NYLS Rises to the Challenge: Estefani Rodriguez '16

NYLS Rises to the Challenge: Estefani Rodriguez ’16

NYLS Rises to the Challenge: Estefani Rodriguez '16

Editor’s Note: As the nation responds to COVID-19, NYLS alumni and students are sharing their time, talents, and resources to benefit their local communities and the School. In this series, we share their stories.

From her apartment, Estefani Rodriguez ’16 could hear passing sirens all day.

Rodriguez, a U.S. Department of Justice attorney and leader in the Dominican Bar Association and Hispanic National Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, couldn’t sit by.

“Giving and community have always been important to me,” Rodriguez said. “I wanted to help frontline workers and struggling small business owners.” On her own, she began to send lunch orders to nearby hospitals.

Then her phone rang.

Her friend Peter Garcia—a graduate of Pace Law School who spent a semester as a visiting student at NYLS—suggested partnering on building a coalition of bar association leaders to do similar work.

“My reaction was, ‘Absolutely—Sign me up,’” Rodriguez said.

Supporting Medical Staff and Local Restaurants

The pair gathered leaders from their professional network and began to brainstorm ways to pool donations for meal deliveries. They decided to focus the funds on minority-owned restaurants, many of which were struggling or had temporarily shut down.

Rodriguez and Garcia spent hours daily planning logistics with restaurants and hospitals to ensure that the meal ordering and delivery process was seamless.

As word spread of the initiative, more bar associations joined the cause, which gained a name: the Community Support Effort.

“We ended up with around 20 organizations from New York and New Jersey, representing all ethnicities and backgrounds—judges, lawyers, law students,” Rodriguez said. “It was amazing seeing everyone come together.”

The Community Support Effort committed $10,000 in donations, and meal deliveries began on April 29. Within two weeks, the group had donated 1,100 meals. Letters and photos from hospitals began pouring in. Small business owners also shared their gratitude; many said they were able to rehire out-of-work staff.

Jamaica Hospital, which received 85 meals, wrote, “This most meaningful of gifts … directly supports our efforts to provide the much needed care our patients rely on during this critical time.”

Now, the group is now fielding more requests to join their ranks. Their next step: coordinating how they’ll expand the work and spend $3,000 in surplus funds raised.

Learning Leadership Skills at NYLS

Rodriguez says that her NYLS education gave her the confidence and skills to dive headfirst into the challenge.

“My professors, the Latin American Law Students Association, the Moot Court Association, and most recently the Alumni Association shaped the sense of community I have now,” she said. “I was able to develop leadership skills at NYLS because people saw those qualities in me and gave me opportunities to grow.”

Rodriguez is especially proud that the Community Support Effort includes MetroLALSA, a law student organization whose leadership ranks are heavily populated by NYLS students.

“It shows the kind of leadership provided not only by NYLS alumni but also by our current students,” she said.

Read coverage of Rodriguez and Garcia’s work in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Watch for upcoming stories in The Bronx Times and The Queens Eagle.

Those who wish to support NYLS and its students can learn more here.