor in Chief, Boston College Law Review. Childhood Dream Job: Astronaut. “Learning that the UK did not have a space program was a sad day for my eight-year-old self.” Favorite Holiday: Visiting family in India. Hobbies: Urban hiking, camping, public radio, cat parenting. Thank you, Mr. President: The example set by Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, while he worked with them at the Carter Center, became Jonathan’s public interest lodestar. Next Step: Will clerk in US District Court of Western District of Texas for Judge Kathleen Cardone.

Moving to the United States from England was never the plan. I came from St Andrews to study at Emory University in Atlanta as a Robert T. Jones Memorial Trust Scholar in 2015, but once I arrived, I didn’t want to leave. The US was revelatory. In Atlanta and later in New York, I was exposed to a tradition of social justice advocacy that I had never experienced before. I was living in Atlanta —the city of Dr. King—while the Black Lives Matter movement was first taking hold. There is such a sense of dynamism in US society. It’s very messy and contested, but there’s a beauty in the sense of possibility that exists here. 

I grew up in a part of London that was both the most socioeconomically deprived and diverse part of the UK, and the experience is the foundation for everything I do now. When I was nineteen, the local government announced they would close my local library, and I co-founded a charity with other community members to try to save it. We sued the local government in the High Court of Justice. That was where I saw the potential of the law as a force for social change. 

When I worked at the Legal Aid Society in New York, one of the big projects was securing funding for their housing and homeless rights services. I was also a driver for Coalition for the Homeless. Both experiences left me with a deep passion for housing and homelessness issues and I came to law school wanting to be a housing attorney. 

Solving the national homelessness and affordable housing crisis is a moral imperative and one of the greatest challenges facing our generation. That’s what led me to write a Boston College Law Review note on the topic. Law reviews are one of the places we get to collectively imagine what the law can be. No other profession or area of academia allows students to be so directly involved in shaping its future. That is a wonderful thing and a real privilege.