The BPDA Community Engagement Fellowship is a 12-week summer program that pairs Black undergraduate and graduate HBCU students, who aspire to do racial equity and community defense work, with public defender offices.

Building a pipeline of Black defenders is one of BPDA’s core pillars. BPDA exists to support all Black defenders, including attorneys, paralegals, social workers, mitigation specialists, investigators, and client advocates. The BPDA Community Engagement Fellowship is open to students seeking careers in all areas of public defense.

This internship opportunity will offer hands-on lessons about addressing systemic issues of racism that plague the legal system while inspiring young people to achieve their educational goals and consider careers in public defense. The internship opportunity will be promoted to Black undergraduates and graduate students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. 

The BPDA Community Engagement Fellowship also provides an opportunity for public defender offices access to a fully paid full-time intern for the summer at little to no cost to them. The goal is for public defender offices to be able to implement a project or program that expands their outreach to the communities they serve in an effort to promote racial equity. These projects can include but are not limited to Know Your Rights training, expungement clinics, and community conversations on public safety and race.

The 12-week summer experience will incorporate:

  • Community engagement activities. Preparation and training for student interns to lead distinct projects such as Know Your Rights training, expungement clinics, and community conversations on public safety and race.
  • Emerging leadership training. Interns will participate in BPDA’s Black leadership training program, designed to inspire learning, career planning, and connections between students at different placement sites. The leadership training program will include weekly leadership updates, monthly coaching, peer mentorship, and online discussion threads where students can reflect on their unique experiences as Black students working in public defense.
  • The 2024 host sites include:
    • Connecticut Division of Public Defenders (Hartford, CT)
    • Cuyahoga County Public Defender Office (Cleveland, OH)
    • Defender Association of Philadelphia (Philadelphia, PA)
    • Orleans Public Defenders (New Orleans, LA)

Student applications are due on Friday, February 2, 2024

Application opened on January 15, 2024
Learn more about the fellowship and qualifications
Brochure on host sites and projects
Applicant Informational Session on January 22, 2024