Anna Belkin ’07 kicked off Wheeler’s Unity and Diversity Week as the upper school’s keynote speaker, responding to the theme of “Seeking Justice and Finding Joy.” Anna is an attorney for the Tenants' Rights Unit, New York Legal Assistance Group, serving clients who are facing eviction and housing insecurity. She has also worked at the American Civil Liberties Union Women’s Rights Project, The National Center for Youth Law, The New York Civil Liberties Union, and Michigan Law’s Human Trafficking Clinic. While a student at the University of Michigan School of Law, Anna was editor in chief of the Michigan Journal of Gender and Law, and co-chair of the Reproductive Rights and Justice organization and OUTlaws (an organization for LGBTQ+ law students). After graduating from law school, Anna was a Legal Fellow at the National Center for Youth Law where she worked on a team bringing class action lawsuits on behalf of foster youth.
In her address to Wheeler upper school students, Anna shared her path, challenges, and the joy of learning from and being inspired by colleagues and mentors working together to face injustice. Anna shared, “One of the great joys of my work is that I am in community with so many people I admire. The public interest lawyers I know are the first people I go to when I have a question about an area of law that is their specialty and not mine.”
Students also learned that success can come in the form of individual life changing cases as well as high level policy making with broad impact—and that both are meaningful. As Anna reminded us, “Seeking justice can be really hard, but it can also be rewarding.”
Mentorship was an underlying theme of Anna’s address and she made herself accessible to students for questions and personal follow up. Later, she added,
“Something I didn’t appreciate until I was able to be a mentor is how many people are willing to help you. I was always nervous to reach out to people who were ahead of me in their careers even if they had explicitly offered their time and advice. Knowing how intimidating it can be to reach out to someone you perceive as further than you in their career, I try to make my offers of mentorship as explicit as possible. I have said on more than one occasion, ‘I wouldn’t make this offer if I didn’t mean it’ and ‘this offer doesn’t expire.’ I’m always flattered when someone I’ve said that to later seeks out my advice.”
Thank you, Anna, for inspiring the next generation of Wheeler lawyers and change agents, and for sharing your mentorship story.